Clip: Neil Innes interview
No tub-thumping for Innes, just fun
June 5, 2006
BY JEFF ELBEL
Neil Innes' "accidental career" was launched in the public ear by the
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band nearly 40 years ago.
The freewheeling group appeared in the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour"
film and scored radio success with "I'm the Urban Spaceman," produced
under a pseudonym by Paul McCartney. Then the Bonzos influenced
formative members of the Monty Python troupe, with whom Innes
continued working. In addition to composing Python's cunning
soundtrack, Innes became John Lennon figure Ron Nasty alongside Python
Eric Idle for 1978's Beatles spoof, "All You Need Is Cash."
The intervening decades have witnessed notable projects, including
1998's documentary series "Away With Words" and even a book on
economics. A recent visit to the Abbey Pub found Innes inducting many
into his Ego Warriors society, while his band featured old favorites
alongside material from 2005's engaging "Works in Progress."
Q. After what seemed like a lengthy absence, you've resumed North
American touring recently. What changed?
A. If you have children, it takes a while for them to grow up and for
you to realize that life goes on without your refrigerator. In
November of 2004, [my wife] Yvonne and I went 'round in a minivan,
doing a one-man show. It had been our ambition since we met to drive
across America. We suddenly realized, "Hey, we can do it!" It was a
fascinating time, because you were holding an election.
Q. Did you perform the Bonzo's reunion single, "No Matter Who You Vote
For, the Government Always Gets In?"
A. I didn't, actually. When we wrote that, no major record company
would touch it. They said, "It's doom." A record that's banned has a
better chance than one about something serious like politics. I
generally steer clear of politics, because it's an infected area of
Q. Ego Warriors is a great unifying concept, rallying people to thumb
their noses against pomposity and bureaucracy. To whom have you most
recently given the salute?
A. When we arrived, we had to go through U.S. immigration and Canadian
immigration. It occurred to me that the whole world is being run like
It was Oscar Wilde who observed in "Lady Windemere's Fan" about
Americans being a remarkable nation, because they went from barbarism
to decadence without stopping off at civilization. North Americans
shouldn't take this personally [laughs].
I detect a sort of "people farming" mentality, where we don't give
each other enough respect as individuals. We're in this situation
where we're over-marketed, over-regulated and over-procedured. These
things add to a ferment of irritation. Most people identify with this.
Ego Warriors is kind of a release valve from that, but not in a
soapbox, tub-thumping kind of way. We have fun with it.
Jeff Elbel is a Chicago free-lance writer.