Interview: Vivian Stanshall & Larry Smith, 1983
Contributed by Lenny Laakso, from The Lost Beatles Interviews
by Geoffrey Giuliano.
Interview conducted by Geoffrey Giuliano in Chertsey, 1983.
- Geoffrey: How did the Bonzos' appearance as the house band in
The Magical Mystery Tour come about?
- Viv: Brian Epstein used to own a place called the
Saville Theatre, and
Paul and John used to sneak in occasionally to see us, because we
supported Cream a couple of times and the Bee Gees. Yes, I think the
Magical Mystery Tour was just dropped on us.
Paul suddenly phoned up and said, "Do you fancy it?"
- Larry: We were doing a week's cabaret in
somewhere wonderful like Darlington, which is up in the north of England,
and our roadie came rushing back from the telephone and said "You're not
going to believe this." It was an almost definite confirmation that we'd
gotten the "Mystery Tour". The Beatles had personally invited us to
- Viv: Someone nicked all our instruments, though, didn't they, from
outside that alley, don't you remember? All the saxes went, your kit went,
we had to hire everything to do the film.
- Larry: It was pretty rushed because, as I said, we were doing a week in
Darlington. And believe it or not, the manager we had at the time was
wondering whether we could get out of doing the gig, if I recall. And we
had to rush around to find a substitute to play. We got Gene Pitney, as he
was flying over.
- Geoffrey: You must have been personal favorites of the Beatles, or you
wouldn't have been asked.
- Larry: Surely, yeah. That's very nice to know.
- Geoffrey: Were you around on the bus with them and all that?
- Viv: Oh no, we just did that one bit, and it was finito. Then they had
that ruddy great party wherever the hell it was, where they all -
- Larry: At the Lancaster Hotel.
- Viv: Oh, we had a great jam that night, didn't we? God, I wish I had
that on tape.
- Geoffrey: Who was involved?
- Viv: Well, I was up on stage with Lennon doing vocals on Lawdie Miss
Clawdy, Long Tall Sally, you know, all the oldies. We screamed our
heads off. Who was on the kit? Must have been Ringo, I should think, and
Klaus Voorman playing bass.
- Larry: George got up and blew some saxophone.
- Viv: That's right. By God, it was a great row!
- Larry: I remember going out into the lobby and hearing Lulu speaking on
the phone: "Hello, Mother? I'm in London having a great time. I just can't
come home just yet. I'm with the Beatles!" For me the most wonderful
costume event of the evening was George Martin and his wife storming the
cocktail area as Prince Philip and the Queen. For a moment everyone
thought, "Can it really be them?" I mean, they just looked so right.
- Geoffrey: Tell me how Paul got involved in producing the band.
- Viv: Well, they wouldn't let him back into Poland. Actually I was more
chummy with John myself, riding around in that absurd psychedelic Rolls of
his. I think I just phoned Paul up and said, "Look, I think we could do a
hit record." So he said, "What have you got?" And so we sent him over some
stuff, and when he heard
Urban Spaceman he said
"that's the one. I'll come and do it, you fix up the studio,"
and he came down and we did it.
Just to put us at our ease, he sat down and said, "I've just knocked this
song off, what do you think of it?" and he played us Hey Jude.
So I said it was all right, apart from the verse!
- Larry: And I told him religion will never be a hit. You can't write
about that! Anyway, we worked really efficiently, it was quite nice. We
did the whole thing in about five hours. I don't know why he wanted to be
called Apollo C. Vermouth on the record, though.
- Viv: That was my idea. I didn't want the thing to sell on his name
alone. It was nothing to do with anything contractual on his side, he was
quite happy to have it out there with his name on it, but I just didn't
think that would be a fair measure.
- Geoffrey: Do you know he put out a few tunes under the name of Bernard
Webb? He also penned several songs for other artists that Epstein had
under assumed names, just to see if they would sell on their own or if
everything was just selling because he was Paul McCartney. And he had a
big number-one hit. Tell me about his relationship with Lennon.
- Viv: There's not a lot to tell, really. Just the absurd anomalies of the
time. We'd wind up at the Speakeasy or some other godawful club, get
sloshed, and he'd say, "Want a ride home, wack?" I'd say, "Okay, John," so
he'd drop me off in my crabby basement in Islington that I was
rat-hunchbacked in, and he'd be in his Rolls full of birds and things and
just drive off!
- Larry: And I'd have been up two hours worrying where he'd been all