The Rutles (aka The pre-fab four) was a parody of the Beatles, jointly created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes. The fictional group is best known for the 1978 mockumentary film about them titled All You Need Is Cash (often referred to just as The Rutles . Tagline: The Musical Legend which will last a lunchtime.). The film was written by Idle and prominently featured 20 songs written by Innes.
The Rutles members in All You Need Is Cash were:
- Ron Nasty (based on John Lennon) -- played by Neil Innes
- Dirk McQuickly (based on Paul McCartney) -- played by Eric Idle (singing voice is primarily Ollie Halsall)
- Stig O'Hara (based on George Harrison) -- played by Ricky Fataar
- Barry Wom (b. Barrington Womble) (based on Ringo Starr) -- played by John Halsey
- (Hamburg only) "Leppo, the fifth Rutle" (based on Stu Sutcliffe) - seen only in a still photograph in the film - the photo showed Ollie Halsall - who actually played and sang on the soundtrack. (Halsall in real life was one of the four musicians who performed all the Rutles' music - the others being Innes, Halsey and Fataar. Idle did not actually play or sing on the soundtrack.)
- Ron Nasty -- played by Neil Innes
- Dirk McQuickly -- played by Eric Idle
- Stig O'Hara -- played by David Battley
- Kevin -- Pete Best - played by John Halsey
There is some confusion over the names and actors; Kevin was supposedly the name of the drummer, yet the SNL version calls him Barry. Also, Eric Idle was labelled as Dirk in the SNL version, while his memoirs identify him as playing Stig. Also, on the Archaeology album, Neil, Barry, and Rikki used their real names. The late Ollie Halsall also appeared, as some songs were outtakes from the 1978 sessions.
Over the years, the Rutles have evolved from a fictitious band into a true band in their own right, playing Rutles favourites and songs from Neil Innes' solo albums. The current touring line-up consists of
- Neil Innes on piano, guitar and vocals
- John Halsey on drums
- Mark Griffiths on bass guitar and vocals
- Mickey Simmonds on keyboards and vocals
- Ken Thornton on lead guitar
- J.J. Jones on percussion
Their history (actual)
The Rutles began life in 1975 as a sketch on Eric Idle's BBC television series Rutland Weekend Television. The initial sketch presented musician Neil Innes (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) fronting The Rutles singing "I Must Be In Love", a masterly pastiche of a 1964-era Lennon-McCartney tune.
Innes was the resident musician/composer for the series and would create songs with ideas on how they could be presented visually. A creative motif he would continue on his own BBC TV series "Innes Book Of Records".
Innes came up with the idea of a short skit spoofing the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night and wrote "I Must Be In Love" as the song for the skit. He passed the idea to Idle. Idle had a separate idea for a sketch about a boring TV documentary maker. Idle and Innes decided to connect the two ideas into one extended filmed sequence - and this was shot for the TV show.
What made the Rutles particularly fascinating for music fans were the numerous connections between the Beatles, the Bonzos and the Monty Python team. The Beatles were great fans of the Bonzos -- they featured them in their 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour and Paul McCartney had produced their 1968 hit single I'm The Urban Spaceman. Innes and members of the Python team had worked together in the late 1960s on the cult TV comedy show Do Not Adjust Your Set. Beatles guitarist George Harrison was a dedicated Python fan -- as well as being involved in The Rutles film (see below), his company Handmade Films later took over production of the Pythons' film Life Of Brian after the original backers pulled out, fearing that its subject matter was too controversial.
In the merchandising produced for the TV series references were made to a Rutles album (Finchley Road) and a single ("Ticket To Rut"). In 1976 BBC Records produced The Rutland Weekend Songbook, an album containing 23 tracks including two Rutles songs "I Must Be In Love" and "The Children of Rock and Roll" (later reworked as "Good Times Roll").
Two years later when Eric Idle was asked to appear on the American NBC show Saturday Night (later to become Saturday Night Live), he took several video tape extracts from "Rutland Weekend TV" with him to screen on the show - including the Rutles clip. The Rutles clip generated very positive audience response and led to a suggestion by SNL Executive Producer Lorne Michaels that the idea should be extended from a brief skit into a one-hour mock documentary. This proposal led to the 1978 mockumentary All You Need Is Cash primarily directed by SNL film director Gary Weis (responsible for the program's acclaimed short films) though Eric Idle was given co-director credit. The film purports to be a documentary on the rise and fall of the band paralleling much of the history of the Beatles.
The film is notable for its many cameo appearances by famous stars, particularly George Harrison, who plays a TV journalist who conducts an interview outside the Rutle Corps HQ, oblivious to the stream of people coming out of the building carrying away items stolen from the office (a sly reference to the Beatles' famously plundered Apple Corps offices ). The film also features cameos from Idle's fellow Python Michael Palin, American comedic performers Gilda Radner and John Belushi, and Canadian Dan Aykroyd (Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers), Bianca Jagger as one of the Rutles girlfriends, Ron Wood as a Hell's Angel, and Mick Jagger and Paul Simon as themselves. The film is notable for bringing together British and American comic talent in a way that has seldom happened before or since.
The film is primarily a series of skits and gags that each illustrate a different part of the fictional Rutles story - following the chronology of the Beatles' own story. The cohesive glue of the film is the acclaimed soundtrack by Neil Innes who created 19 more songs for the film - each an affectionate pastiche of a different Beatles song or genre of songs. 14 of the songs were released on a soundtrack album with elaborate packaging. (The CD version subsequently added the 6 songs omitted from the original vinyl album.) The album was both critically and commercially successful and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording of the year.
Ironically in view of its later cult status, the film was not a success on its American TV debut and actually finished in bottom place of all programs screened that week - a source of wry pride to composer Neil Innes. The program fared better on its British debut on BBC TV. The film's cult status grew from the success of the soundtrack album and after the release of the film on the comparatively new medium of home video.
A 66-minute version (edited for TV) was released on video and DVD but it has since been superseded by the restored 72-minute version.
Their history (fictional)
Ron Nasty first met Dirk McQuickly in January 1959, at the now-historical address of 43, Egg Lane, Liverpool. Having joined up with Stig O'Hara, they started playing as a trio. After 18 months, they discovered Barry Wom hiding in their van, and the classic line-up was complete.
In 1960, at the suggestion of then-manager Arthur Scouse, the group went to Hamburg where, with fifth member Leppo, they played all the clubs on the Reeperbahn. Tragically Leppo was lost in transit on the return trip.
In October 1961, fate intervened in the shape and other attributes of one-legged retail chemist from Bolton, Leggy Mountbatten, who, falling into "Der Rat Keller" one night, decided he liked the cut of the boys' jib (and other attributes, especially their tight trousers). He became their manager, cleaned up their image, and touted them around the major record companies. Eventually they signed to Parlourphone, and their debut album, recorded in 20 minutes, became an enormous success. By December 1963, they were the biggest thing ever to hit the music business, with nineteen out of the top twenty singles in the UK.
1964 saw Rutlemania go worldwide and then some. The group swiftly conquered the U.S., while Nasty's book of comic prose, Out of me Head, dominated the best-seller lists. In July of that year, the group's first film, A Hard Day's Rut, was released. This was followed in 1965 by Ouch!. By this time, Rutlemania had reached such a fever pitch that crowd control was a serious problem. In August 1965, the prefab four played a sell-out concert at New York's Ché Stadium ("named after Cuban guerrilla leader Ché Stadium" rather than Ché Guevara, as well as playing on the Beatles' famous concert at New York City's Shea Stadium), arriving a day early in order to get away before the audience arrived.
In 1966, controversy hit the Rutles when Ron Nasty was quoted as saying that the group were "bigger than God". Nasty, however, insisted that he had been misquoted, and had actually said they were bigger than Rod, referring to Rod Stewart, then a relative unknown. The band bounced back with their 1967 masterpiece Sergeant Rutter's Only Darts Club Band, though this too was misted over in controversy when the group claim they wrote it under the influence of tea, which they had been introduced to by Bob Dylan. When Nasty was arrested for possession of tea, there was a national outcry and a leader in The Times called for tea to be legalised. More bad news followed for the group - while staying with the mystic Arthur Sultan at his retreat in Bognor Regis, the band heard that Mountbatten had left them, emigrating to Australia. Some critics argue that the band lost their direction at this point. Their self-indulgent TV movie about four Oxford professors on a tour of English tea-shops, The Tragical History Tour, was regarded as a failure, despite the success of the soundtrack, which included the classic songs "W.C. Fields Forever" and "I Am The Waitress".
In April 1968, the group launched their new record company, Rutle Corps. Despite signing up some promising talent (notably Arthur Hodgeson and the Kneecaps), poor financial management finally led to the label's ultimate failure. It was in this atmosphere that the group's last album, Let it Rot, was recorded. Soon afterwards, the band fell apart amid much legal wrangling, with McQuickly suing Nasty and O'Hara, Wom suing McQuickly, Nasty suing O'Hara and Wom, and in all the confusion, O'Hara accidentally suing himself. Wom had some success with his solo LP, When You Find the Girl of Your Dreams in the Arms of some Scotsman from Hull, but like the other members, soon drifted into obscurity, punctuated only by the making of a 1978 retrospective documentary, All You Need Is Cash.
Rutles albums (real)
A soundtrack album entitled The Rutles containing 14 tongue-in-cheek pastiches of Beatles' songs was also released.
The cover art of the album suggested the existence of a number of other Rutles albums including Tragical History Tour and Let it Rot.
The album contains some obvious send-ups of Beatles numbers such as "Ouch!" ("Help!"), "Doubleback Alley" ("Penny Lane") and "Get Up and Go" ("Get Back"). However, its real tribute is in its subtly layered blending of elements from many classic Lennon-McCartney tunes.
Multiple listenings are required to discern all the sources referenced in titles, lyrics, melodies, and song structures. The primary creative force of the Rutles music was Neil Innes - the sole composer and arranger of the songs.
Innes himself credits the three musicians he recruited to assist him on the project as having been enormously important in helping him capture the feel of the Beatles. These were guitarist/singer Ollie Halsall, drummer John Halsey and multi-instrumentalist Rikki Fataar.
Not commonly known is that Eric Idle is not heard at all on the soundtrack of the film. He did not play or sing on any of the recordings. He is skilful at lip-syncing the "Dirk" vocals that were in fact sung by either Neil Innes or Ollie Halsall. Were it not for the inherently ironic lyrics, it might be difficult to distinguish the songs from true Beatles numbers (indeed, the 1978 Beatles bootleg Indian Rope Trick included the Rutles' Cheese and Onions, incorrectly attributing it to John Lennon).
The original LP album omitted several songs which were restored on the 1990 CD reissue.
The Rutles (1978)
- Goose-Step Mama (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:18 (not on LP)
- Number One (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:52
- Baby Let Me Be (Nasty/McQuickly) - 1:57 (not on LP)
- Hold My Hand (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:11 (shorter than on LP)
- Blue Suede Schubert (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:13 (not on LP)
- I Must Be in Love (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:06
- With a Girl Like You (Nasty/McQuickly) - 1:53
- Between Us (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:03 (not on LP)
- Living in Hope (Womble) - 2:39
- Ouch! (Nasty/McQuickly) - 1:52
- It's Looking Good (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:02 (not on LP)
- Doubleback Alley (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:57
- Good Times Roll (Nasty/McQuickly) - 3:05
- Nevertheless (O'Hara) - 1:29
- Love Life (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:52
- Piggy in the Middle (Nasty/McQuickly) - 4:11
- Another Day (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:13
- Cheese and Onions (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:42
- Get Up and Go (Nasty/McQuickly) - 3:19 (not on LP)
- Let's Be Natural (Nasty/McQuickly) - 3:22
The three musicians were Innes, Halsey and Fataar The fourth 'real' Rutle Ollie Halsall had died in Spain in 1991. As the project was solely a music project - Idle was not involved.
Like the Anthology project that it lampooned, it featured tracks ostensibly from all periods of the Rutles career - sequenced to reflect the fictional band's chronology. (One or two of the songs had started out as Neil Innes solo songs but were adapted by Innes to become Rutles tracks.) The reunion was given the blessing of George Harrison who encouraged Neil Innes to proceed. (When approached, he told Innes, "Sure. It's all part of the 'soup'..." - an encounter that Innes related in interviews in 1996.)
The reunion was triggered by Innes' appearance at "Monty Python: Lust For Glory!" a festival in Los Angeles celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Monty Python troupe produced by Martin Lewis for the American Cinematheque. Innes performed two sold-out gigs at L.A.'s Troubadour club under the name "Ron Nasty & The New Rutles" using a local Beatles tribute band as the notional backing band that a sole member of a defunct vintage band hires in such circumstance. e.g. "Eric Burdon & The New Animals" - a band name used by Burdon in 1968 to take advantage of the public's familiarity with the "Animals" brand name - even though there were no other members of the original Animals in the line-up.
Following the success of the shows Lewis and Innes collaborated on the project that became "Archaeology."
The Rutles Archaeology (1996)
- Major Happy's Up-And-Coming Once Upon A Good Time Band
- We've Arrived! (And to Prove It We're Here)
- Unfinished Words
- Hey Mister!
- Easy Listening
- Now She's Left You
- The Knicker Elastic King
- I Love You
- Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik
- Joe Public
- Don't Know Why
- Back in '64
All songs were credited solely to Neil Innes.
The Japanese release of Archaeology includes 4 bonus tracks: "Lullaby", "Baby S'il Vous Plait", "It's Looking Good" (rehearsal), and "My Little Ukulele".
"Baby S'il Vous Plait" was a crude French-language version of an earlier Rutles song "Baby Let Me Be" from the 1977 soundtrack. The song was recorded as a pastiche of the Beatles' two German-language recordings of "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" - with suitably poor translation and even poorer foreign accents.
Bootlegs include "Hard Days Rut", "Rehearsal", "Sweet Rutle Tracks", "Rutles To Let", "Sgt Rutters Only Darts Club Band", and "Rutland's Rare Rutles Revisited." More information on these can be found at bootlegzone.com.
Other Rutles albums (fictitious)
Meet The Rutles
(Parlourphone, 1963 - released in the UK as Please Rut Me) SONGS INCLUDE: Please Rut Me Rut Me Do Hold My Hand Blue Suede Schubert Twist And Rut
With The Rutles
A Hard Day's Rut
(movie soundtrack - Parlourphone, 1964) SONGS INCLUDE: A Hard Day's Rut I Must Be In Love With A Girl Like You Between Us Can't Buy Me Lunch
Rutles For Sale
(Parlourphone, 1964) SONGS INCLUDE: Living In Hope
This Is...The Savage Young Rutles
(movie soundtrack - Aristophone/IOU, 1965) SONGS INCLUDE: Ouch! Ticket To Rut
(Parlourphone, 1965) (released in the US as Rubbery Mole: Capatol, 1966) SONGS INCLUDE: It's Looking Good
(Parlourphone, 1966) SONGS INCLUDE: Yellow Submarine Sandwich Got To Get You Into My Rut
Yesterday, Tomorrow, And Lunchtimes
(US only - Capatol, 1966)
(unreleased concept album, 1966)
The Triangular Album
Sgt. Rutter's Only Darts Club Band
(Parlourphone, 1967) SONGS INCLUDE: Sgt. Rutter's Only Darts Club Band With A Rutle Help From My Friends Good Times Roll Nevertheless If I Sixty-Nine Sgt. Rutter's Only Darts Club Band (reprise)
Tragical History Tour
(movie soundtrack - Parlourphone, 1967) SIDE ONE Tragical History Tour The Fool On The Pill Lying Blue Gay Way Your Mother Should Go I Am The Waitress
SIDE TWO Hello Get Lost W.C. Fields Forever Denny Lane Abie You're A Rich Man All You Need Is Lunch
Ron Nasty's controversial 1968 album, released on Rutle. Its shocking nude album cover was wrapped in an old bag (hence the name). David Bowie took the album's title as an insult to his wife.
The Rutles (aka The Shite Album)
(double album - Rutle, 1968) SONGS INCLUDE: While My Guitarist Gently Sleeps Happiness Is A Warm Gun Another Day
Yellow Submarine Sandwich
(movie soundtrack - Rutle, 1969) SONGS INCLUDE: Yellow Submarine Sandwich Cheese And Onions All You Need Is Lunch
Get Up And Go
A lost album, which became Let It Rot. Prototypes of songs that were later to appear on "Let It Rot" and "Shabby Road" were recorded, as well as "Lullaby" and a cover of an obscure Japanese folk song called "Don't Worry Kyoko", among others.
(Rutle, 1969) SONGS INCLUDE: Let's Be Natural Here Comes My Son The Lunch You Make
Let It Rot
(Rutle, 1970) SONGS INCLUDE: Let It Rot Get Up And Go
Ron Nasty / Polyvinyl Wicker Trio
(by Ron Nasty - Rutle, 1970)
All Things Fall Down
(by Stig O'Hara - Rutle, 1971) SONGS INCLUDE: My Sweet Rut All Things Fall Down
Dark Side Of The Sun
(by Dirk McQuickly & the Punk Floyd - Rutle, 1973)
Band On The Loo
(by Dirk McQuickly - Rutle, 1973) SONGS INCLUDE: Band On The Loo
(by Barry Wom - Rutle, 1974) SONGS INCLUDE: Goodnight Vietnam Goodnight Vietnam (reprise)
Venus And Marbles
(by Dirk McQuickly - Rutle, 1975) SONGS INCLUDE: Venus And Marbles
White Dopes On Punk
(by Dirk McQuickly & the Punk Floyd - Rutle, 1970s)
When You Find The Girl Of Your Dreams In The Arms Of Some Scotsmen From Hull
(by Barry Wom - Rutle, 1970s) SONGS INCLUDE: When You Find The Girl Of Your Dreams In The Arms Of Some Scotsmen From Hull
(posthumous - NSU, 1976) SONGS INCLUDE: A Ticket To Rut
The Rutles corps logo is a banana.
It should be noted that the Rutles came before the age of tribute bands.
Despite the bonus tracks, "The Rutles" CD has one song edited: "Hold My Hand", which opened the LP, originally had a sound-effects intro.
Nasty went on to form a post-Rutles band as well: the Plastic Ono Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (this is a parody of Innes' real band the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band). They have only been mentioned once: in a 1996 article about the "Archaeology" in Goldmine.
The 1978 rehearsals have been bootlegged, and feature several interesting oddities, including "Piggy In The Middle" with the lyrics that appear in the LP's liners, "Love Life" with a Python intro, and a never-released track called "Plenty Of Time" (a cover of a song by Grimms). "Now She's Left You," which appeared on 'Archaeology', appears here untrimmed.
In settlement of a lawsuit, Rutles' songs are now listed as being authored by Lennon and McCartney.
- Tragical History Tour - the official Rutles web page
- Rutlemania - the real-life history of the Rutles
- BootlegZone - contains Rutle bootleg track lists and scans.