He went from performing as one of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band to playing with the legendary group itself; now Merseyside actor Mike Livesley is reviving the show that started it all one last time.
His live, verbatim retelling of Sir Henry of Rawlinson End, the surrealist spoken word album by the Bonzo’s co-founder Vivian Stanshall, began life at the Unity in 2010. Now Livesley and his band are getting back together for two special dates in December – including one at the Phil’s Music Room – to mark its 40th anniversary.
“People have been so keen on it,” he says of the decision to bring it back again. “It opened so many doors and I’ve had so many good times, met so many people and played great gigs – with my heroes.” It’s been four years since the last shows. “When I went through it I could remember the whole lot, and I still love it.”
The Sir Henry project has, Livesley says, run its course for now – albeit in spectacular fashion. Supporting Rick Wakeman, playing Glastonbury and performing with everyone from Stephen Fry to Kevin Eldon, the show was praised by many who had known and loved Viv Stanshall, including his family and original members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band like Neil ‘Rutles’ Innes and Rodney Slater.
As one thing led to another, Livesley has gone on to befriend and perform with the Bonzos, and also formed a new band, Rodney Slater’s Parrots.
Livesley may be putting Sir Henry to bed but is keeping busy in other ways now he’s Liverpool based again, having spent time away pursuing opportunities that came out of it.
He set up a studio space in his Aigburth home and began podcast series The Livo Lounge, featuring long form interviews with folk from across the arts and culture scene; a combination of old friends and influences, including Big Wow theatre company and graphic designer Steve Hardstaff.
“The idea behind the podcast is just to talk to people I find interesting,” he says. “I’m frustrated by TV interviews where people don’t get enough time to really talk about what they do; I wanted the time to chat, with people who have taken their passion and made it into a career – people you can learn from. What I’m interested in is authentic conversation.”
Mike set up his own record label, Guilty Dog, to release CD and DVD versions of the Sir Henry show, and now is looking to expand on this, signing up classic prog band Gryphon as well as Liverpool bands the Wizards of Twiddly and Dead Belgian.
And staying behind the scenes, he is organising a special Wizards of Twiddly 30th anniversary show at the Zanzibar on December 14.
“The city is buzzing at the minute,” Mike says of his return. “A lot of people know what we have done and are really receptive to working with us.
“I’ve never had a plan, although through doing Rawlinson’s End I feel comfy being myself. I’ve started writing albums and a play, and am just trying to move into other areas.”
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