1977 – The History of The Bonzos – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

1977B - History Of The Bonzos

It was September 1977 when Dad took me to college (The College of Ripon and York St.John) and kind of left me to it. He helped me unload my stuff then probably said, “See you then, son, be careful,” got in his car and went. To be fair, I’d already taken myself off on the National Express bus to Wales for a week the year before, as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, so he knew I’d be fine.  Sitting in the lounge area called Bishop Chase, the first person I spoke to was a softly spoken, shy Barnsley girl called Bridie. The second person was a petite but loud girl from Chesterfield called Annette. We all got on immediately and met up later at the Students’ Union bar.
Next day we had to go into the main hall to fill in the registration forms. The tables were arranged in twos. I sat at one table that was empty until a big, fairly hairy bloke came and asked if it was ok to join me. Within five minutes we realised neither of us had actually brought anything to write with and had to ask around for a pen. Within ten minutes, we’d decided to finish filling the forms in and go to the pub. Within the hour, we were down in town, at The Black Bull, with a pint of Theakston’s bitter in front of each of us, nattering away as if we’d known each other for years.
After a couple of weeks, Robert (big, fairly hairy bloke) and I had arranged with the college to swap accommodation (first years always shared a room) and share a room in Owen House – a big old house that had been turned into a hall of residence and, in character, not unlike the one in the film National Lampoon’s Animal House! Our room was a jumble of cardboard models: fireplace, tigers head (with a label saying “shot in the Punjab 1953”) and television. We had a shelf lined with milk bottles I’d collected and which we used to collect small coins in and an old toilet used as a plant pot. I had my cassette player, of course but Robert, like John, had a record player and records. There were a couple of 10cc albums, “Brothers and Sisters” by the Allman Brothers Band and a Jefferson Airplane one. However, what really stood out for me were the albums by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. I obviously knew “I’m The Urban Spaceman” and remembered hearing “Hunting Tigers Out In Indiah” when they were on Do Not Adjust Your Set on television, but that was about it. When he played me the rest I was immediately smitten. Musical genres were pretty much irrelevant – jazz, rock, blues, country, surf, oompah – it was all there, but, as ever, it was the lyrics that I loved. Clever, witty, surreal and always funny. Hilariously funny with the kind of words and phrases you find in everyday language but made to sound ridiculous.
We listened to them endlessly, sometimes both of us crying with laughter. The highlights are just too numerous to mention – if you “get” The Bonzos, you love them all, if you don’t, you just won’t be able to see why someone is laughing so much. My particular favourites are the spoof cover of “Suspicion”, the weirdness of “Keynsham” and the brilliant word-play of “My Pink Half of The Drainpipe”. I even loved the photographs, especially the one of Roger Ruskin Spear declaring, “Wow, I’m really expressing myself!”
At the Christmas student review that first year, Robert and I, inspired by The Bonzos, unleashed the Short Supply duo on an unsuspecting audience. Borrowed guitar, plastic budgie earrings and Roberts awful trumpet playing – we went down a storm and were asked to play at just about every review and house party for the next four years.

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