Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

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Today is the birthday of the unspeakably awesome Neil Innes (b. 1944). He played the John Lennon character (and wrote all the music for) the brilliant Beatles parody project the Rutles (co-created with Monty Python’s Eric Idle), and was a key member of the amazing Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Mixing elements of trad jazz, dada, surrealism, British music hall and psychedelic rock, the nearest antecedent for the Bonzo’s is Spike Jones. They formed around 1962 with the hilarious Vivian Stanshall as their usual lead singer, a sort of living parody of a foppish Englishman, tailor made for comical vaudeville type songs. Typical of his style is their first hit single from 1966:

Innes, who joined a little later, helped steer the band in a psychedelic pop/ rock direction. This is one of his typical contributions from 1968:

This tune was produced by Paul McCartney; the Beatles were big fans and frequent collaborators of the Bonzos (and the latter had a big influence on the former). The Bonzos appeared in Magical Mystery Tour (1967) performing the Elvis parody “Death Cab for Cutie” (later used as the name of a different rock band). They broke up in 1970 as times changed, although they got back together for frequent reunions.

One last thing I wanted to share today, because it’s so appalling, i.e. productive of good debate. In this 1967 episode of Do Not Adjust Your Set the band (with one conspicuous abstention) appears in blackface.It is obviously meant ironically and to provoke outrage. Is it still okay? It makes me feel queasy, but on the other hand SEE PREVIOUS POST ON JOHN MILTON.

This clip is also cool because they are introduced by Terry Jones, one year before the formation of Monty Python:

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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