Monthly Archives: April 2014


Mince, mince, mince!

Mince, mince, mince!

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!


John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis, me and Jonny ‘Bongo’ Hase, ponder whether we should have taken those ‘nice jobs at the bank’ after all…

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!!

Clockwise L-R Rick and Neil rehearsing 'My Pink Half of the Drainpipe', twin sax greats Rodney Slater and Jim Cuomo rehearsing 'Armchair' and the whole gang of us, including bass supremo Danny Thompson in the background rehearsing 'Ginger Geezer' - even my prosthetic gut looks realistic on this one!

Clockwise L-R Rick and Neil rehearsing ‘My Pink Half of the Drainpipe’, twin sax greats Rodney Slater and Jim Cuomo rehearsing ‘Armchair’ and the whole gang of us, including bass supremo Danny Thompson in the background rehearsing ‘Ginger Geezer’ – even my prosthetic gut looks realistic on this one!

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…..

Clockwise L-R. Stage manager, and producer of 'English as Tuppence', Laura Baron attempts to manage Neil and Rod. Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer rehearses 'A Bout of Sobriety' with the supergroup. Me, working my arse off, rehearsing 'Armchair' with the supergroup and Vivian's son Rupert, (standing by the gramophone), and Francis Pryor and Phil Harding run through that all-important opening to the evening!

Clockwise L-R. ‘One Night Stanshall’ stage manager, and producer of ‘English as Tuppence’, Laura Baron attempts to manage Neil and Rod. Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer rehearses ‘A Bout of Sobriety’ with the supergroup. Me, working my arse off, plus the supergroup, rehearsing ‘Armchair’ with Vivian’s son Rupert, (standing by the gramophone), and Francis Pryor and Phil Harding rehearsing that all-important opening to the evening!

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!!

Clockwise L-R. Neil and Rick join Phil and Francis to open the show. Me 'capering' with Brainwashing House during 'Socks'. Mr B joins the throng for 'A Bout of Sobriety'. and I shout me way thru another rousing chorus of 'Ginger Geezer'.

Clockwise L-R. Neil and Rick join Phil and Francis to open the show. Me ‘capering’ with Brainwashing House during ‘Socks’. Mr B joins the throng for ‘A Bout of Sobriety’. and I shout me way thru another rousing rendish of ‘Ginger Geezer’

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!

L-R Me and Rick Wakeman gab in the green room during the half-time interval. Danny Thompson checks his phone for the lastest score at Stamford Bridge, to his right, our trumpeteer Ged Fox, chats to John Halsey aka Rutles drummer 'Barrington 'Barry' Wom' whilst John 'no jokes please' Lewis listens in.

The Green Room at half-time. Me and Rick Wakeman gab about Donovan’s ill-fated support slot on the US leg of Yes’s 1978 World Tour, and Danny Thompson checks his phone for the lastest score at Stamford Bridge whilst, to his right, our trumpeteer Ged Fox, chats to John Halsey aka Rutles drummer ‘Barrington ‘Barry’ Wom’ and John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis listens in.

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!

ONS TweetsAnd 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.

L-R MD Bill Leach, Trumpeteer Ged Fox, Chris 'ukelele' Huff, me, Jonny 'bongo' Hase, John 'no jokes' Lewis and our carer Richard enjoy a pint outside the Bree Louise, Euston Street, afore getting those borrowed trolleys back to Euston, and pouring us all onto the train back home.

L-R MD Bill Leach, Trumpeteer Ged Fox, Chris ‘ukelele’ Huff, me, Jonny ‘Bongo’ Hase, John ‘no jokes please’ Lewis and our carer Richard enjoy a pint outside the Bree Louise, Cobourg Street, afore getting those borrowed trolleys back to Euston, and pouring us all onto the train back home.

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.


Poster for ‘Rawlinson Dog Ends’ at the Bloomsbury, 9th-14th April 1991

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.


Vivian himself in the Bloomsbury foyer on the opening night of the sold out ‘Rawlinson Dog Ends’ show

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.


Rick Wakeman and Neil Innes rehearsing for our 70th Birthday Party show, last year at the Bloomsbury

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?


Me being regaled by my boyhood hero Rick Wakeman, during last years’ rehearsals for the 70th show at the Bloomsbury

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



ImageWell, 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!



me wearing Neil’s hat, (and ecstatic that that panicky London Premiere was over), flanked by Ade Edmondson and Neil Innes. Bill is on the far right, not politically of course!

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


Me supporting The Rutles at their first reunion show at the Borderline Club, Soho, with the ever-present ‘Jonny Hase’ on drums!

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.


Bill at his work

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!


The seminal LP played to me by Jonny Hase that started this whole thing off!!

Tata for now!! xxxx