15 marzo 2016

Anarchy Must Be Organised è il titolo dello special radiofonico messo in onda sabato scorso dalla BBC Radio 4 per festeggiare assieme a Neil Innes - e con vari contributi di Legs Larry Smith, Rodney Slater, Vernon Dudley, Sam Spoons, Roger Ruskin Spear, Terry Gilliam, Adrian Edmondson e Stephen Fry tra gli altri - cinquant'anni dall'esordio dell'ineguagliabile Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

Given the subject matter, “anarchy must be organised” could not be a more appropriate title. 50 years ago, every Tuesday night, a troop of Absurd Young Men from different art schools in London gathered in a pub called The Hoop and Toy. There could be up to 14 or 15 of them, all carrying second hand bashed up musical instruments. After a pint or two, they would march around the corner to the Royal College of Art canteen. There, they would take out their trumpets, trombones, triangles, ukuleles, banjos and clarinets and make an appalling row. They played “novelty foxtrots” from the 1920s and 1930s. This was the embryonic Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
It was a complicated birth. The naming of the band came from pieces of paper in a hat. I don’t recall how many folded over scribbles there were, but three emerged as clear winners: “Bonzo the Dog” (a jolly, mischievous little canine character painted by George E Studdy in the 1920s); “Dada” (the shocking anti-art movement founded during the World War One); and the somewhat frivolous suggestion of “Band”. “Dada” was swiftly changed to “Doo Dah”. The unspeakably tedious task of attempting to define anti-art movements to a wider public soon became akin to stuffing a whale into an egg. Not long after, violent semi-controlled theatrical explosions augmented the repertoire.
Then there were nine. The band started played in pubs and passing the hat round. One man’s cacophony is another man’s drinking music. Eager crowds flocked and people regularly jostled one another – not necessarily to listen to us – but to drown their sorrows. Landlords actually paid us to turn up!
So what did the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band achieve? What price did they pay for their fame and notoriety? Soon there were only seven – and then six – and the “Doo Dah” was dropped altogether. Did being silly and fun loving cost them an arm and a legacy?