The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)
May 5, 2021 11:58 AM - Subscribe

From Eric Idle, Neil Innes, George Harrison, and more, came the Rutles: an affectionate parody of Beatlemania, and a musical legend that will last a lunchtime. They were discovered by their manager, Leggy Mountbatten, in a lunchtime disco. Their first album was made in 20 minutes. Their second album took even longer.

The soundtrack album, "The Rutles," can be listened to on YouTube or bought from various services. Looking at it very simply musicology and ethnically, the Rutles were essentially imperical malengistes of a rhythmically radical yet verbally passé and temporally transcended lyrically content welded with historically innovative melodical material transposed and transmogrified by the angst of the Rutland ethic experience which elevated them from essentially alpha exponents of in essence merely beta potential harmonic material into the prime cultural exponents of Aeolian cadencic comic stanza form.
posted by one for the books (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was obsessed with this as a kid, as a fan of both the Beatles and Monty Python. There are some great laughs, but what really makes it worth for me is how good the music is. "Cheese and Onions", "Doubleback Alley", "Piggy in the Middle", and "Let's Be Natural" are killer songs in their own right, which is a testament to Neil Innes' songwriting.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:12 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


I adapted the book from the LP into a piece for my high school speech team way back when. Similarly obsessed.

I've always been fascinated by songwriting impressions like this. I realize it's the same sort of thing as vocal impressions, but this ability to pick out whatever detail it is that makes something sound like a Beatles [or whatever] song is amazing to me.
posted by chazlarson at 1:29 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Bible-thumping heavyweight evangelistic boxing kangaroo.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:45 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


There's a huge post that needs to be written on the blue about Monty Python/Eric Idle and The Beatles/George Harrison.... but I'm not ready to go down that rabbit hole.

For now, here's George Harrison, with Eric Idle, on 'Rutland Weekend Television' (SLYT).
posted by ewan at 1:59 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


As a fan of both the Beatles and Monty Python... I was disappointed by this. Some of it probably has to do with all the celebrity cameos, which just ended up being distracting (including an actual Beatle, Harrison, which some might have found amusing but just made me wonder how satirical it could have been toward its subjects); some of it was that some of the humor ages very poorly, such as the Brian Epstein figure signing the Rutles because he was attracted to them (by all accounts, the real Epstein had a very difficult time reconciling his sexuality both with being the Beatles' manager and with the rampant homophobia in Britain and America of the time). And making the John Lennon figure's wife a Hitler imitator struck me as being some sort of sideways comment on Yoko Ono being Japanese, which, given the immense racism that she faced upon starting a relationship with Lennon, is also not a good look.

But, mostly, the problem for me was that the Beatles may actually be inherently satire-proof, because of the sheer improbability of their careers and success; they were only in the JPGR configuration for about seven years or so, but so completely dominated pop music during that time that it's almost impossible to imagine another band doing so to the same degree and then quitting before they lost their mojo. Up until Sgt. Pepper, they were still recognizable as the same guys responsible for Beatlemania; then they put out an album where they were hippies who wore the gaudiest marching band uniforms that they could find, then for their next album they put on furry costumes, then for their next album the cover had... nothing, but their name, faintly embossed. (Even before Sgt. Pepper, they tried to get away with the infamous butcher cover.) At a time when their concerts were still selling out the biggest venues that they could book, they just stopped touring. There was a rampant rumor that one of them had died and that the band was covering it up, and they seemed to deliberately salt their record covers and songs with fake clues "proving" it. John Lennon responded to the intensely negative feedback and outright racism in response to his relationship with Ono by both of them appearing nude on their first artistic collaboration. How do you do comedy about that? With a song called "Cheese and Onions"? That's not half as weird as "Revolution #9." I mean, I respect that Idle et al. gave it the old Cambridge try, and the songs are indeed not bad. (It reminds me of a friend's only objection to This is Spinal Tap; they're supposed to be a bad band, but the songs aren't.) But I'm filing this one under "things that I wished that I liked better."
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:10 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


But, mostly, the problem for me was that the Beatles may actually be inherently satire-proof, because of the sheer improbability of their careers and success..
Well, yes, if you were expecting this to be "Like the Beatles raised to the power of Monty Python" it would certainly be a disappointment. And it's not consistently brilliant. Everyone involved has done better work elsewhere in their careers.

But I think that, by holding up a warped mirror to the Beatles, it does actually manage to provoke a thought or two about what an unlikely, unpredictable, and sui generis phenomenon the Beatles really were.

The film I found mostly forgettable but the songs persist.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:44 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


It's not really about The Beatles, or even a parody of The Beatles, but more of the mis-shapen story that everyone sort-of knows about The Beatles that they absorbed while they weren't really paying attention (which I still think is the case, but quite differently from 1978). Eric Idle is possibly the most hit-and-miss of the Pythons, and he gets both in here. I think it's interesting that the possibly crueller inclusions (Leggy Mountbatten and Chastity, as mentioned above) are much less like the person they're analogues of than the more genial representations - Stig or Barry Wom, for example. I think The Beatles' Reaction on the Wikipedia page is quite interesting. At the time it made me laugh a lot, partly because I was recognising a lot of unimaginative journalism about The Beatles through it. As with most things from that time, though, there are things that make me wince a bit. The bits that are just silly (like the narrator being abandoned by the camera speeding off) have survived. Silliness is universal and eternal.
posted by Grangousier at 2:59 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


But I think that, by holding up a warped mirror to the Beatles, it does actually manage to provoke a thought or two about what an unlikely, unpredictable, and sui generis phenomenon the Beatles really were.

It's not really about The Beatles, or even a parody of The Beatles, but more of the mis-shapen story that everyone sort-of knows about The Beatles that they absorbed while they weren't really paying attention (which I still think is the case, but quite differently from 1978).


Those are both valid points.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:33 PM on May 5


Personally I know I've seen the movie but I remember very little of it, so I suspect I was pretty young at the time. Looking for quotes to fill out this fanfare post, I was disheartened by the stuff about the producer lurking around youth clubs and boy scouts, but the other jokes I saw looked funny. Mostly I just genuinely like the music. Doubleback Alley in particular finds its way into my head every few months.
posted by one for the books at 9:07 PM on May 5


I like it even though it seems like it has a lot of Really Specific Riffs on the Beatles that are so far out of the zeitgeist by now that by the time I saw it, there's really no way to totally get them. There's parodies of specific songs in there, I would not be surprised if there were parodies of specific performance recordings as well.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:59 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


At the time this came out I was absolutely obsessed with The Beatles and I really liked the movie, but it was the soundtrack that completely won me over. We even had a Rutles singalong at Beatlesfest one year and it was great fun. The songs, on that first album especially, are some of my absolute favorite songs.

I made a cassette of that for a Beatles-obsessed coworker who was simultaneously appalled by the idea of a parody mocking his favorite band and thrilled at how good the songs were.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:08 AM on May 6


Out of curiosity, how familiar are people with Neil Innes' other stuff?

(Those are clips from The Innes Book of Records, which are best watched in sequence as per the original programmes but look at the playlist for individual songs - I've not checked the archive.org link yet). The reason the people who aren't Innes are there is that each programme had a guest slot).
posted by Grangousier at 12:20 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Just as an addendum to that comment - they do all seem to be there (archive.org), and they're duped from the transmission tapes rather than off-air (or the ones I've checked are), which means there's a bit of test-card and unpleasant test-tone before the countdown clock. This is not an experimental part of the programme.

Some glorious bastard half-inched the lot and uploaded it. Am excite.
posted by Grangousier at 12:41 AM on May 7


One more, and apologies for the slow hijacking, and I promise I'll shut up about it now: Watched through all the Innes Book of Records: It's a complete eccentricity and almost the definition of a curate's egg. There are some things that we'd think of as problematic (occasional use of brown face-paint and a touch of the regrettable 70s reliance on glamour model agencies, though nothing really gratuitous), but lots of strange and bizarre stuff (from the Smallest Theatre in the World to a man presenting his performing jellyfish via John Betjeman, Viv Stanshall, Johnnies Morris and Cooper Clarke, Professor Stanley Unwin and many other curiosities). The first song in the first show of series one is How Sweet to Be An Idiot, Innes' second most famous non-Rutles song after I'm The Urban Spaceman (which also turns up). My favourite episode is Series 3, Episode 5 (which has Viv Stanshall in it). There's a song in (I think) the last episode called Time To Kill, which I think is absolutely stunning. The programme is like nothing else ever.
posted by Grangousier at 4:03 PM on May 8


At the time this came out I was absolutely obsessed with The Beatles and I really liked the movie, but it was the soundtrack that completely won me over.

This.
The album is a really brilliant piece of work, and never fails to turn even the most hardcore Beatles obsessive into a giggling, laughing, puddle of tears. The movie is fun in its own way, but the album is pure parody/satire gold.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:29 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


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