I’m not normally a fan of mixing music and comedy – quite the reverse – but in this particular case it seems to work. At least it did at the time.
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were a bunch of British art students who formed a band in the earlyu Sixties, blending music hall and trad jazz with a large dose of whimsy, shot through with a sense of humour that seems to me quite specific to its era.
I’m not sure that humour has aged too well, not least since some of the references in this song – household names in 1967 no doubt – are long forgotten now.
I would not have heard this at the time of its release and I probably came across it a few years later when the Monty Python records became briefly popular, along with comedy recordings by Billy Connolly.
But I do remember hearing the surreal monologues of the Bonzos’ main man Vivian Stanshall, pretending to be some sort of upper-class twit – Sir Henry at Rawlinson End – regularly featured on John Peel’s radio show.
In my mind the Bonzos occupy a similar space in pop culture to The Goons, who I don’t remember at all, and are/were precursors to Monty Python, whose TV shows and records I loved, and Spike Milligan, who I always struggled to like as much as others.
I dimly recall the Bonzos having a hit (their only hit) when I was a small child with a very different song, the surprisingly catchy and apparently amusing I’m The Urban Spaceman.
Anyway, The Intro & The Outro. It’s a piece by Stanshall, who introduces the orchestra, beginning with the seven members of the Bonzos (credited with their actual instruments) before naming actors and politicians and other public figures (and the Beano character Lord Snooty). As well as Casanova, and Hitler.
For obvious reasons, including death, the instruments are actually played by the band members rather than the figures named. Apart from Eric Clapton – who really does play the ukelele on the recording.