cosy chat with Pete Moss (part 3)
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
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.
Vivian did direct Stinkfoot, and it was an absolute disaster because
it was like a far greater version of him demonstrating a song, to me.
‘Vivian, play me the song as it’s going to be’, ‘Ok
Amigo’, thrash, thrash, thrash.
‘Right, so you want it like this?’
And that’s how it always was with Vivian, he didn’t have that
type of tidy organised mind, I tend to because that’s the way I
like my life, I have to be like that because otherwise I can’t survive,
I can’t survive in chaos. But Vivian never had that type of mind,I’m
not saying that’s right or wrong, but people with that kind of mind
cannot be organisers or leaders because you’re trying to lead a
group of people with you but you’re changing things.
It’s like saying ‘Go up the road and turn left’, so
he immediately turns right, so everybody loses the plot. This is why Stinkfoot
was so difficult down in Bristol, because Vivian was directing it.
Quite rightly, the people at Charisma wouldn’t allow him to direct
the Sir Henry movie, because they knew it probably wouldn’t have
got past the first couple of shots.
From what we gather that comes across quite plainly, Vivian himself wasn’t
pleased with the movie because it couldn’t project the visuals in
his mind onto the screen, in a few interviews he mentioned that he wanted
to have re-shot several things.
Steve Roberts reaction was ‘Well, we’ve got a budget’,
there was only so many weeks to get the whole thing onto celluloid.
He wasn’t organised in that way, and seems to have had his own form
of perfectionism with his work, it basically would’ve taken a long
time to get it to where he wanted.
When I was in the studio with Vivian, he had so many things going on in
his head which were probably quite clever. But you see, it was my job
to make sense of all this, so I’ve got a poor engineer there and
we’ve got six multi-tracks, every time you take one multitrack off
and put another one on, you’ve got a minimum of 24 tracks and you’ve
got to rebalance.
So it’s a five or ten minute job to get one multitrack off, another
multitrack on and rebalance everything so that you’ve got some basic
idea of what you’re doing, and Vivian used to say ‘I’m
going o play the Ukulele on this one’, thrash, thrash, thrash. ‘Now
I’m going to put the Ukulele on this song’.
And I’d say, ‘Hang on, that’s on the other reel Vivian,
can’t we finish what we’re doing on this one?’ To which
he’d say ‘Well no, I want to do it now’ and it was my
job to try and say, ‘Vivian, you can’t do this, because it’s
going to destroy this flow we’ve got’.
And in a way I’ve got a certain amount of sympathy, not a great
deal, but a certain amount of sympathy for Steve Roberts in this, he must
have gone through the same problems in a film situation as I had to go
through with Vivian in a studio, the fact that he would have gone ‘Right,
we’ll shoot this bit in the concentration camp, then what I’ll
do is, while I’m in costume we’ll do the bit on the boat’,
and y’know nobody’s set up for that.
But he had that type of mind, he was leaping all over the place, and that
was when he was straight.
There’s some quotes in the book ‘Ginger Geezer’
saying ‘Working with Vivian was often easier when he wasn’t
sober’, can you elaborate on that from your own experiences?
Well to be honest when Vivian had taken a bit of drink or whatever,
he was difficult and erratic, but the problem is when he was absolutely
sober he thought he was being frighteningly efficient but he was just
sort of exploding all over the place, it wasn’t so much a natural
energy, more like a manic thing. I remember my engineer saying at one
point ‘For God’s sake, I wish he’d have a drink and
calm down’ Y’know, he was very difficult to work with when
he was absolutely straight, when he was drunk or when he was straight
he had the same problems, only in different ways. The same disorganisation
or unorganised nonparallel lines in the mind were always there no matter
It’s true to say that when we scheduled the ‘Teddy Boys Don’t
Knit’ album, we did all the basic tracks, the first lot down at
Regents Park Recording in St Johns Wood, a nice place in an old Church,
it was a nice studio and I’d done a lot of sessions down there before.
We had a lot of people down there and Andrew had put Vivian in the Holiday
Inn in Marble Arch, giving strict instructions to keep him clear of drink.
And of course, he got hold of drink the morning that we were supposed
to start the sessions at two, and I can only tell you the truth on this,
he turned up absolutely off his head, falling over and we hadn’t
even started the thing.
But I had seven titles, half of the album which I’d already prepared,
got done. We had Neil Innes playing with Ollie Halsall, Richard Thompson,
all these people there waiting to go and I said ‘Well, we’re
just going to have to go ahead, start and do whatever we have to do and
see how it goes’.
So as we started running through the first song, Michael Brown was in
the box as a producer I suppose, we had a good engineer so we just got
everything set up, sorted and Vivian just collapsed on the sofa in the
studio, all this noise was going on around him, we started about two o’clock
in the afternoon, we had breaks, we discussed this and that, we had drum
noises, we had bangs we had crashes.
Finally we got through all seven songs bay bout nine-thirty in the evening
and he’d not shifted a muscle, he finally woke up about a quarter
to ten ‘Hello Amigo, humm I suppose we’d better start’,
I said ‘It’s done’, he went mad, he went off his head.
‘How can you start this when I wasn’t here?’, I said
‘You were here, you’ve been here all the time Vivian. Don’t
worry about it it’s all cool’.
I have to say, out of all the times I’ve worked with Vivian it’s
the easiest lot of sessions I’ve ever done with him, but he was
totally out of it and seven tracks were done, things like Terry Keeps
His Clips On, Calypso to Colapso, Possibly an Armchair and King Kripple,
all those things were done with me standing, conducting, directing and
whatever with Vivian flat-out on the sofa, and to this day probably a
lot of people would say it’s probably the best album he’d
And I have be totally honest to say, in no small part it was because he
was out of it most of the time and he just left me to do it.
He just recorded the vocals afterwards?
Yep, we just whacked the vocals on afterwards, and he wanted to put
a few silly things on afterwards as well.
So that’s what I mean when I say Vivian was sometimes more easy
to work with when he wasn’t sober, when he’d had a drink he
was thrashing around, but he could be more malleable, you could move him
around a little bit and say ‘Vivian, go and practice this in the
corner’ and while he was practising you could do something else
and get little bits out of the way.
I always said that four of the albums which I did in that period of my
life are the four of my favourite albums that I’ve done in my life
and they’re four of the worst selling albums that I've ever done,
one of them was Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, one was ‘Life after
death’ RD Lane, ‘The sound of Edna’ by Dame Edna Everage,
but the fourth one was ‘Teddy Boys Don’t Knit’.
I can listen to that even now, and I’ve got to say, we had good
musicians, I knew what I wanted and what I was doing, and I had all Vivian’s
songs that I’d sorted out, Malcolm Brown and I got along very well,
we got good support from the record company and Vivian was out of it half
of the time.
Did you ever record Stinkfoot?
Not as such, we did do a few bits of tracks.
Some of Stinkfoot of course, was done in some of the John Peel sessions
before Stinkfoot was put together as an entity.
But it was never recorded or put together as an actual album, no.
Ki sent us a few tracks from that, things like ‘Simone’
and ‘No time like the future’, but with more of an electric
keyboard backing, presumably he must have done some form of studio work
Well, Vivian and I sort of went in and out, part of the reason why
we had our moments when he was away was because he used to get very ill
and he had this whole period when he was on the barge, around the time
of ‘Teddy Boys Don’t Knit’, he didn’t do maintenance
on it and he had a bad problem there and then Ki had left because he tried
to attack her with a hatchet or something, then because he didn’t
do his out-rigger’s properly, a log came down the Thames and smashed
a hole in it and it sank.
So he then moved on and finally Ki got this whole situation together in
Sunderland with this boat, he went up there and sailed all the way around
till it ended up in Bristol.
I didn’t have a lot to do with him at that moment because I had
a large family and was roaring away with my own career, so I had other
things to do.
With the greats respect to Vivian I did love him dearly, in the long run
I loved him to death, but I can’t sit and wait for an alcoholic,
someone with a terrible problem like that to come in and out, so we had
All of a sudden I got this phone call to go down to Bristol, and I think
I got the call from Ki, y’know ‘Can you come down and sort
Because Vivian had in a weird way gone back to his working class roots
and gone around the streets of Bristol, trawling the streets to find busking
musicians, he didn’t want ‘proper’ musicians, he wanted
the street musicians to do this type of thing.
Of course, there’s nobody directing them so I went down there and
in the space of a day I wrote the overture, put that together had a big
rehearsal in the evening and thrashed them all into shape in a general
sense, got things set up and then left.
I didn’t know anything more about the situation, but Vivian looked
dreadful down there, he looked awful.
You can see that all too clearly on the Bristol Showboat Saga documentary,
he was quite out of it.
The trouble is, he got himself into a bad state during the Teddy
Boys Don’t Knit period where he was on the boat, and then Ki left,
which made him worse. Then he got onto the big boat which went all the
way around, but he was thin then and I dunno what he was taking, prescription
medication, other stuff? God knows what he was taking and he was very,
I was out of it again during Stinkfoot’s first run and then I got
a call to come and sort Stinkfoot out in London, which I did. He was in
better health then, the boat situation had collapsed and he’d left
that, he was then living in one room in Muswell Hill before he bought
the final flat where he died.
I musically directed the whole thing, supervised it and sorted out the
band, but I didn’t want to be in the show as such because I had
other things to do, but got the whole thing up and running and it was
good, it was ok.
But by that time he was a little better, he still had some terrible problems
and all that.
There's more to come in our next issue...