Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bonzo Dog Dadaists

Long before Major Tom switched off his radio circuit to a blue planet earth, and drifted blissfully off into the stratosphere, a young Nicky Nova was fascinated by another rock'n'roll astronaut: the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's "Urban Spaceman". The Bonzo's were a wacky art-rock ensemble comprising Neil Innes and the late Vivian Stanshall, and in many ways were the missing link between the Beatles and Monty Python.
They appeared in the Magical Mystery Tour film, and their biggest hit, 1968's "I'm the Urban Spaceman", was anonymously produced by future "Space Oddity" producer Gus Dudgeon, and Paul McCartney, under the collective pseudonym of "Apollo. C. Vermouth".
Neil Innes later scored and appeared as the Lennon-esque "Ron Nasty" in Eric Idle's Beatles spoof "The Rutles - All You Need Is Cash". The film was bankrolled by George Harrison , who also had a cameo role as a roving reporter, interviewing Michael Palin as a steady stream of looters pilfer the Rutles "Grapefruit - Corps." building. Innes also performed an acoustic version of "Urban Spaceman" in Monty Python's "Live at the Hollywood Bowl".
The song's lyric deals humourously with issues of surface vs substance, with lines like, "I'm a glossy magazine, an advert in the tube", and ends with the existential twist, "I don't exist". You can't help but wonder if Bowie was taking notes....

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