We used to live near Muswell Hill. One day, my parents from up north came to visit and we went for lunch at the legendary Clissold Arms. On the way home, we passed a tall gentleman ambling along Fortis Green Road. It was Vivian Stanshall. We said good day to him and he replied “My dear old chap”. I explained who he was to my parents. ‘Oh, we recognised him straight away’ they said.
Mr Stanshall was the face of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, or the Bonzo Dog Band, or just The Bonzos. He was an instantly recognisable character, and the world is a worse place now he is gone.
The Bonzos were founded in south east London in the mid-1960s. They were quite inclined to more traditional comedy style jazz tunes. In those early days, the line up was flexible, and there’s a whole history relating to other bands like The Pasedena Roof Orchestra and Bob Kerr’s Whooppee Band, but we will skip that here.
Rodney Slater, one of the original founders and player of all things brass, woodwind and, well anything, kept the band going as people came and went and there was a slow move towards rock comedy rather than jazz comedy.
Neil Innes joined on guitars and keyboards. The line up was always fluid, but the best known line up is Stanshall, Slater, Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Larry Smith and Dennis Cowan.
Before they reached this line up, albums had been produced. The first is Gorilla (1967).
This has some classic tracks, including Death Cab For Cutie, The Intro And The Outro and I’m Bored. While a little basic, it’s a hugely enjoyable LP.
Next was an appearance in The Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour (1967), singing Death Cab For Cutie.