Viv was smoking Spanish cigars and a succession of rolled cigarettes. He was depressed by the loss of his 80-year-old father and he showed me his father’s possessions including his false teeth. “I haven’t the room to do any sculpture so I shall incorporate them in some papier mâché job.” He had an enormous collection of press cuttings such as “Wolfman eats brother in front of taxicab” and he wanted to publish the best in a book.
Despite his depression, he was still witty. He referred to Matt and Luke as “the ghastly Goss Bros” and he told me of Keith Moon’s “Ivor Novello-coloured Rolls-Royce”. He derived most of his income from voiceovers but he had revived No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car for a charity album, The Last Temptation Of Elvis: “a dreadful song which comes from Unfun In Acapulco”. Viv didn’t see Canyons Of My Mind as an Elvis parody: “No, no, dear boy, I was thinking of The Windmills Of Your Mind which was such rotten poetry. I was stuffed to the neck with those rotten poets like Leonard Cohen and Rod McKuen.”
I asked Viv about his influences. “Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Gracie Fields and Noel Coward. I should say Chuck Berry but he was a thoroughly horrible man. I love Little Richard and I love his autobiography. He was a very funny man: just listen to the way he sings Send Me Some Lovin’.”
Many of the 60s musicians, including the entire Bonzo band, went to art college. “Clapton, Townshend and Lennon were art students. This is why English rock’n’roll in the 60s was so multifarious and extraordinary, but I don’t think that any of us thought it would last. Lennon had a revolting psychedelic Cadillac and we used to get pissed together, good man Lennon. His death hurt me more than Kennedy’s, that really hurt. Although he was a very serious man, he was also extremely funny. I think it is to do with courage as John couldn’t give a shit. He did some things that were frankly embarrassing. The bed-in was nonsense, but by god, we made each other laugh.”
When I mentioned I’m The Urban Spaceman, Viv cut me short, “Don’t mention the damn thing. I hate it. It was catchy but I only wanted to do things that were dangerous. As soon as the first bar of that picked up, the audience was with us and that really depressed me. When we did Mr Apollo, the record company said, ‘That doesn’t sound like the last one’ and I said, ‘Of course it doesn’t. That would make us extremely dreary.’ It is one of the best records we made but it sold bugger all. I never wanted to get in the charts in the first place. There are other values and it didn’t make us rich. £42.26 was my whole royalty for all our records. Still, the Pretty Things didn’t make a sausage.”