Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah stalwart plays on

Being in a successful band in the late 1960s? Yes, it really was every bit as exciting as you'd expect it to be, confirms Rodney Slater, co-founder of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Thursday, 28th July 2016, 2:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 11:02 pm
Rodney Slater. Picture by Lee Wilkinson

“It was a privilege,” says Rodney. “It was like having the key to the pharmacy and the cellar and the sixth-form girls’ dormitory, if you want to put it like that – which I obviously do!

“Being part of a band was great, but really it was about being part of the music and culture and having responsibility and having an influence on the world. I think it is really important that artists, musicians really focus people’s attention on the things that matter. It should be done with a lot of fun, but that’s the important message – just to get people to think about the things that actually count.”

Rodney is heading to Brighton for a date with Rodney Slater’s Parrots at the Komedia Studio on Wednesday, August 3 (0845 293 8480). Rodney – sax, clarinet, vocals, will be joined by Mike Livesley – vocals; David Catlin-Birch – guitar, vocals; David Glasson – piano, keys; and Malcolm Sked – bass, sousaphone; and John Halsey – drums. The idea is that it is a warm-up gig for the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s 50th-anniversary dates in November and December.

“These are people that have been selected, in order of merit. We needed a house band to underpin the more serialistic members of the band.

“The kind of music we will be playing is anything written or formed by members of the band (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) from about 1967 to the present day, though a lot of it will cover the period between 1967-70.”

Rodney points out that the idea of the 50th anniversary is a little misleading. 54th would be more accurate. Rodney dates it from the day he met Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band co-founder Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995) in September 1962.

It was a chance meeting: “He was brought to my flat in West Dulwich when he had been found wandering around in Soho looking for somewhere to live because he had just got a place at the Central School of Art.

“I had actually seen this fellow once before at a party that was broken up by the police in the early hours of the morning, as all good parties used to be in those days. He was this extraordinary chap with a red beard that looked like a shovel.

“He was a soul mate. He was thinking about the same sorts of things that I was thinking about. He was dressing in the same way. We had a lot in common, alternative ways of looking at the things that we had to face… a world of adults with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and a not very creative outlook on life.

“We thought that we could do better.”

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