Vivian Stanshall – Dog Howl In Tune

28th December 2023 · 2020s, 2023, Music

Vivian Stanshall was one of those great British eccentrics. I came across him in my teens on John Peel’s radio show, where he regularly narrated extracts from his satirical saga Sir Henry At Rawlinson End.

This rolling blues number, Dog Howl In Tune, is very different. It’s the title track of an autobiographical album he was working on in the last five years of his life prior to his death in a fire in 1995.

It was planned to appear on an album that was eventually released posthumously only in late 2023, along with the final part of his spoken word series, Rawlinson End.

The finished album includes a poignant song called Shackleton from another unfinished project, about the Antarctic explorer Ernest, and one called Boy In Darkness from a project with Steve Winwood.

Guest musicians include Jack Bruce on bass, Ollie Halsall from Pato, Susie Honeyman from The Mekons, Mike Kellie from Spooky Tooth and The Only Ones, and old Bonzos mate Rodney Slater.

The album was pieced together from old recordings and completed by Andy Frizell, who has worked with Kevin Ayers and The Coral, with the help of Stanshall’s son Rupert.

Stanshall, who had studied at Walthamstow College of Art alongside Ian Dury and Peter Greenaway, had spent much of the 1980s working on an “English comic opera in the grand tradition” called Stinkfoot, which first ran at The Old Profanity Showboat in Bristol Harbour in 1985 and was later revived in London.

He also worked with his friend Steve Winwood, who had collaborated on Stanshall’s 1974 solo debut Men Opening Umbrellas, returning the favour by co-writing the title track to Winwood’s album Arc Of A Diver six years later.

He also worked with Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells 2, following his memorable turn as narrator of the original album – inspired by his finest Bonzo moment introducing the instruments of an entire orchestra in increasingly comic fashion on The Intro And The Outro.

But he always wanted to record and release another rock album – a sequel to his 1981 opus Teddy Boys Can’t Knit – and had been collecting songs as far back as the 1970s, funding recording sessions with money he earned from advertising work.

Tragically he died in a house fire before the album could be completed.