Neil Innes, often referred to as “the seventh Python” due to his musical collaborations with the legendary Monty Python troupe, has died. Innes was 76.
Born on Dec. 9, 1944, Innes learned piano and guitar as a child, and started a band while in university called The Bonzo Dog Dada Band, later renamed and then shortened to The Bonzo Dog Band. His two biggest songs with the band had Beatles connections — “I’m the Urban Spaceman” was produced by Paul McCartney under an alias, while “Death Cab for Cutie” appeared in the Beatles movie, Magical Mystery Tour (and also later inspired a band name in Washington State in the 1990s).
His band also appeared and performed on the British kids TV series, Do Not Adjust Your Set, where in 1968 he’d find future collaborators in Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam.
So yes, Monty Python.
Innes frequently contributed music to Monty Python, not only for the group’s sketch comedy albums, but also for the final season of the TV series in 1974, and then the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Innes also appeared onscreen in various roles. Among them: a head-bashing monk, a serf victimized by a rabbit, and a minstrel leader (he wrote the song, “Brave Sir Robin.”) Gilliam would put him in Jabberwocky and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It’s Innes whistling at the end during “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Python would take Innes along on live touring productions throughout the 1970s, too. A 2008 documentary on Innes called him “The Seventh Python.”
Innes would collaborate with Idle on another big musical production: The Rutles. Their send-up of The Beatles was perfect satire. Perhaps too perfect, as the owners of The Beatles music catalogue would take Innes to court.
Rutles continued performing through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. He died Dec. 29 from a heart attack. He will be missed.