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 an entire year into such a tiny box madam? For the answer to all of this and less you’ll have to read on’t…..
JANUARY – The year started in spectacular fashion performing ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’ in honour of its late and illustrious author Vivian Stanshall at Bristol’s historic Old Vic Theatre. Joining us were old friends Neil Innes and Bristolian performance artists ‘Desperate Men‘ plus also new pals Stephen Fry and Ronnie Golden. You can read a review here. Even as a jaded old sod standing on that historic and ancient stage belting out Viv’s incredible words with Stephen Fry was one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments that I shall never forget.
Our show was part of Bristol’s 2015 Slapstick Festival, at which next year I shall be giving a talk about Mancunian Studios in January 2016. Which reminds me, I have an interview with the Manchester Evening News about that on Monday. Best crack on…
…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 me to edit and grade all of the interviews for my upcoming Neil Innes documentary. The doc is taking a very long time due to the sheer amount of peeps who wanted to be interviewed for it and my chronic shortage of time. However, 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 Cunt’ 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?
As anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Innes Acres will attest, Neil and Yvonne are the most incredibly generous hosts and as we all sat around the groaning dining board in the kitchen, blown out and picking our teeth, I realised that one of my new bandmates was a certain legendary dood by the name of Elliott Randall. The chap who plays the iconic guitar riff from Steely Dan’s ‘Reelin’ in the Years‘! Blimus! Thought I! You know those rare amazing folks you meet in life who you seem to hit it off with straight away? Yea. That’s what Elliott is like, and the same can be said for my other new buddies in that band ‘Rutling’ Ken Thornton and Phil Jackson. Splendid fellows all!
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, invoving 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 I planned to put on to remind people of the genius of Vivian Stanshall. For the first one in 2013 – Viv’s 70th Birthday Party – I decided on 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’.
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 ‘brainwave’ I had in October plans were made for one final performance of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End 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. The whole evening was filmed for RRAW by Brighton’s music guru Roy Weard and should see the light of day somewhere soon. 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!!
Until the next time…..cheers, ML xxx