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Roger Ruskin Spear: Electric Shocks/Unusual

Restored silliness from the early 70s by ex-Bonzo.

The riddle of an odd connection between Yes and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band is answered in the first of these two reissues.

Former Bonzo and avowed musical loon Spear had original Yes guitarist Peter Banks among the guests on 1972’s Electric Shocks, newly restored here with its 1973 sequel Unusual with Esoteric’s customary loving care. The first now includes the Rebel Trouser four-track EP that was his first solo offering. Both albums abound with Spear’s, and the Bonzos’, two fondest specialities for spoofing: rock’n’roll and the stuffed-shirt, Light Programme-style entertainment of a bygone era. Hence the endearing silliness of Mattress Man and the crazed tea dance of I’m A Fly. The members of Thunderclap Newman are aboard for both albums, while the Flamin’ Groovies feature on the first, and it would be a hard heart that didn’t get a smile at least from such titles as proto-Python tune Make Yourself A Happiness Pie and Trouble With My Trousers. Unusual also offers a bonkers Pinball Wizard cover that sounds like Frank Sidebottom at 78rpm. A satirist ahead of his time, for sure.

Paul Sexton
Paul Sexton

Prog Magazine contributor Paul Sexton is a London-based journalist, broadcaster and author who started writing for the national UK music press while still at school in 1977. He has written for all of the British quality press, most regularly for The Times and Sunday Times, as well as for Radio Times, Billboard, Music Week and many others. Sexton has made countless documentaries and shows for BBC Radio 2 and inflight programming for such airlines as Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. He contributes to Universal's uDiscoverMusic site and has compiled numerous sleeve notes for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and other major artists. He is the author of Prince: A Portrait of the Artist in Memories & Memorabilia and, in rare moments away from music, supports his local Sutton United FC and, inexplicably, Crewe Alexandra FC.