Neil Innes (1944-2019)

We were deeply saddened recently to learn of the sudden passing of the wonderful Neil Innes. We are all the poorer for the loss, but we were so lucky to have him. He was an exquisite musical and comedic talent, a truly gifted songwriter, and a lovely man. Much like the four legendary Liverpudlians whose oeuvre he lampooned so well, his work had a truly universal appeal, delivering joy in spades.

Way before we came to know him as a musician, songwriter and humorist par excellence, we were introduced to Neil Innes’ magical talents via his role as, appropriately enough, the Magician on the ITV children’s programme, Puddle Lane. Neil also provided the music for that series, as he did for another beloved kids’ show from our youth, The Raggy Dolls. (Incidentally, he also wrote and narrated every one of The Raggy Dolls’ 112 episodes.)

Sodajerker On Songwriting, Episode 11 with Neil Innes

It wasn’t until many years later we discovered that the very same Neil Innes we knew from kids telly was not only a founder member of the Bonzo Dog Band, but also responsible for the pitch-perfect parodies of Beatles songs which graced Eric Idle’s Fabs spoof, The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. Then there were his memorable contributions to the Monty Python canon, not least the deliriously daft ‘Knights of the Round Table’.

Neil Innes and Terry Gilliam

Factor in his work with the comedy/poetry troupe GRIMMS, his underrated solo albums and the whimsical beauty of his cult BBC series, The Innes Book of Records, not to mention his sundry other contributions to radio and television, and you’re looking at a pretty formidable body of work. Yet the man himself remained uncommonly humble.

It was a true honour and an incredible thrill to have Neil on the show back in 2012. Needless to say, he was an utter delight – witty, warm and wise, and a terrific storyteller. One memory of our encounter that never fails to make us smile: we were interviewing Neil over Skype and, as our chat drew to a close, he suddenly began to look around the room as if checking the coast was clear, then leaned towards the camera conspiratorially and whispered, “They steal your trousers, you know?”

Farewell, Neil, and thank you.

Neil Innes


  • Robert January 3, 2020

    Wonderful tribute to a great man! Have always adored everything Neil Innes ever created or participated in. So many wonderful creations all along the way! Was very lucky to have seen him live a couple of times doing his various parodies and satires! What an engaging and charming performer! He was a genius at writing lyrics and coming up with some great tunes!

  • Michael January 4, 2020

    A fabulous tribute, and it seens your path to discovering him was nearly identical to my own. Anyone who describes Neil Innes as ‘a parodist’ is massively underselling him; he had an amazing talent for deconstructing the musical DNA of songs and rebuilding them as something that still rang true with all of his hallmarks hung upon them. His body of work should not be dismissed as lightweight just because it was funny. The work of the Bonzos fused 1920s music hall with sixties psychedelia, and the two Rutles’ albums are some of the finest Fabs’ tributes out there. Listen to ‘Shangri La’ or ‘Doubleback Alley’ and deny the. Songwriting genius involved in their construction. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr Innes after a gig and tell him somewhat sycophantically how much of a hero he was to me. I’m only glad I did when I had the chance. RIP Neil/Puddle Lane Magician/Ron Nasty x


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