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The Bonzos were, of course, involved in Magical Mystery Tour. How did that come about? Was it a surprise to be asked?
"No, not really, we just took it all in our stride. We'd heard that The Beatles used to come out and see us in the days when they wore false beards in order not to be recognised. We also kept bumping into Mike McCartney, Paul's brother, and he suggested the Bonzos to Paul when he heard that he was making this funny film. We then heard that he wanted us to do it, so we had to think about what we wanted to do.
"We'd just made Gorilla, so we sent Paul a copy which he listened to, and he chose Death Cab For Cuties as the one for the strip club. It was nice, because he said to me how much he'd liked Music For The Head Ballet, so he listened to it all. We sort of bonded actually. John and Ringo were there, filming the stripper with their own cameras. I said 'what are you doing?' and they said 'we're doing the Weybridge version!' But you know, the bond was it was guys in a van, going out and doing gigs. There's no side, you all know what it's like and you all laugh at the same thing. They were laughing at us doing backing singers with terrible plastic masks on, and we just had a good time."
What was the recording like? Was the set up of Magical Mystery Tour as loose as everyone thinks it was?
"We were in one day, we weren't on the bus, so we went to Raven's Revue Bar – that was the location – and we did it to playback. That was it, a day's filming! We always thought it was rather amusing because when it came out and the credits came up, there was a big credit, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, because it's alphabetical! Although it should have followed The Beatles, but there you go."
You went on to work with Paul McCartney later on to do I'm The Urban Spaceman as well.
"Well we did have a hit. But we couldn't get enthusiastic about having to make a single, we liked making albums. I'd written the song, and I don't know how it happened, but Viv used to hang out a lot at The Speakeasy and places like that, and he often hung out with Paul and John. He was with Paul one night, moaning about the fact that Gerry Bron, our manager and producer, said that nobody takes more than three hours to do a track.
The Bonzos perform the McCartney-produced I'm The Urban Spaceman.
"Viv was moaning about it, saying we can't get the blighter off the knobs, we've got these ideas and can't ever do them, and so Paul said 'well, I'll come and produce it.' So we went back to poor old Gerry and said we'd do the single, but we don't want to you to produce it. And he really fell right into it, saying 'and who do you think you're going to get?' Well, we're going to get Paul McCartney! He couldn't believe it.
"The day came and Paul came in saying 'oh, I've just written this,' and started playing Hey Jude, which takes forever as you know. I thought he was winding Gerry up, because it was taking forever, wasting studio time playing this dirge, but he really had just written in! None of The Beatles had heard it, probably!
"So eight and a half hours later, Viv said 'I think I'd like to play my hose pipe.' 'What's that Viv?' A length of garden hose with a trumpet mouthpiece and a plastic funnel at the other end. The engineer said 'you can't record that,' and Paul said 'yeah you can, just put a microphone in each corner.'
"But the of course the cruelest thing of all, right at the end when Gerry said, 'at least we've got Paul McCartney's name on the record,' we said we didn't want his name on the record. We didn't want any success on somebody else's coat tails. We were asked what we were going to call him, and somebody said Apollo C Vermouth. Paul thought it was a great name, so he said 'yeah, I'll be Apollo C Vermouth."
It's another great example of your way of embracing something but not being cynical.
"Well I think we wanted to be outside the swim of things. The fact that we were the Dada band, we just wanted to question everything. Dada came out of the First World War, showing how awful it was. The young men wanted to examine what they were doing as people. I was quite into that as a serious thing. I liked the fact that they were exhibiting urinals and drawing moustaches and beards on the Mona Lisa. I wanted to rebel in a creative way, to say I think that we can re-think the way we're thinking. I still think we could re-think the way we're thinking."
So Duchamp and people like that were key to your way of thinking?
"Absolutely. But we were the Bonzo Dog Dada Band, and changed it to Doo-Dah because we got fed up with trying to explain what Dada was!"
Ideas like Dadaism are well known now – were they more fringe at the time?
"The art school community were right there, they were really keen on it as well. The fact that there's a bit exhibition at the Tate Modern now of Richard Hamilton, he actually re-made some of Marcel Duchamp's things. He was a bit like Socrates, sentenced to death for impiety and corrupting the young – I can't think of anything better to do!"