The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band Revisited

bonzo, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

It was 40 years ago today... well not quite, it was Saturday 1 October 1966 I last saw the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band live. So it was with huge excitement I travelled up to London to see the 'revisited' gig at the Astoria, despite having to go via Lewes cos of engineering works. Popped into the Pillars of Hercules pub on Greek Street, which despite being smokey was friendly enough and full of Bonzo folk from th'internet! Plus a lime'n'soda with ice and slice of lime (I'm still on the wagon) cost a mere 31p!

After a brief queue, we were in the venue and I had my half bottle of Brighton Corporation tap water confiscated (see rant below) but luckily kept my camera. We'd bought seated tickets and I'd assumed seats would be upstairs and standing down... Oh no, not so simple! Upstairs were tables and chairs at right angles to the stage with standing behind and downstairs was rows of cheap chairs, rapidly filling up. Ah well, too late to change.

The stage had more instruments on it than at a Rutles gig and a screen behind was showing a drawing of Bonzo Dog. We waited for the scheduled Rutles support, but no, we had the Bonzos instead, raring to go.

Down on the right front Andy Roberts was tuning up, then we had the full array. Back row, left to right was: Sam Spoons (Martin Ash) on percussion, Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell on saw and banjo, JJ Jones on drums, Tom Fry (in gorilla suit) on Bass. Front row: Roger Ruskin Spear on sax, Rodney Slater on clarinet and sax, Bob Kerr on trumpet, Neil Innes on keyboards (and later on guitar), Mickey Simmonds on keyboards and Andy Roberts on guitars and ukukele. Legs Larry Smith came on and off. The first half was mainly old novelty items (see set list) and ended with 'feel so gay' from 'Equestrian Statue' being reprised, appropriate since the Astoria tuns into a gay club at 10pm. Absent friends Viv Stanshall and Dennis Cowan were honoured with a minute's cacophony. Highlights included Bob Kerr's vocals for 'Little Sir Echo' with Sam Spoons on his knee dressed up as a vent's dummy. There were no robots, as such, but Roger did have some contraptions on stage, some of which worked! The trouser press and theramin leg had limited success.

In the second half, we were treated to an electric set with celebrity guests, the first of which was Ade Edmondson (from The Young Ones) doing 'The Strain' very convincingly! He was accompanied by Phill Jupitus on guitar. This was followed by Stephen Fry, an obvious Viv Stanshall soundalike, narrating 'The Sound of Music' - he also tackled 'Sport' (obviously), the end bit of 'Trouser Press' and 'Rhinocratic Oaths'. Ade did 'My Pink Half of the Drain Pipe' with Roger, 'I'm Bored', 'Tent' (by request) and dressed up as a parrot for 'Mr Slater's Parrot', jumping off stage then wonderingwhere the steps that were there in rehearsal had gone! Paul Merton arrived near the end to do 'Monster Mash'. Phill also sang on 'Mr Apollo' and 'Canyons of your mind' worshipping at Neil's feet during the worst guitar solo ever recorded. Bill Bailey was supposed to appear, but didn't. The evening ended with Viv's voice on The Intro and the Outro, with everyone, including several dressed up anonymous kids, taking the various parts. Despite a long standing ovation there was no encore and the show ended at 21.45 with a tape of Slush (followed by Joy Division!).

Cool Britannia (extract)
Hunting Tigers Out In 'INDIAH'
A minute's cacophony for absent friends
My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies
On her doorstep last night
Little Sir Echo (Bob Kerr)
Ali Baba's Camel
Falling in love again (in German) Vernon
I'm Going To Bring A Watermelon To My Girl Tonight
Look Out, There's A Monster Coming
Whispering (Roger on leg)
By a waterfall
The Sheik of Araby (Rodney, Sam Spoons solo)
Hello Mabel
Jollity Farm
The Equestrian Statue
Set 2
Cool Britannia (extract)
We are normal
The Strain (Ade Edmondson vocal, and Phill Jupitus, gtr)
The Sound of Music (Stephen Fry)
Exodus ?? (Roger)
Trouser Press (Stephen Fry in at the end)
My Pink Half of the Drain Pipe (Roger and Ade Edmondson)
I'm Bored (Ade Edmondson)
Sport (Stephen Fry)
Mr Apollo (Phill Jupitus - 8 separate gorillas)
Humanoid Boogie
Tent (Ade Edmondson)
Can Blue Men Sing the Whites (Phil Jupitus)
Look at Me I'm Wonderful (Legs)
I Left My Heart In San Francisco (Legs)
Rhinocratic Oaths (Stephen Fry)
Mr Slater's Parrot (Ade Edmondson as parrot)
Monster Mash (with Paul Merton)
I'm The Urban Spaceman
Canyons Of Your Mind (with Phill Jupitus)
The Intro And The Outro (on tape)
Slush (on tape)

Rant: Gig venues seem to exist in a parallel universe where they are allowed to make up their own laws and have them enforced by jobsworth security staff with few powers of discretion. I strongly object to having my half old bottle of Brighton tapwater confiscated, because no food or drink is allowed to be brought in. I can understand that applying to a full bottle of Malibu and a hot pizza, but my friend Nick was nearly deprived of a bargain bag of apples he'd bought earlier for consumption back home. I also object to 'no photography' censorship, for photos taken without flash for non-commercial use. Museums and art galleries used to do this presumably to protect postcard sales (but the one thing you wanted a postcard of was rarely available), but these have largely been relaxed. It's time gigs saw sense and did as well. Fan photos (and audience recordings) will never hurt the pockets of professional photographers or record companies, but will rather fuel the demand for the promoters' and bands' products - they should be grateful.

More photos on mine and Paul Webster's Flickr pages.

NB Paul has now taken down his photos at the request of the promoter. The DVD will be out in October, BTW, more info from Classic Rock Productions (their own website doesn't seem to be working).


Nick said...

I'm not sure that all the guests succeeded in the impossible task of filling in for the absent Viv Stanshall, but it was a very entertaining night.

Watching some Bonzo footage from the the 1960s earlier today (thanks Fred), I noticed that most of their original routines were included in the Astoria show. In addition to Neil Innes, there were some great contributions from the hyperactive Roger Ruskin Spear and Sam Spoons. A shame Legs Larry Smith's input was so limited, but his version of Look at Me I'm Wonderful was certainly one of many highlights.

The Astoria is notorious for the heavy-handed way it treats its customers. Although it has a very convenient central London location, it's certainly not my favourite place to attend a gig.

Paul Webster said...

I've decided to unpublish my photos while awaiting clarification from the producer.
Flash was not used - and the phone part of the camera/phone was disabled - so I think I complied with the announcement at the start - but I'll wait and see.

fredblog said...

As a gesture of goodwill to Bob the producer, I've made all the photos, apart from the one that decorates my blog, private.