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“Ladies and gentlemen, Ive suffered for my music … now its your turth” – Neil Innes
Formed, or rather born in 1962, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band tumbled into existence when Vivian Stanshall, and fellow art student Rodney Slater joined their creative brains together. After a shaky start, albeit an implosion, the Bonzo’s were reignited with the inclusion of College lecturer Vernon Dudley Bowhay Nowell on bass, and his lodger, multi-instrumentalist Neil Innes. The contribution of Innes was pivotal to the band. His musical training, along with his views of life managed to sculpt the band into a cohesive, working unit. Moving towards a rock base, the world was not ready or would it ever be for the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s debut, the 1967 avant-garde psychedelic Grollia.
Gorilla is as funny as it is unsettling. That is the beauty of the album, the essence of genius that unexpectedly comes pouring out of every groove. The Innes penned number, “The Equestrian Statue” is a whimsical pop song. Flowing freely, not disturbing anyone until the context rears its head, that being a statue that comes to life to terrorize people. “Mickey’s Son and Daughter” captures a warped view of a baby mouse that lodges itself in your brain. But in post-war Britain, twenty-two years after the end of the second World War, the band were fearless enough to introduce “Adolf Hitler on vibraphones!”. In some ways this was the music that ran parallel to that Monty Python sense of humor. A catalyst for what Andy Kaufman would attempt years later. As for “Big Shot,” a dark-noir imitation which describes a woman’s body,
“I mean Gorilla was really our first sort of goes at songwriting.” -Neil Innes
Surrealism was the key which the Bonzos used to stand apart. While the music from the first strains of “Cool Britannia” may be steeped in the stff-upper-lip britishness, it still manages to transcend the norm. But it is the capsule for off-the-wall strangeness, with the standout Innes and Stanshall “Death Cab For Cutie”. Constructed as a parody of Elvis Presley, in particular his 1957 hit “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”. The doo-wop telling of the ill-fated “Cutie” who takes a taxi cab into doom. “Death Cab For Cutie” became one of the Bonzo’s most well-known tracks, immortalised by The Beatles 1967 television film Magical Mystery Tour. Performed as part of a stage routine by the Bonzos, accompanied by a striptease act.
“Dedicated to Kong who must have been a great bloke.” -Stanshall Sleevenotes
Just because Gorilla has dated, the timeless quality still quivers excitement from all parts. Developed by risk takers, granted the use of the word ‘gay’ was used as a reflection of joy, and not in a sense of any sexual orientation. Though Eric Clapton did appear on the album, with a ukulele, that slight was a footnote in the albums legacy. And although we lost Viv Stanshall in 1995, the other force Neil Innes has left this world a better place. Gorilla is just another example of his diverse brilliance.
Neil James Innes, 9 December 1944 – 29 December 2019
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