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Rutles visit L.A. for unveiling of TV special

Rutles Press Agent Eric Manchester reveals, "We all thought we were bigger than God ...... or was that Rod?"

The Rutles!! Those four boys from Liverpool. Dirk, Barry, Nasty, and Stig. From their beginning with Leggy Mountbatten, ("I think it was the trousers") through such amazing projects as "Tragical History Tour" and "Yellow Submarine Sandwich" to a final break-up, the Rutles have influenced the world. Now with NBC showing a 90 minute special on their lives, such notables as lead singer Dirk McQuickly and long time press agent Eric Manchester are in L.A. this week. FRED flew down to visit at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont hotel in order to finally answer some long time mysteries. As you will recall the Rutles changed their music drastically when they all came under the influence of tea. That internal preoccupation spawned such projects as Sgt. Rutter's Darts Club Band. We asked Press Agent Manchester to finally tell us the real truth behind the Rutles involvement with the mysterious potion...

ERIC: Tea! The Rutles were essentially provincial people, and they were on the lookout all the time for something new, and when this folk hero arrived with dark glasses... (I was there)... I had just been keeping Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Gifted and Black at bay. They were another group that Leggy managed. Bob Dylan (the man in the dark glasses) had this substance. So, he gave the guys this tea. I got a phone call from Leggy saying, "Come into our room and don't bring anyone with you, because we're all walking around on the ceiling." Sure enough they were. Stig, Nasty, Barry, and Dirk...all laughing like maniacs saying things like "We're all together--we're all separate I asked, "What is it?" They said, "It's just tea...and anyway, it caught on. It was all because Bob Dylan was wearing dark glasses. This mystical man standing by this small table. There he was...very nervous, very paranoid I thought. His road managers were doing the pouring...the lights were very low.

FRED: Is it true they started getting away from tea once they met Arthur Sultan, the Surrey mystic?

ERIC: It was imperative. One of the Surrey mystic's rules was that no one could have any tea for a week before they came to Bognor. Led by Stig, who in fact still is the mystical one, they all did lay off tea for a week before the trip.

FRED: Nasty never really got into the Surrey mystic's trip did he?

ERIC: Nasty did. I think Barry (the noisy one) found it very difficult... didn't like the food. He did not like the food at all in Bognor and came back early.

FRED: Were you with the Rutles when Nasty was quoted as saying the Rutles were bigger than GOD?

ERIC: No...I got a call from Leggy saying that something had awful interruption over the papers and all"

FRED: Did he say "bigger than GOD" or "bigger than Rod"?

ERIC: Yes, bigger than Rod Stewart. I honestly don't know the truth. (This is a slippery, self-servinq Eric Manchester answer). I really don't want to knew the truth because then I'd have to pass it on...but I think it more than likely than not that not only did Nasty say it, but he believed the Rutles were bigger than God...I think we all, the roadies...everybody.

FRED: What about the "Stig is Dead" rumours.

ERIC: Yes, I did agree. He's dead. I've stopped denying it.

FRED: There is still some question about whether or not Stig is alive...

ERIC: Yes two people just this week, listening to one speaker each of "I am the Waitress" reported distinctly hearing the words "I buried Stig." I mean look at the Sergeant Rutters Album. Why is he standing like a dying Yeti (from the Rutland Book of the Dead)? No one stands like that.

FRED: Then who is the person who is saying he is Stig O'Hara now?

ERIC: God knows. He comes on like him, he sounds like him, he has the same attitude. If God doesn't know then at least Nasty would know, but, as you know, Nasty has turned his back on the world...he lives with his thoughts and his memories.

FRED: I don't want to get too heavy here, but how much do you think the trousers had to do with the success of the music?

ERIC: I thought while I was just at NARM, that we would not be at NARM had it not been for the trousers. Occasionally, I would see a very serious record company executive...people would introduce me..."have you met Eric Manchester?" No, but I've heard about you...where have you been"..."I I've been living on my reputation"....I would give him a button that said, "I think it was the trousers," and he would think it was a joke. But, in fact had it not been for the fact that Leggy Mountbatten liked those four young men's trousers the record industry would not be a billion dollar industry.

FRED: It is ironic that the record industry would have such a close kinship with the clothing industry.

ERIC: The Rutles didn't invent the record industry, of course, but they came along and other people got into the Byrds, "when your pants get tight, you're going to do all right." That was a clear tribute.

FRED: I think in the last year, the Bee Gees have recognized the importance of the trousers.

ERIC: I don't think there is any doubt..

FRED: I don't understand why "Tragical History Tour" was such a box office disappointment. It seems to be that the basic plot idea of four Oxford University professors on a walking tour of Rutland tea shops was real solid and exciting.

ERIC: was a very close focus. I think the audience just can't concentrate for an hour and a quarter on anything as heavy as that. They want to take it easy...see someone kicking a ball about...or punching each other, or kissing, you know?

FRED: Perhaps, if it had been about four soccer players...

ERIC: With four soccer players it would have been easy...but four Oxford professors, welI....that was the thing. Whenever the Rutles tried to educate people they fell on their ass...You can see in the film even now, it's a most dynamic flim...people walking backwards and forwards...dressed as animals...standing on a wall...picking up a bus...making the bus disappear...I mean it's a helluva plot.

FRED: It just went over people's heads.

ERIC: I think it did.

FRED: I heard two distinct things from the Rutles that confuse me...Once they said, "All you need is cash"...then later they said, All you need is lunch...which is true?

ERIC: Yes, I think that "All you need is lunch" is a form of symbolism. I think what they're really saying is simply restating, "It's one square meal a day...the world is oyster." They were always trying to fine things down...say them in the simplest way.

FRED: Yes. Obviously one of the biggest secrets. I was touched by lines like, "I'm on my way. I can not stay another day."

ERIC: Yes. How about, "Shoot me down in flames if I should tell a lie." That's a helluva line. Then another one, "Goose-step Momma...Goose-step Momma...take it by and large." Simple, direct stuff.

FRED: Perhaps what the trousers do is...

ERIC: Only to move your legs in that way.

FRED: There's a simplicity in that.

ERIC: Yes, people understood. When they started to get silly after the tea...and God knows with all that confusion...Chastity being English didn't help.

FRED: One of the most important philosophical things they ever said was "Let it rot." I wonder how much they've actually lived by that...

ERIC: I think they have to live by it because they see that that's the way things are in life. When you die, something has to be done. You can't save anything. All things made will decay. The Hollywood sign itself is indicative. What are you going to do with it? Let it rot. You cannot save the Hollywood sign until we have first saved ourselves. People waste their time. Instead of going to a local record store and buying this album, they're signing these petition to save the Hollywood sign. That's the important thing about Chastity, by the way. Before her, Nasty hadn't had a social conscience. First the Rutles were silly, and then they were serious, and finally, just like the trousers, they split.

FRED: Mick Jagger made one point that was impressive to me. He said he felt the break-up of the Rutles simply had to do with women...

ERIC: Yes...he said that after some thought. There may have been something to it...but, in fact, I believe it was just the world unfolding as it should. But, I think Mick was right ultimately.

FRED: What about the Rutles involvement with radio?

ERIC: Very important. There was "Bill Murray the K" in New York and Roger Keeler in Los Angeles.

FRED: The final inevitable question is this Eric...will the Rutles ever get back together?

ERIC: I can only echo Mick Jagger's answer. I hope not.

In the midst of this public bickering and legal wrangling "Let it Rot" was released as a film, an album, and a lawsuit. It showed the Rutles as never before -- tired, unhappy, cross, and just like the rest of the world. Gone forever was the image of the four happy mop-haired youngsters who had set the foot of the world a-tapping. In December 1970 Dirk sued Stig and Nasty; Barry; and Stig sued himself accidentally. It was the end of an era, but the beginning of another for lawyers everywhere, who could look forward to at least seven or eight years of continuous litigation.