You could never tell which way Viv was going to jump. I suggested that the Bonzos could have been really big in the way that Dr Hook were by ditching funny songs in favour of ballads. “Of course we weren’t the Beach Boys or the marvellous Roy Orbison, but all our songs are love songs because they celebrate the joy of being with other people.”
After the Bonzos, Viv Stanshall teamed up with Scaffold and the Liverpool poets for Grimms. “I loved Roger McGough, who is quite rightly regarded as a wonderful poet, but I couldn’t stand Brian Patten. He saw himself as a young Byron and I just wanted to punch him. I can’t remember whether I was thrown out of the group or whether I left but it would have ended in a fight.”
When I turned off the cassette, Viv sketched my eyes for his grief-stricken picture and I left about 4pm. “I don’t want to exhibit my paintings,” he said, “I want to leave them to my children, and I don’t mean the children of my loins, I mean my friends. I want to leave them something. They can look at them and say, ‘Well, at least he didn’t crap out, he retained his integrity.’”
Following a fire in his bedroom, Viv Stanshall died in March 1995. I don’t know what happened to his paintings or indeed, whether they survived the fire. If one of his friends has a painting that looks The Scream, he has got my eyes.