Buggered If I Know
Not sure what called it to mind, but a few days ago I remembered a marvellous alternative version of Mike Oldfield's Sailors' Hornpipe. Readers of a certain age will remember Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, Side Two of which (on vinyl) ended with a crazily multilayered and utterly frantic performance of the traditional Sailors' Hornpipe. Side One of the same vinyl release was of course the "Young Person's Guide to the Rock Orchestra" section of TB, which starts with an infectious riff that gets used as the bass line for the piece's main theme, played by a succession of instruments beginning with grand piano and culminating (of course) in the eponymous bells. Most people I know jumped pretty much out of their skin the first time they heard Viv Stanshall's voice suddenly announcing "Grand Piano" over the riff.
Stanshall was well-known in Britain as leader of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (they later dropped the "Doo-Dah"), purveyors of a very English kind of musical anarcho-parody. They used to make regular appearances of children's TV on a cult show called Do Not Adjust Your Set which also provided TV viewers with their first sightings of several future members of the Monty Python team (Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin). Here is a typical example of the Bonzos, showcasing Viv Stanshall's talents:
But surely it's this one that inspired Mike Oldfield to employ Stanshall to introduce his instrumental line-up:
After releasing three albums (TB, Hergest Ridge and - my favourite - Ommadawn), Mike Oldfield then issued all three as a boxed set with a fourth bonus album of various smaller things, many of them collaborations with David Bedford. (Bedford and Oldfield had both formerly been members of Kevin Ayers' band The Whole World.) I linked to one of these when we crossed the Rio Grande on Route 66. Another of the short items was an alternative take of the Sailors' Hornpipe, prefaced by an amazing monologue recorded by a rather drunk Stanshall as he staggered around The Manor (the country house turned state-of-the-art studio where most of Oldfield's albums were laid down) with a guitar-wielding Oldfield and a few others, doing a kind of warped impression of Sir Kenneth Clark (whose Civilisation series had recently been shown on TV). Enjoy: