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Neil James Innes was born 9 December 1944 in Danbury, Essex and is an English writer and performer of comic songs, best known for his collaborative work with Monty Python, and for playing in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and later The Rutles.
Innes spent a good part of his childhood with his parents and two-year-older brother Iain in post-war Germany during his Scottish father's military assignment as a Warrant Officer. He took piano lessons from age 7 to 14. He taught himself to play guitar. Neil's parents were supportive of their sons' interests. His father showed some artistic ability as he frequently drew and painted.
He later attended Thorpe Grammar School and the Norwich School of Art. Because Norwich lacked a particular art curriculum in which he was interested, he transferred to Goldsmith's School of Art, where he met Yvonne Catherine Hilton, majoring in drama, and they married on March 3, 1966. They have three sons, Miles (b. 1967), Luke (b. 1971), and Barney (b. 1977). They have two grandchildren. Innes graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Goldsmith's School of Art in 1966. During the period of 1962 to 1965, Innes and several other art school students started a band which was originally named The Bonzo Dog Dada Band after their interest in the art movement Dada, but which was soon renamed the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (later shortened to The Bonzo Dog Band). Innes, with Vivian Stanshall, wrote most of the band's songs, including "I'm the Urban Spaceman", their sole hit, (produced by Paul McCartney and Gus Dudgeon under the collective pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth) and "Death Cab for Cutie" (which inspired an American musical group of the same name), which was featured in the Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour. Innes won an Ivor Novello Award for Best Novel(ty) Song in 1968 for "I'm the Urban Spaceman".
In the late 1960s, Innes appeared with the Bonzo Dog Band on both seasons of the UK children's television series Do Not Adjust Your Set which also featured future members of the Monty Python comedy team.
After the breakup of Bonzo Dog Band, Innes joined with former Dog Band bassist Dennis Cowan, drummer Ian Wallace and guitarist Roger McKew to form The World, a band hoping for "more commercial" success with music ranging from rock to pure pop, yet still retaining some Doo-Dah flavor and even a bit of the humor. Unfortunately for them, by the time their sole album Lucky Planet was released in 1970, the members had already disbanded and were moving on to other projects.