No one can possibly suggest that I am not close to the cutting edge of popular music. Tonight, I am going to see the Zombies, formed circa 1961, and last night I saw the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, most of whose members are in their 70s and 80s.
The Bonzo show, played at the Bristol Spiegeltent, was very special for me in a number of ways. Firstly, its nominal leader Neil Innes is one of the great musical talents of his generation. Sadly underrated, too, but an excellent songwriter, performer and musician. There were three distinct sets, the first of which featured the Rutles. Now this was a spoof band, based affectionately on the Beatles. The songs, brilliant in their own right, are hugely and often hilariously derivative of the Fab Four and last night they were played to perfection. And one of their guitar players, along with the wonderful Rutling Ken, was a hero of mine: Elliott Randall.
Elliott Randall, you ask. Who on earth is that? I appreciate you need to be a bit of an anorak to know the name, but if you are of a certain age, you will undoubtedly recognise at least one part of his work. His was the stunning guitar playing on Steely Dan’s Reelin’ in the years.
Now I love the Dan and if push comes to shove I’d probably have to say they are my favourite band of all time. The album from which Reelin’ comes was called Can’t Buy A Thrill. Elliott Randall wasn’t even in the Dan when Donald Fagen and Walter Becker asked him to play lead guitar on the track, but it is one of the great moments in rock history.
I had never seen Randall perform live before and it was a treat to see him at work with the Rutles and, later,the Bonzos. The man can still play beautifully, that’s for sure, and at the interview I got to meet him.
My friend Tim knows the other guitar player Rutling Ken and asked him whether Elliott would be prepared to meet us and the answer quickly came back that he would. As soon as the first set finished, Ken and Elliott appeared at the front of the stage and we went over to chat to them. I’m afraid I was reduced to over-excited schoolboy in all but years. I knew Elliott had also played with all manner of great artists, including the Doobie Brothers and the legendary rock and roll band Sha Na Na. If he was bored of hearing people gush about his great guitar solo for the Dan, he wasn’t letting on. He was SO nice and it is so nice when people you love and admire turn out to be as nice as you hope they will be.
Tim asked whether Elliott was now a full member of the Rutles, to which he merrily replied he was. The man is still a working musician who plays because he loves to play. I can’t think of a better reason to play music and I do hope it is not the last time we see him live.