Posts Tagged ‘Neil Innes’

I genuinely had a special post planned for today. Honest.

But a couple of things have happened in the past 24 hours and that special post will just have to wait until another occasion.

Because I want to write about those two things. Only two of them, but yeah.

First off, because it would just seem wrong not to put him at the top of the post, Neil Innes died.

Apparently he died yesterday from ‘natural causes’ (from which I take to mean that he died in his sleep), but this one hurts.

It does.

(A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on celebrity deaths and said Victoria Wood’s hurt. So does this one for both similar, and entirely different reasons.)

I didn’t know Neil Innes other than to say ‘hello’ to and occasionally chat to. I’d only met him at The Distraction Club when he played there, but I was fortunate enough to be able to chat to him then, whenever he played the club.

I can’t remember when I first heard an Innes song. I’d imagine it was I’m the Urban Spaceman track that I remember hearing first on the radio, and then when my older brother played it again and again. (Mike was a huge fan, about more of which in a moment.)

But yes, Neil Innes was the songwriter behind The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

of The Rutles,

And of course, via the Rutles, the writer of the best Beatles songs you never heard….

That last video, of course, at The Distraction Club, where I finally, after years of being a fan, managed to say thank you to him and explain just why I’d enjoyed the previous half hour so bloody much.

My brother Mike, as I’ve said before, played the guitar. With more enthusiasm than talent, I’ll be the first to admit, but he played, and entertained his younger brothers with classic songs, and comedy songs, and sometimes new-words-to-classic-tunes. But it was possibly his enthusiastic performance of the Rutles songs and of the Bonzo’s songs that sealed my love as a child of musical comedy.

And, in 2012, after Neil Innes came off stage, me having sung along quietly to every one of the songs he played…

…I got to tell Neil Innes that, as much as the performance itself, as much as the superb entertainment he’d given a packed club, that for a few moments – just for a few – I’d been swamped, drowned in memories of Michael bashing out his songs.

For just a short while, I was utterly consumed by the recollections of my brother.

Friends know that I’m not really one for showing my emotions, especially not to relative strangers. But there I was, struggling to explain just what he’d done, how grateful I was… with burgeoning tears in my eyes.

Neil stood there, listening, and when I’d stumbled through my explanation, he said the best thing he could possibly have said: “Thank you. Thank you for telling me that.”

I wiped a bit of moisture away, and smiled like a fool… and then we talked comedy for another ten minutes before he got called away for someone else to say thank you to him.

I got to chat to him the next time he played the club as headliner, and he remembered, and we chatted some more about comedy, and musical comedy.

A lovely, lovely, funny, clever, warm man.

There are too many people who die not knowing how well or how much enjoyment their work gave to their fans. I’m glad I got to tell Neil Innes how much it and he had given me.

Also, not for nothing, but I’ve seen Mitch Benn onstage, playing, with umpteen headliners at Distraction Club. I’ve never seen my friend so happy doing so, so filled with unremitting glee throughout, as when he played Rutles songs with Neil Innes.

So, thank you Mr Innes. Thank you for all of the above and thank you for

“I’ve suffered for my art; now, it’s your turn.”

The sad news of Neil Innes didn’t exactly break me today, truth be told.

I was broken much earlier; not by any news item but because, man, did I have a crap night’s sleep last night. I’m probably flattering it to call it a ‘night’s’ sleep, because it wasn’t. By my calculations it was about four hours’ sleep, spread over about seven hours in bed.

As previously mentioned in this venue, I often (usually?) watch an hour or two’s MSNBC before heading to bed, and I’ll often (again, usually?) climb into bed around half-one or close to two am. I’ll read for a bit, eventually yawn, then flick on the audiobook, flick off the light, and place my head on the pillow.

I rarely have problems falling asleep, but the Phenergan I’ve taken for some years will often keep me asleep, for a few hours, at least.

Occasionally, they won’t do the job, and I’ll wake up from a nightmare and…

Oh, yeah, the nightmares. They’ve been going on for years, and it’s only with the help of something¹ to keep me doped up that I don’t – as I used to – wake up every hour or so, then fall asleep, then wake up an hour later, then wash, rinse. repeat.

It’s been some years since I shared a bed with anyone even semi-frequently, but I was informed at the time that it’s almost comically ‘someone having a nightmare on a daytime soap opera‘ when I’m having a bad nightmare. It’s not uncommon I’ll wake with a start, barely remembering the bad dream, just knowing that I had one.

It’s rare, however, that I wake up covered in sweat, heart pounding, and remember every bit, every second, of the nightmare. It’s even rarer that it’ll happen again the same night.

Yeah, you can see where this is going, right?

So I headed for bed last night somewhere around half one. I read for a bit; I’m rereading The Brethren, Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong’s book about The US Supreme Court. After a bit, I started to yawn, and felt shattered. So I turned on the audiobook for 30 minutes, turned off the light, and quickly fell asleep… around 2:15, I think.

Next thing I know, I’m sitting bolt upright; duvet’s in a mess, my heart pounding like a trip-hammer. I’m soaked through with sweat, the sheet’s damp, if not wet, from it; my foot’s killing me, and I can clearly remember it.

I can remember with crystal clarity being in a courtroom, bound to a stretcher, while my foot is being slowly sawn off; friends were in the gallery, cheering on the surgeon (who’s dressed in lime green scrubs) and there’s a loud grandfather clock in the background…

And now I’m shivering. No idea why, but I am.

I peel myself from the sheet, go and wash my face and towel myself down. Oh, it’s just before 4am, by the way. No point in trying to get straight back to sleep; I mean I need to change the bedding, if nothing else. So I make myself a cuppa, take some painkillers for the foot, watch some telly for 20 minutes, then change the bedding, after which I’m tired again, and try again.

6:20 am. Suddenly I’m awake, face down on the bed, no pillows in sight. Sweaty again, new sheet damp again, heart pounding away. This time it was wild animals (complete with friends’ pets) biting chunks out of me while I’m paralysed, before someone tipped me into a grave and started shovelling earth over me while I was struggling to breathe.

So that was nice.

Why yes, I do sleep alone; why do you ask?

So, yeah, another cuppa, this time a shower rather than a wash, and a second change of bedding; the ‘reserve stuff that’s not as comfortable but there for an emergency’ set.

Eventually I get back to sleep for an hour or so before I wake, feeling like I’ve not slept at all, but not wanting any more sleep.

So, yeah, 2019? Fuck off, will you? Please? Just depart, leave, disappear, go forth and scram. Fuck right off.

Something else… in fact two something elses… tomorrow.

¹for a while it was quetiapine, but docs didn’t want to keep me on it, and eventually we found that 75mg of phenergan does the job, usually.