Howling Like A Hypocrite At An Auto-Da-Fé

… Which is not the most obvious line for a comedy record, but there you go, welcome to the wonderful world of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (again)*, this time for 1969’s The Peel Sessions; well strictly speaking 1987’s, but you get what I mean.  This broadcast was recorded 5 months before The Bonzo’s split in January 1970, after dispiriting tours of the US supporting The Who and The Kinks.  For me the sparkle and quicksilver ran a bit dry in their last couple of LPs, probably in line with their various disintegrating personal relationships and Viv Stanshall’s dependencies.  You can hear all that here, but also some spontaneity and, what sounds like, some genuine fun being had too.

Bonzo Peel Sessions 03

Opening with non-album track ‘We’re Going To Bring it on Home’ is a bit of a low-key start, with Neil Innes** sounding uncannily like (Bonzo’s fan) Paul McCartney, a fairly straight pop song until the brass really get into their stride about half way through and derail things a little.  It’s interesting because it really isn’t identifiable as a Bonzo’s track and it isn’t often you can say that about this most idiosyncratic and English of bands.  Next up is their version of ‘Monster Mash’, a bit more of a spirited take on the tune than the one on their odds and sods compilation Tadpoles.  It’s okay but it’s where parody and humour leak over into ‘novelty band’ for me.

Bonzo Peel Sessions 02

Luckily we hit paydirt on the last two tracks, or three if you use the ‘Top Gear’ track listing below.  ‘Sofa Head’, is silly and ragged the closest they ever got to The Mothers of Invention (at Zappa’s lightest), mocking norms and ‘the usual’, featuring some rather lovely piano at the start, plus my favourite jokey reference to the MC5,

His mother said to sofa head,

Why do you wear your hair so long?

Sofa head said (shouts) ‘Kick out the jams MOTHER …’

… and they had marmalade and kicked the pantry out into the street and lived happily ever after

… maybe I’m easily pleased.  On my copy ‘Sofa Head’ descends into two minutes at the end called ‘Give Booze a Chance’, which as the title suggests is a rather accurate piss-take of my seventh favourite John Lennon track.  It makes me snigger every time I hear it, particularly the bit where Yoko is pestering John to let her make a record.

Note mention of AC/DC
Note mention of AC/DC

Best of all though is their rocking version of ‘Tent’, the best track off their, then, forthcoming final LP Keynsham.  This is everything that ‘Monster Mash’ isn’t, the Bonzo’s lay into the new track and really rev it up, Viv’s rock and roll voice never sounded better and the stabs of 50’s sax are brilliant.  Who on earth can resist the silly lasciviousness of,

I’m gonna get you in my tent, tent, tent tent, tent
Where we can both experiment, ment, ment, ment, ment

I certainly can’t.  The whole song is quotable^ and makes me happy to be alive, even on a Monday night after a pants day at work, which qualifies as the very dictionary definition of good music to me right here, right now.  Plus they get massive 1537 bonus points for mentioning an Auto-da-fé in a pop song.  I had to have this one five times tonight and I’m starting to feel human again.  The Bonzo Dog Therapy band? could work.

I was pleased when I stumbled across this one in 2007, not knowing it ever existed before and it’s still making me happy today, the way Peel Sessions often do.  So a big Hurrah for Viv and John – one and all !  Hurrah !!

Bonzo Peel Sessions 01

297 Down.

P.S: For anyone mystified by references to John Peel, Peel Sessions etc. Try this, it gives you an idea of the length and breadth of new music he championed and nurtured.  I had no idea until now that AC/DC had ever recorded one.

N.B – The one below, different track order is as close as Spotify gets.

*as before I know they’d technically lost their ‘Doo-Dah’ by this point, but that’s how I think of them and this is my dominion, my name is Legion etc.etc.

**pretty sure it’s him singing on this one.

^I’m gonna get you in my tent, tent, tent tent, tent
Where we can both experiment, ment, ment, ment, ment
Yeah, yeah, it’s so convenient, ent, ent, ent
Let’s take a taxi to my tent

Oh yeah, my love is so inscrutable
In a stoic sort of way
But my baby is as beautiful
As a tourniquet

I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna
I’m gonna get you in my tent, tent, tent tent, tent
Whoa, whoa, it’s only common sense, sense, sense
I know that you won’t mind the stench, stench, stench
Of the sacrament

Go on, let this love destroy her
I can’t control this paranoia
I have to get a showbiz lawyer
To stop me
Spill, smash, smash, spill, spill, drug, wipe, wipe, trap, scream, tear, spit, shout

You’ll be laughing like a lunatic
That just got away
Howling like a hypocrite
At an auto-da-fé

I’m gonna get you in my tent, tent, tent tent, tent
Find out where the weasels went, went, went, went, went
We’ll fill his hospice with cement, ment, ment, ment
And dance the tango in my tent!

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