INTERVIEW: NEIL INNES

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“I am one of the shrinking violets in this business because I’ve never been that keen on being famous. I like to share observations and feelings and things like that, but I can’t stand the idea of being popular. I think people who are hugely popular have to work at it quite a bit. And I’ve never worked at it.”

Neil Innes at length about the life of the Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band, the legacy of the Rutles, a solo career that’s oscillated between television and radio and how instant karma got both himself and Noel Gallagher in a similar predicament. Oh, and also why Benjamin Britten’s stuff is “just the most unthinkably bad music you’ve ever heard.”

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PS: Well first I want to thank you for your time to do this. To get started, I know that you actually started out in art, correct?

Neil: That’s right, yeah.

PS: So what drew you to music? What are your earliest musical memories?

Neil: Well, as a child I had piano lessons, from about [age] 7 to about 14. And I kind got quite proficient, but at 14, I kind of rebelled, because every time I learned a piano piece, they gave me a harder one. I thought, “Who am I working for?” I was playing Chopin’s polonaises and things, you know. And I bought a very cheap and terrible guitar, and I taught myself how to play it. But it was just a dreadful guitar—I had to use my thumb. I couldn’t actually bar. It was more like an egg slicer. [Laughter] The strings were so far from the neck. And when I got around to playing a real guitar, I thought, “Ah it’s easy!” being able to bar and that. So yeah, I went to art school, because I was always keen on painting. And it was only when I was there that someone suggested to me to be a piano player in the Bonzos. It was Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, who was living in the same house as me. He came back and said, “I just met these weird blokes, and they really might need a piano player.” So I said, “Alright, I’ll come along.” Everyone basically got together at the Royal College of Art. Vivian [Stanshall] wasn’t there at the time, but he’d been there before and gone. Various people came and went. It was very, very loose. And it got up to about 14 people just getting together to play this rubbish.

PS: OK. [Laughter]

Neil: Well, it was rubbish. It was British pop music from ‘20s and ‘30s, which was derivative of the proper American jazz, but it was more like sort of bubblegum pop for the Charleston, jitterbugging rich kids at the Savoy Hotel. We thought it was funny—songs like “Let’s All Go To Mary’s House” and “I’m Going To Bring a Watermelon To My Girl Tonight.” We just looked for silly songs. And that led to playing in pubs, and before we know it, we became quite notorious as this sort of heavy band.

PS: So when did Vivian get involved?

Neil: I met Vivian—he was already involved. He used to live in a house with Rodney [Slater]. He came and went a bit, you know. He sort of came back when we started playing in pubs. He’d been to Edinburgh—I’m not one of those people who knows the years. But I’d been with them for about 6 months or so when Viv sort of wandered back and I met him in a pub near my college in south London. He turned up—he was quite plump in those days. He had checked trousers and a Victorian tail coat and funny little oval Victorian glasses that sort of sat on the end of his nose. And finally, he had these big, pink rubber ears. And I thought, “Well, he’s an interesting cat …” [Laughter] Then of course, he lost all this weight and became aesthetic Vivian Stanshall and he worked with Lindsay Kemp, who was a well-known British mime in those days. He did a lot of theatre work and was very funny. David Bowie worked with him as well in Edinburgh, so he got quite a lot from him, too.

PS: Oh, really?

Neil: Yeah, theatrical tricks, you know. But yeah, Vivian came back and started singing songs and messing about with lyrics and that’s the early days of the Bonzos, really.

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PS: I know you’ve told the story about being in Abbey Road in 1966 with the Bonzos and the Beatles are there too, and you listen in on the Beatles’ recording “I Want To Tell You”—hearing that F over E7 bit on the piano and thinking about how that was kind of pushing music forward, and then having to go back and work on the “My Brother Makes Noises For the Talkies” …

Neil: [Laughter] Absolutely, but you know the nice thing about it—I was telling George [Harrison], I was down at George’s place and telling him that story. And he said, “Yeah, yeah …” Just outside the kitchen was a piano, and I was playing and there was a guitar right there. I go, “Have you forgotten that lovely riff?” [sings the opening riff of “I Want to Tell You”] He picked it up and played it straightaway. He didn’t even have to think about it. I was so impressed, I said, “Yeah! That’s right!” Then when I tried to play the riff, I had to really think. It’s simple sounding, but it’s quite tricky to play.

PS: Right, right.

Neil: But George just sort of picked it up and played it straightaway.

PS: Something songwriters can do, I guess. [Laughter]

Neil: Yeah, well, you know …

PS: But when it came around to the time when the Bonzos started composing their own material, did you think that any of that stuff contributed to pushing things forward at the time? I know things like “My Pink Half of the Drainpipe” have been cited in those semi-annual “Best British Songs Ever” lists …

Neil: Yeah, exactly. We had lots of different musical influences and I learned so much—from playing from chord charts—about composition. Moreso than learning from playing sheet music and playing piano pieces—dots and what have you. Just playing chord charts, you sort of learn the structure of things. That helps enormously in the songwriting. There’s a 32-bar sequence which is pretty much everything ever written in the early jazz days—two 8-bar sequences, then a middle-8 and then another 8. And then some of the more European things—I used to love French films, and I think “My Pink Half of the Drainpipe” was influenced by some of the French music I heard. It wasn’t necessarily French at first—Vivian’s lyric just made me think, “Well, this could be a bit French,” you know? A 3/4 kind of thing. What happened, in fact, was that there was a hit record called “Winchester Cathedral,” supposedly by a band called the New Vaudeville Band, but they didn’t exist. They were session men.

PS: OK.

Neil: And when it became a hit, Geoff Stephens, who’d written it and made the record, realized he needed to promote it. He hadn’t got a band, but he knew Bob Kerr, who was our trumpeter. He rang Bob, and said, “Bob, you’re with this silly band, do you fancy becoming the New Vaudeville Band?” And Bob, said, “Well, yeah, I’ll ask them.” So he came in and said, [excitedly] “Hey! We could be on ‘Top of the Pops!’ We could be the New Vaudeville Band!” And we all looked at him and said, “… why?” [Laughter] So off he went. And then the next thing we knew, the New Vaudeville Band was on television looking exactly like the Bonzos did, with their two-tone shoes and gangster suits and all the props—they stole everything. So everywhere we went, people said, “Oh, you’re like that New Vaudeville Band.” And we knew then we were in show business. So it was “Legs” Larry Smith who said, “Right, let’s do any kind of music.” We said, “Yeah, let’s start writing.” So, in a way, it did us a favor, because we started writing our own stuff and did any kind of music we fancied.

PS: So the Bonzos gained a lot of traction on the live circuit and were becoming fairly popular in their own right before the cameo in “Magical Mystery Tour” came along.

Neil: Oh very much so, yeah.

PS: But how important was it to your career for the Bonzos to have “Magical Mystery Tour” and then essentially become the house band for “Do Not Adjust Your Set”?

Neil: Well, I think “Do Not Adjust Your Set” gave us more coverage and more profile. Because “Magical Mystery Tour” was the Beatles’ flop.

PS: Right.

Neil: It’s funny though, because it has come out again, and I’ve always liked it, being an art student. It’s a very art-student film and there’s some jokes in there about some of the art-y films. I think Paul [McCartney] is quite savvy on all of that. So it was lovely to see it come out again, and I’ve always been a genuine supporter of it. But when you think that it was shown on black and white television and the songs were always good, but there were things like, “What are they doing?” So the Bonzos were in it, and that really didn’t help. I think we probably dragged them down. [Laughter]

PS: But then, of course, “Do Not Adjust Your Set” comes along, and I think I’d read in some old interview or story, the network asked if you had any requests, and you came up with this surreal list …

Neil: Oh, yes. Well our management was absolutely keen on making every penny they could out of us. So we were on the road all the time and making a television show. And what happened was that our management rang up and “Legs” Larry Smith answered the phone. They said, “What props do you need for next week’s television show?” And just off the top of his head, without talking to anybody, he just said, “Oh, three cardboard boxes. A springboard. And a petrol tanker”—which is a lorry, you know. [Laughter] So he came in to us and said, “I just told them three cardboard boxes, a springboard and a petrol tanker” and we all rolled about laughing. Then two days later, the phone goes again. I pick it up and it’s the management. Now, I know about what Larry’s said, and I hear them say, “Well, we got the cardboard boxes and the springboard, but we’re having trouble with the petrol tanker. Would an oil drum do?”

PS: [Laughter]

Neil: [Laughter] I said, “Look. Larry was winding you up.” And aaargh! The other end of the telephone went ballistic. “YOU’RE NOT PROFESSIONALS!” and all that. We thought, “Well, fuck it.” You can’t have it both ways. So a lot of times, we just ad-libbed what we were going to do. And in another kind of way, it put me off television, because we couldn’t actually use it properly. We hadn’t really thought things through. We hadn’t rehearsed things and so the cameras were never on anything, because we didn’t do the same thing twice. It didn’t have a chance. It wasn’t their fault, but I didn’t really like television. It was only much later when Eric [Idle] said, “Would you like to join me in a television show?” I said, “I don’t really like television.” He said, “Why?” I said, “The cameras are never pointing where you want.” He said, “Well you can tell the cameras where to point.” Oh! Well, that’s a different thing.

PS: What power can bring, huh?

Neil: Yeah, well the toys of television are wonderful. It’s just a crying shame to see them so spitefully abused all the time.

PS: Well after the Bonzos, I know GRIMMS followed, but I actually wanted to talk to you a bit about your first solo album, How Sweet To Be An Idiot.

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Neil: Oh, right.

PS: I’ve always thought it was such a fantastic and overlooked album. The humor’s there, but I think of things like “This Love of Ours,” “Dream On,” “Singing a Song is Easy”—you start flashing a more earnest side. Was it conscious to split funny with serious or was that just kind of how it came out?

Neil: I think I’ve always been like that, because I was with a funny band. I mean, I did things like “Quiet Talks and Summer Walks” with the Bonzos and “I Want To Be With You.” Very straightforward songs that are genuine feelings. So I just sort of carried on. I thought, “Well if the Bonzos aren’t going, I can explore some of these things.” In many way, the albatross of comedy is still hung around my neck. But people are beginning to realize that I do write some more—well, every song is a proper song, but not comedy. More to do with thoughtful things.

PS: To be out on your own for the first time, was that liberating in a way? Or was that daunting?

Neil: The darn thing is you don’t really think of it like that. The greatest answer is Orson Welles—somebody saying, “Well, how did you do it?” “Citizen Kane”—that shot across the roof and down through skylight and all the rest of it. He said when you’re that age, you don’t realize you’re walking that close to a cliff. And I think that’s the same as me. I just didn’t realize how dangerous it could’ve been. I just did it. I’ve always felt strongly and I trust people and I haven’t made too many terrible mistakes. At the same time, I am one of the shrinking violets in this business because I’ve never been that keen on being famous. I like to share observations and feelings and things like that, but I can’t stand the idea of being popular. I think people who are hugely popular have to work at it quite a bit. And I’ve never worked at it.

PS: With How Sweet To Be An Idiot, was that your first time working with Ollie Halsall?

Neil: Pretty much, although we had done a couple of singles with United Artists. I think we had a thing called “Fluff on the Needle,” which was extraordinary. John Halsey was on that track—you had three of the Rutles. I can’t remember what Ollie first worked on. I’m no good at this, it probably all happened in the same year so it’s all rolled into one.

PS: Right, right. Well musically, what did he bring to the fold?

Neil: He’s an acrobat. Ollie’s kind of like autistic in the best possible way, you know what I mean? He’s got a natural talent. I do know that, as a teenager, he wanted a vibraphone. And they’re quite expensive. His family weren’t that well off and they said, “You can’t have them. They’re far too expensive and you don’t know how to play them.” So he cut out all these kind of notes of paper, put them on his bed, got the hammers and started imagining it and playing it. Then he dragged his parents down the xylophone shop and he played it! He’s like that. He can play right-handed, left-handed. He can bang two bricks together and make it sound great. Paul McCartney’s a bit like that, and so is Ricky Fataar. But Ollie was exceptional. Just exceptional. He’d launch into something, and you’d go, “How did he get that out of that?” He just would. Like a cat. Flick him out the window and he’d land on his feet.

PS: Very cool. Well, I know the origins of the Rutles have been pretty well covered and worn, but I wanted to ask you about it is now, looking back at the impact it’s had—especially musically—since that film debuted. Some people hold “I Must Be in Love” or “Doubleback Alley” or “Cheese and Onions” in similar regard to what they have for Beatles songs.

Neil: Yeah …

PS: What does that mean to you?

Neil: Well, it means that I did the right thing. [Laughter] No, I mean I certainly didn’t want to trivialize anything the Beatles had done, because I am a true fan of their songwriting. I sympathize with the fame that they had to put up with, because it’s awful. Nobody should have to go through that. But as songwriters, they were so inventive and they were always a tight band. Listen to some of the early live stuff—what a fun, tight band they were. It seemed to me that those things were what I enjoyed most and one of the better decisions I made was to get a band together and rehearse for a fortnight. When you’ve got Ollie Halsall and Ricky Fataar and John Halsey—who’s a wildly underrated drummer, you know. He was on Lou Reed’s Transformer and Phil Collins turns out to be a huge admirer of John Halsey. So anyway, there we were and we just went through the stuff. Wimbledon was on, I remember. So when we got tired, we watched a bit of Wimbledon and then we’d go back and play. And by the time we came out, we felt like a band. We had a great sense of humor, great feel and it was a laugh. It has a lot of the qualities that the Beatles had in terms of—there was nothing desperately career move about what we were doing. We were having fun, so that worked well. We had two 2-track machines that we were recording stuff and some of those recordings are used as live tracks for the sort of Cavern and that [in the film]. “It’s Looking Good” might’ve been one of them. “Baby Let Me Be,” things like that. On Archaeology, there was a track we didn’t use, but I turned it into “Unfinished Words” because it has a lovely Ollie solo on it. It was a live recording and the feel is there—it’s just a lovely track. So yeah, and then the other decision I made was, “I’m not listening to any Beatles records until I’ve written a song and the song works on a guitar or piano.” That’s pretty much what I did and those plans worked. We made the first album in 10 days, and the second one took even longer. [Laughter]

PS: Like I was saying, it’s interesting to see how those songs have kind of merged with the Beatles’ songs. Last time I saw Paul Weller in Chicago, I remember he closed the show with a cover of “All You Need is Love,” but when it got to the end, the band started doing Love is the meaning of life, life is the meaning of love instead of repeating “Love is all you need.”

Neil: [Laughter] Oh, that’s great! I think all the musicians that are out there doing stuff know the sum of the Rutles and know that it’s affectionate and know that the people doing it knew what they were doing.

PS: Well moving on to “Innes Book of Records.” Can you tell me about how that came to be a TV series?

Neil: Well, we’d done “Rutland Weekend Television,” and it was the same producer—Ian Kiell—who rang up and said, “I’d really like to do a ‘Rutland Weekend Television’ songbook.” What was different was we got songs and put pictures to them for “Rutland Weekend Television.” This was before people were making videos or anything. And he enjoyed doing that, and I said I enjoyed doing that, so we had lunch. We said, “Obviously, we can’t call it ‘Rutland Weekend Television Songbook,’” and he floated the idea of calling it “Innes Book of Records.” I thought it was a bit tacky. We decided over lunch that we’d like to do a show like something the BBC used to have called “The Interlude”—a potter’s wheel and two swans or something. Something very gentle and not in-your-face, right? We decided it’d be nice to have a show that wasn’t in your face, and I didn’t want to be on a stool with a guest singing a duet. I agreed that we’d try to make a program with songs and pictures about people and things and it would be a stream of one thing leading to another. And if people wondered what it was about, then we’d say, “Well …” [Laughter] We went off like that. And I went off in the cab and I had one of the first mobile phones, and it occurred to me in the cab that the title should be “Parodies Lost.”

PS: OK. [Laughter]

Neil: Yeah. So I ring him up, I say, “Ian! Ian! I’ve got the title!” He says, “What?” I said, “Parodies Lost!” “Oh. Oh, yes. Yes, that is quite amusing,” he says. And I knew he didn’t like it. [Laughter] The first week of filming, I was up a hill somewhere and some people came up with a fat dog and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “We’re making a program for BBC2.” They said, “What’s it called?” And I’m really pleased, and I say “Parodies Lost!” They’re like, “I beg your pardon?” [Laughter] “Parodies Lost, you know, not Paradise Lost. Parodies!” They go, “Oh, uh …” and off they went with their fat dog. OK. “Ian’s right, dammit.” So we ended up calling it “Innes Book of Records.”

PS: Now how long did that go on for?

Neil: We did three series of six half-hours each. And it was very labor-intensive to come up with these songs and how we did them. You know, I would sort of say, “Well, what would be ideal would be 300 Mongolian horsemen suddenly coming over the hill.”

PS: [Laughter]

Neil: And the game was Ian would try to find the equivalent for what the budget allowed, which—we called it “Little Budget on the Prairie.” But it was fun, because you had wardrobe and the whole crew became like a band. Everyone pitched in with their expertise and it was a joyful experience. We became very good friends in the time we did it and the whole thing was a team effort. Lovely.

PS: Now is the situation with it that the BBC owns those recordings?

Neil: Yes it does, but it’s interesting when you say the BBC owns anything because people pay for it all with their license fees. I don’t know what they’re doing and neither does Ian Kiell, because we had a meeting a while ago. Ian and Andrew [Gosling], our director, would both love to make some more. They’ve actually said that and that the BBC are thinking about it. I know they’ve digitized it all, so they haven’t thrown it away, but why they’re not showing it, I don’t quite know. I think there are enough people that would like to see it again.

PS: Or at least do a little DVD set or something.

Neil: Yeah, I know. At the moment, I’ve got a box set out. A lot of it is music from “Innes Book of Records”—there’s three CDs that went out called Recollections 1, 2 and 3.

PS: Oh yeah, I remember you put those out around 2000 or so, right?

Neil: Yeah, and there were only 2000 of each, and they all sold out. So there were people saying, “Well, why can’t we get them?” So we decided that to do a box set and I’ve remastered them again, actually. There’s a free DVD that comes with it that has the best footage that we could find of “Innes Book of Records” clip. They’re out there on YouTube and we just found the ones with the best possible quality and put it out as a free DVD with the box set. And that’s about all we can do, really. I told Michael Palin I so loved his skit as a paranoid policeman, chewing a sweet—I didn’t think to ask him, but I put that on it. It was his birthday back in May, and I told him, and he said, “Oh, good!” You know, at least I’ve kept in a good mix.

PS: Moving forward, I actually got to meet you many years ago in Chicago and we briefly spoke about this, but I’d like a bit more insight since I have your full attention now. [Laughter] Right around 1996, you were working on Archaeology, but only a year or so before, Oasis have their hit with “Whatever.” And Noel Gallagher kind of lifted that melody line—the intro on the verse to “How Sweet To Be An Idiot.”

Neil: Yeah, yeah.

PS: I recall when I talked to you briefly about it, I think you told me it was Paul McCartney’s brother Michael that pointed it out to you?

Neil: Yes, that’s right. He rang me up and said, “Have you heard Oasis’ latest record?” I said, “No.” He said that Nicky Campbell—who’s an old DJ on BBC Radio 1—had just played it back to back with “How Sweet To Be An Idiot.” He said, “They’re virtually identical at the beginning.” I said, “Oh, really?” And I thought no more about it. Then more people said something about it, and I thought, “Well, I better ring up EMI about it,” because they’d published it. Immediately, they said, “We’re on it! We’re already on it!” Apparently they settled out of court. [The Oasis camp] put their hands up and gave me a quarter of “Whatever.” It goes to EMI, where it’s then divided 50/50 between EMI and me.

PS: OK.

Neil: But what was quite funny to me, was that there’s a trade paper here called New Musical Express—the NME—of which you should never underestimate. They put a headline up sort of saying, “Innes to Sue Oasis!” And you know, I thought, “What?” It said: “Neil Innes is to sue Oasis for ‘Whatever’” blah, blah, blah. And then in the smaller print, it said, “Well at least we think he is, because we rang him up and he wasn’t in. We assumed it’s because he’s in court with his lawyers.” [Laughter] So this is how to make a headline work and not have to put an apology in afterward.

PS: Yeah, that’s a tactic I should use more in my reporting career.

Neil: Yeah. [Laughter]

PS: So there wasn’t actually a lawsuit.

Neil: No, no, no. Similarly, there wasn’t a lawsuit over the Rutles songs, either. [Ed. note: Sony/ATV gobbled up the rights to the original Rutles songs and has since insisted that many Rutles titles are in fact Lennon/McCartney compositions]  I’m afraid my publisher capitulated completely. I wanted them to sort of fight it, but they figured on their legal advice, that they might not get their costs back. They knew they’d win, but they might not get costs. So I was sold up the river. And then they had the nerve a year later to say that I owed them another album. I said, “Why?” “Because you gave us an album of non-original material.”

PS: Oh, Jesus …

Neil: I told them to fuck off in the strongest terms possible.

PS: Yeah, I’d heard that story of some band that wanted to cover “Cheese and Onions” and they couldn’t get the rights …

Neil: Galaxie 500. Yeah, that’s right. I am not allowed to be credited with writing those songs. This is the legal profession.

PS: Unbelievable.

Neil: Well it’s not when you think of where they’re taking that poor WikiLeaks man. All the scandalous 2008 thieves from the banking world who got off. Not one of them prosecuted because they can’t prove criminal intent. Why can’t he use that? He was just trying to tell the truth. Where’s the criminal intent in that?

PS: Well and you’d think having George Harrison there saying, “Go ahead, I love it” with your songs would count for something.

Neil: I know. I know. He was a real champion, and he fought for it wonderfully. But it gets to the point where it’s bent. The whole bloody world is bent. It’s selfish bastards and alpha males that can take control of everything.

PS: Right. Well going back to the Oasis thing, I thought it was clever when you did “Shangri-La,” because you dropped that melody line back into the intro.

Neil: Yes, well these are the things you can do for a laugh.

PS: And in the outro part, when you sing, “We’re free to be whatever we are.”

Neil: Yeah.

PS: Is it true that Oasis were supposed to take part in that video?

Neil: Yes, I think they would’ve done if they hadn’t started fighting amongst themselves. [Ed. note: filming for the Rutles’ “Shangri-La” video took place in 1996 at roughly the same time that Oasis were on an American tour that Noel Gallagher abruptly quit]. You know, I think Noel’s a genuine Rutles fan.

PS: One of the tours I saw them on, the pre-gig music was just that entire Rutles first album.

Neil: Yeah, well it shows you that good music, you know—you can’t beat what Duke Ellington said: “There are two types of music—good and bad.” That’s all there is to it. I live near Benjamin Britten, who’s a composer. And his music is just the most unthinkably bad music you’ve ever heard. Once he starts on a one note kind of motif, you have to say, he doesn’t give it up lightly.

PS: [Laughter]

Neil: I mean [sings monotone, slightly high pitched] “I’m-going-to-have-a-cup-of-tea-now-how-about-you-pull-up-a-chaaaaaaair…” And every now and again the women would come in and you’d hear a word or two, but the top end is so screechy you can’t really hear a word they’re saying. You can hear the notes, but it’s just unbelievable. It takes something like that to realize, you know, just how much of a Bob Marley man you really are.

PS: Right, right. Well I got the last solo record, I believe was Works in Progress, back in 2005 …

Neil: Oh, right, yeah. Well there’s been a couple of other things since. I did a radio program for BBC Radio 4, “Innes Own World” and I’ve put out two kind of hybrid albums that mix some of the old songs with spoken material. Best Bits Part 1 and Part 2. I really, really liked doing that, because it gives you the chance to hear the music again fresh. People that have got them have said they like them too. So now the big project is doing “How Sweet To Be An Idiot: The Audio Memoirs.” It’s more of an exploration of human consciousness. When you start thinking about your memories and what you thought about, you start realizing that all human thinking is slightly mad. [Laughter] So it’s a fun project, and I’m going to be putting it out soon—hopefully I’ll put some out this year. But I’m probably looking at about 12 hours of stuff. It’s gonna rival Mark Twain’s autobiography.

PS: [Laughter]

Neil: But I can sit here and make it, which is a lot of fun.

PS: Is it going to come out in pieces or are you going to try to put it out in a box set all at once?

Neil: I don’t know. I’m thinking of half-hour things, because I’ve asked some people about their listening habits. If you allow people to download it for 50 cents or something like that, you know, I think it’s more fun. That way you don’t have to lay out money for CDs or packaging and all that. That could always come later, and the stories and everything could always come in a book. The lovely thing is I haven’t got to have it done by a certain time. I haven’t got anyone in a suit coming around and saying, “You need to have more shagging in this.” [Laughter]

PS: Right.

Neil: And there might be an album, as well. Because I can send audio files around the world to my friends and they’ve got similar tools so they can do their bits and send it back. So it’s kind of a “tapping the table” kind of album idea. You know, I’ve got at least 20 songs that no one’s ever heard before, so they might come out in the meantime. You know a lot of people think I’ve died. [Laughter] I probably have!

PS: Well you’re still doing a lot of shows, though, right?

Neil: Yeah, I do. It’s part of the therapy cycle. You can’t be in the studio all the time. It’s good to get out and sing and I’m really enjoying it at the moment. I’m not playing big places—usually only 100 or 200 people, but I bring along the CDs and merchandise, because you can’t get my stuff in shops. So I feel like a little fisherman, go out in my little boat, sell a few CDs and sing a few songs. And the Rutles will be on the road.

PS: Really?

Neil: Yeah, there as a guy in Liverpool who approached me and said, “I know this is a long shot, but is there any chance of the Rutles getting back together?” And I said, “Well, you’d have to ask Barry Wom.” In fact, I told him if you can get Barry Wom to organize it, I’m happy to do it. And he has. So we’re doing about six other dates as well. Rutling Ken Thornton is being flown over as well. It’ll be a lot of fun. There’s enough money in the kitty to afford a couple roadies, so we’ll be out there Rutling away in August.

PS: Just around the UK?

Neil: Yes. Liverpool, London, Leeds, Bilston, Bristol and Edinburgh.

PS: So the rumors of Nasty turning his back on the world aren’t actually true?

Neil: [Laughter] They never were.

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One thought on “INTERVIEW: NEIL INNES

  1. […] Phill Jupitus sang Aimee Mann’s Wise Up (original here) accompanied by Neil Innes, then Neil sang How Sweet To be an Idiot (a song that shows that Oasis were inspired by Rutles as well as Beatles) […]

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