Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band was formed in 1962 by students of The Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College. The core line-up consisted of Viv Stanshall on trumpet and lead vocals; Neil Innes on piano, guitar and lead vocals; Rodney Slater on saxophone; Roger Ruskin Spear on tenor sax and other instruments and “Legs” Larry Smith on drums. The original name, The Bonzo Dog Dada Band, was inspired by cartoon Bonzo the Dog and ‘Dada’ from an early 20th century abstract anti-art movement.
The band gigged regularly in London pubs with their brand of trad jazz and avant-garde humour. The Bonzos, as they were known, secured a record deal and in 1967 they released their debut album ‘Gorilla’. The first track, ‘Cool Britannia’, became a phrase adopted in the late 1990s with the election of a Labour government after 18 years of Conservative rule. Also on the album is ‘Death Cab for Cutie’ which is a parody on the teenage tragedy songs such as ‘Teen Angel’ and ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’. The track appears in The Beatles film ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and its title has been adopted as the name for an American indie rock band. The album’s other track of note is ‘The Intro and the Outro’ with its sublimely absurd made-up contributors such as Adolf Hitler on vibes and Count Basie’s Orchestra on triangle. However, among the fake musicians playing their parts, Eric Clapton actually does feature on the track playing ukulele.
Appearances on children’s TV show ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ between 1967 and 1969 gave the band greater notoriety, not to mention a solid comedy pedigree. Three members of what would come to be the comedy group Monty Python – Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones – wrote and performed on the programme. The Bonzos appeared in a number of sketches and Neil Innes has been referred to as the seventh Python.
The Paul McCartney-produced single ‘I’m The Urban Spaceman’ became a big success in 1968. It was at this time that the band started to abandon their jazz roots and focus more on psychedelic rock with a comedic twist. As well as being championed by The Beatles, they also accompanied The Who on their US tour and supported The Kinks at Fillmore East in New York.
Following a two-year split, a few members of the band reunited to release the album ‘Let’s Make Up and Be Friendly’. Viv Stanshall passed away in 1995, a year prior to the band’s 40th anniversary gig. Stanshall was ‘replaced’ on stage by comedians such as Phil Jupitus and Paul Merton.
The album ‘Pour L’Amour des Chiens’ was released in 2007 – 35 years after they recorded their previous studio album.
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