Sunday, September 7, 2008

A strange convergence between second wave feminism and British satirical art rock

One of the oddest songs the late great Bonzo Dog Band ever recorded (in a career full of odd ones) was the final track on their second album, The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse, "11 Mustachioed Daughters". In it, the Bonzos suddenly abandoned their psychedelic music hall slapstick tendencies in favor of something more along the lines of Exuma The Obeah Man: heavy percussion, dread sound effects, repetitive chanting, and Vivian Stanshall gleefully babbling faux-Satanic incantations like a foppish Aleister Crowley wannabe. (And just to remind you that it's still the Bonzos, the final fadeout features an American voice---probably temporary bassist Joel Druckman, who never got proper credit for his contributions to the album---repeating over and over, "I don't remember too good, but I think John Wayne was in it...")

Druckman is not the only one left out of the credits, because an odd thing happens during the song's bridge. Suddenly a woman's voice bursts in, loudly declaiming, "AND BELLADONNA TO MAKE YOUR EYES...", while Stanshall responds "LIKE...A...BEAST!" They continue trading lines, and then she's gone again. Who was that masked woman with the stentorian voice?

Well, if this history of the Bonzos is to be believed, said woman is none other than the legendary feminist writer Germaine Greer, which makes sense since Greer and Stanshall were an item for a while, and posed together in several amusing photos at the time. The claim comes from Ginger Geezer, the Vivian Stanshall tribute site put together by his widow, so it may be credible. I wonder how many Germaine Greer fans and/or critics (and there's much to both admire and criticize her about, which would require a whole 'nother post) know about her Bonzo Dog Band cameo? I think it's a pretty cool thing to have on your resume, myself.

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