The Rutles Biography

The product of satirists Neil Innes (9 December 1944, Danbury, Essex, England) and Eric Idle (b. 29 March 1943, South Shields, Tyne And Wear, England), formerly of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and the comedy team Monty Python’s Flying Circus respectively, the Rutles was an affectionate and perceptive parody of the Beatles’ career. The project is now rightly regarded, alongside This Is Spinal Tap, as one of rock’s most lasting parodies. The concept for the Rutles emerged from the duo’s Rutland Weekend Television BBC comedy series. Innes played Ron Nasty (Lennon), Idle played Dirk McQuickly (McCartney), while Rikki Fataar (b. Ricky Fataar, 9 May 1952, Durban, South Africa; ex-Beach Boys) and John Halsey (ex-Patto) completed the line-up as Stig O’Hara (Harrison) and Barry Wom (Starr) respectively. Ollie Halsall, who died in 1992, played the fourth member in the recording studio.

The film made for American network television, All You Need Is Cash, and attendant album The Rutles deftly combined elements drawn from both founder members past work. Innes’ songs re-created the different, and indeed, contrasting, styles of music the Beatles offered, ranging from the Mersey pop of ‘I Must Be In Love’ and ‘Ouch!’ to the psychedelia of ‘Piggy In The Middle’. Mick Jagger and Paul Simon made excellent cameo appearances while George Harrison enjoyed a small acting role. Premiered on 22 March 1978, the film was a commercial flop in America but received better viewing figures in the UK, where it was first aired on the BBC on 27 March. Later in the year, ATV Music, the owners of the Beatles’ publishing at the time, accused Innes and the Rutles of infringing copyright, and were handed a hefty share of the profits following a court case.

The Rutles were themselves lampooned in 1991 when maverick New York label Shimmy-Disc produced Rutles Highway Revisited wherein its roster performed a unique interpretation of the original album. In the wake of the Beatles Anthology in the mid-90s, the prefab four also gave it another shot, this time as the prefab three, with the departure of McQuickly (Idle and Innes had fallen out over the years, with the former refusing to take part in the reunion). The resulting Archaeology was once again an eerie reminder of how easy it is to copy the style, sound and lyrical flavour of the world’s greatest ever band (the Beatles that is, not the Rutles!). Innes has sporadically revived the Rutles name in subsequent years, most notably in 2004 when he appeared at the Glastonbury Festival. His estranged writing partner Idle, meanwhile, worked on a new Rutles film provisionally titled Can’t Buy Me Lunch.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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