ollowing the demise of the funniest musical group ofthe 60s, Neil Innes did not fade away. Or burn out. No, while others of his ilk were being shovelled into pine boxes, blocking up their nostrils with Bolivian marching powder or sizing up the potential of the instant nostalgia market (sometimes all three), the former Bonzo Dog Band stalwart settled down to write bits ofthe third series of Monty Python with Graham Chapman. Later, alongside Eric Idle, he was a mainstay of Rutland Weekend Television and co-creator of The Rutles. Then, in 1978, BBCZ’S gently comic The Innes Book Of Records, in which his songs were accompanied by film clips, was an unexpected success. For much of the 805, he was a regular on children’s television in The Book Tower, The Raggy Dolls and 104 episodes of Puddle Lane. In between all of that, he composed the soundtrack for Erik The Viking and ‘fooled about’ with TV commercials and documentaries. There’s more, but that’ll do for the moment.
More Jam Tomorrow is his first Fringe appearance for six years, a satire which compares the market-led, recession-hit 905 with Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The title, inspired by the White Queen’s diktat of ‘jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today’ is ‘resonant’, he says. to the modern economy. It includes such characters as the Working Class Heron, who believes that the purpose of his left wing is to oppose his right wing and vice versa. In fact, left and right get equal stick in Innes’s show. ‘Absolutely,’ he declares. ‘I don’t see how you can say that anybody’s to blame for anything. Everybody sees the world from where they stand. But a bit more talking about it, rather than disinformed muttering, can only be helpful.‘
Innes’s Fringe stint coincides with the release of Cornology, a compendium of The Bonzo Dog Band’s best work which shows that, for all that they were a ‘comedy group’, the band had a breadth and brilliance which was the equal of many of their more
1 l good for you
‘I’ve suffered for my art and now it’s your turn,’ sang former Bonzo Dog Band member NEIL INNES in protest singer mode. However, he’s trying to bemoan the world’s ills as painlessly as possible in his
new show, More Jam Tomorrow, as he told Alastair Mabbott.
celebrated contemporaries. What set them apart during the blues-based psychedelic years were their roots in daft old 1920s songs. Their very English eccentricity was personified by the denatured elegance of frontman Vivian Stanshall. but. Innes insists, ‘we all liked it‘.
‘In those days. you could go to these street parties and pick up old 78s. We were all art students and we just got a taste for picking up the silliest records we could find. They only cost a couple of pence. You’d wonder what the hell you‘d got, put it on the wind-up. say “Yes! This is one for the band!” and work out the chords.’
From there, they exploded into parodies of all kinds. which hold up remarkably well today. but when the histories of the 60s were written The Bonzo Dog Band were invariably left out.
‘In some. yeah.’ Innes agrees. ‘I think largely because we didn‘t do any vast megabuck business. But we were friends of all the main groups. We were court jesters. if you like, for a while.’
They found important allies in the Monty Python team, who clearly owe a debt to the Bonzos’ surreal outlook. and The Beatles.
20 The List 14 — 20 August 1992
who invited them onto Magical Mystery Tour.
‘I knew before we met them that they used to come to see us on the quiet,’ says Innes. ‘When Larry [Legs Larry Smith] came out tap-dancing with these false breasts on, John shouted, “Go on, Larry. show’s yer tits, we’ve all seen ’em." George is still a pal. And. ofcourse. Paul produced “Urban Spaceman”.’
Ah, yes. ‘I’m The Urban Spaceman’, the ‘medley of my greatest hit’. which he still
‘We were all art students and we just got a taste for picking up the silliest records we could find. They only cost a couple of pence. You’d wonderwhat the hell you’d
one for the band l” and work outthe chords.’
runs up the ﬂagpole today. It made the Bonzos’ name. and has done well for Innes over the years. But now he’s dipping his toes in a new tub altogether. with the first draft of what will be his debut in print.
“It’s economics for half-wits. I suddenly decided I knew nothing about big business or economics. so I’d try to find out. I decided there must be lots of people like me who didn’t know what inflation was. So I’ve been to the library. done a crash course. sorted it all out.’
Not that he came up with any evidence of the ‘caring 9(ls’ in his research.
‘No! Although I do detect a movement towards the centre. and since I’ve done this book I think that’s the only way politicians can go, because the main opposition to any government at the moment is big business. It’s significant the lengths that the main world economies, the G7, had to go to get any clout. I find it very ironic that at their last summit the main message that came across from the seven richest nations was: Where 's the money gone? '
Neil Innes used to be a four-stone apology. Now, he is two separate economists. Watch out, world.
More Jam Tomorrow (Fringe) Neil Innes, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 15, 16. 18—20, 23, 25—27Aug, noon, £6.50 (£5);21. 22, 28, 29Aug, noon. £7.50 (£0).
Cornology is on EM 1 Records.
got, put it on the wind-up, say “Yes! This is I