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biG GRunt - In Session

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 8 / 11 / 2016

biG GRunt - In Session
Label: Mega Dodo
Format: 12"


First-rate vinyl only EP from biG GRunt, Vivian Stanshall's post Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, which compiles together and officially releases four songs recorded for a John Peel show in 1970

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?

Track Listing:-
1 Blind Date
2 11 Mustachioed Daughters
3 The Strain
4 Cyborg Signal

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