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The Rutles

The Rutles (The pre-fab four), a parody of The Beatles was created by Eric Idle and the songs were composed by Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The Rutles members were (fake names of course):

  • Ron Nasty-- a Lennon figure - played by Neil Innes
  • Dirk McQuickly -- McCartney - played by Eric Idle
  • Stig O'Hara -- George - played by Ricky Fataar
  • Barry Wom -- Ringo - played by John Halsey

The Rutles began life in 1975 as a sketch on a Eric Idle's BBC television series Rutland Weekend Television[?]. Rutland was the smallest county in England until the local government re-organization of 1974 when it literally ceased to exist (it has since been restored). Eric Idle found it amusing to suggest that he was the face of a mock broadcasting company run from this insignificant rural location. (The name is a pun on the real television broadcaster London Weekend Television; London being covered by two ITV franchises. Any Rutland TV station would be pretty small, so a Rutland Weekend Television would have to be be ridiculously tiny.)

The initial sketch presented Neil Innes fronting The Rutles singing "I Must Be In Love", a masterful pastiche of some of the early Lennon-McCartney tunes. As part of the merchandising material 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 along Neil Innes and incorporated some of the Rutles material into one or two sketches. The material proved to be extremely popular and a suggestion that he produce a more lengthy program led to the 1978 mockumentary film "All you need is cash". The film purports to be a documentary on the rise and fall of the band which parallels much of the history of the Beatles. George Harrison makes a cameo appearance in the film as a TV interviewer and a number of well known commedians including Michael Palin, John Belushi and Dan Akroyd[?] also appear. The cast also includes Bianca Jagger[?] as one of the Rutles girfriends, Ron Wood as an Hell's Angel[?], and Mick Jagger and Paul Simon as themselves. The programme is notable for bringing together British and American comic talent in a way that has seldom happened before or since. A 66-minute syndicated version was available for some time on video and DVD but has since been superseded by a restored 72-minute version.

A soundtrack album entitled The Rutles containing a number of 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!") and "Doubleback Alley"("Penny Lane"). However, it is in his subtle reworking of a number of classic Lennon-McCartney tunes that Innes skill as a song-writer is shown. "Hold My Hand,"("I Wanna Hold Your Hand") is actually a reworking of "All My Lovin'" and "Piggy in the Middle" is a thinly disguised variation of "I Am the Walrus". The authenticity of the Beatles sound on these songs is astounding. If if wasn't for the inherently ironic lyrics, it would be difficult to distinguish the songs from true Beatles' numbers. The original album omitted some songs for copyright reasons, perhaps because they were too similar to the originals, but these have since been restored.

 The Rutles (1978)

  1.   Goose-Step Mama (Nasty) - 2:18 
  2.   Number One (Nasty) - 2:52 
  3.   Baby Let Me Be (Nasty) - 1:57 
  4.   Hold My Hand (Nasty) - 2:11 
  5.   Blue Suede Schubert (Nasty) - 2:13 
  6.   I Must Be in Love (Nasty) - 2:06 
  7.   With a Girl Like You (Nasty) - 1:53 
  8.   Between Us (Nasty) - 2:03 
  9.   Living in Hope (Nasty) - 2:39 
 10.   Ouch! (Nasty) - 1:52 
 11.   It's Looking Good (Nasty) - 2:02 
 12.   Doubleback Alley (Nasty) - 2:57 
 13.   Good Times Roll (Nasty) - 3:05 
 14.   Nevertheless (Nasty) - 1:29 
 15.   Love Life (Nasty) - 2:52 
 16.   Piggy in the Middle (Nasty) - 4:11 
 17.   Another Day (Nasty) - 2:13 
 18.   Cheese and Onions (Nasty) - 2:42 
 19.   Get Up and Go (Nasty) - 3:19 
 20.   Let's Be Natural - 3:22 

The band reunited (without Eric Idle) in the mid-1990s for a few one-off gigs and in 1996, a second album, The Rutles Archaeology, a send-up of the Beatles' six-disc Anthology was released. Most of the tracks on this album spoof the Sgt. Pepper period of the Beatles. (In fact many were not specifically written as Rutles songs, but were adapted to fit.)

 The Rutles Archaeology (1996)

  1.   Major Happy's Up and Coming Once upon a... (Innes) 
  2.   Rendezvous (Innes) 
  3.   Questionnaire (Innes) 
  4.   We've Arrived! (And to Prove It We're...) (Innes) 
  5.   Lonely-Phobia (Innes) 
  6.   Unfinished Words (Innes) 
  7.   Hey Mister! (Innes) 
  8.   Easy Listening (Innes) 
  9.   Now She's Left You (Innes) 
 10.   The Knicker Elastic King (Innes) 
 11.   I Love You (Innes) 
 12.   Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik (Innes) 
 13.   Joe Public (Innes) 
 14.   Shangri-La (Innes) 
 15.   Don't Know Why (Innes) 
 16.   Back in '64 (Innes) 

The Rutles corps logo is a banana.

It should be noted that the Rutles came before the age of tribute bands.

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