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BBC Documentaries: Season 2004

2004x46 Vivian Stanshall: The Canyons of His Mind

  • 2004-06-11T21:00:00+01:00 on BBC
  • 60 mins
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Documentary, Special Interest

BBC FOUR presents a profile of Vivian Stanshall - "The late, majestic Vivian Stanshall, one of the most talented, profligate, bizarre, infuriating, unfathomable and magnificent Englishmen ever to have drawn breath" - Stephen Fry.
A veteran of the common law marriage between Sixties art school and rock 'n' roll, Stanshall was co-founder, lead singer and co-writer of cult Sixties sensation The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, the missing link between satire and psychedelia, pop and performance art, pastiche and Python.
Stanshall was a dapper Zappa, perfecting what he called "ballet for the vulgar".
Like Peter Cook, he burnt himself out tragically early, virtually drinking himself to death before dying in a fire at his house in 1995.
He was, as the title of his last ever broadcast put it, a Renaissance man: writer, composer, performer and painter.
This film tells Viv's life story from mum and dad to Dada and Mummery.
It follows his progress from an 'odd boy' Southend seaside childhood, through art school, his intro to and outro from the Bonzo Dog Band and subsequent spectacular resurfacings as solo artist with his Peel Show monologue about Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (later a book and a film starring Trevor Howard), his comic opera Stinkfoot performed on board the Bristol Showboat and at London's Bloomsbury Theatre and his final appearances with Rawlinson DogEnds.
Tracing Viv's musical journey from its Bonzo beginnings to Rawlinson End and beyond, this expedition into the archival canyons of his mind is peppered with contributions from colleagues, close friends and comic descendants.
But at its centre is a portrait of the man who made his life and art into what he called "a sur-Ealing comedy", drawing on a wealth of largely BBC audio and video.
It combines interviews with his collaborators from the Bonzos and beyond, including band members Neil Innes, Legs Larry Smith, Rodney Slater and manager Gerry Bron, plus later associates like John Peel, Jack Bruce and lifetime fan and Stinkfoot financier Stephen Fry.