OUT OF A RUT
E is responsible for such rock 'n roll classics as The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse, What Noise Annoys a Noisy Oyster and Blue Suede Schubert, and he successfully sued Oasis for ripping off one of his own Beatles pastiches.
Neil Innes, sometime member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band and one of the original prefab four, The Rutles, will do his off-centre thing at Swansea's The Garage on Thursday, October 3.
His has been the career of a man with itchy feet, creatively speaking, so he has a lot of ground to cover.
And he has an inventive way of choosing what he will perform, which makes Elvis Costello's Spectacular Spinning Songbook look — well, rather professional and grown-up actually.
He says: "I have a magic device, a Wheel of Fortune for picking songs using a contraption made from a bar stool, a bicycle wheel, and some wine corks. It is a tribute to Marcel Duchamp's Readymades."
Duchamp and Dada are where Neil and his Bonzo crew, as London art school students, came in, when the Swinging Sixties made anything seem possible for inventive young go-getters.
He says: "We were very into Dada and Duchamp and it might all seem a bit puerile now — putting beards on the Mona Lisa or displaying urinals, but when you think it came out of the end of the First World War and how grim that world was and how damaging the war had been, it seemed like the only response to be made."
From the outset Neil was mixing with the movers and shakers of the Swinging Sixties.
"We met Paul McCartney because we played on the Magical Mystery Tour.
"And Viv Stanshall, from the Bonzo's, used to hang out a lot with Paul down at the Speakeasy.
"At the time our producer was on at us to record a single and it wasn't what we did. So we kept refusing.
"Viv was moaning to Paul about it and Paul said 'I'll produce it.
"So we were able to tell our producer we will do that single but you won't be producing it, we're getting Paul McCartney in."
Having Paul, along with Gus Dudgeon, producing The Urban Spaceman helped lay the groundwork for Neil's subsequent Beatles pastiche, The Rutles.
George Harrison was in on the joke from the start and he gave the impression he was relieved that someone was taking a pin to the inflated mythology of the Beatles.
But I'm surprised to hear that John laughed at his portrayal, by a be-wigged Neil, as Ron Nasty.
"He enjoyed The Rutles. In fact when we sent him a copy of our film and soundtrack and he liked it. But he sent a note back saying 'be careful with the track Get Up and Go — the publishers might sue for that one,' so we left it off the soundtrack.
"I also heard somebody went up to him in New York in the street and asked 'what do you think of the Rutles?' "And he started to sing the Rutles' song Cheese and Onions to them.
"I think both he and George liked the idea of the Beatles' wigs and suits being put back in the cupboard.
"Paul was a bit miffed by Eric's portrayal of him but I think he came to realise it was done with real affection."
Among the carefully-crafted silliness there has been thoughtful music from Neil too of course.
And he says he likes exercising both of those muscles.
"I have written more thoughtful music, which you can find on my albums, and if people wonder if I can do both I always say Shakespeare wrote dramas and he wrote comedies.
"So my work is like Shakespeare, but with better songs.