Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) * * *

THE RUTLES: ALL YOU NEED IS CASH is a 1978 television film mockumentary that traces the career of a fictitional British rock group called The Rutles. It's a parody of the Beatles written by Eric Idle, who directed it with Gary Weis. It features 20 songs written by Neil Innes, which he performs with three musicians. He relied on his memory of Beatles music, without listening, to create soundalike songs. It was first broadcast on March 22, 1978 on NBC, earning the lowest ratings of any show on American television that week. It did much better in the ratings when it premiered in the UK on BBC2 less than one week later.

(on manager Leggy Mountbatten's discovery of the Rutles)
Iris Mountbatten: Well, he told me that he'd been to see these young men in a dark cellar.
Narrator: Yes.
Iris Mountbatten: He was always very interested in young men.
Narrator: Oh, yes.
Iris Mountbatten: Youth clubs, Boy Scouts, that sort of thing.
Narrator: Yes.
Iris Mountbatten: But these, he said, were different.
Narrator: In what way?
Iris Mountbatten: Their hair, and... their presence... and their music...
Narrator: He liked it?
Iris Mountbatten: No, he hated it.
Narrator: What did he like?
Iris Mountbatten: Well, em... the trousers.
Narrator: What about their trousers?
Iris Mountbatten: Well, they were, eh, they were very, em... tight.

The music and events in the lives of the Rutles parallel that of The Beatles almost to the letter, spoofing many of the latter's career highlights. For instance, the cartoon movie YELLOW SUBMARINE is spoofed as "Yellow Submarine Sandwich", and the song "Get Back" becomes "Get Up And Go". A soundtrack album was released in 1978 followed in 1996 by "Archaeology", spoofing the Beatles' "Anthology" series. In addition to two albums, Innes and John Halsey toured as The Rutles in the UK--augmented by other musicians. The touring group performed songs from the Rutles' repertoire and from Innes's own career.

Archie Macaw, Record Producer: Well, one day this rather odd chap hopped into the office. He'd been to see virtually everyone in the business and been shown the door. He asked to see my door, but I wouldn't show it to him. Instead, he showed me the photographs and tapes of the Rutles. They were pretty rough, but they had something.
Narrator: What was it?
Archie Macaw, Record Producer: I think it was the trousers.

The Rutles are played by Eric Idle, John Halsey, Ricky Fataar, and Neil Innes. They had originally appeared in a sketch as a band on Idle's program RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION. The sketch was later re-broadcast on the American TV show SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. For this film, Fataar replaced David Battley who had appeared as Stig O' Hara in the original sketch. ALL YOU NEED IS CASH was one of the first films of its kind, and an inspiration for the successful Rob Reiner cult comedy film THIS IS SPINAL TAP which followed in 1984.

Reporter: It must have been a great honor, meeting the queen.
Ron Nasty: Yes, it must have been.
Reporter: What did she ask you?
Barry Wom: She asked us who we were. And then to get out.
Reporter: What did you say?
Dirk McQuickly: (pointing at Ron Nasty) I said I was him.

ALL YOU NEED IS CASH is primarily a series of skits and gags that illustrate a different part of the fictional Rutles story, closely following the chronology of The Beatles' own story. The cohesive glue of the film is the soundtrack by Neil Innes, who created 20 songs for the film, each an affectionate imitation of a different Beatles song or genre of songs. 14 of the songs were released on a soundtrack album with elaborate packaging. The CD version subsequently added the six songs omitted from the original vinyl album. The album was both critically and commercially successful and was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Comedy Recording of the year. Orchestrations and arrangements for the Rutles recordings were made by noted film composer John Altman.

The film is also notable for its many cameo appearances by a cross-section of both British and American comic talent, including those with ties to MONTY PYTHON, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and the lesser-known but directly-related RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION. Probably the most noteworthy cameo is by George Harrison who had earlier appeared as himself on the RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION 1975 Christmas Special. Harrison plays a TV journalist conducting an interview outside the headquarters of Rutle Corps, oblivious to the stream of people coming out of the building carrying items stolen from the office--a reference to the Beatles' famously plundered Apple Boutique and Apple Headquarters itself, where even the roof lining was looted. The interview ends abruptly as the microphone is stolen out of his hand.

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.

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. Paul 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 Beatles and Apple consented to the use of the Beatles' Shea Stadium concert footage, along with other "real" footage cut in with Rutle footage.

The film also features cameos from Idle's fellow Python Michael Palin, several SNL cast members including Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Dan Aykroyd, as well as SNL writers and occasional performers Al Franken and Tom Davis, Bianca Jagger as Dirk McQuickly's wife Martini, Ronnie Wood as a Hells Angel, and Mick Jagger and Paul Simon as themselves. THE RUTLES is notable for bringing together British and American comic talent in a way that has seldom happened before or since. Publicity for the Beatles was also parodied. Before the film was broadcast, areas of London had posters saying "The Rutles are Coming" analogous to "The Beatles are Coming" poster which announced their arrival in a town.

Narrator: Mick, why do you think the Rutles broke up?
Mick Jagger: Why do I think they did? Why did the Rutles break up? Women. Just women. Getting in the way. Cherchez la femme, you know.
Narrator: Do you think they'll ever get back together again?
Mick Jagger: I hope not.

THE RUTLES: ALL YOU NEED IS CASH now has a cult status that grew from the success of the soundtrack album, and after the release of the film on the comparatively new medium of home video.


* Eric Idle as Dirk McQuickly (styled after Paul McCartney) / Narrator / Stanley J. Krammerhead III, Jr., occasional visiting professor of applied narcotics at the University of Please Yourself Ca.
* John Halsey as Barry Wom (Barrington Womble), styled after Ringo Starr.
* Ricky Fataar as Stig O'Hara, styled after George Harrison.
* Neil Innes as Ron Nasty styled after John Lennon.
* Michael Palin as Eric Manchester, Rutle Corp. Press Agent / Lawyer
* George Harrison as The Interviewer
* Bianca Jagger as Martini McQuickly
* John Belushi as Ron Decline, the most feared promoter in the world
* Dan Aykroyd as Brian Thigh, ex-record producer who turned down the Rutles
* Gilda Radner as Mrs. Emily Pules
* Bill Murray as Bill Murray the K.
* Gwen Taylor as Mrs. Iris Mountbatten / Chastity
* Ron Wood as Hell's Angel
* Terence Bayler as Leggy Mountbatten
* Henry Woolf as Arthur Sultan, the Surrey Mystic
* Ollie Halsall as Leppo, the "fifth Rutle", styled after Stuart Sutcliffe.

The movie has been released on DVD, originally in a 66-minute version incorporating cuts for syndication, later in a "special edition" restored to its full length of 76 minutes and with extras including a commentary by Idle. The full-length version replaces a spoof newsreel voiceover by Idle with an American-sounding announcer. The soundtrack was reissued on CD. It included additional tracks from the original TV sessions remixed in stereo by Neil Innes. He, Fataar and Halsey returned in 1996 to record The Rutles "Archaeology", but without the involvement of Eric Idle.

A sequel titled THE RUTLES 2: CAN'T BUY ME LUNCH was produced in 2002. It was modelled on the 2000 TV special THE BEATLES REVOLUTION, was made in 2002, remained unreleased for a year, then released in the US on DVD in 2003. The film features an even larger number of celebrity interviewees discussing the band's influence. This was met with mixed reactions from fans, especially since it used material culled from the original. Documentary interviewer Melvin Hall (Eric Idle) asks mainstream artists, actors, and musicians about the days of the popular band The Rutles, though mostly ending up in the wrong country. Melvin also interviews a gay sexologist named Hans Hänkie.

In the interviews with David Bowie, he is seen holding a copy of the vinyl album "The Rutles 1", calling it a "piece of marketing extravagance". Bowie discussing the album on one of the DVD's extra features is hilarious. The interview in the film shows the cover of the album with a black circle that has the words "27 No. 1 Songs On One LP". In the DVD extras, the circle on the album cover says "27 No. 1 Songs On 1 CD", even though this is a vinyl record album. Either way, this was the only time that a Rutles album was practically identical to a Beatles album in both album cover and title.

The plot remains the same as its 1978 counterpart, with a new introduction and conclusion with Idle's character, Melvin Hall. This comedy is a ghost of its earlier incarnation. There are tons of footage from the original and a smattering of new interviews, but the whole thing just doesn't have much zest to it. Part of this has to do with the fact that half of The Beatles are gone. George made a notable cameo in the first Rutles film, but this new mockumentary showcases the loss of John Lennon and George Harrison. Between pussyfooting around certain issues and not going for hard-hitting jokes, Idle and company just tread water here. Basically it's a disappointment. A DVD has yet to be released in the UK.


* Eric Idle as Narrator / Dirk McQuickly / Lady Beth Mouse-Peddler
* Neil Innes as Ron Nasty
* Ricky Fataar as Stig O'Hara
* John Halsey as Barry Wom
* David Bowie as Himself - Interviewee
* Billy Connolly as Interviewee
* Carrie Fisher as Interviewee
* Jewel Kilcher as Interviewee (as Jewel)
* Steve Martin as Interviewee
* Mike Nichols as Interviewee
* Conan O'Brien as Interviewee
* Salman Rushdie as Interviewee
* Garry Shandling as Interviewee
* Robin Williams as Hans Hänkie
* April Adams as Groupie Interviewee (scenes deleted)
* Clint Black as Interviewee
* Jimmy Fallon as Reporter
* Tom Hanks as Interviewee
* Bill Murray as Bill Murray "The K" (archive footage)
* Graham Nash as Interviewee
* Kevin Nealon as Kevin Wongle
* Catherine O'Hara as Astro Glide
* Jim Piddock as Troy Nixon
* Bonnie Raitt as Interviewee
* David A. Stewart as Interviewee
* James Taylor as Interviewee
* Jann Wenner as Interviewee
* Hans Hänkie as Interviewee


The Rutles began in 1975 as a sketch on Eric Idle's BBC2 television series RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION. Two seasons, the first consisting of six episodes and the second seven, were broadcast in 1975 and 1976. A Christmas special also aired on Boxing Day 1975. The fictional TV station is strapped for cash, so all of its productions tend to be "cheap and cheerful". It spoofs documentaries, presents bogus news items, parodies period dramas, and includes all kinds of other television-related skits. This was Idle's first television project after MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS ended the previous year.

One sketch presented Neil Innes, an ex-Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band member, fronting The Rutles singing "I Must Be In Love", a pastiche of a 1964 Lennon-McCartney tune. The band's name was a continuation of the premise of the TV show on which the skit originated. It was presented as a program by a fictional TV network in Rutland, the smallest county in England. One running joke was that it was run on a shoestring. If the show parodied a topic, it would use names derivative of "Rutland". To rut is a seldom used word meaning to have sexual intercourse, and the show used "rut" in countless ways. When Idle and Innes created a parody of the Beatles, Idle suggested "Rutles". Innes was the musician/composer for the series and wrote all the songs. He came up with the spoof "A Hard Day's Rut". He had written "I Must Be In Love" which he realized sounded very "Beatley" and thought of the Rutles skit. He passed the idea to Idle, who had a separate idea about a boring TV documentary maker. They merged the ideas into one extended film shot for the TV show. David Battley, Henry Woolf, and Gwen Taylor were also regulars on the show.

None of the episodes have been released on DVD because the show has complicated rights issues, belonging to both the BBC and Idle, and with issues concerning appearances by former-Beatle George Harrison and the songs of Neil Innes. He claims that Idle has no interest in seeing the series released because it reminds him of an unhappy time in his life, but recent litigation and bitterness concerning THE RUTLES spin-off may also be a consideration.

Eric Idle, in a 1975 Radio Times interview said, "It was made on a shoestring budget, and someone else was wearing the shoe. The studio is the same size as the weather forecast studio and nearly as good. We had to bring the sets up four floors for each scene, then take them down again. While the next set was coming up, we'd change our make-up. Every minute mattered. It's not always funny to be funny from ten in the morning until ten at night. As for ad-libbing, what ad-libbing? You don't ad-lib when you're working with three cameras and anyway the material goes out months after you've made it."

In merchandising for the TV series, references were made to a Rutles album (Finchley Road) and a single ("Ticket To Rut"). In 1976, BBC Records produced "The Rutland Weekend Songbook", an album containing 23 tracks including the Rutles songs "I Must Be In Love" and "The Children Of Rock And Roll"--later reworked as "Good Times Roll".

On March 17, 2008, all four Rutles reunited for the first time at a 30th anniversary screening of ALL YOU NEED IS CASH at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. The event included a Q & A session and performance by members of the tribute show "Rutlemania" which ran for a week at the Ricardo Montalban Theater in Hollywood before doing a week in NYC at The Blender Grammery Theater. The "Rutlemania" live show was conceived and written by Eric Idle which starred The Beatles tribute group "The Fab Four" as "The Pre-fab Four" Rutles. In February of 2009 on his website InnesBookOfRecords.com, Neil Innes released what he refers to as "Ron Nasty's Final Song", titled "Imitation Song"--a parody of "Imagine".

Eric Idle did not write, sing or perform any Rutles music, ever. However, Idle, as the face that was most identifiable to Americans as the lip-synching Dirk McQuickly narrator, took whatever credit there was to be had for the Rutles. He enjoyed this for years, until the Rutles album was re-released in the 1990s, when the true genius of the team was revealed to all as Neil Innes. Now Innes and Idle have nothing but animosity between them.

On DVD The look of THE RUTLES film is exactly right, the writing is very funny, and the songs are surprisingly Beatles-like and quite listenable. Extras are quite good and include a brief intro by Eric Idle's narrator character, as well as audio commentary and text memoirs from Eric Idle. His commentary is excellent, informative and entertaining. There are also 4 deleted scenes that last about 18 minutes, a photo gallery with 29 pictures, and a "Play Songs Only" option, where you hear only the film's songs: "Goose Step Mama", "Number One", "Between Us", "With a Girl Like You", "Hold My Hand", "I Must Be in Love", "Living in Hope", and "Ouch!"

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