What I know about MEN OPENING UMBRELLAS AHEAD isn’t near as much as I’d like to know... but it’s what I know, so I have to put up with it. And so do you.
Of course, what I know is what Vivian told me and what Vivian told me is only Mr. Standstill’s opinion and what does he know? By the way, all names pinned to Stanshall are his names for himself; he made them up. Mr. Standstill, SirViVal, Mr. Danvers (for the sole purpose of receiving interesting things in discrete brown paper wrappers), VIVarium for that toga’d feeling, and my personal favorite, the BEASHT. There were more, ever more, but that’s quite enough for now.
When I lock-stepped into Vivian Anthony Stanshall, I’d never heard a recorded peep out of him, save the very lovely INTRO & OUTRO. It took poking around in his personals to find the Bonzo Dog albums and then there was the job of getting the ‘lectrics to work on the ever-sinking Searchlight to play them. Once that was done - ah, weirdness and joy.
Still - I did not know who he really was until the day I found MOUA - and then I was, as they used to say, blown away. This was the stuff! This was the nerve! This was Vivian down-to-the-BONE. It was then I fell in love... women are like that. Men are in love with the senses, women in love with feeling.
I know The Beasht wrote MOAU in the dark. I know he cut it semi-sloshed. I know it was all about saving his life. It was all about his life. Not the life we show, but the life we hide. It was full of rage and despair and contempt and strutting hubris and a terrible pride and an ever-mounting, ever-mouthing, confusion at illusion. It was full of a fear of being ‘found out’. It was full of secret terror - ‘foul yellow fright’. What the hell is all this? What the hell am I? Why does it HURT so much? And what am I doing here? “Mommy! My teddy’s stopped breathing!” It was Vivian raw and howling. Or soft and pleading. It was Vivian.
It was released three years before we met... and in it he invested all he had: talent, hope, heart, what seemed left of his career as a recording artist. Warner Brothers invested the cash. But when they heard it, when they heard it, oh dear oh dear oh dear. Behind the scenes, behind his back, they must have looked at each other in fear and trembling and moaned: “What the fuck is this shit? This can’t go out on Radio One. This can’t be played for the kiddies.” They must have groped each other for solace... and then someone, somehow, lost the master to Side B. This means, Side B is cut from acetate. After that, they pressed a mere five thousand copies (which is why you cannot find one), did not release any of these in the United States - and finally, when their labors were through, they sat back and forgot the whole thing. It was around then that Vivian, enraged and wounded, destroyed one of their board rooms, boreds included. Not to mention releasing thousands of blue-bottle maggots he just happened to have on him behind the radiator of the President of Warner Brothers. One of the regrets of his life was not being there when they hatched a few hours later.
Over the years, he told me bits and bobs about the writing of the songs... and what he could remember, I shall try to remember and tell you. I skip the self-evident such as PRONG and HOW THE ZEBRA GOT HIS SPOTS and PRONG & TOOTS GO STEADY. What do you think these are about? Symbolism? Plut no. They’re about his cock. He loved his cock. (Fond of it myself.) Why shouldn’t he love his cock? It never let him down. It was always there for him. It gave as good as it got.
Basically, all Ode to Cock, these.
Now for the rest.
MEN OPENING UMBRELLAS AHEAD
Vivian Stanshall: vocals/recorder/euphonium/ukulele/Chelonian pipes. ‘Bubs’ White: electric guitar. Steve Winwood: bass guitar/organ. Gaspar Lawal: talking drums/congas/xylophone/& kit drum on ‘Zebra’. Neil Innes: piano/slide guitar/& organ on ‘Zebra’. Jim Capaldi: kit drums/lesser log. Deryk Quinn: kebasa/Nigerian coffee tables/greater log. Ric Grech: violin. ‘Reebop’ Kwaku Baah: congas on “Prong & Toots. Ladies’ Voices: Doris Troy, Madeline Bell & Barry St. John. Male Yoruba Chorus: Ayus Ape, Gani, Gaspar Lawal. All muck written and arranged by V.S. except ‘Afoju Ti Ole Riran’ written jointly with Gaspar Lawal. Recorded at: The Manor, The Workshop, Trident & Apple Studios. Completed: April 1974.
1. AFOJU TI OLE RIRAN (DEAD EYES)
Oluwa lonso afoju ti ole riran.
God protects those with dead eyes who cannot see.
Oluwa lonso aro ti ole nide jo.
God protects the crippled who cannot dance.
You concentrate on grabbin’, biting, back-stabbing,
Palpitate of speedy spring-heeled shoes;
But the only thing that counts is ‘how much bounce to the ounce’:
I say you’re on the road to rock ‘n’ ruin.
Watching humanoids relax, empty swaying martial stacks,
Peacocks in cruel captivity;
Yes, insensate bodies reel cloaked in clockwork orange-peel:
Chunka, chunka... Dead Eyes.
Tomorrow when you’re old and your mouth is paved with gold:
You begin to feel the cold inside.
The sickness in your blood soon will swell & over-flood,
And asphyxiate all self-identity.
Yea, before your mind has healed, you’ll wear your madness as a shield:
And your stance is fierce... Dead Eyes.
In conclusion let me scream, soon De Quincey’s laudanum dreams,
Dread procession in the twilight of your loins.
Tomorrow’s children will be sold & unwittingly enrolled.
In the night-soil of your selfishness... Dead Eyes.
*DEAD EYES. Again, self-evident. What’s to say, save that his contempt was not reserved solely for the music business? Or the art business. Or the business of being human. There were times when he saw with his own dead eyes. But had the sight to see through them.
The roadie’s stoned again ‘cos in his cubby-hole he keeps a little bottle of booze.
He has a little swig & when he’s done the gig: (you oughta see that ole man move).
Rockin’ down the road at 3 point 44, the band were really rollin’ tonight,
A few miles more, he makes the Blue Boar, now that roadie’s feelin’ nice.
You know he moves (like a rhythm machine),
And he grooves (on all the places he’s seen).
He’s never on a downer, just keeps truckin’ round the world,
Don’t treat him like a humper, he’s a high-wire jumper, take my word.
Sometimes he does a bit of skivin’; but he’s no 9 to 5-er & if he works for you,
There’s no super-annuation only years of petrol-stations,
Until he’s thru’. Toodle-Oo.
Double-Egg, Fried-Bacon, make it twice, ducks. Paper plate, plastic cuppa splosh,
Sit down, bolt it down, say ‘bye-bye’ to who y’know (soon he gets a lotta spots).
Little ones with moist pink tops.
*TRUCK- TRACK. Simple. After a life in rock and roll... there was nothing much left to admire but the roadies. Management, music bizzos, most fello musos, Dead Eyes. But the roadies... the roadies. No strut for them, no bucks, no kudos... just blokes working harder than all the rest to make it happen. Vivian forever had nothing but praise for his roadies. You can imagine how he felt about Moony running over his.
3. YELP, BELLOW, RASP ET CETERA
*YELP, BELLOW, RASP ET CETERA. Utter revulsion for himself and for drink. But revulsion is not to be sneered at - it’s a celebration.
4. PRONG (OdC)
Here comes old Redeye he’s fulla drink, mouthin’ his mouth off, To a load of kids. Sayin’ nothin’ personal; but he’s up the creek: While you’re home sleepin’, he’s down at the Speak. Easy now x 4
Here comes old Hawkeye see his skillful squint, his ready intelligence, You see it in print (each day). Flits into Amsterdam flies back to New York: In comfy 1st. Class compartment yet he can still talk ‘bout The People. What kind of people? x 2 ‘Bout the freaks down the Speak & the Stars on the Stage, And the psychedelic seed of the Aquarian Age.
Chorus: Jesus, Krishna, Manitou - oo-ever you are,
God knows, but he’s not saying.
Momma! I need you now!
Here comes young Crafty-Arty shining his sheen, bestudded with sequins, Like a Pearly Queen. Slick as a lithograph reflected on stone, Limp as raw sausage; but he gets it on. Easy now x 4
Here comes the Avant-Gardener pruning his beard, proposing philosophies Like you’ve never heard: Split from your school/skull, sabotage seal-shooting hunts, Chimerical, chemical oracle, you’re a right stupid... Easy now x 4
Chorus (that gets all the Mums & Dads going)
Sing up, no one will hear you!
*REDEYE. Four stanzas for four musicians hand-picked to exemplify the crap people get up to once they feel fame bite their ass. Redeye could be Vivian, of course, and so many others like him. _____ and _____ come to mind - hard-ons pontificating to wide-eyed kids. Hawkeye is cold blooded _____ yakking about ‘My Generation’. Crafty-Arty is _____. Avant-Gardener is, if I remember, a mix of Garcia/Leary/et al. The Speak is (or was) the Speakeasy. The Speak was a late night London drinking pit where rock stars and such went to rub shoulders and egos and other such moist and glistening things. I once saw _____ put a plate of spaghetti in a poor girl’s face. Ha ha. How they laughed. From all this, you can tell Vivian had had quite enough of ‘the showbiz’. It might also help you to understand why he knocked it on the head. He woke up one day, looked around... and there he was: himself Redeye and Dead Eye and Hawkeye and Crafty-Arty and Avant Gardener and fuck all that for a hippo.
6. HOW THE ZEBRA GOT HIS SPOTS
Playing with me pink banana, jugglin’ with me lovely bunch, Secreted in me striped pajamas, streuth: I’m comin’ on tough. Bad ting to tell he manana, him just refuse to lie dong, Gotta strap him to me leg to go shopping, trouser-snake he’s so strong.
He loves to feel the freeness, the let-it-be-ness, fresh air circlin’ round he, Talkin’ ‘bout a certain penis. Freehold property.
Sometimes I blow a bit ‘o’ ganja, bash upon me banjolele, It’s no exactly mean & funky, but I don’t pretend to be Bill Haley.
I don’t care what Chairmen Mao says, I’m only thinking of Prong, Throbbin’ in me semi-detached trousers in sympathy with me song. I use a lotta sticky plaster to keep this old fellow controlled, A bit ‘o’ wire & a wing-nut & pray that the damn ting will hold.
He loves to feel the freeness, the let-it-be-ness, fresh air circlin’ round he, To put it with a little finesse, he’s rather a whelk y’see. Oh Prong! I beg your pardon, I gotta hard-on.
O Prong, you are strong & long. O Prong: Cold, blue-veined as marble. Fierce thruster of the cleft. Flesh-ferret. Ho there, where is Prince Nostril, he of the horny hands and erectile tissues? I am here, O Randy One, muscular & well primed for the pussy.
Ah, speak to me of savagery...
* HOW THE ZEBRA GOT HIS SPOTS. Is there anything to add to this? Not by me, Mr. Standstill. This is perfection. And to hear it is even better. Try playing this one for your Mom or Dad - or for that matter, for most anyone at all. Such squirming, such outrage! Delicious. Dear God, where is he (or she) with the wherewithal to re-release this bloody masterpiece! Pardon, I’m off to scream in the closet for a mo. Back in a tick.
7. DWARF SUCCULENTS (OdC - chap & chapesses playing ruddies with the light on...)
8. BOUT OF SOBRIETY
With a little red wine beneath my belt, I breathe breath that can melt the paint Off doors. A tongue to strip the polish off a parquet floor.... smooth. Wake up in the morning with a concertina cough, my coke-encrusted lungs A’flutterin’ like a pigeon loft. Brown-top-fingers fumble for the 1st days fag: stick it in my face & (cough) What a drag.
Once my skin was soft as a hard-boiled egg. I held the whole wide globe In the palm of my leg. I was the clear-eyed pride of an upright man, Now I’m a downright sot-of-a-son & that’s sad. But I’m trying real hard, think I’ve served my time in the purple-stained arms Of the daughter of the vine. I’d like to settle down, but first I gotta settle up With the understanding man in the embalming-fluid shop.
‘Cos I got swingin’ jowls, a puke-box & an ulcer, My ole arteries are hardening just fine - Do It.
That sounded so authentic, like to thank you Bubs & Ric for your wholesome Country fiddlin’ & I love the way you pick your noses while you’re waiting: Will there be another take? I hope not ‘cos I’m knackered & I’m dying For a snakes.
Get home early mornin’ & I throw myself in bed, asleep my mouth wide-open Me woman thinks I’m dead. She kicks me, I start gruntin’, she knows that I’m alright, Disgusting in the darkness, I’ve been boozin’ thru’ the night. Yeah, I’m snorin’ like a rhino, she gives a little dig, I roll onto my side And I start (snooorrrt) like a pig. Now she starts to rabbit, you should hear The way she talks. “You see so many bottles, why don’t you get yourself a cork!”
Gotta glass in my hand/gotta bottle gonna guzzle/gotta stop/gotta go Maybe buy myself a muzzle,
*BOUT OF SOBRIETY. Jumping Jesus, my old man was brilliant. It’s back for another scream in the closet.
9. PRONG & TOOTS GO STEADY (OdC)
Strange tongues comfort me, darkened rooms calm me down, Make overtures to your insanity: good to have friends around. Fear follows in the wake of sleepless days, foul yellow fright As thick as mayonnaise. Excretion in endless oceans, poetry, In your motion. Music attendant: help me.
Citadels of concrete, already your cold iron hearts are rusted, What recks how Snowdon-sculpted smooth you seem, From the soft touch & tap of children’s games & laundry bundles, Shoulder-hugged. You are the stuff of base foundation: For folks’ sake, it’s not enough.
When the world was young moons made smiley faces, Stars: angel eyes, we know better.
Mendels’ sons & processed daughters cloned in uniforms of flesh, Grow like pinks, from little cuttings, planted in a soil of self.
*STRANGE TONGUES. Oh my lord... you will know this or you will not know this - but somewhere down down down in the dark cold warm, there is a place in you that feels it. Is this enough?