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.