Following the sad and unexpected news of Neil Innes’ passing yesterday, we thought we’d look back at some of the glorious comedic moments he gave us over the years. One that stuck in our minds was his ‘Pirate Song’ sketch with the late Beatle, George Harrison.
Yesterday we brought you the tragic news of Neil Innes’ passing at the age of 75. The writer, comedian, actor and musician has a CV chock full of incredible titles. He worked alongside Eric Idle on many productions including the two Monty Python films as well as his TV show Rutland Weekend Television. RWT was a comedy sketch show about the running of an incredibly small television station and was Idle’s return to the small screen.
It was on that show that Innes and Idle created the fictitious spoof band of The Beatles known as The Rutles, where Innes would play a parody of John Lennon. But, in fact, Innes connection with Harrison and The Beatles went further back as Innes’ Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band appeared in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film, while Harrison’s bandmate Paul McCartney produced the Bonzos’ 1968 single ‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’.
The Beatles’ guitarist’s connection with Innes and Idle runs even deeper still. Harrison founded HandMade Films for the purpose of financing Monty Python’s Life of Brian and, without it, the iconic comedy film would never have been made. So it was a no brainer that during Rutland Weekend Television Christmas special in 1975 they would ask their very famous friend to lend a hand.
George Harrison had been invited on to the comedy sketch show to play a version of himself hell-bent on ditching music and singing and pursuing his dream of acting… as a pirate. He is dressed in full pirate attire and goes by the name of ‘Pirate Bob’ in the numerous sketches he appears, often disrupting the running of the show before being asked to perform at the end of the show.
The clip below offers all of that action as well as a moment between Innes and Harrison where the latter is trying to get Innes’ character to swap the song they’ll perform at the end for something a little more pirate-themed. Yet Harrison appears at the end of the show in his normal, all-white clothing and leads the band through the uncanny intro for ‘My Sweet Lord’.
As we prepare for Harrison’s wonderfully honed vocal, he again disrupts proceedings and sings a bouncing tune known simply as ‘The Pirate Song’, which was co-written with Eric Idle. It’s a joyous thing to watch and is a reminder of a time when music, television, acting, and singing would happily merge as one irreverent piece of entertainment wonderful enough to make everyone smile.
As we mourn the loss of Neil Innes we can take great joy in the incredible work he leaves behind. Watch below as George Harrison and Neil Innes perform ‘The Pirate Song’ on Rutland Weekend Television.