are/were a 'band' that developed from Eric Idle
's mid-70s TV show Rutland Weekend Television
. This show featured weekly songs by Neil Innes
, and one week he wrote a Beatles
-esque song called I Must Be In Love
. A spoof of Richard Lester
's work on A Hard Day's Night
was done to accompany it, featuring the performance of The Rutland Stones
, and it went down well on the show. When Idle was guest host on Saturday Night Live
the clip was played, as at that time the show had a running joke about getting the Beatles to reform, under the name The Rutles
The clip was hugely popular with audiences, and SNL producer Lorne Michaels decided to fund a full TV special about the 'band', entitled All You Need Is Cash. Written by Idle, this parodied the standard TV documentaries on rock music (particularly the then-recent BBC-TV series All You Need Is Love), with typical scenes such as the interview with black bluesman Ruttling Orange Peel who claims to have written all the Rutles' songs, along with those of Lawrence Welk, Frank Sinatra and the Everly Brothers.
The music for the film, which pastiches the Beatles' music incredibly well, was all written by Innes, and performed by Innes ('John Lennon' vocals), Ollie Halsall ('Paul McCartney' vocals) and John Halsey ('Ringo Starr' vocals) of the band Patto, and Ricky Fataar ('George Harrison' vocals) formerly of The Flame and the Beach Boys. This music is so close to the Beatles' that the track Cheese And Onions has appeared on a few Beatles bootlegs as an unreleased Lennon track.
The film tells the story of the Rutles, a lovable mop-top quartet known as the prefab four formed in the 60s by Ron Nasty (Innes), Dirk McQuickly (Idle - lip synching to Halsall's vocals in the performance scenes), Stig O'Hara (the quiet one) (Fataar), and Barry Wom (the loud one, real name Barrington Womble) (Halsey), from their beginnings in Liverpool to the heights of playing Che Stadium (named after the famous Cuban guerilla leader Che Stadium), and the collapse of their company Rutle Corps. Along the way it takes in such characters as their manager Leggy Mountbatten, DJ Bill Murray The K, and businessman Ron DeKlein.
While the film is incredibly funny for Beatles fans, it's probably not of interest to those who don't have a fairly good knowledge of the band. As well as Idle and Innes, it features Michael Palin, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger, George Harrison and a host of others.
And then there was Archaeology - in 1996 Innes released a second Rutles album (the first being the soundtrack from the film), without the involvement of Idle. The story went that Ron Nasty found some tapes of himself in his garage. Reuniting with himself, he released the first Rutles single for 18 years. Following that a bunch of tapes the band had buried in Stig's garden were dug up by Barry's dog, and released, hence the name of the album. According to an interview with Ron Nasty in MOJO at the time, Dirk McQuickly didn't want to be involved as he'd gone into comedy - there was a rumour going round that Dirk was deaf.
Recently Innes and Halsey, with a few session players, have done 'Rutles Unwigged' gigs playing Rutles music (along with a selection of other Innes music) but not in character. The Rutles albums are essential for any fans of the Beatles, the Bonzos, the Pythons, and good music.
The original vinyl version of the first album is considerably shorter than the CD version, and features only:
Hold My Hand
I Must Be in Love
With a Girl Like You
Living in Hope
Good Times Roll
Piggy in the Middle
Cheese and Onions
Incidentally, the DVD of the film is put together appalingly, with no extras at all - but apparently Eric Idle plans to release an extended re-edited version in cinemas soon, so we can hope that that will be released on DVD with more outtakes, deleted scenes and so on, as this deserves the same kind of treatment as This Is Spinal Tap, a film which owes a great debt to the Rutles.