The Bizarre and the T Ragic; AND Here's the Intro. Frank Zappa Once Said That Rock Journalists and Their Journalism ``Is People Who Can't Write, Interviewing People Who Can't Talk for People Who Can't Read''

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Chapple

A little harsh but fair when considering the standard of the average pop biography, usually quick-fix money-makers churned out to celebrate the vacuous careers of some of today's five-minute-wonder girl/boy bands before they crash and burn.

But, when the writing is about the stuff of legend - ie pop artists whose music has stood the test of time and who subsequently became irretrievably damaged because of it - then, in recent years, the pop biographer has earned due respect.

Anyone who has ever read Heroes and Villians, Steven Gaines's brilliantly definitive account of the disintegration of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and Jon Savage's England's Dreaming on the shabby fighting for scraps after the fall of the British punk movement would surely testify to this.

One to add to that list is Ginger Geezer the detailed happy/sad tale by Lucian Randall and Chris Welch of the wild, wonderful, confused, and ultimately tragic, life and death of Vivian Stanshall.

Stanshall and his madcap henchmen with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band spawned a cult following that spanned the generations which, more than 30 years on from their hey day, is still going strong.

Initially a novelty trad jazz the Bonzos dropped the Doo Dah to take the late 60s and early 70s by storm with a string of albums such as Gorilla and The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse which still defy classification and sound as refreshingly bizarre and as frequently hilarious to the newcomer.

They contained a number of groundbreaking comic classics including the Intro and the Outro (with its list of fictitious band performers including the Wild Man of Borneo on Vox Humana, the Count Basie Orchestra on triangle and Adolf Hitler on vibes) and the Canyons of Your Mind.

They, in turn, would be performed live by a megaphone-wielding and increasingly intoxicated Stanshall while all around chaos reigned as Neil Innes,Legs Larry Smith, Roger Ruskin Spear and the rest of the band - attired in any number of monster masks - played suggestively with their inventions including the Rowmonium (a box filled with metal designed to make as much noise as possible) and Alma the life-sized Dancing Doll. …