Thursday Night Music Byte
The Rutles (also known as the Prefab Four) are a band that are known for their visual and aural pastiches and parodies of The Beatles. Originally created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes as a fictional band to be featured as part of various 1970s television programming, the group evolved into a real band that recorded and toured, and released two UK chart hits.
Initially created for Idle’s programme Rutland Weekend Television, The Rutles gained international fame after being the focus of the 1978 mockumentary television film, All You Need Is Cash (often referred to as just The Rutles). The film was written by Idle, who directed it with Gary Weis. It featured 20 songs written by Innes, which he performed with three musicians as “The Rutles”. A soundtrack album in 1978 was followed in 1996 by Archaeology, spoofing the Beatles’ Anthology series.
A second film, The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch, — modelled on the 2000 TV special The Beatles Revolution — was made in 2002 and released in the US on DVD in 2003.
The actual Beatles had differing reactions to the concept of The Rutles.
George Harrison was involved in the project from the beginning. Producer Gary Weis remembers:
“We were sitting around in Eric’s kitchen one day, planning a sequence that really ripped into the mythology and George looked up and said,
‘We were the Beatles, you know!’ Then he shook his head and said ‘Aw, never mind.’ I think he was the only one of the Beatles who really could see the irony of it all.”
George Harrison: “…the Rutles sort of liberated me from the Beatles in a way. It was the only thing I saw of those Beatles television shows they made. It was actually the best, funniest and most scathing. But at the same time, it was done with the most love.”
Harrison showed Innes and Idle the Beatles unreleased official documentary The Long and Winding Road, made by Neil Aspinall. (Aspinall’s documentary would be resurrected as The Beatles Anthology.)
- Ringo Starr liked the happier scenes in the film, but felt the scenes that mimicked sadder times hit too close.
- John Lennon loved the film so much that he refused to return the videotape and soundtrack he was given for approval. He told Innes, however, that ‘Get Up and Go’ was too close to The Beatles’ “Get Back” and to be careful not to be sued by Paul McCartney. The song was subsequently omitted from the 1978 vinyl LP soundtrack.
- McCartney, who had just released his own album, London Town, always answered, “No comment.” According to Innes: “He had a dinner at some awards thing at the same table as Eric one night and Eric said it was a little frosty.” Idle claimed McCartney changed his mind because his wife Linda thought it was funny.
All the group and Apple consented to use of the Beatles’ Shea Stadium concert footage, along with other “real” footage cut in with Rutle footage.
Please enjoy these two video clips of The Rutles. Pay close attention to all of the Beatles references.