August/September Questions, Part II
10/5/2009 (updated 10/5/2009)

I'm a longtime fan of Vivian Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Band, and I'm curious about what it was like for you to play on his LP "Teddy Boys Don't Knit". What do you remember about those sessions, and what were your impressions of Vivian Stanshall? It's always saddened me that his life was so unhappy, and that because he was funny, he was treated as a novelty act. I've gotten a lot of pleasure from his music and 'Sir Henry'.

The sessions, at De Lane Lea studios, were frantic and chaotic. There seemed to be a serious deadline to be observed, but a massive amount of music to be overdubbed. I waited an hour or two for other parts to be added, then played a part on every track, sight-reading the chart down, in not much longer than real time; in the sense that I recorded about 40 minutes of music in about 43 minutes! Everything was one take, mistakes and all, and then someone else did sax overdubs in the same fashion.

Viv was a dear human being, a tremendous talent, and I think one of the funniest people I ever saw. He would commandeer my folk club gigs in the Richmond area, but it was always a delight. I think he was too sensitive for the planet, hence the drinking and self-destruction. I once went to his house when he was living in East Finchley, and at one point went to get something out of the fridge. There was a dead terrapin on the shelf among the orange juice and cheese slices. Vivian explained that he couldn’t bear to break the news to his 4-year-old son that his pet had died.

When the UK Daily Telegraph wrote his obituary, they related a story to try to give an idea of the essence of the man. I’ll try to tell it here – forgive any lapses:

Vivian walks into a respectable men’s clothing shop in London (I believe it was Dunns) dressed in his best upper class threads, and asks, in his best plummy voice, for a ‘strong trouser’. The assistant comes back with something in a wool blend. Vivian tugs at it, and says, “No, no, I said a STRONG trouser”. The assistant scurries of again, and comes back. “This is our best corduroy, sir”. Vivian tugs at it vigorously. “This really won’t do”, he says, “I need a really very STRONG trouser!” The assistant disappears again, and returns. “This, sir. Is the finest cavalry twill. I don’t think you’ll find a stronger trouser anywhere”, Vivian pulls at it as hard as he can, and, not quite satisfied, calls over to another customer, who is browsing in the back of the shop – this turns out to be Keith Moon, who has been planted there for about half an hour, disguised as a normal member of society (no easy task). “Excuse me, sir”, he says, “could you help me? I need a very strong trouser”. Keith comes over, and grabbing the other leg of the trousers, starts to pull as hard as possible, with inevitable results – the pair of trousers splits in two. At that moment, a one-legged man hired from a theatrical agency, walks in through the front door, and cries, “Perfect! I’ll take it!”

I saw Richard at the Kate Wolf festival this past June. I've seen him several times over the years and it was the highlight of the festival to see him again.

This prompted me learn (or re-learn) several of his tunes. I had a pretty decent acoustic version of "I Can't Wake Up". What seemed to work best was CGDGBE. I was wondering if this is what he plays it in. I'm asking because, with the advent of YouTube, I spotted an electric performance he did on TV in the UK a while back. The key was the same, but I would have expected to see a capo for it to work the way I do it. Is the Strat tuning different from the Lowden? Thanks, Paul Henry S.

Acoustically, I did play in CGDGBE. On electric I was in standard tuning.

Can we have a list of the places that the Live Warrior material was recorded in the Q&A please? Thanks, John Edwards

Sorry, don’t know. I’m not sure if that is retrievable information.

Dear Richard: At the risk of betraying my classical origins with a really pretentious question – what do you think of the modern CD album as a work of art? With an LP, you could place striking songs at the beginning and end of each side, thus giving you two emotionally compelling “acts.” (And Randy Newman used to joke about burying his lesser songs in the middle of side two.) (With a double record set, we had four “acts” -- twice as much chance for drama.) However, the modern CD, with as much space as a former LP double record set, only highlights two songs, at the beginning and end. Do you find that the extra space with no interruptions makes it more or less difficult to achieve musical power and unity? Todd Compton

The format tends to dictate the form, so we have to think differently as the format evolves/devolves. It’s really a lot easier to programme a CD than an LP, it’s just linear, as most listening experiences should be. I did like the 20 minute aspect of one side, however, it was a nice ‘chunk’, but I found I tended to favour one side of a record over another. The weak tracks still get hidden in about the same position on a CD though – about three quarters through, roughly where the middle of side 2 would be.

In "Meet in the Ledge" what does 'the ledge' mean? regards, Paul

I can’t discuss the ‘meaning’ of songs.