Queer Radio, Brisbane, Australia
John Frame speaking with Stephen Fry
On 7th February, 2001 I interviewed Stephen Fry by phone in London for our
radio show and I asked Stephen particularly about the Bonzo Dog Band. He is obviously proud to enthuse about Vivian.
John Frame: "You have a broad appreciation of music from Elvis Costello to
the classics, but the 60's group The Bonzo Dog Band particularly impressed
Stephen Fry: "I think it's just that I wasn't a cool "rocker. I was around
at the time when Pink Floyd and what was called "progressive rock" were the
really big things at school, and they were just a bit heavy and overblown
for my taste. I loved the Bonzos because of their wit. They were very, very
funny but they were musically very good - incredibly eclectic in all kinds
of styles from jazz to fantastic parodies of all sorts of music.
"Vivian Stanshall had this surreal almost dada-ist sense of humour - quite
extraordinary - which was a huge influence on me and a marvelous voice that
was like rich gravy pouring out of a jug. If you could embody the sound of
old valves from the 1940's, glowing orange - with a dusty smell in a
Bakelite wireless, with a sunburst on the front of the speaker and it takes
three minutes to warm up - and you get a very clear "English" voice coming
out of it - it was just marvelous to have such surreal and extraordinary
humour coming out of that totally British sound.
"It was that mixture that led to Monty Python - a huge influence on them. In
fact Neil Innes, the other main member of the Bonzos, wrote most of their
music (what Eric Idle didnít write).
"It was a very formative thing, the fact that you could be quirky and surreal
and eccentric and bizarre within the cloak of being incredibly English. It's
part of the English thing, and Australians share it too, that if you're
wearing punk clothes and you fart, it isn't funny or interesting - but if
you're wearing a tweed suit and you fart, it's somehow funny.
"That's a very typical thing about Britain, if you really imitate the manners
of the establishment and are then strangely eccentric or satirical, you can
get away with it. I remember Ben Elton, who's a kind of honorary Australian,
saying to me that he thought it was completely unfair that he was always
getting letters and complaints about his language on television, when in
fact he goes out of his way not to swear. He says "flippin' heck" and things
like that. But somehow I think I still hold the record for saying the word
"fuck" the most times in the shortest number of seconds on British
television - about 70 times in a minute and a half. But there was a point to
it - I was being interviewed about censorship, about the use of the word,
where it came from etc. It didn't get a single complaint, I think, because
of my voice and manner."
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