Name: Neil James Innes
Neil James Innes was born in Danbury, Essex, on 9th December 1944. Innes attended Thorpe Grammar School, then moved on to the Norwich School of Fine Art in 1962. In 1964, Innes started at Goldsmith’s College School of Art. It was during his time at Goldsmith’s that he joined the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. In 1966, Innes graduated with a BA in Fine Arts. This turned out to be rather a big year for Innes, with him marrying his wife, and turning professional with the band.
The next year Innes started work on Do Not Adjust Your Set, where he worked alongside future Pythons Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Through all of this, Innes was still a member of the Bonzo Dog Band who released their first album Gorilla in 1967. By 1968 they had played with The Bee Gees and Cream before touring the U.S. where they worked with The Byrds and Joe Cocker. The Bonzos also had a guest turn playing "Death Cab for Cutie" in the Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour. The same year, the Bonzos scored a chart entry with “I’m The Urban Spaceman”. In 1970, the Bonzos split, and Innes moved on, forming The World, releasing one album called “Lucky Planet”. He then teamed up with Scaffold and Liverpool poets to form the GRIMMS, producing three more albums (Grimms, Rocking Duck and Sleepers).
Close encounters of a cow kind...
In 1974, Innes joined the circle around Monty Python, acting as their warm-up man (for which he was paid £25) as well as becoming one of only two non-Pythons to receive a writing credit (the other being Douglas Adams, of
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame). Innes also appeared in one episode in Season 4, singing "Where Does a Dream Begin". This would start Innes's association with Monty Python that would give him the tag the “7th” or “the unofficial” Python. These stem from Innes's appearances in
The Holy Grail (playing the squire who gets squashed by both a cow and the Trojan rabbit, and of course Sir Robin’s ill-fated minstrel), and
The Life of Brian (he gets thrown into the arena amongst other things), as well as in many of their live shows.
In the post-Python era Innes continued his association with Monty Python, appearing in Terry Gilliam’s first film Jabberwocky, acting alongside Michael Palin in The Missionary and playing Hy-Brasilian in Terry Jones's Erik the Viking. He then teamed up with Eric Idle (and ex-Beatle George Harrison) to write Rutland Weekend Television. A sketch on this provided a springboard to Innes's next big success – The Rutles. Along with Eric Idle (playing the John Lennon-like Ron Nasty to Idle’s Dirk McQuickly), he took the Pre-Fab Four on a Magical Mystery Tour through T.V. specials and a number of albums.
Neil Innes in "Puddle Lane"
The year 1978 saw the first of 3 seasons of Innes’s of T.V. show The Innes Book of Records. Through all of this Innes remained part of the Python circle, appearing in many of the live shows, where he starred in sketches and reprised many old Bonzo songs such as "The Idiot Song", "The Old Gay Whistle Guest" and "I'm the Urban Spaceman". The 1980’s saw Innes’s one man tour (Neil Innes is Joe Public), a number of appearances at the Edinburgh festival, and Innes’s involvement in many top rated children’s shows, including The Raggy Dolls (Innes providing voices and music as well as writing it) and The Riddlers (music by Mr. N. Innes), as well as appearances in the Emmy nominated series East of the Moon, (a live action and animation series based on Terry Jones’s Fairy Tales - Innes appears as the Rainbow Cat) and Puddle Lane.
The 1990’s saw a resurgence in interest in The Rutles with the release of a CD in 1990 containing the original songs plus six others heard on All You Need Is Cash. Later that year a tribute album called Rutles Highway Revisited was released featuring a host of respected underground and alternative artists. There were also appearances at "Beatlesfest 1995" and the performance of Rutles songs for British comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner.
Innes as Ron Nasty
1994 saw the 25th Anniversary Monty Python tribute by American Cinemateque and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Monty Python: Lust for Glory). Innes joined members of the team (and the other “unofficial” Python Carol Cleveland). During the festivities, Innes took to the stage as Ron Nasty and an all new Rutles line up (actually the Beatles tribute band The Moptops). This concert was so well received that Innes decided that it was time for a new Rutles album and so 1996 saw the release of the excellent “Rutles Archaeology”. There was also the release of the Rutles comeback single "Shangri-La". Innes returned to our television screens in 1998 with a series for Anglia and Discovery Channel called Away With Words, examining the roots of well known words and phrases. From there, Innes embarked on his Innes Own Words tour round the country.
On 28 January 2006 most of the surviving members of the Bonzo Dog Band played a concert at the London Astoria to celebrate the band's official 40th anniversary with well known comedians including Rik Mayall, Ade Edmonson and Phil Jupitus taking the parts of the late Vivian Stanshall. This was followed up with a national Bonzo tour. Although a few members of the Bonzo Dog Band now perform regularly as "3 Bonzos and a piano", it now looks like this was the last hurrah of the full Bonzo Dog Band, with its band members all going their separate ways.
In 2008, a film about Neil Innes called The Seventh Python premiered at the Rockers Film Festival on June 26, 2008, chronicling his association with the Pythons, the Bonzos, the Rutles - even The Beatles and Britpop band Oasis. At present Neil Innes is embarking on a tour of the UK, Canada and the US.
And you thought he was just that bloke who got squished by a cow in Monty Python and The Holy Grail!