|Best Band Name Ever...|
If you have never heard of England's answer to the Mothers of Invention, press play, smile and learn to love the Dadaist surrealism....
1968 - and a what a wonderful year. It may un-surprise you, but I love the Bonzos. I think the first time I saw them was this video, shown on some re-run pop program. Just listen to the fun they are having.
The second time I came across them was in that fateful Record Shop in my local town centre. This was mid/late 80's - Madness were still big, Pop was king, Metal was popular. And I overheard the two hippies talking to each other about their kids at school..
"So, little Danny's teacher asked the class who their favourite bands were"
"Oh yeah? What did he say then?"
"The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band"
They both started laughing, with pride at the greatness of this music geek offsprings answer.
They were a weird bunch, well spoken Englishmen, with the original Ginger Geezer, Vivian Stanshall as the lead singer and Rutles genius Neil Innes as main songwriter. Single handedly they revitalised the Trad Jazz scene in the early sixties with their first two albums and with this track off their third they attacked 50's crooner standards.
A little look at the 40th Anniversary concert - the above song is found about 2 minutes in, sung by Phil Jupitus. Not the best rendition. But you do find out that every comic voice Adrian Edmonson has projected in 20 years has been because of one of their songs (Mr Slater's Parrot) and that Vivian from the Young Ones was named after Viv Stanshall. Their comedic influence lives on - not just Mr Fry and Mr Edmonson, but even across the pond to Family Guy. No, really. When Stewie and Brian go to England, the childrens TV show they gatecrash is called "Jollity Farm" after one of their singles. They did lots of work with Monty Python (The Beatles parody The Rutles was Neil Innes brainchild) and even had Paul McCartney produce their hit single.
Clearly an antidote to the over sensible rock scene of the 60's parodying the rock attitude and a healthy dose of surrealistic Dadaism, they managed 5 albums, but only had one hit "Urban Spaceman" why was this? Well, the public as a whole really can't deal with eccentric weirdos too well. We like 'normal' people as a rule. I, for some reason prefer the stranger side of life and eccentrics.... As Vivian himself puts it...
Utter foolish nonsense. Humour and music as a combination at the best of times is difficult, as you can hear with some of his solo stuff, but get it right - as in the first video, and it's bloody priceless.
The music is a parody of 50's Doo Wop bands (even the background vocals), the guitar solo is probably the best "worst" solo in history. It has all the structure of a classic 4 bar break, but just all the notes are wrong. The thing that made them individual is the fantastic lyrics - they appeal to 6 year old children, 16 yr old teenagers and 60 yr old poets. They are at points silly, adolescent and well judged. Surrealism of this type is accesible to all who don't take themselves or life seriously. Children 'get' it, the same way that they find Dr Seuss funny. Grown ups have to pretend to be mature and ignore the beauty of living at a slight angle to the rest of the universe.
"And I kiss your perfumed hair,
The sweet essence of giraffe"
Superb writing, as the twist in the tail is reserved until the final word.
We don't have bands like the Bonzos anymore, and we never will. The nearest we get is cheap imitation one hit wonders, but it is good to know that there was once a group of talented musicians who didn't take anything too seriously and kept at it for a few years. If you want to hear more, there is a fantastic CD set of all of their albums out there, and dead cheap too.