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Music / The Rutles

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The Narrator: ...a legend that will last a lunchtime...
— voiced by the Narrator (Eric Idle) in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash

The Rutles are a Fake Band who produce real music that parodies/satirizes The Beatles. They are the subject of The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (or just The Rutles), a 1979 Mockumentary/Rockumentary that tells their story from their founding to the present. Eric Idle plays an accident-prone narrator, as well as Dirk McQuickly, the band's bassist (although McQuickly's vocals were performed by Ollie Halsall, who died in 1992; Idle lip-synched to the performances).

They began as a sketch on Eric Idle's post-Python sketch show Rutland Weekend Television, a program that ranged from Funny Moments to So Okay, It's Average. One of its strengths was the musical numbers, which were mostly written by Neil Innes, an occasional member of The Bonzo Dog Band and supporting act on Monty Python. The Rutles were born from a psychiatric patient who was sick with love songs (It Makes Sense in Context — sort of). Neil Innes played the patient, singing "I Must Be in Love," which directly segued into a parody of A Hard Day's Night crossed with the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. This again mutated into the Mockumentary. RWT is the source of the band's name, so the u is short — "Rut-les."


When Eric Idle guest-hosted Saturday Night Live, he brought over two segments from RWT to air as shorts: “Pommy”, a parody of Tommy, in which the hero tries to escape from a Ken Russell film, and the Rutles. Idle was especially proud of Pommy, but naturally Lorne Michaels chose the Rutles; SNL was in the midst of publicly "wooing" the Beatles to reunite on the show. The short was a wild success, and the show received many calls asking about the Rutles (some of them even thinking that these were the Beatles). When Idle returned to England, he began writing a feature-length Mockumentary for the BBC, but when he again met up with Michaels, who offered a larger budget with NBC, he committed to doing it with them.note 


The Rutles was perhaps the first SNL spinoff to be made, but because of its initial failure and the nature of its rehabilitation, they aren't consistently linked. It originally aired on NBC; it was the lowest-rated program on that night. (Apparently, it aired just before the revival of Beatlemania.) It has since been Vindicated by History and Vindicated by Cable. It is also important because it is one of the few films about the Beatles (more or less) that was made before John Lennon was killed and got the Dead Artists Are Better effect.

The story that The Rutles tells parallels the history of The Beatles closely, if inexactly. There are side-stories about how The Rutles affected the wider world, which is, in fact, more than anyone, including the narrator, will admit.

There was a Contested Sequel in 2002, Can't Buy Me Lunch. It was made with outtakes from the first film, with some new footage with Eric Idle's Narrator and a host of new interviewees tying them together. There were also albums; besides the soundtrack to the first film, there was Archaeology in 1995, timed to compete with the Beatles' Anthology (and made without Idle's involvement; Halsall's vocals were featured on two tracks created from 1978 rehearsals, making them the last Rutles songs released with his involvement). It did surprisingly well, considering the competition.

In 2010, a fan released the Rutles' equivalent of the Beatles' Love, entitled Lunch. It can be streamed at the official site for the project.

For more Beatles Affectionate Parody goodness, see Utopia's album Deface the Music. For another comical take on the Beatles story, see the novel Paperback Writer.

Tropes: (work in progress!)

  • Ambiguously Gay: Leggy Mountbratten was interested in The Rutles because he loved their... tight trousers... which left nothing... to the imagination. Everything was perfectly outlined.
  • Animated Music Video: One for "Cheese And Onions," done in the style of Yellow Submarine and even animated by some of the same artists.
  • Affectionate Parody: Eric Idle was a huge fan of the Beatles and a close friend of George Harrison, who appears in a cameo as a reporter. In fact, George Harrison was known to reference the Rutles when explaining incidents in Beatle history. Harrison went so far as to say that All You Need Is Cash is one of the most accurate biographies of the Beatles ever made.

    Also, John Lennon loved All You Need Is Cash; after watching a copy on videotape, he refused to return it.
  • Bigger Than Jesus: Ron Nasty caused controversy when he claimed The Rutles were "bigger than God." Ron, speaking to a slightly deaf journalist, actually said that they were "bigger than Rod," as in Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart would not make it big for another eight years. The protests and album burnings that were sparked by Ron's comment are said to have seen the sales of Rutles albums and merchandise skyrocket as people were buying their products just to have them destroyed. While the movie plays this for laughs, it's actually very reflective of the Real Life protests against The Beatles.
  • Blatant Lies: During an interview, press agent Eric Manchester (Michael Palin) keeps saying that the pilfering from Rutle Corps is nothing to worry about...while people haul away the building's contents (including potted plants, telephones, a toilet, and a stuffed bear) behind him.
    • Earlier, in New Orleans, African-American musician Rutling Orange Peel claims to have originated the Rutles and written all their songs. His wife immediately calls him out on this, saying that he always claims on documentaries about white music to have invented it. He also claimed to have originated the Everly Brothers, Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Welk.
  • Blind Black Guy: Blind Lemon Pye, the New Orleans bluesman who supposedly inspired their music. In fact, after working on the railroad for years, the Rutles inspired him to get into music. And, as he put it, "I've been starving ever since."
  • Call-Back: Just as "She Loves You" gets quoted in the fade of "All You Need is Love", "Hold My Hand" gets a Shout-Out at the end of "Love Life".
  • The Cameo/As Himself: Mick Jagger and Paul Simon appear as themselves in cameos.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "The Rutles story is a legend. A living legend, a legend that will live long after lots of other living legends have died."
  • Don't Explain the Joke: The entire "Rat Seller/Cellar" bit.
  • The Dreaded: Ron Decline (John Belushi), the most feared promoter in the entire music industry. People would rather kill themselves than meet with him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted; while the Rutles are off with Arthur Sultan, manager Leggy Mountbatten, plagued by business failures and lonely, goes home and tragically...accepts a teaching job in Australia.
  • Dull Surprise: The group's reaction to Leggy Mountbatten moving to Australia is chock full of this.
  • Epic Fail: Rutle Corps, the company the group starts to "help people to help themselves". As a result, so many people end up ripping the company off that, as the Narrator puts it, "they were losing money faster than the British government".
    • Also applies to a Rutles boutique they start. It ends up losing loads of money in a matter of weeks. The solution? Nasty blows up the place.
  • Fat Comic Relief: In the Music Video for "Ouch", a chubby native goes after the band.
  • G-Rated Drug: Tea. Which is also an instance of Getting Crap Past the Radar, as "tea" is slang for marijuana.
  • Hilarity Ensues/Hilarity Sues: When things went downhill, they all sued each other. Stig even sued himself, accidentally.
    • Earlier, Eric Manchester, the Rutles' press agent, described how, by that time, his entire day pretty much boiled down to filing suit against practically everyone.
  • I Know You Know I Know: The opening lines of "Piggy in the Middle".
    I know you know what you know
    But you should know by now that you're not me
  • The Klutz: Dirk reaches an impressive level of klutzery in the "Let's Be Natural" sequence.
  • Long Title: "Major Happy's Up And Coming Once Upon A Good Time Band".
  • Living Legend: The band are supposedly a living legend that will live long after other living legends have died.
  • Musical Pastiche: I mean, what else were you expecting? And Innes is good at this; an unsuspecting listener could be forgiven for thinking that some of these are lost Beatles songs — they nail the style completely. Even the vocals are almost impossible to differentiate.
  • The Narrator: Eric Idle.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Rutles and those associated with them were thinly-veiled Captain Ersatz parodies of The Beatles and company.
    • Dirk McQuickly: Paul McCartney
    • Ron Nasty: John Lennon
    • Stig O'Hara: George Harrison
    • Barry Wom (Barrington Womble): Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey)
    • Leppo: Stuart Sutcliffe
    • Dick Jaws: Dick James
    • Leggy Mountbatten: Brian Epstein
    • Ron Decline: Allen Klein
    • Eric Manchester: Derek Taylor
    • Bill Murray the K: Murray the K (played by Bill Murray himself)
    • Arthur Sultan: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
    • Corinthia: Cynthia Lennon
    • Chastity (Whose Father invented World War II): Yoko Ono
  • Painted-On Pants: The Rutles (apparently) all wore tight trousers. Very tight trousers. Nothing left to the imagination.
  • The Pete Best:
    • In-universe: Leppo, the Fifth Rutle. (Technically, Leppo was a spoof on deceased Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. Extended canon in the Rutles universe claims that their pre-Barry drummer was named Kevin. Leppo is also a reference to Zeppo Marx, The Pete Best of the Marx Brothers.
    • It was David Battley and not Ricky Fataar who first played Stig on Rutland Weekend Television and Saturday Night Live. In these performances Dirk (still portrayed by Eric Idle) mocked George and Stig lampooned Paul.
  • Parody Assistance:
    • George Harrison not only referenced The Rutles on occasion, he even played the reporter who interviewed the Derek Taylor Expy, in an interview that took place in front of the Rutles' HQ while people were walking off with stolen items in the background. (Derek Taylor was in turn a friend of Harrison; he and his wife were the friends who had lost their way in Blue Jay Way.)
    • That's also George saying "This little piggy went to market" (backwards) on "Piggy in the Middle".
    • Neil Innes, who played Ron Nasty and wrote the music, has said "George was in it up to his neck", including being present at the initial play-through of the songs (his reaction to "A Girl Like You" was "That's a bit close, isn't it?").
    • John Lennon allegedly helped sequence the soundtrack album, and suggested the band should avoid including "Get Up and Go" because its note-for-note similarity to "Get Back" might cause legal issues. (He was right.) His version of the album, however, supposedly bumped so many songs for being 'too close' that the LP would've come out ridiculously short — which may explain the liner notes only including lyrics for nine songs!
    • The Animated Music Video for "Cheese and Onions" was created by several of the animators who worked on Yellow Submarine.
  • Pet the Dog: In Universe example. Mick Jagger mentions how the Rutles, particularly Dirk, helped out the up-and-coming Rolling Stones by writing a song for them. Turns out to be a subversion, since the Stones played the song, decided it was horrible, and never recorded it.
  • The Quiet One: Taken to an extreme, in that Stig does not get a single line in the entire special.
  • Rooftop Concert:
    • The band's final performance on the roof of their Rutle Corps building where the band notably played "Get Up And Go". The parodic parallel to The Beatles' "Get Back" Naturally in the Rutles' version somebody gets accidentally pushed off the roof.
    • The band (minus Dirk McQuickly, who was portrayed by Eric Idle in the film and whose vocals were performed by the late Ollie Halsall) also held a rooftop concert in the mid-1990's to celebrate the release of their "lost album" Archaeology, which coincided with the release of The Beatles Anthology.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: It was said that if you play the title track from Sergeant Rutter's Only Darts Club Band backwards, it is supposed to sound like "Stig has been dead for ages, honestly." It in fact says "Dnab Bulc Strad Ylno Srettur Tnaegres."
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Their material runs the gamut from the heavily cynical ("Easy Listening", "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik") to the heavily idealistic ("Back in '64").
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Chastity, the kooky artist, though it is never outright stated, is heavily implied to be a Nazi, what with the armbands, being German, and her father having invented World War II.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-Universe. All of Chastity's art is seen as evoking this trope, especially by Ron. At one point, Ron and Chastity sit in a bathtub with their clothes on and the water running as a meaningful act of symbolism. The press is there, of course.
  • Uncommon Time: "Love Life" switches meter signatures frequently and contains several measures of 5/4. (As a point of comparison, the song it's most prominently parodying, "All You Need Is Love", switches meter signatures frequently and contains several measures of 7/4).
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: In All You Need Is Cash.
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • "Piggy in the Middle" might be even more bizarre than its role model "I am the Walrus".
    Bible-punching heavyweight evangelistic boxing kangaroo
    Orangutan and anaconda
    Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse
    Even Pluto too
    • "Good Times Roll" similarly takes the wordplay of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Up to Eleven.
    Fricasse chorus girl's thigh
    Toffee and mackerel gateau
    Pineapple pie in the sky

Since Wikipedia removed the list of tracks parodied by each individual Rutles track, here it is:

The Rutles

  1. "Goose-Step Mama" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:18 ("Some Other Guy", "I Saw Her Standing There" "One After 909")
  2. "Number One" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:52 ("Twist And Shout", "It Won't Be Long")
  3. "Baby Let Me Be" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 1:57 ("Slow Down")
  4. "Hold My Hand" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:11 ("Eight Days a Week", "She Loves You", "All My Loving", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Please Please Me")
  5. "Blue Suede Schubert" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:13 ("Roll Over Beethoven", "Boys")
  6. "I Must Be In Love" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:06 (The film, "A Hard Day's Night". "If I Needed Someone", "From Me To You", "Ticket To Ride")
  7. "With A Girl Like You" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 1:53 ("If I Fell")
  8. "Between Us" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:03 ("Baby It's You", "And I Love Her", "Till There Was You")
  9. "Living In Hope" (Womble) - 2:39 ("Don't Pass Me By", "Octopus's Garden", "Act Naturally", "With A Little Help from My Friends")
  10. "Ouch!" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 1:52 ("Help!")
  11. "It's Looking Good" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:02 ("I'm Down", "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party", "I'm Looking Through You", "I'm a Loser")
  12. "Doubleback Alley" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:57 ("Penny Lane")
  13. "Good Times Roll" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 3:05 ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "You Never Give Me Your Money")
  14. "Nevertheless" (O'Hara) - 1:29 ("Love You To", "Within You Without You")
  15. "Love Life" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:52 ("All You Need Is Love", "Magical Mystery Tour")
  16. "Piggy In The Middle" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 4:11 ("I Am The Walrus", "Piggies")
  17. "Another Day" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:13 ("Martha My Dear", "Don't Bother Me")
  18. "Cheese And Onions" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 2:42 ("A Day In The Life")
  19. "Get Up And Go" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 3:19 ("Get Back")
  20. "Let's Be Natural" (Nasty/McQuickly) - 3:22 ("Julia", "Dear Prudence", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)")


  1. "Major Happy's Up-And-Coming Once Upon A Good Time Band" - 2:19 ("Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")
  2. "Rendezvous" - 2:06 ("With a Little Help from My Friends", with backing vocals reminiscent of "Good Day Sunshine")
  3. "Questionnaire" - 2:41 (Musically a composite of "The Fool On The Hill", "Imagine" and "I Am The Walrus" with pointed lyrics referring to Lennon's assassination and gun-ownership laws)
  4. "We've Arrived! (And To Prove It We're Here)" - 2:09 (Rutles versions of "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Flying" with a "Revolution 9" reference in the ending) (taped 1978 rehearsal featuring Halsall)
  5. "Lonely-Phobia" - 2:35 (Acoustic ballads from A Hard Day's Night-era, especially "Things We Said Today" and "I'll Be Back", but also takes liberally from McCartney's solo song Mrs Vandebilt)
  6. "Unfinished Words" - 2:08 (A play on the anecdote about "Yesterday" and its 'scrambled eggs' dummy lyrics, setting numerous lyrical references to Martin Lewis's 'fake Beatles outtakes' hoax set to a tune resembling "Nowhere Man". The recording style - and title - are Shout Outs to "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love", which were completed by the surviving Beatles from John's unfinished demos.)
  7. "Hey Mister!" - 3:18 (Broadly similar to "I Me Mine", "Yer Blues", and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"; references "Helter Skelter" at the ending; melody and chord-structure echo "Norwegian Wood", with nods to "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill".)
  8. "Easy Listening" - 2:09 (A pastiche of "Octopus's Garden" with some suggestions of "Don't Pass Me By" and "Act Naturally", with a lyrical reference to McCartney's "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?")
  9. "Now She's Left You" - 2:03 (A pastiche of "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" and "You're Going to Lose That Girl" written for the original film but unused; in 1981 a doo-wop arrangement of this song was featured on Innes's TV series The Innes Book of Records) (taped 1978 rehearsal featuring Halsall)
  10. "The Knicker Elastic King" - 2:39 (A 1981 composition of Innes's, rearranged in the style of "Getting Better" with a quotation from "Polythene Pam". The horn solo ostensibly comprises Eric Spear's theme from Coronation Street, referencing Wings's cover of the theme from Crossroads. The spoken middle-eight homages the Yellow Submarine film and Ringo Starr's children's TV narration.)
  11. "I Love You" - 2:18 (Elements of "It's Only Love" and "And I Love Her")
  12. "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" - 4:24 (A 1992 Innes composition rearranged in the style of "Come Together", with a Rhodes riff borrowed from "Maybe I'm Amazed"; vocal and piano sound recall "I Am The Walrus"; The play-out section is a call back to Lennon's own "Cleanup Time")
  13. "Joe Public" - 4:03 (A 1992 Innes song rearranged in the style of "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Rain", with Fataar singing lead)
  14. "Shangri-La" - 7:43 (A 1977 Innes song newly infused with a great many Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles references and a new "Hey Jude"-style coda. "A Day in the Life" forms the backbone of the song, which variously transforms into "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" amongst others, features a chorus suggested by "All You Need Is Love", "Magical Mystery Tour", and Hey Jude and contains a horn riff taken directly from "For No One"; the intro quotes Oasis's "Whatever", in reference to EMI's successful plagiarism lawsuit against that song's melodic similarity to Innes's 1973 single "How Sweet to Be an Idiot")
  15. "Don't Know Why" - 3:44 (Written a year in advance of the album for the TV show Rory Bremner: Who Else, directly pastiching "Free as a Bird", and referencing Innes's then-current hardships relating to the original Rutles project, including his losing of the ATV lawsuit and his fractious relationship with Eric Idle)
  16. "Back In '64" - 3:14 (An answer song to "When I'm Sixty-Four", written from a 1996 perspective, with a solo reminiscent of the Moog lines in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". The "zum zum zum zum" backing vocals reference those of Innes's 1977 song "Crystal Balls".)


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