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29 Jul 2017

Vivian Stanshall & biG GRunt "In Session" 2016 Recorded for the John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1 on 16/03/1970 transmitted 21/03/1970


Vivian Stanshall & biG GRunt "In Session" 2016  Recorded for the John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1 on 16/03/1970 transmitted 21/03/1970

First official release of these historic recordings.
Includes the previously unreleased Cyborg Signal.

full



Recorded on March 16, 1970 for the BBC’s legendary John Peel Show on Radio 1, Big Grunt (Dennis Cowan – bass, Roger Ruskin Spear – saxophone, Vivian Stanshall – vocals & euphonium, Ian Wallace – drums, Bubs White – guitar) emerged from the break-up of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Stanshall was a wild performance artist and psychedelic rocker, and Big Grunt combined excellent rock chops with wild costumes, robots, and enough trippy lyrics to make your head spin.

The Peel Session was only four tracks, but they’re all a neat slice of early 1970’s British psych-rock. “Blind Date” is a quirky, weird track full of Stanshall’s goofy humor about meeting a woman from a dating service. “11 Mustachioed Daughters” is probably the band’s biggest hit, and it’s easy to hear why with Wallace’s big drums, Cowan’s killer bass line, White’s near-stoner rock guitar, and Stanshall raving like a mad druid.

“The Strain” is about trying to poop as Stanshall sings from the perspective of whatever’s inside him and needs to get out and then about his grief as the phone rings and people knock on the door. White’s surf guitar is outstanding on the track. “Cyborg Signal” is a cool instrumental that shows the band weren’t just a one-trick pony that made songs about sitting on the crapper..........

Between the years following the split of the weird and wonderful Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (the Dadaist wing of Psychedelica Britannia) and really getting his mojo back with the deliciously surreal Sir Henry At Rawlinson End broadcasts on the John Peel show, Vivian Stanshall was involved with various short lived musical projects that have more than often been relegated to little more than a footnote in articles and books about him. Somewhat overshadowed by his drunken, and often hilarious, escapades with drinking chum Keith Moon (which included touring the drinking dens of Soho dressed in full Nazi regalia……bad taste for even the early 70s), biG GRunt where one of the many collective alter egos/bands fronted by Stanshall post split………….. If you have ever considered what the Bonzo’s would of sounded like stripped of Neil Innes’s pop smarts but with Vivian Stanshall’s fertile imagination and penchant for musical experimentation given free reign then biG GRunt were that band. Including former Bonzo’s, bassist Dennis Cowan and saxophonist Roger Ruskin Spear (in addition to having been the most manic member of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band onstage and after Stanshall and Innes the third most prolific songwriter of the band, was also a self-styled inventor who built bizarre robots, exploding props and absurd mechanical contraptions for their live shows) along with guitarists Bubs White and Borneo Fred Munt, both of whom had been members of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's road crew, plus powerful drummer Ian Wallace (who was later to join King Crimson and then drummed for a whole host of 70s/80s rock A-listers), even without biG GRunt having played a note of music in public, the background of the individual members made it clear that they were a formidable prospect both musically and as performers. Tipped for “very big things”, music press interviews of the time caught Stanshall enthusiastically discussing his ambitious plans for the band, aiming to create “a fusion of serious music with avant-garde humour and over-the-top visuals” However, Stanshall's well-documented personal problems made it difficult for him to give the project his full attention and keep the line-up together, so by the summer of 1971 biG GRunt were unofficially but obviously defunct. Leaving a slight legacy of a few well received live shows, a B-side of a single which had the dubious honour of being produced by Keith Moon, a berserk live performance on "Marty Amok" (a BBC1 special featuring the comedian Marty Feldman) and a lone session for John Peel, biG GRunt disappeared, reduced to mere mentions when Stanshall was finally recognised as “The Greatest Living Englishman” before his untimely death in 1995 ……..until now. The biG GRunt Peel Session, after languishing in the BBC vaults for nearly half a century, has been dusted down for the first official release of these historic recordings by the good folk at Mega Dodo. What is surprising is that these tracks remained in the vaults for so long with the Bonzo’s/Innes/Stanshall outstanding work from the 60s/early 70s has never being recognized with a full on, deluxe packaged retrospective box set when lesser lights of that era have had every single note of music of varying quality exhumed…….it has taken the musicologists at Mega Dodo to unearth this gem. 

Broadcast on 21/3/1970, the biG GRunt Peel Session saw the band perform four tracks of mostly brand new material, each of tune as exciting and invigorating as the initial promise had suggested and totally justifying the buzz around the band at the time. ‘Blind Date’, a track later to turn up as a the B side of a cover of the Elvis Presley tune ‘Suspicion’ by Vivian Stanshall & Gargantuan Chums, is typical of the mannered, over-articulated material Stanshall would write for the Bonzo’s………….a C&W shuffle through a first person tale of boy meets girl for a blind date at Waterloo Station with the twist being that it is a primate and a pygmy monkeying about before the narrator is captured and returned to Whipsnade Zoo. There is an apocryphal tale that ‘Blind Date', had been “written when Vivian Stanshall, for some bizarre and unexplained reason, was asked to provide a song for the wholesome easy listening crooner Matt Monro. The singer's management, who were presumably expecting something more in the style of the Bonzo's crooner parody 'Canyons Of Your Mind' were understandably less than pleased to be presented with a song that, while undeniably catchy, was about a gorilla and a pygmy being introduced by a dating agency”. Revisiting the Avant-Jazz shronk of ‘11 Mustachioed Daughters', a hypnotic and rhythm-heavy track with strange lyrics concerning witchcraft, paganism and voodoo which had originally appeared on The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's second album "The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse" in 1967, biG GRunt retool the tune as an Beefheart-esque psychedelic wig out with dynamic guitar riffs, funky bass and massive drumming underpinnng Stanshall's demented vocal delivery. This is a tantalizing taste of the direction that Stanshall and biG GRunt may have taken if the band had lasted more than twelve months…………ditching the vaudevillian whimsy of the Bonzo’s and moving towards a heavier, far out “Art Rock” sound which has a proto-Prog/Psych vibe, it is unknown whether biG GRunt actually recorded any more material in the studio, but it's tempting to speculate what may be gathering dust in the vaults. Also recorded for this session was 'The Strain'……..another song associated with the Bonzo’s which turned up on the lacklustre 1972 contractual obligation reunion album Let's Make Up And Be Friendly. However, it started out as a biG GRunt number and was noticeably different in its original incarnation, as presented here. The Peel session version is far more rough and ready than the version that the Bonzo’s recorded with a basic good-time Pub Rock boogie feel. The track that is going to get the hardcore Bonzo/Stanshall fans drooling is the final track on the EP, the previously unreleased instrumental ‘Cyborg Signal'. Although its melodic motif would later form the basis for 'Strange Tongues' on Stanshall's solo album Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead, ‘Cyborg Signal’ has, up till now, not been heard since the session was originally broadcast……………………unlike anything you would normally associate with Viv Stanshall, this track is a Progressive Rock outing to the stars and back in time for tea, cramming more interesting and complex compositional ideas into a five minutes than some early 70s bands managed over six sides of vinyl. Light years ahead of its time, this astonishing track is a firm reminder that there was so much more to this man than the eccentric “ginger geezer” who cropped up on John Peel during the 70s and 80s with tales of the gloriously dysfunctional Rawlinson’s and what a genuinely exciting musical project biG GRunt were…………..if not for Stanshall’s unfortunate personal problems at the time, in an era of long haired, ex-Army greatcoat/afgan wearing ProgHeads, biG GRunt couldda bin serious contenders. As Tim Worthington wrote in Issue 26 of the Arts and Culture magazine Paintbox, “For a brief but invigorating moment, they appeared to be doing something that was genuinely intriguing and pioneering. It could be said that it's easy to speculate about what might have been, but the band's Peel session is evidence of what actually was, and it still sounds thoroughly exciting to this day”. 

Due for official release towards the end of September as a limited edition run of 500 copies on 12” yellow vinyl, the biG GRunt In Session EP will be available to pre-order in August from the Mega Dodo website……so keep ‘em peeled. It goes without saying that this is an essential purchase for the legion of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band/Vivian Stanshall fans out there.......

By the time that The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band played their final live dates early in 1970, the individual members had been planning their next move for several months. While for Rodney Slater this meant a career in social work, the others had a more musical direction in mind - and, predictably, nobody's plans were more inventive, ambitious or downright eccentric than those of Vivian Stanshall. 

In the months leading up to the band's split, both Stanshall and Neil Innes had formed new bands and had already started recording, but while Innes' new project The World had released an album (the superb "Lucky Planet") by the end of 1970, Stanshall's Sean Head Showband, a loose collection of musicians which included Eric Clapton, only managed to put out one single. 'Labiodental Fricative'/'Paper Round' was certainly an impressive single - particularly the a-side, with its ringing guitars, dreamy middle eight and absurd tongue-twister lyrics - but the Sean Head Showband was clearly never intended as anything more than a short-term stopgap project. Barely a month after the release of 'Labiodental Fricative', the Sean Head Showband were effectively defunct and Stanshall announced the arrival of his major new project - biG GRunt.

In addition to Stanshall as lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, biG GRunt included two other former members of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in their ranks, demonstrating that Stanshall was playing as close attention to the band's visual style and use of humour as he was to the music. Bassist Dennis Cowan, who at that time was also a member of The World, was a reliable musical anchor and renowned by his former bandmates for his highly distinctive sense of humour. Saxophonist Roger Ruskin Spear, in addition to having been the most manic member of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band onstage and the third most prolific songwriter of the outfit (after Stanshall and Innes), was also a self-styled inventor who built bizarre robots, exploding props and absurd mechanical contraptions for their live shows. The other members of biG GRunt were guitarists Bubs White and Borneo Fred Munt, both of whom had been members of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's road crew, and powerful drummer Ian Wallace. Even without biG GRunt having played a note of music in public, the background of the individual members made it clear that they were a formidable prospect both musically and as performers. .........


How do you explain The Bonzo Dog Band to people who have never heard of The Bonzo Dog Band? More complicated, how do you explain Vivian Stanshall’s Big Grunt?

The Bonzo Dog Band were one of the premier Outrageous/Spoof Rock bands of the 1960s. Alumni included members who eventually became members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. More recently The Rutles. In between, offered some of the enduring classics, such as Can The Blue Men Sing The Whites? The Intro and The Outro, Canyons Of Your Mind, I Am The Urban Spaceman – and on and on. One of their classic songs, Death Cab For Cutie, was featured in The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour movie and eventually became the name of another band of admirers who are currently making the rounds.

So you kind of know who they are – even if you can’t put your finger exactly on how.

Formed in the early 1960s, the Bonzo Dog Band took to reworking songs of the 1920s and 1930s as their model. They quickly gained a reputation as one of the most outrageous bands to perform on stage, and were subsequently hugely admired by everyone from Paul McCartney to Steve Winwood. Vivian Stanshall’s association with The Who’s Keith Moon became the stuff of legend and Stanshall was later credited as the Narrator on Mike Oldfield‘s legendary Tubular Bells. And that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

After The Bonzos called it a day in early 1970, Vivian Stanshall along with ex-Bonzo’s Dennis Cowan and Ruger Ruskin Spear formed the short-lived Big Grun in March of that year and this session was one of the first (and only) from the new band, recorded for John Peel‘s program on March 16.

If you’re familiar with the work of Vivian Stanshall, you probably know this session – even though it’s rather obscure. If you don’t know who Vivian Stanshall was, or who the Bonzo Dog Band were – Big Grunt might give you some idea......BY GORDONSKENE ·.........................

This August, Mega Dodo unleashes the debut John Peel session by Vivian Stanshall & biG GRunt. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, here's a short history by Tim Worthington.
By the time that The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band played their final live dates early in 1970, the individual members had been planning their next move for several months. While for Rodney Slater this meant a career in social work, the others had a more musical direction in mind - and, predictably, nobody's plans were more inventive, ambitious or downright eccentric than those of Vivian Stanshall.

In the months leading up to the band's split, both Stanshall and Neil Innes had formed new bands and had already started recording, but while Innes' new project The World had released an album (the superb "Lucky Planet") by the end of 1970, Stanshall's Sean Head Showband, a loose collection of musicians which included Eric Clapton, only managed to put out one single. 'Labiodental Fricative'/'Paper Round' was certainly an impressive single - particularly the a-side, with its ringing guitars, dreamy middle eight and absurd tongue-twister lyrics - but the Sean Head Showband was clearly never intended as anything more than a short-term stopgap project. Barely a month after the release of 'Labiodental Fricative', the Sean Head Showband were effectively defunct and Stanshall announced the arrival of his major new project - biG GRunt...by..John Blaney ......................

biG GRunt was one of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band lead singer and celebrated eccentric Vivian Stanshall’s first post-Bonzos bands following their break-up in early 1970. This band came fast on the heels of his brief projects the Sean Head Showband, Bonzo Dog Freaks, and Gargantuan Chums (with Keith Moon). 

For biG GRunt the very restless Vivian recruited drummer Ian Wallace, two Bonzos – the frenetic and underappreciated saxophonist and inventor Roger Ruskin Spear and bass player Dennis Cowan – and two former Bonzos roadies – Bubs White and Borneo Fred Munt. Vivian said at the time of the band’s formation that he wanted it to be much more musical and experimental than the Bonzos but still contain visual gags and costumes, as well as a machine – created by Spear, of course – that pumped smells into the audience.

'In Session' contains four songs biG GRunt recorded in a live session on John Peel’s Radio 1 show in March 1970, which have somehow taken 46 years to be officially released, despite their historic significance. Troubled genius that he was, Vivian’s post-Bonzos output was unfortunately small, so it makes previously hidden songs like these that much more valuable.

In a Radio 4 documentary about Vivian in 2014 John Peel producer John Walter described how biG GRunt ended up on the show:

“Viv, after the Bonzos, kept calling me and wanting to come on the Peel show. Frankly he had nothing he could do. He’d start to, he’d get a band together. biG GRunt was one of them, I can’t remember all the others, but then he’d ring round all these mates, Stevie Winwood and people who’d do him a favour, because people loved him, really. I mean, it’s quite amazing.”

The four songs here are an abbreviated display of Vivian’s surreal humor, quicksilver Dadaist wordplay, and brilliant mastery of parody. “Blind Date” was originally written for old school crooner Matt Monro, whose manager took the Bonzos’ 'In the Canyons of Your Mind' at face value and expected something similar, not a talking blues backed with country-rockabilly guitar about the blind date of a recently escaped gorilla (with a flawless American accent) and a pygmy: “I softly brushed your lips in the fur-tongued horror of a kiss/They were filthy.” 'Blind Date' ended up as the B-side on the Gargantuan Chums’ single 'Suspicion'.

'The Strain' was described by Tim Worthington in Paintbox as Vivian’s “bizarre attempt at creating a dance craze involving lavatories.” The song is dominated by Vivian’s echoey constipated grunting that sounds like he’s on the verge of rupturing something. 'The Strain' appeared in a different form on the Bonzos’ reunion album 'Let’s Make Up and Be Friendly' two years later.

'11 Mustachioed Daughters' is a free and unrestrained version of the slightly witchy, mystical original that appeared on the Bonzos’ second album 'The Dougnut in Granny’s Greenhouse'. Both versions contain the heavy African percussion Vivian loved so much, but this remake with drummer Ian Wallace is wilder by far. None of the song’s elements would be out of place on an Arthur Brown album. Like much of his work, it brings to mind Captain Beefheart, a friend of his with whom he had frequent marathon transatlantic telephone conversations. (That scenario alone is worth a play.) The surprise on the album is the delightfully strange spacey prog rock jam instrumental 'Cyborg Signal', a colourful swirl of Vivian’s euphonium, Spear’s sax, and Bubs White’s guitar, held together by Ian Wallace who, not surprisingly, went on to join King Crimson.

biG GRunt was short-lived, due to Vivian’s psychological breakdown and hospitalization shortly after a few live gigs, Peel’s show, a Marty Feldman television special, and the Easter edition of 'The Peter Cook and Dudley Moore Show'.

This release on the Mega Dodo label is a very limited one, with only 500 copies in yellow vinyl being pressed. Perhaps it’s time for all the Vivian Stanshall odds and ends in the BBC archives and elsewhere to be gathered up into a box set? ....By:Kimberly Bright ....................

On 12-inch vinyl, here's a historic biG GRunt John Peel session from the early '70s, featuring former Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band-members Vivian Stanshall (vocals and various instruments), Dennis Cowan (bass) and saxophonist Roger Ruskin Spear. The other members of biG GRunt were guitarists Bubs White and Borneo Fred Munt, both of whom had been members of The Bonzo's road crew, and drummer Ian Wallace. For fans of the Bonzo Dog Band's music and witty humor, this 12-inch is a must have.........................





Tracklist 
A1 Blind Date
A2 11 Mustachioed Daughters
B1 The Strain
B2 Cyborg Signal

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..