Sunday, 17 July 2016

446 The Innes Book of Records

First  viewed  :  30  June  1980

This  is  an  odd  one  , a  programme  I  didn't  really  like  but  which  provided  a  couple  of  moments  that  have  stayed  with  me  over  the  years.

Ex-Bonzo  Dog  Doo-Dah   Band  frontman  Neil  Innes  earned  the  right  to  his  own  series  through  his  collaboration  with  the  Pythons  on  the  last  Cleese-less  series  and  the  success  of  Rutland  Weekend  Television  which  he  co-created  with  Eric  Idle. In  1979  he  was  invited  to  make  what  were  effectively  new  pop  videos , not  only  for  his   recent  album  of  the  same  name  but  also  for  previous  songs   from  his  conspicuously  unsuccessful  solo  career. There  were  also  spoken  interludes  either  from  Neil's  star  guests  or  the  man  himself.

The  resulting  show  was  surreal,  unsurprisingly  Python-esque  and  cerebral  with  many  references  to  high  art. There  was  never  much  danger  it  would  cross  over  from  BBC2  and  it's  difficult  to  imagine  it  getting  the  green  light  today. Eighteen  episodes  were  filmed  and  broadcast  over  three  seasons  between  1979  and  1981  with  a  number  of  recompiled  repeats  shown  up  to  1984.

I  tuned  in  for  an  episode  in  the  second  season  , probably  for  special  guest  Rowan  Atkinson although  his  silly  monologue  about  organs  is  far  from  his  greatest  moment. There  was   a ghost  story,  told  from  the  boat  in  Speedwell  Cavern,  and  Neil's  stab  at  punk  pastiche, "Paranoia ",  which  withers  and  dies  next  to  NTNOCN's  Gob  On  You  .

But  there  was  also  "Kenny  and  Liza "  one  of  Neil's  Beatles  pastiches  which  sounds  like  he's continuing  the  story  of   She's  Leaving  Home.  The  song  has  an  earworm  chorus  which  I  can still  hum  thirty-six  years  later. Neil  didn't  appear  in  the  accompanying  film, it  just  followed the  two  young  proletarian  lovers  as  they  stopped  at  Knutsford  Services  , had  a  brew , looked at  their  reflections  in  the  spoons  and  played  a  very  primitive  arcade  game,  interspersed  with footage  of  night  time  traffic. It  was  deeply  affecting  and  every  time  I've  stopped  at  motorway services  during  the  night  I've  been  reminded  of  it.

The  other  number  I  recall , for  different  reasons , was  "Feel  No  Shame"  from  the  penultimate  episode  in  1981. Neil  wrote  the  song  for  Oxfam  back  in  1973  which  accounts  for  its  Mott  The  Hoople  glam  sound. The  film  started  with  Neil  in  monk's  robes  playing  his  guitar  on  a  rocky  beach. We  then  see  a  nun  walking  along  the  edge  of  the  sea  but  she  ignores  him  and  returns, not  to  a  convent, but  a  shabby  bedsit  on  the  seafront. There  she  strips  down  to  her  underwear  and  underneath  the  wrappings  she's  smoking  hot ! She  then  puts  on  jeans, a  baggy  jumper  and  Afghan  coat  and  joins  a  Women's  Lib  march. It's  still  one  of  the  sexiest  sequences  I've  seen  on  TV, whatever  point  Neil  was  trying  to  make  about  double  standards. I  don't  know  who  the  girl  was ; she  might  not  even  have  been  credited  but  she's  certainly  lodged  in  the  memory.

Apart  from  a  Rutles  reunion  in  1996, Neil  hasn't  had  such  a  high  profile  since  but  he's  kept  busy, working  in  childrens  television, involved  in  many  ex-Python  projects  and  increasingly  appearing  in  music  documentaries  as  a  sixties  survivor  who's  still  got  his  head  together.

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