“i’m the urban spaceman” – the bonzo dog doo dah band (1968)

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The ultimate purpose of every single member of the human race is to experience as much joy as they possibly can during their short life. Part of that is never being afraid to try new things. Take a chance on new ideas, people, food, and anything else that may strike your fancy. If you’re lucky, there is a good chance your pursuits will take you someplace strange and magical; a small segment of reality unnoticed by the populace where the strange and surreal reside.

Very few bands give me as much joy as the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Just a collective of weird British musicians, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band masterfully crafted their own brand of anti-pop for whoever was willing to listen. Their avant-garde approach to contemporary music created an atmosphere of humor and artistic freedom. Why worry about getting a hit on the radio when you can do just whatever the hell you want?

As with last week’s entry, I struggled to find a particular song to discuss. There are so many great tunes for this band. “The Intro and the Outro” is a great track of musical introductions perfectly overdubbed piece by piece to create a mosaic of rhythmic noise. “Death Cab for Cutie,” which is best remembered as being featured in the Beatles’ film “Magical Mystery Tour,” is a clever nod to lounge acts (and even inspired the name of a famous band). And “We Are Normal” is anything but!

“I’m the Urban Spaceman” became the band’s most successful single. Produced by Paul McCartney (under the pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth), “I’m the Urban Spaceman” is easily the most conventional, and therefore accessible, single in their catalog. Though being a novelty record, there are a lot of great things about this tune.

The best way I can describe this song is that it is the sound of a lumbering fool stomping through an orchestra pit. There is a lot happening musically amidst the madness of the musicians. The record is the most dominant instrument in the back track. The melody is crisp, jovial, and keeps the song lighthearted and fun. Aiding the rhythm section, the tuba is another prominent feature of the song and is actually my favorite aspect of the instrumental section. Though low, it carries a lot of power in the song and makes it sounds as if the Bonzos are on the march; don’t bother trying to get away, but they are coming whether you like it or not. The lyrics, as expected, as silly and nonsensical at times. There’s no point in trying to decipher a deeper meaning. Just try to accept this abstract humanoid that manages to be loved and exists as a contradiction.

There is so much joy to this song and band. I think a big part of that comes from not taking yourself seriously and living by the standards of others. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band didn’t invent the idea of creating surreal anti-pop. The Mothers of Invention started out a few years ago out of L.A. and with even more stranger, and even less radio friendly, approaches to music. And you have countless psychedelic bands that took pop and added their own unique brand to further broad scope of what rock music could be, but those bands are often pretentious and take themselves way too seriously. What separates the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band from those guys is the fact kept it light, funny, and free. They embody the urban spaceman waking up with a smile on their faces and their natural exuberance spilling everywhere. Take a page from their book and live to create as opposed to creating to live. Have fun doing you.

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