In 1970, The Bonzo Dog Band broke up by mutual agreement – except for saxophonist Rodney Slater, who was stunned when leader Viv Stanshall made the announcement onstage at Loughborough University. The band members went their separate ways, though they reunited briefly in 1972 to record Let’s Make Up and Be Friendly. The album, however, did not included the entire original lineup.
Post-Bonzo, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Neil Innes recorded his first solo album, How Sweet to Be an Idiot, in 1973. Of the album, Neil said: “United Artists had been very kind to me … In my own way, I wanted to repay them – by making a bunch of silly singles at a time when the music industry still seemed to have a sense of humour.” Despite its obvious Beatles influence and pop sensibility, the album was not particularly successful and went nearly unnoticed.
Except, perhaps, by a young Noel Gallagher.
In 1994, British rock band Oasis released “Whatever” as a stand-alone single. At six minutes and twenty-one seconds, it was the band’s longest single to date. The song received extensive radio play and became Oasis’s biggest song, entering the UK Pop Charts at Number Three. Liam Gallagher’s plaintive vocals and the extended applause at the song’s conclusion bolstered the tune’s appeal.
Neil Innes, however, thought that “Whatever” sounded very familiar. After all, he had written the melody twenty-one years earlier. Neil sued Noel Gallagher and Oasis for plagiarizing the title track from How Sweet to Be an Idiot. The case was settled and Neil Innes was awarded songwriting co-credit and royalties.
Neil Innes worked with Monty Python’s Eric Idle on The Beatles send-up The Rutles. He also appeared in several Python films. Neil passed away unexpectedly on December 29, 2019 at the age of 75. His biggest success was from a song that someone stole.