To paraphrase the immortal Tom Lehrer, I have been a fan of Neil Innes since conception. At least, I have been a rabid convert to the Innes way of thinking since my first introduction to Monty Python, via Live at the Hollywood Bowl on video early in 1984. Amongst the madness, surrealism, shouting, and general lunacy, a small, sweet-voiced man slowed proceedings down to sing two songs: after an umpty-million play-rewind-plays over the course of a week, I have been able to sing I’m The Urban Spaceman and How Sweet to be an Idiot in my sleep since the age of 13.
It was about eleven seconds from that first exposure to discovering The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and another life-long obsession. Albums, DVD copies of Do Not Adjust Your Set, and learning every lyric I could cope with followed: my copy of their brilliant album Gorilla was the only LP I kept when Blake moved out and I gifted him my collection because he was so in love with his record player. My love of Python led me to the rest of their movies, and,to The Rutles, and to Innes’ solo work. At every stage, interest became love became an integral part of my comic and musical sensibilities.
After 35 years, I still have reams of Bonzo and Innes on my playlist, through LPs, to CDs, to, currently, my iPod and iTunes player. Whatever technological advancement is made over the next 10-40 years of my remaining life, they’ll make that journey with me. I’ve come across very few songwriters who can be so funny, sweet, mournful, whimsical, and touching, usually simultaneously. Innes is at the forefront of those I’ve found, and I shan’t be letting go of his work for anything.
Neil Innes was an important member of my karass, and always will be. RIP. Thank to you, it will always be sweet to be an idiot.