A cosy chat with Pete Moss (part 2)

I got hold of Peter’s e-mail address from Ki Longfellow some months ago and, after some procrastination requested a meeting to interview him about his long-standing friendship with Vivian.
Peter was particularly interesting to make contact with becuase he worked on all of the Sir Henry at Rawlinson End radio sessions, the film and album of the same name, the Teddy Boys Don’t Knit album and the Stinkfoot musical, to name but a few.
He was only too pleased to talk to myself and John Hobbs (of www.rawlinsonend.org.uk) at length about Vivian between flying off to Leipzig and various other meetings.
So we fixed a date, changed it and eventually descended Bournemouth-wards to meet and pester him at his home.
Once we got there we chatted to Peter for some two hours, it was wonderfully enlightening, and also pointed out a couple of inaccuracies in the Ginger Geezer biography of Vivian, the prime one being how Peter met Vivian.
Below are some responses to the questions we asked Peter, there was be a first part to this interview in the last issue.

All questions are Italicicized, the stills are from the October Films 2004 documentary for the BBC.

One of the wonderful examples of what Vivian did with language was a line like ‘He was feeling very important, very important was sitting at the next table, and he didn’t want to be felt at all’. And you didn’t realise that this was just going to appear out of nowhere.

Well, one of the weird things is, I’d have to say, because of all that with Vivian, and there’s still certain things that stay in my mind from those days, and I don’t find them strange at all, I just find them clever.
I was in Germany a couple of weeks back, and I remember there was a couple of people there, one of them was an English Trombone player, and the rest were German and we were talking in English, I mean I do speak German but we were talking English and one of them said ‘The problem is everyone thinks they can sing the Blues, you see’.
I said ‘Well, the question is can blue men sing the Whites?’
They all sort of looked at me, the only one who laughed himself stupid was the English Trombone player. He said ‘Where the hell did you get that from?’. I replied ‘That's Vivian Stanshall’. Classic things like that I love, and the corniest, most horrible thing from the first album is ‘have you got a light Mac? No, but I’ve got a dark brown overcoat’. I love things like that, and I think those sort of things are very funny.

John Peel made a comment that Viv’s thought processes were not only different, but vastly superior, what’s your take on that?
I don’t agree with the superior bit, not for me personally, but having said that he certainly did go off on a tangent. He was not of the normal, straight down the M1 type of mind, he did think laterally and that’s why I liked him, he did think ‘round corners and could think in that way, he had a thought process that didn’t just go from A to B, it went via Z sometimes, that could be difficult, but I think it was part of the creative process.
I’ve worked with a lot of clever creative people in my life, and they all have that ability to think off at angles, I think certainly Vivian had that.
I don't tend to be careful what I say because I was at a party my brother was at once, and he had a friend there who was so in love with Vivian Stanshall, I was so tired, I’d just done a gig, I’d come to the party at midnight and had a drink. the bloke immediately grabbed hold of me and said ‘Vivian Stanshall was such a genius’, I said ‘I don’t think he was a genius’ and he nearly hit me!
He sort of attacked me coz I’d said I didn’t think Vivian was a genius, and I still don’t think he was a genius. I think he was very clever in certain ways, and he had an amazing ability, as I said with the thing around corners. genius or not, I’m not quite sure, but then that’s only my opinion.

Well, I think that Vivian himself didn’t like being labelled with the word genius, there was some interview somewhere in which he says that. In the BBC 4 documentary about Vivian in 2004, Neil Innes described Rawlinson End the film, as being ‘written by a drunk, produced by a drunk, directed by a drunk, and starred a drunk, it’s marvellous nevertheless.’ There were also stories of Vivian being banned from the set, and I spoke to the director the other year, but what involvement did you have in it?
I was in it, I was one third of the barbers shop quartet, standing on the lake singing ‘stripe me a pinkie’, the big, tall one with the bush of hair.

I know that Vivian had a serious alcohol problem at the time, and that was another time when we’d had a bit of a falling out about something to do with with all that, and in the end there was an American Clarinettist called Jim Quomo, who actually put a lot of the music tracks together when we did it down tin pan alley studios in Denmark street. I went down and did some bits and pieces, and did certain things that Vivian said only I could do.
So we got into the whole situation again, and then he wanted to come down again. I used to sing ‘Stripe me a pinkie’ with him on stage, we used to do it acerpella, so he wanted me to come down and sort that out.
I did that and a load of other things as well, so he ended up saying, come down to Knebworth where we’re doing the film. I had heard all these frightening stories from Andrew Sheehan who was in charge of the situation for Charisma, these are wonderful stories, and I’m assuming there’s a degree truth in it, how much is one hundred percent I don’t know. But there’s this wonderful story where there was some man who was with Vivian coz he was always getting plastered, because of the drink problem, now apparently Hubert in the story has a rowing boat which he rows out and it’s got a line of optics on the side of the boat, proper pub optics with drinks in, whether it came out in the film... Apparently it was all filled with the genuine stuff. When Vivian and Trevor Howard came together on the first day of the film, Doing! It was like to pointer dogs, they recognised it immediately and then went off and got absolutely plastered, and nobody could work for 24 hours so somebody gave the order to replace everything in the optics with the appropriate coloured water. Then, in the middle of the night Vivian went out again and replaced with with the original stuff, rowed it out to the lake and got himself totally out of it again.

There were all these stories, there was another one where so I’m told, apparently you can see this in the film, it may be rumour but i was told this by several people on reasonably good authority. Knebworth lake is artificial and it has a big plug hole of some sort and apparently they managed to pull the bloody plug out, and the water went down about two feet before the film people realised and on some of the cross shots you can see that there’s two foot of mud on the reeds where the water had sunk, that was Vivian when he was drunk.

They banned him, they banned him from drink and on the day we were down there filming they’d searched his caravan, they searched everything they possibly could, but what they didn’t realise was that Vivian had gone out onto the island in the middle of the lake the night before and buried a bottle.
So while we were out on the lake, actually standing up in the middle of the punt which was no mean feat, I’m 6’7 and my centre of gravity is very high, so there were three people standing in a narrow punt trying to hold still in the wind, singing ‘Stripe me a pinkie’, and he was behind, he’d dug this bottle up and was drinking away. Steve Roberts asked him to leave the set, and said ‘He was a gentleman, he left.’ but fortunately that didn’t happen too often. I understand that Steve Roberts had a bit of a problem, and was a drinker himself.

What did you think of the end product?
My honest opinion is that I don’t quite know, I thought I had an idea of what it was going to be, having done what I presume must be all the Rawlinson End recordings for Peel up to that point, and then Vivian and I, as I said had one of our fallings out so I wasn’t as involved in the music track as I should have been in certain ways.
I missed a little bit of that and then I was involved with this little bit of filming and then by the time I’d heard all the rumours and stories.
I saw the film in the end and I though ‘Hmm, yeah, I’m not sure’, I didn’t understand where the prison camp came in and stuff like that.

It was very episodic wasn’t it, Steve Roberts had obviously got one taken on it, in that he was buggy-holder and was trying to make the film and he said that if he were to do it again, he’d have made it in colour, but I personally think that the black and white/sepia gave it the right atmosphere.
Well, the story I heard, and I must say this is only a rumour now, was that it was supposed to be in colour, but apparently because of the messing around, the problems they had, they ran out of money.

Hmm, Steve Roberts denied that, he said that the silver-nitrate stock is and was more expensive than the colour stock in the eighties.
I dunno, I just know they had lot problems on the set, because apparently Vivian originally wanted to direct it himself and he wanted to play Sir Henry, he was denied both of those and went off into a huff.
[For Vivian’s views on the film, listen to the unedited interview of him by John Walters in the sound bites section]

Well, in interviews after the film came out he said he wanted to attack Steve Roberts because the film was not what he wished it to be.
This is the problem, the complex part of Vivian is the fact that he was not only a complex character anyway with his history and his parents and all that, but he had the added complexities of drink, and drugs, a drink and drugs problem. [Viv was addicted to Valium at one point and unspecified ‘tranquillisers’ are mentioned throughout the book Ginger Geezer and in other interviews/articles]
I’m not moralising about anything because none of us are Angels, we all have our moments but I’ve seen this happen so often in business. With the drinkers on the Jazz side, you go into a bar and after ten minutes they’re in another world.
if you don’t drink anything, you’re stone cold sober then you’re not in the same world as them, and the drugs situation, which although I was never a part of that in a personal sense but certainly when I started doing heavy-duty recording work in the seventies I had to work alongside people who’re out of their brains on Acid and stuff like that, they’re simply not in the same world, so therefore it does alter your perception.

Writing by Jonathan Street.

Peter also kindly scanned the below etching of Vivian's, which he salvaged from Viv's bin saying 'What's this?', to which Vivian replied something like 'Oh that's nothing much, you have it' it's a welcome contribution to the archive.

There will be a part 3 of Peter's interview in NOW 3 in January

Part 1

Part 3

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