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