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Still wacky after all these years

June 26, 2008|Susan King

NEIL INNES says he's reached that certain age at which "it's almost impossible not to have done quite a lot."

That's certainly an understatement in Innes' case. Over the last four decades, the 63-year-old singer-songwriter has fronted the beloved British group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band; performed and written songs for the comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus; and played the John Lennon-esque Ron Nasty in the 1979 Beatles' spoof "The Rutles," which was created by Innes and Python Eric Idle.

So it's fitting that Innes is front and center at the ninth edition of the American Cinematheque's Mods & Rockers Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre.

The festival's opening tonight features the world premiere of the 2008 documentary "The Seventh Python," as well as the 2007 documentary "The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band 40th Anniversary Concert." And on Friday, Innes will perform in concert.

"It's really nice," Innes says from England about the Mods & Rockers' honors. "A lot of people can't get around the fact that I have met all of these people and worked with all of these people and still kept out of the limelight. I don't like that side of it."

Martin Lewis, who co-created and programs the festival, says Mods & Rockers has evolved over the years. "It is no longer purely about the '60s," he says. "It has become a very expansive, broad view of pop culture. It is about the essence . . . of the 1960s."

Last year, Lewis says, the festival was very music-oriented. "I felt some of the humor was missing," he says, adding that it was "an essence of the balanced aspect of the festival."

Enter Innes.

Lewis, who earlier this year presented a Mods & Rockers 30th-anniversary Rutles concert at the Ricardo Montalban Theater, says he had been a huge fan of Innes since he was a kid.

"I loved the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band," he says. "They were the wacky side of rock 'n' roll. They made their first record in 1966, and in 1967 they were picked to be in the Beatles' film 'The Magical Mystery Tour.' "

They were also the house band on the children's program called "Do Not Adjust Your Set," which featured Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, before they became Pythons.

Innes recalls that one journalist referred to the group as "the clown princes of rock." "We were not easy to label," he says.

And when the Bonzos broke up in the early 1970s, Innes joined the Python gang as an unofficial member, writing a lot of their music and performing with them in concert.

"I have to say I am the man who wrote the whistling for 'Always Look on the Bright Side,' " he quips.

As for the concert Friday evening, Innes says that "mercifully" he won't be playing all of his tunes. "There's quite a lot. I will be cherry-picking ones."





WHERE: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today and Friday for Innes programming; the festival continues through July 9

PRICE: $7 to $10


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