Remembering Neil Innes, who died last weekend at 75…
Innes worked on several funny projects. As well as being the leader of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, he went on to write sketches and songs for Monty Python’s TV show and the movie “Holy Grail.” He appeared in The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” movie. But he is best known around my house for playing Ron Nasty, the John Lennon-like character in Eric Idle’s 1978 Beatles satire, “The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash.”
“The Rutles” preceded “This Is Spinal Tap” by several years and is, for my money, the best mockumentary ever made. Though Idle and Innes had done some Rutles bits on their British series, “Rutland Weekend Television,” the group wasn’t seen on American television until “All You Need Is Cash” popped up one weekend on NBC when “Saturday Night Live” was on hiatus.
“All You Need Is Cash” got US network TV exposure because Lorne Michaels was among its producers, and the cast included John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Ron Wood, Michael Palin, Al Franken, Tom Davis, and George Harrison. Gary Weis, who did several short films for “SNL,” co-directed The Pre-Fab Four’s movie with Idle.
I saw it then, loved it, and have long been a proud owner of both the DVD and the soundtrack album, which I’m happy to say my Beatles-fan daughter also loves (and can sing all the songs from — in fact, she did so at her monthly Beatles Jam meetup in New York this weekend!).
As for the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, this 1967 tune is my favorite song of theirs. I first discovered it when I heard a fellow disc jockey play it on my college radio station, WUSB/Long Island, in the mid-1970s. Entitled “The Intro and the Outro,” it consists entirely of Innes introducing a slew of band members — real, fictional, and historical — many of them obscure to anyone not from England in that era. See how many you recognize.
My favorite is the Count Basie Orchestra on triangle, a classic Innes touch.