The world first became aware of The Rutles in 1978 - when NBC aired a TV special called "All You Need Is Cash" - a spoof documentary of a mythical '60's band called The Rutles.
The project was created by two veterans of comedy and music - Eric Idle and Neil Innes.
Eric Idle was one of the founding members of Monty Python. Neil Innes was one of the founding members of cult comedy-rock group The Bonzo Dog Band (picked by The Beatles to appear in their 1967 film "Magical Mystery Tour"). Innes subsequently became the "seventh Python" - providing and performing comedic music for the troupe.
Together they created the mythical Rutles as device to parody the Beatles story. Innes wrote, recorded and produced all the music - witty pastiches of many Beatles songs. Idle wrote and co-directed the spoof documentary film which lampooned the Beatles legend.
Innes and Idle also acted in the special, becoming, respectively, Ron Nasty (the John Lennon character) and Dirk McQuickly (the Paul McCartney role).
Two musician friends were recruited to play the other two Rutles. Ricky Fataar (a top session musician and '70's-era Beach Boy) played Stig O'Hara (the George Harrison character) and British drummer John Halsey became the Rutles version of Ringo Starr - Barry Wom.
All of The Rutles music seen in the film and heard on the soundtrack album was sung and played just by the three musicians - Neil Innes, Ricky Fataar and John Halsey - with a little help from their session friends. (Eric Idle did not sing or play on the album, but was seen lip-syncing in the film.)
(The real "fourth Rutle" - in musical terms - was the late Ollie Halsall, a very talented guitarist/singer friend of Neil Innes).
The TV special - executive-produced by Lorne Michaels for Broadway Video - was a worldwide success.
The soundtrack album - also called "All You Need Is Cash" - was released by Warner Bros. Records, and originally contained 14 of the 20 songs featured in the film (Rhino Records' 1991 CD release included as bonus tracks the 6 songs omitted from the original album). The album - Grammy-nominated for Best Comedy Recording - received much acclaim for its witty and accurate pastiches in the writing, arranging, performing and production. The songs encompassed all phases of Beatles music.
Many of the top comedians of the day had cameos in the film. These included fellow Python Michael Palin, and several players from the original "Saturday Night Live" - including John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner.
Two top rock stars also had cameos, playing themselves. Mick Jagger and Paul Simon gave interviews discussing their memories and feeling about the mythical Rutles. Other cameos featured Rolling Stone Ron Wood and Bianca Jagger.
Last, and certainly not least, George Harrison of the Beatles (a longtime friend of Innes, and more recent friend of Idle) made a memorable appearance as a TV interviewer. The presence of a Beatle confirmed the affectionate nature of the spoof.
The film was an instant hit with the millions of Beatles fan around the world, and the whole Rutle legend has itself become part of the Beatles saga. Beatles fan are enthusiastic Rutles fans and "Rutle-abilia" is always to be found at Beatles conventions.
The All You Need Is Cash film was eventually released on home video, gaining a new audience and status as a cult classic. Often cited as the definite rock music parody, it went on to inspire later projects such as Spinal Tap. The film was recently reissued in America by Rhino Home Video and is again enjoying commercial success.
The Rutles as a band never appeared in concert or on TV (other than in the spoof documentary).
There was just one solo TV performance, by Ron Nasty. In 1978 on NBC's Saturday Night Live, Ron performed two songs, including a Rutle fave - "Cheese And Onions." A few years later this performance turned up on a Beatles bootleg album - presented as though it was a rare John Lennon recording!
In September 1994 there was an official celebration of Monty Python's 25th anniversary, held in Los Angeles. It took the shape of a film and TV festival which included the presentation of various spin-off projects, including the Rutles film.
As an adjunct to the festival Neil Innes performed a show of Rutles music in character as Ron Nasty. Teamed up with a local Beatles tribute band, the concert was jokingly billed as a performance by "Ron Nasty & the New Rutles."
The show, held at Los Angeles' legendary Troubadour Club, was an immediate sell-out, and a second show was added - which also sold out. Among stars in attendance were Beatles Anthology producer/Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, Julian Lennon, Seal, and Spinal Tap member Harry Shearer.
Longtime Neil Innes friend and Rutles fan George Harrison was unable to attend the shows, but sent a special greeting to be read to the audiences, and insisted on Innes giving him a first-hand account when he returned to England.
Critical and public reaction was glowing, and was a major factor in inspiring this first-ever reunion of the original performing Rutles. The Los Angeles Times review of the show described the concert as "Fabulous! Beatles music from a parallel universe!"
THE ARCHAEOLOGY ALBUM
In Rutles mythology, the Archaeology album consists of disinterred
tapes of the group's abandoned last album, which had been buried in a
In reality the album was freshly created in a spring and summer of 1996. Neil Innes reassembled all but one of the original team responsible for creating the original Rutles music. Multi-instrumentalist Ricky Fataar, who in recent years has been the studio and touring drummer for many top musicians, including Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, returned to reprise his Stig O'Hara role. On the new album he contributes lead and backing vocals, guitar and drums.
Drummer John Halsey returned to perform as the Rutles' own Barry Wom, and contributes both drumming and his distinctive Barry Wom vocals.
Neil Innes, who again wrote all of the words and music of the 16 new Rutles songs, contributes lead and backlng vocals, guitars and keyboards.
Sadly, the Archaeology album has a genuine parallel with the Beatles Anthology albums it affectionately lampoons. "Fourth Rutle" Ollie Halsall, who as a guitarist/singer was key in the recording of the original album, passed away in 1992 at the age of 43.
In preparing material for this new album, Neil Innes uncovered master tapes of the rehearsal sessions he had organized in 1977 to prepare the Rutles for their album recording sessions. Buried within those tapes, he discovered two complete songs which had been fully rehearsed and performed, but which were not subsequently recorded for the album. He also discovered a backing track to a third song, which had not been completed.
Since all three tracks were very much in line with the new material he was writing and assembling for the new album - and with the added poignancy that they also featured the original Rutles lineup of Neil Innes, Ricky Fataar, John Halsey, and Ollie Halsall - he decided to incorporate the tracks in Archaeology.
The two completed songs - "We've Arrived! (And To Prove It We're Here)" and "Now She's Left You" were left intact - including humorous false starts - and were simply restored. The uncompleted backing track was used as the basis tor a new song entitled "Unfinished Words."
Thus three of the album's 16 tracks are actual archival tracks featuring the original four Rutles.
Two other members of the 1978 Rutles team returning to the project were original Rutles album engineer Steve James - who on the new album shares producing credit with Neil Innes - and longtime Innes associate, composer/arrange John Altman - who, as before, arranged and conducted the orchestral tracks for the album.
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