Almost exactly 30 years ago, on March 22, 1978, long before TiVo — heck, even predating the VCR — i held my cassette recorder up to the single speaker on my television set to capture in perpetuity (at least aurally) the Rutles mockumentary All You Need Is Cash. For a teenage fan of both the Beatles and Monty Python/Saturday Night Live such as myself, this was some sort of convergence of the gods, who until then had never put aside their petty differences to create a paradise on Earth.
The fact that there were numerous Beatles connections between the Rutles and their object of parody was soon made evident — George Harrison makes a wry cameo in the film; former Fabs publicist Derek Taylor worked the soundtrack album. Most important is that Python cohort Neil Innes, who portrayed the John Lennonesque Ron Nasty and wrote all the splendid spoofs of every style in Beatledom, was a key member of the Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band. Not only did this 1960s Dada-jazz-rock-psych-pop combo appear in the Beatles' weirdie Magical Mystery Tour film, Paul McCartney, calling himself Apollo C. Vermouth, produced the Bonzos' "I'm the Urban Spaceman," an Innes composition.
Suffice to say that Innes' skills at Beatle mimickry both in song and in voice showed up long before he was pressed into service as the chief Rutle. On the final Bonzo Dog Band LP, 1972's Let's Make Up and Be Friendly, the song "Fresh Wound" shows his gift for parroting the Lennon style before going slightly overlong. "Give Booze a Chance," another Lennon-referencing Bonzos track, was in this instance written and sung by the group's other main creative force, the appropriately perpetually soused Vivian Stanshall, and is found in this BBC Radio session take.
A post-Bonzos Innes collaborated with a post-Python Eric Idle on the BBC Television series Rutland Weekend Television, where the Rutles proper made their debut in a sketch that was also shown on a Saturday Night Live episode, shaking their mocktops to an early version of "I Must Be in Love." (Interestingly, Innes also performs "Cheese and Onions" on SNL a year before All You Need Is Cash's creation.) An abbreviated version of the Rutles' "Good Times Roll," then named "The Children of Rock and Roll," also has its origin in an RWT sketch.
This past couple of weeks, the Rutles have been going meta, with Beatles tribute band the Fab Four portraying Nasty, Dirk, Stig and Barry in an official 30th anniversary celebration in Los Angeles and New York. But the concept of Rutlemania-mania predates this dubious milestone. In 1990, Shimmy-Disc issued a tribute album titled Rutles Highway Revisited, and, currently plying their trade in Austin, Texas, is Ouch! — yes, a Rutles tribute band. Below find some Rutles-related curiosities and rarities, and be thankful you don't have to hold up your cassette player to this computer in order to possess them for posterity.
Bonzo Dog Band: Fresh Wound (MP3)
Bonzo Dog Band: Give Booze a Chance [BBC session] (MP3)
The Rutles: I Must Be in Love [Rutland Weekend Television version] (MP3)
Ron Lennon: The Children of Rock and Roll [Rutland Weekend Television version] (MP3)
The Pussywillows: Hold My Hand (MP3)