Neil Innes's finest post-Bonzos moment. Rutlemania begins again here!
Chris Jones 2007-08-10
The world is of course familiar with the legacy that was born when Ron Nasty bumped into Dirk McQuickly on Liverpool’s Egg St. Yes, I’m talking about the band that were a legend in their own lunchtime, The Rutles.
Conceived by Eric Idle and Neil Innes on Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television show, this Beatles pastiche was turned into an hour long TV special, All You Need Is Cash, and an attendant album a year later. Charting the career of Ron Dirk, Stig and Barry (Innes, Idle, Ricky Fataar and John Halsey) it featured cameos by luminaries as great as Mick Jagger and George Harrison and remains a classic precursor of the fake ‘rockumentary’ (if you will). What is remarkable is that the show and the album both remain by turns hilarious and charming to this day. A huge part of this is down to Innes’ incredible songs and arrangements.
Aided by the fabulously underrated Ollie Halsall, ex-Bonzo Dog Band mainman Innes used the project as an opportunity to make more of an homage than satire. If you listen to this newly cleaned-up version of the album what comes across is the sheer love and care that was poured into these barely-distinguishable-from-the-real-thing songs. In Innes’ hands a song like “Get Back” becomes “Get Up And Go”, “Help!” becomes “Ouch!”, and the mid-period psychedelia (the period where the Rutles discovered the therapeutic effects of tea) of “Penny Lane” gets minced into “Double Back Alley”.
Perhaps it was because Innes and Co. were only a few years astray from the Fabs themselves (the Bonzos received their first big break in the film Magical Mystery Tour) but these songs ooze love rather than cruel spoofery such as you’ll find in Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap. It’s especially on the ‘early’ numbers like “I Must Be In Love” and “With A Girl Like You” (essentially “If I Fell”, backwards) that you marvel at how accurately the George Martin productions are reproduced.
The proof of how good this stuff was is born out in the fact that a few years back a TRIBUTE album was put together by musician/fans. The fact is that the songs work not just as an accompaniment to Idle’s hilarious script, but as a really fine album on its own. Not bad for a joke…