Monday is a working day, so it was back to the coal mines for The Beatles — the coal mines in this case being a nightclub in the Soho district of London. There they were filmed watching a stripper while the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band played “Death Cab for Cutie.”

Good work if you can get it.

If perchance you are unfamiliar with the Bonzos — a truly strange and singular band, funny and whip-smart and British as the day is long — I recommend a spin through their Wikipedia page, which seems to have been composed with great love and care, perhaps by the band members themselves. Just the first sentence is a doozy:

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band was officially formed on 25 September 1962 at 162c Rosendale Road, West Dulwich, when Vivian Stanshall (tuba, lead vocals and other wind instruments) and fellow art student Rodney Slater (saxophone/clarinet) bonded over the late-night transatlantic broadcast of a boxing match between Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston.

In 1963 they added the spectacularly named Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell and a budding musical genius named Neil Innes, who

would prove pivotal to the band’s continued existence, not to mention their later success. Armed with a musical education and a philosophical bent, he would go on to marshal the band’s disparate talents into something resembling cohesion, whether they liked it or not.

So they had been kicking around for a few years when Paul asked them to appear in Magical Mystery Tour. How this came to pass is not entirely clear. Paul had somehow or other taken a liking to them; he would later produce their single “I’m the Urban Spaceman” (under the pseudonym “Apollo C. Vermouth”). Later still, George Harrison would write a song about drummer “Legs” Larry Smith called “His Name Is Legs (Ladies and Gentlemen).”

The Bonzos provide a key link between The Beatles of music and the Beatles of comedy (a/k/a Monty Python’s Flying Circus); after appearing in Magical Mystery Tour they were hired as the house band for a BBC show called Do Not Adjust Your Set, the cast of which included future Pythons Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Neil Innes went on to become a frequent Python collaborator and composed the songs for The Rutles, in addition to appearing as Nasty, the John Lennon character.

As for the stripper, her name was Jan Carson and I haven’t been able to find much information about her; it’s too common of a name for convenient web searching. She is on IMDB but MMT is her only screen credit; she was a stripper, not an actress.

Two footnotes regarding “Death Cab for Cutie”: A couple years later this song would get swept up in “Paul is dead”–mania, cited as a clue because it contains the word “death” and Paul was the “cute Beatle.” In the 1990s it would provide the name for a popular band whose appeal I have always found somewhat mystifying.

But all that is neither here nor there. At the moment, I recommend going back to the photo at the top of this post and trying to imagine what each Beatle is thinking. There are hours of fun to be had.


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