This week’s guest is my old college lecturer, Liverpool based documentary film maker Roger Appleton, talking about his work including his current film ‘Looking for Lennon’.
‘The Livo Lounge’ is a new filmed podcast hosted by Michael ‘Livo’ Livesley, known from his one man show based on Vivian Stanshall’s ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’ recorded live in the heart of Liverpool’s Lark Lane.
Well well, I hope you all had a Merry Crimble? A fine old gorging season was had here at Livesley Towers with copious amounts of festive tuck and grog attacked with alacrity by yours truly and all served with a liberal side order of Bisodol with the stomach pump on standby. So as the final flickering flame of 2015 sputtters its last, and I manfully hoover up as much of the remaining Crimbo goodies as I physically can before midnight strikes and the usual ‘new year new me’ routine begins, thus giving me another stone to lose in the process – ‘gotta get up to get down’ as James Brown once sang – I decided I’d better put the brandy eclairs down for a moment and write up some form of review of this brilliantly chaotic year. Despite employing brevity the following is still quite long – OOER – but how *do* you squeeze 12 months into such a tiny box madam? For the answer to all of this and less you’ll have to read on’t…..
…twas brillig and also amazing to meet Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden at the aftershow party who had both been in the audience for our show. Pint in hand I was summoned to be presented to ‘Baz’ who held his hands in front of his face and said ‘Gah! Go away! I can’t even look at you! How *do* you remember all those bloody words?!? Frightening’ High praise indeed from one of my biggest comedy heroes. Anyway, enough trumpet blowing but, y’know, sometimes, you do have to blow your own…
FEBRUARY – a lovely clear month which enabled Bill and I to prepare the ground for the CD release of our stage version of Viv’s classic Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, which I am pleased to say that it will be released next year on Rick Wakeman’s new label – RRAW – but more news on that later….
MARCH – After such a luxurious and enjoyable month working from home it was time to hit the road again, this time down to Innes Acres in Suffolk, to begin rehearsing with the eclectically fabulous band of chaps Neil had assembled to perform at Camden’s KOKO in April to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Bonzos. Neil had invited me to come and sing in The Bonzos bit – it was a double headline bill of The Bonzos and Neil’s other act the Rutles – and we rehearsed in ‘Cradle of Filth‘s studio space in Ipswich. I can honestly say that singing ‘My Pink Half of the Drainpipe’ whilst staring at a wall littered with ‘Jesus is a C*nt’ stickers is one of the most surreally juxtaposed moments of my life. Now I’m no fan of the Catholic Church, unless you count those 5 years I worked under Pope Benedict in Rome, but even I was shocked by such a statement! Kids eh?
APRIL – saw me and my ‘Austerity Orchestra’ – aka Jonny Hase – back on the road to bring Rawlinson End back to the Laugharne Weekend for another wonderful few days of hedonistic and performance bliss that brought the very thaw to the throte of winter. Magical. That is the only word I can use to describe the place. Despite Jonny and I almost being killed on the road back when this accident, involving the lorry directly in front of us, happened we had a fine old time. It is really very scary to think back to how we only very narrowly avoided being killed that day. Especially when I recall the sight of those big gas cannisters raining down on us. Someone was smiling down on us that day! I told you Jesus wasn’t a…well….y’know…..
Having made it back safe and sound from Laugharne the next morning it was time to head south again for a quick warm up for the KOKO show then on with the motley. It was incredible to perform with so many amazing geezers. After this Elliott still felt the need for more insanity and so signed up to appear with us at our annual Stanshallian celebration at the Bloomsbury in London, this year entitled ‘Radio Stanshall’. The crazy fool!
MAY – Where was I? Oh yes, Radio Stanshall. This was the last of a trilogy of shows we put on to remind people of the genius of Vivian Stanshall. For the first one in 2013 – Viv’s 70th Birthday Party – we had a 60s theme for the show, so it was Bonzos heavy with a blistering encore of Ginger Geezer thrown in for good measure. Year 2 – entitled ‘One Night Stanshall’ – focused on Viv’s solo years and this year’s final one covered the work the great man recorded for BBC Radio 1’s John Peel show from the 70s to the 90s. Hence the name ‘Radio Stanshall’.
Gracing the Bloomsbury stage with us once again were Rick, Neil, Rod and The Admiral plus new boys Elliott Randall and peerless comedy actor and Viv fan Kevin Eldon. Also joining us was the ever wonderful Susie Honeyman who I am delighted to say has become quite the permanent fixture of our band line up and has played with us at every show since ‘One Night Stanshall’ in 2014. These shows would have been impossible without the incredible people in the show and the ceaseless support of Viv’s son Rupert. Job done!
JUNE & JULY – were spent doing lots of DIY, editing, writing, recording, lots of DIY, chilling out, farting, lots of DIY and generally getting pissed, enjoying myself and doing LOTS of DIY. Ace. It’s what summers were made for!
AUGUST – back on the road for a wonderful show at Buxton Opera House. An incredible venue to bring Rawlinson End to and a most beautiful part of the world in general. A delight from start to finish
SEPTEMBER – saw us taking Rawlinson End to the Rye Arts Festival – another delightful place reeking of smugglers coves and the static generated by Jonny Hase’s balloons(!) Very Daftie du Maurier
OCTOBER – we assembled from all points of the compass to record the CD version of ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End‘ which will be the first release on the aforementioned Mr Wakeman and Mr Ayling’s new RRAW label. The CD features guest turns from Rick, Mr Innes and Susie Honeyman and is being produced by Wizard of Twiddly and all round good chap Andy Frizell. It will be released next March
NOVEMBER – I met up with renowned comedy blogger John Fleming for another interview at the Soho theatre, recording continued on the Sir Henry CD and rehearsals began for a further 2 nights of Bonzos and Rutles madness in a Christmas Spiegeltent in Bristol and at the Minnellium Dome, yes the Minnellium Dome, in London. It were really grand to perform with such heroes. I do hope we shall all do it again SOON!!
DECEMBER – due to a ‘brainstorm’ I had in October plans were made for one final performance of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End of the year at the wonderful Rose & Crown Theatre pub in Viv’s home town of Walthamstow. I can’t recommend this venue highly enough and it proved to be a very special evening indeed.
We were joined by Viv’s son Rupert who compered the evening and charmed the audience with his memories of his incredible Pa. It was a fitting way to end this the 20th year since the world parted company with Viv’s genius and one interesting footnote to the evening was that the top drawer guv’nor to the place – a certain Mr Bun Constantinou – turned out to be Rupert’s old Maths teacher. As you can imagine their reunion stirred some incredibly ‘interesting’ memories….
…so that’s shallot! 2015, what a wonderful year! I do hope 2016 is even half as good! If you’ve read this far then gawd bless you a gentleman and may I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy 2016!!! Thankyou all for your support throughout the year – let’s make 2016 even better!!
Well, I think I have finally recovered from the incredible extravagantic, (Is that a word?), evening of celebration of the life and work of the great Vivian Stanshall that was ‘One Night Stanshall’ at the Bloomsbury Theatre last Tuesday, April 8th. It was quite a ride lemme tell you! For reasons of cost, (we do this show on a budget of 0p), we decided to travel by train to the show. But believe me, transporting 6 lunatics and their costumes, 2 banjos, 2 guitars, 4 ukeleles, a trumpet, a tube trumpet, a stroh-violin, (ask Bill), a clarinet, a fiddle, a recorder, a glockenspiel, a conga, a snare, cymbals, various percussion, 2 suitcases of props, 3 camcorders plus tripods, a sword, a hunting horn, 4 hats and a horned gramophone on a train was sheer insanity! As we boarded the packed train, (it being the first day of half term), with all this gubbins at Runcorn Station, the scouse woman running the shop yelled out ‘Oh! YOU are ‘avin a laugh!’ To which I replied ‘No, but thanks to all this gear, hopefully 500 folks in London will be ‘avin one tomorrow night.’ Not a flicker of amusement passed across her face, not even for a top flight retort such as that!
In the end we got it all there safe and sound, the nice train driver even helped, by telling us to stack it by the doors which wouldn’t open until Euston. As we left the train, the driver made an announcement over the tannoy thing, to remind all passengers to ensure they didn’t leave their ‘bags or banjos’ behind…..made me laugh anyway. As we got off the train we loaded 2 of those trolley things up with this mountain of gear, and pushed them out of Euston Station, right across Euston Road, up Gordon Street, then up the ramp into the Bloomsbury. Which is where they stayed until we left – a snip at 2 quid – which we got back when we returned em on our way home anyway! One of my better ideas I thought, and anyway, the trolleys had ‘St Pancras’ printed on em, so, if it’s good enough for Network Rail……besides we didn’t steal them, merely borrowed them. I mean, who do you think we are? Politicians? Speaking of which, I never got me quid back! That bloody Jonny Hase MP must’ve had it off!!
So, job one, transportation – done – but now for the ‘main business of the evening’. To get everybody drilled and readied for the evening’s show – no mean feat, as the show ran at 2 and a half hours and comprised a compleat performance of ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer singing ‘A Bout of Sobriety’ and Rick Wakeman, Neil Innes and David Caitlin-Birch, (the ‘Mock Macca’ in The Bootleg Beatles), performing ‘My Pink Half of the Drainpipe’ and ‘I’m Bored’. Plus myself, Brainwashing House and Rick, Neil, Danny Thompson, Rod Slater, Susie Honeyman, Jim Cuomo and John Halsey performing a mini-tribute to that other lost classic of Viv’s – ‘Teddy Boys Don’t Knit’, to whit ‘The Cracks are Showing’, ‘Terry Keeps His Clips On’, ‘Possibly an Armchair’ and ‘Ginger Geezer’. Yes, a lot of that does involve me doesn’t it? this is what happens when guest vocalists drop out. As per usual, old dickhead here jumps up and says ‘I’ll do it!’ WITH the guys Vivian Stanshall referred to as his ‘dream band’ you say? Aye! Why not! No pressure then…..
As it happens our MD, the incomparable Bill Leach, pulled this huge show and this incredible array of talent into shape between 10am and 7pm on the day. If it hadn’t been for his skill and expertise, there would have been no show. WHEW! Thank Clapton for Bill! Once me and the musos were all drilled and ready for action, it was time for one last chap to rehearse – Vivian’s son Rupert. As you’d expect, Rupert took to reprising his role in the original recording of ‘Possibly an Armchair’ with great alacrity, and the theatre went silent as we put the final polish on the song. A real ‘goosebumps’ moment! So, with the music now sorted, only one final, but critical, element was required to complete the show. Paradoxically, this last piece of the jigsaw, was the intro to the show, starring ‘Time Team’ stalwarts Francis Pryor and Phil Harding. To say that meeting these two chaps was a thrill would be greatly understating the matter. Both Phil and Francis were just as charming, barmy and hilarious as you’d imagine, and so with a few runs of their ‘bit’ (a piece I wrote for them about the theatre being built on an old Iron Age monument), we were off!!
Aside from the inevitable cock-ups that you will always get with such an ambitious, crazy and huge live show, all of which were dealt with admirably by our stage manager for the night Laura, the show ran like clockwork, and by the interval we were reasonably content that we had done a great first half. So, in true Stanshall style, we decided to spend the interval in a suitably fitting manner, telling jokes and relaxing with a beer or two. The idea being to totally prepare for giving the second half of the show even more gusto and energy than the first!
Incredibly, the second half DID go even more swimmingly than the first, and we all had an absolute ball performing for the Bloomsbury crowd that night! I shall never, ever forget such an incredible and amazing experience! The press release had promised ‘an evening of jaw-dropping entertainment’ and we all worked our arses orf, and did our utmost, to provide it! Judging by the flurry of positive comments which filled Twitter afterwards, our audience agreed. HURRAH! Job’s a good un! Below are just a selection of the Tweets. Thankyou all, it really made all the hard work so worthwhile!
And that was that! Months of preparation, emails, tweets, phonecalls, scoring music, line-learning, beer drinking, poster designing, disc burning, hair-tearing and rehearsal by myself, Rupert, Bill, Chris, Ged, John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis and Jonny ‘Bongo’ Hase was all over! But, as Rick Wakeman posits in his tweet above, it should be an annual event. But will it? Will there be another show next year? Well, as our Press Release also promised, it was a ‘not to be repeated’ event, and this, again, is totally true. With this original line-up of Brainwashing House, only one more show, at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre on June 18th remains. After that, Brainwashing House shall sadly be no more. The chaps shall be hanging up their cobwebs, and sailing on to pastures new, (a mixed metaphor, but you get the picture), and I wish each and every one of them the very best of luck, thank them for 4 years of amazing fun and brilliant times, and cross my fat fingers that our professional paths may one day cross again. Still, they’ve not split yet, so here is a cracking pic of the whole company the morning after One Night Stanshall.
However, let us not be down’earted bruvvers, there is still one more show to go! Afore ye go, here is a little snippet taken from the mixing desk recording of ‘One Night Stanshall’. ‘Possibly an Armchair’, which features me on vox, Bill on guitars, Ukelele Huff on uke, John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis on clarinet, Ged Fox on trumpet, Jonny ‘Bongo’ Hase on percussion, Neil Innes and Rick Wakeman side-by-side on piano, Danny Thompson on bass, Rodney Slater on bass clarinet, Jim Cuomo on soprano sax and Susie Honeyman on violin. The track also features a special guest appearance by Rupert Stanshall, reprising his role from the original recording!
So, what does the future hold for Sir Henry at Rawlinson End? For the answer read on’t dot, dot, dot, dot, dot
Well, only 4 days to go now until our Stanshallian Spectacular at the Bloomsbury Theatre aka ‘One Night Stanshall’. Strange to think that in 5 days time it will all be over, after 12 solid months of preparation. You see, Rupert, Vivian’s son, and I started to plan this show straight after last year’s 70th Birthday Party event, with a very clear mandate. We wanted to do our best to get together what, Rupert has told me many times, his Dad referred to has his ‘Dream Band’ to play his music in and around our performance of his meisterwerk ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’. No mean feat as these are a supremely talented group of performers who are rarely, if ever, not working, and who are scattered around the globe. However, we managed it. We also wanted to ensure that we held the event at the place that Vivian referred to as his ‘performing home’ in the capital – The Bloomsbury Theatre – and we managed that too.
So, next Tuesday, April 8th, we shall be privileged to welcome to the Bloomsbury, Vivian’s dream band, all of whom last played with the great man in 1991, at the Rawlinson Dog-Ends shows, for what will truly be a one-off event. The roll-call of top-flight, A-list performers we have got together reads like the fantasy band of any Classic Rock and Pop fan. Neil Innes, Rodney Slater, Danny Thompson, Jim Cuomo, Susie Honeyman and ‘Admiral’ John Halsey for ONE NIGHT ONLY, and for one reason alone. To celebrate the life and music of their late, great friend Vivian Stanshall.
There was one musician on Vivian’s ‘dream band’ list however who could not play at the ‘Rawlinson Dog Ends’ shows at the Bloomsbury in 1991, and that is keyboard supremo and prog rock superstar Rick Wakeman. You may or may not know this, but Rick plays on Viv’s classic 1974 LP ‘Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead’. Amazingly however, next Tuesday at ‘One Night Stanshall’ Rick WILL be playing in that band. Thereby finally getting together Viv’s dream band at long last.
Speaking personally, as a fan of all of these incredible musicians and performers, I cannot express to you how excited I am to get to meet and work with these people next week. It really will be like a dream come true! So, please take us seriously when we say ‘One Night Stanshall’ really is a ONE NIGHT ONLY event! to get such talent together – Vivian’s own ‘dream band’ – to celebrate the great Vivian Stanshall IS a dream come true, and lucky you get to sit in the audience and let these giants entertain you!! Can we swap?
On second thoughts, having looked at the photo of me n Rick above, I’ve changed me mind! Terrified or not, I’m not swapping – though I do wish I could sit in the audience and enjoy this historical event with you all! This is truly an event that you cannot afford to miss! I mean, it will haunt you for the rest of your days if you wasted the opportunity to come and see Vivian’s Dream Band perform wouldn’t it? TICKETS are still available form the Bloomsbury website here; ONE NIGHT STANSHALL TICKETS
Well, here I sit typing, a stone lighter and ready to tread the boards of the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. Well, I say ready, bloody petrified is more appropriate tbh! Getting on stage is a scary prospect, believe me, I know! I recall my London theatre debut, at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Camden, in pin-sharp, vivid detail precisely because I was so frightened. So much so that toward the end of the first act, the panic attack that had been bubbling away nicely all day suddenly turned HUGE! Of course, in this technological age we live in, the moment was captured for posterity, and you too can see my panic attack here – ULP! – note the huge intake of breath at the start, then the ROAR of terror, closely followed by me catching myself and, thank gawd, finally remembering my lines and moving on. Properly scary! As regular readers of this blog, well my one reader, will know, I’ve always suffered from panic attacks. I hope I don’t have one during next Tuesday’s ‘One Night Stanshall’ show, but if you do happen to see a fat bloke in one green and one red sock, wearing a checked jacket, tearing down Gordon Street and heading for Euston Station next Tuesday night, then you know who it is!
That was almost 3 years ago, (SHIT!), and since that dark October night at the 40 seater Lion and Unicorn, things have changed a little, as we prepare to once again inhabit the 535 seat Bloomsbury Theatre. One vital factor in this transformation is that one of the audience members that first night was the legend that is Neil Innes. I can’t really put into words the help, advice and time that Neil has given since that night, not only to the show, but also myself. Since then I have had the opportunity to perform with him and also perform as support act to the first Rutles reunion show, last year at the Borderline Club, Soho. Bucket-list stuff! BTW in case there are any Rutles fans reading this unaware of the fact that the prefab four are touring the UK from May, here is the link to visit to learn more and get your tickets Rutles Tour
So, where was I? Soho! No, that’s wrong – for many reasons! Oh aye, that’s reet! One Night Stanshall, next Tuesday, April 8th, at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London folks! TICKETS HERE! As I mentioned last time, prep is going brilliantly, and both myself and my co-producer, Vivian’s son Rupert, are both very pleased with the way things have developed. Our MD, Bill Leach, has gone above and beyond even his own high work-rate and commitment for this show, and the results will speak for themselves. His job is not only to score all the music, but also to marshal me and my band of loonies on Tuesday AND integrate it with the aforementioned Neil Innes and other greats such as Rod Slater, Rick Wakeman, Danny Thompson, John Halsey, Susie Honeyman, Jim Cuomo and Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. That is no mean feat! Without Bill there would be no show. Pure and simple. He is the metronomic heartbeat of the whole enterprise.
We’ve had some nice bits n bobs in the press leading up to the show, (and we need more if there are any press reading!), one of which is this lovely preview piece, written by well-known Times and Guardian comedy reviewer Bruce Dessau, which you can read at his brilliant website here. So, 5 days to go to another incredible life experience and I am, as usual, not feeling ready. But whether I like it or not, on Tuesday I will be up on that stage with my pals, recreating Vivian’s meisterwerk ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’. There is much, MUCH more yet to do, so I spose I’d best stop boring you and get on and do it! However, afore I go, one last pearl of wisdom imparted to me by Neil Innes. ‘don’t rehearse! Then NOTHING can possibly go wrong!’ A very wise man! And with that, I shall bid you adieu and I shall see you at the Bloomsbury next Tuesday! Mine’s a large Southampton Red Rum!! Oh, and don’t forget, you can follow the show on Twitter @SirHenryShow and I am on there too @MichaelLivesley – but on my feed you will only find more shite like the stuff I write on here although, due to the 140 character limit, it is mercifully MUCH briefer!