I’ve heard unlikely or obscure tunes muzak’d before…but unless the original song borrows a melody, I believe that today, I’ve topped everything along such lines I’d heard before: today, in a relatively upscale suburban mall, I heard a muzak version of The Bonzo Dog Band’s “Canyons of Your Mind.” The original is (as you can hear if you listen) obviously goofin’ on Elvis, particularly his big, dramatic ballads – but, as usual with the Bonzos, is built on a solid song underlying the broad, comedic antics (including The Worst Guitar Solo In The World).
Seems as good a time as any to celebrate the Bonzos, a band that lays a fair claim to have been the main influence on Monty Python, and thereby an indirect influence on much of the comedy that follows. (In fact, Bonzos co-leader Neil Innes wrote many songs and much incidental music for the Pythons – and later went on to write most of the music for the immortal Rutles.) “Rhinocratic Oaths” is the most Python-esque song in the Bonzos’ catalogue, and it demonstrates as well the peculiar warping of a particularly British strain of jazz.
The voice you hear is Viv Stanshall’s (later rather well-known for the narration at the end of the first part of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (“plus…tubular bells!”), itself a wry joke on the Bonzos’ own “The Intro and the Outro,” which features a rather odd series of, uh, guest musicians.
But let’s not limit the Bonzos to inventing Monty Python: hell no, they invented heavy metal, too. Don’t believe me? Listen to “Mr. Apollo” (this mix is gorilla-enhanced).
But not all is fun and games in the Bonzos’ world. Neil Innes occasionally veered disturbingly toward writing genuinely affecting, moving songs – such as “Ready Mades” (covered years later by The Condo Fucks – at least I think that’s the band’s name…), which, among other things, tells the sad tale of a man who arrested for something he put on display. (I’m pretty sure this song takes place directly around the block from Penny Lane.)
Back to that muzak’d version: Devo sort of did this, but I always thought it’d be a brilliant idea for The Residents to hire a genuine Muzak arranger (cap’d this time because I’m referring to the actual corporation – even though I believe they’ve long since changed their name) to arrange several of their tracks…but making sure to preserve as many odd chords and rhythmic structures as possible. I’m pretty “Santa Dog” would sound fantastic arranged for a hundred strings and more french horns than could be drowned in the biggest Vegas fountain.
The Bonzo Dog Band:
“Canyons of Your Mind” (Tadpoles, 1969)
“Rhinocratic Oaths” (The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse, 1968)
“The Intro and the Outro” (Gorilla, 1967)
“Mr. Apollo” (Tadpoles, 1969)
“Ready Mades” (Tadpoles, 1969)