Neil Innes

Neil Innes
Neil Innes

Innes at the premiere of The Seventh Python
Background information
Birth name Neil James Innes
Born 9 December 1944 (1944-12-09) (age 66)
Origin Danbury, England
Genres Parody, satire, comedy rock
Occupations Musician, actor, game show guest, TV show host
Years active 1960s–present
Labels indie, distributor Danny Barbour at
Associated acts The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Rutles, Monty Python, The World, Fatso, Grimms, The Secret Policemen's Balls for Amnesty International.
Notable instruments
piano, guitars, harmonica, vibes, accordion, harpsichord

Neil James Innes (born 9 December 1944 in Danbury, Essex) is an English writer and performer of comic songs, best known for his collaborative work with Monty Python, and for playing in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and later The Rutles.


Personal life

Innes spent a good part of his childhood with his parents and two-year-older brother Iain in post-war Germany during his Scottish father's military assignment as a warrant officer. He took piano lessons from age 7 to 14. He taught himself to play guitar. Neil's parents were supportive of their sons' interests. His father showed some artistic ability as he frequently drew and painted.

He later attended Thorpe Grammar School and the Norwich School of Art. Because Norwich lacked a particular art curriculum in which he was interested, he transferred to Goldsmiths' College, where he met Yvonne Catherine Hilton, majoring in drama, and they married on 3 March 1966. They have three sons, Miles (b. 1967), Luke (b. 1971), and Barney (b. 1977). They have two grandchildren.[1][2]


Innes graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Goldsmiths' in 1966.[2][3] During the period of 1962 to 1965, Innes and several other art school students started a band which was originally named The Bonzo Dog Dada Band after their interest in the art movement Dada, but which was soon renamed the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (later shortened to The Bonzo Dog Band). Innes, with Vivian Stanshall, wrote most of the band's songs, including "I'm the Urban Spaceman", their sole hit, (produced by Paul McCartney and Gus Dudgeon under the collective pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth) and "Death Cab for Cutie" (which inspired an American musical group of the same name), which was featured in the Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour. Innes won an Ivor Novello Award for Best Novel(ty) Song in 1968 for "I'm the Urban Spaceman".

In the late 1960s, Innes appeared with the Bonzo Dog Band on both seasons of the UK children's television series Do Not Adjust Your Set which also featured some future members of the Monty Python comedy team.

After the break-up of the Bonzo Dog Band, Innes joined with former Dog Band bassist Dennis Cowan, drummer Ian Wallace and guitarist Roger McKew to form The World, a band hoping for "more commercial" success with music ranging from rock to pure pop, yet still retaining some Doo-Dah flavour and even some of the humour. Unfortunately for them, by the time their sole album Lucky Planet was released in 1970, the members had already disbanded and were moving on to other projects.

GRIMMS & Monty Python

In 1973 Neil worked with Andy Roberts, Adrian Henri, Mike McGear, Brian Patten, John Gorman, David Richards, John Megginson, Ollie Halsall, and Gerry Conway in the band GRIMMS, who released their self titled album and Rocking Duck in 1973 followed by their last album Sleepers in 1976.[4]

Neil Innes (wearing glasses) with Monty Python members Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Terry Jones (l-r) in the 1970s.

In the mid-1970s, Innes became closely associated with the TV series Monty Python's Flying Circus. He played a major role in performing and writing songs and sketches for the final series in 1974 (after John Cleese left). He wrote a squib of a song called "George III" (sung by the black American girl group The Flirtations, of "Nothing But A Heartache" fame) which appears in "The Golden Age of Ballooning". He also wrote the song "Where Does a Dream Begin?", used in "Anything Goes: The Light Entertainment War". He co-wrote the "Most Awful Family in Britain" sketch and played a humorous stilted guitar version of the theme song, The Liberty Bell March, during the credits of the last episode, "Party Political Broadcast". He is one of only two non-Pythons to ever be credited writers for the TV series, the other being Douglas Adams (who co-wrote another sketch in "Party Political Broadcast").

He appeared on stage with the Pythons in New York City in 1976, performing the Bob Dylanesque "Protest Song" (complete with harmonica) on the album Monty Python Live at City Center. He was introduced as Raymond Scum. After his introduction he told the audience "I've suffered for my music. Now it's your turn." In 1982 he travelled to the States with the Pythons again, appearing in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. He performed the songs "How Sweet to Be an Idiot" and "I'm the Urban Spaceman". He also appeared as one of the singing "Bruces" in the Philosopher Sketch.

Innes wrote the songs for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He appeared in the film as a head-bashing monk, the serf crushed by the giant wooden rabbit, and the leader of Sir Robin's minstrels. He also had a small role in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky. Because of these long-standing connections, Innes is often referred to as "the Seventh Python".

The Rutles, Rutland and Innes Book of Records

After Python finished its original run on UK television, Innes joined with Python's Eric Idle on the series Rutland Weekend Television. This was a Python-esque sketch show based in a fictional low-budget regional television station. It ran for two series in 1975–76. Songs and sketches from the series appeared on a 1976 BBC LP, The Rutland Weekend Songbook. This show spawned The Rutles (the "prefab four"), an affectionate pastiche of the Beatles, in which Innes played the character of Ron Nasty, who was loosely based on John Lennon. Innes played Nasty in an American-made spin-off TV movie, All You Need Is Cash, with Idle. The project also yielded an album released by Warner Brothers.

After Rutland Weekend Television, Idle relocated to the USA, and Innes went on to make a solo series in 1979 on BBC television, The Innes Book of Records, which ran for three seasons and contained a few of Innes' previous music compositions along with new ones written for the show.

During the 1980s, Innes delved into children's entertainment. He played the role of the Wizard in the live-action children's television series Puddle Lane, made by Yorkshire Television for the ITV network.

He voiced the 1980s children's cartoon adventures of The Raggy Dolls, a motley collection of "rejects" from a toy factory. The 65 episodes for Yorkshire Television included the characters Sad Sack, Hi-Fi, Lucy, Dotty, Back-to-Front and Princess.

He also composed the music for children's television including Puddle Lane, The Raggy Dolls, The Riddlers and Tumbledown Farm.

In addition, he brought Monty Python's Terry Jones's fairy-tale book East of the Moon to television. He contributed all the stories and music on this production. He was involved with the enormously popular children's show Tiswas. With its own website, the show's popularity is still demonstrated.

Different reunion concerts

At the time of The Beatles Anthology CDs, there was a revival of interest in The Rutles and a new album was released in 1996 entitled Archaeology.

In 1998, Innes hosted a 13-episode UK (Anglia) television show called "Away with Words" on which he travelled to different areas of Britain to explore the origins of well-known words and phrases.

Innes took part, along with the remaining Monty Python members, in the 2002 Concert for George, in memory of George Harrison.

Innes was occasionally heard (often as the butt of jokes) standing in as the pianist for the BBC Radio 4 panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

Innes toured the UK in 2006 and produced a new Bonzo CD as part of the Bonzo Dog Band's 40th Anniversary tour.

In 2008 he undertook the Neil Innes and Fatso 30th Anniversary tour,[5] playing predominantly Rutles numbers with a few Bonzos and Python items.

A film about Neil Innes called The Seventh Python[6] premiered at the Mods & Rockers Film Festival on 26 June 2008.[7]

The Idiot Bastard Band

In late 2010, Innes announced the formation of 'The Idiot Bastard Band' a comedy musical collective featuring himself, Adrian Edmondson, Phill Jupitus, Simon Brint and Roland Rivron. The band debuted at The Wilmington Arms in London in December, playing a range of comedy songs old and new, with deliberately little rehearsal.

New concerts were scheduled in 2011. Jupitus was unable to attend due to prior commitments and was replaced by several special guests, including Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Planer.[8]



Release date Title Label/Catalogue[9]
1973 "How Sweet To Be An Idiot"/"The Age of Desperation" United Artists UP 35495
1973 "Momma B"/"Immortal Invisible" United Artists UP 35639
1974 "Re-cycled Vinyl Blues"/"Fluff On the Needle" United Artists UP 356756
1974 "Lie Down and Be Counted"/"Bandwagon" United Artists UP 35745
1975 "What Noise Annoys a Noisy Oyster"/"Oo-Chuck-A-Mao-Mao" United Artists UP UP35722
1977 "Lady Mine"/"Crystal Balls" Arista ARISTA 106
1977 "Silver Jubilee (A Tribute)"/"Drama On a Saturday Night" Arista ARISTA 123
1978 "Protest Song"/"The Hard-To-Get" Warner Brothers K 17182
1979 "Amoeba Boogie"/"Theme" Polydor POSP 107
1979 "Kenny and Liza"/"Human Race" Polydor 2059 207
1982 "Them"/"Rock of Ages" MMC MMC 100
1982 "Mr. Eurovision"/"Ungawa" MMC MMC 103
1984 "Humanoid Boogie"/"Libido"[10] PRT 7P 298/12P 298
1984 "Dear Father Christmas"/"City of the Angels" Making Waves SURF 104

Solo albums

  • How Sweet To Be An Idiot (1973)
  • The Rutland Weekend Songbook (with Eric Idle) (1976)
  • Taking Off (1977)
  • The Innes Book of Records (1979)
  • Off the Record (1982)
  • Erik the Viking (soundtrack) (1989)
  • Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues (compilation LP, 1994)
  • Recollections 1 (2000)
  • Recollections 2 (2001)
  • Recollections 3 (2001)
  • Works in Progress (2005)
  • Innes Own World – Best Bits Part One(2010)

The World

  • Lucky Planet (1970)



  1. ^ "Words of Innespiration – The Lyrics & Unplanned Career of Neil Innes". Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Neil Innes on MSN Music". 1944-12-09. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  3. ^ Words of Innespiration: The Lyrics and Unplanned Career of Neil Innes--[1]
  4. ^ "Grimms Page". Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  5. ^ Neil Innes & Fatso Retrieved 7 October 2008
  6. ^ IMDB entry
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  8. ^ "The Idiot Bastard Band". The Idiot Bastard Band. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  9. ^ Barbour, Danny (November 1994). "Neil Innes". Record Collector (183): 148–149. 
  10. ^ picture sleeve, also released as a 12"

External links

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