Ginger Geezer

Tribute - Vivian Stanshall

[With thanks to Bob Kruse]

Rolling Stone , April 20, 1995

Vivian Stanshall died in a fire at his apartment in London on March 5. At 51 he was the Renaissance man of English absurdity. A co-founder and vocalist of the dadaist rock group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Stanshall was a multi-instrumentalist, writer, painter, sculptor and radio host. His eclectic creations were infused with a warped sense of whimsy and social satire, stretching from daft Bonzo songs like The Intro and the Outro and We Are Normal to a comic opera called Stinkfoot, to a movie, book and album chronicling the harrumphing old fart Sir Henry at Rawlinson End . Stanshall also wrote lyrics for Steve Winwood and served as the master of ceremonies on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells .

Stanshall once told an interviewer, "My father used to put on galoshes and rollerskate from Southend to London, and even he calls me an eccentric. I believe that exuberant madness is extremely healthy."

Pete Townshend recalls Stanshall as "a dear man ... capable of extraordinary erudition even when apparently out of his mind. He frightened me a little toward the end because his self-destructiveness seemed so relentless. He would recover for long periods, get sober, projects would sprout, success followed. Then I would hear news that he was ill again, answering the door with no trousers on."

Born in Shillingford, Oxfordshire, England, on March 21, 1943, Stanshall was an art-college student in mid-'60s London when his enthusiasm for prewar culture and musical arcana led him to co-found the Bonzo Dog Band, as they came to be known. Named after a 1920s cartoon canine, the Bonzos performed a manic hodgepodge of Dixieland jazz, vintage rock & roll and bizarre humor. Musical brethren to the Monty Python troupe, the Bonzos made five smart and silly albums and appeared in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour . The Bonzos' lone hit was the U.K. Top 5 single I'm the Urban Spaceman , which was produced pseudonymously by Paul McCartney.

After the Bonzos fell apart in 1970, Stanshall recorded solo albums but then succumbed to a lengthy period of drugs, drink and depression. He was reportedly about to begin work on a new album. He leaves behind an adult son, a daughter and a multi-media legacy of inspired silliness and serrated invention.


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