"This is something that I've been wanting to do for a long time"

Vivian Stanshall
an interview

By Bill Kates

Download the interview on MP3

Bill Kates recorded and produced this interview with Vivian Stanshall in November, 1980 for radio station WBCN in Boston. "I was lucky enough to talk the people at the radio station into co-financing a month-long trip to England," explains Bill, "with the excuse that I was going to gather a bunch of cool interviews and ID's to run on the air. Armed with my Marantz pro cassette deck and a couple of nice Electro Voice mics, I scored some wonderful conversations with Ian Dury, The Damned, Michael Palin, The Flying Lizards, Siouxsie Sioux, Mike Oldfield, and several others. But the highlight of the trip was definitely going to my hero Vivian Stanshall's houseboat on the Thames, and spending an afternoon with him.

"There were many strange factors and coincidences to the experience, which still resonates strongly with me to this day. The most pointed, sweet and silly one that comes to mind involved a gift I brought to him. I was combing the shops for something appropriately silly to bring, a sweet little "gag" housegift that would tickle his fancy, yet not cost me an arm and a leg. I finally settled on a pair of bright red canvas baby shoes with little pictures of animals playing musical instruments on them, including a little dog playing the trumpet. I thought they were whimsical, funny, and completely useless, but a cute thing to tack to a bulletin board. Turns out, when I got there, they were exactly what he and his wife needed for the baby's imminent excursion that afternoon, and they fit perfectly.

"Viv and I corresponded for a few years afterwards, sporadically. I was greatly saddened by his unfortunate passing. Knowing him was kind of like knowing the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I thank the Gods his kind knew life and expression on this orb.

"Anyway, the point is, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I'm a bit embarassed now by the production of the piece, and my youthful voice, but I hope you enjoy it."

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