The Rutles. Along with This is Spinal Tap it is quite possibly the greatest piece of rock parody that has ever been created. In 1975 Neill Innes, formerly of the Bonzo Dog Band (who appeared in Magical Mystery Tour and were no strangers to Beatles parody themselves) performed a short sketch on his and Eric Idle’s television show Rutland Weekend Television about a fictitious, if not downright Beatlesque band in the 1960′s, The Rutles. This was followed in 1977 by Innes performing the song “Cheese and Onions” as a John Lennon-like character on Saturday Night Live in 1977. Lorne Michaels liked the concept so much that a TV movie was commissioned, with Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) assuming the writing duties.
The result was All You Need Is Cash. This “mockumentary” follows the careers of Dirk (played by Idle), Nasty (Innes), Stig and Barry as the Pre-fab 4. The film moves through the phases of The Beatles existence so perfectly that even hardcore Beatles enthusiasts such as myself can find obscure homages and references. In fact, in order to maximize the authenticity of the project George Harrison (who also appears in the film as an interviewer) shared private film footage of The Beatles with the production team and gave the film his seal of approval.
The look of famous Beatles interviews and performances (such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Magical Mystery Tour and the rooftop concert) are recreated, often shot-for-shot. Albums and songs are spoofed. And to add a touch of “authenticity” to The Rutles story, Mick Jagger and Paul Simon are brought in to provide their memories of The Rutles.
But the true mark of this film’s brilliance are the songs. Neil Innes was accustomed to parodying The Beatles as a part of The Bonzo Dog Band in the 1960′s. He was also friends with The Beatles and was a popular contributor to Monty Python (notably as the singing minstrel in the “Brave Sir Robin” portion of Monty Python and the Holy Grail). His song parodies are remarkable in their similarities to the tracks that they are intended to mirror. They also match the “sound” of The Beatles perfectly and in a way that no others matched before or since.
So enjoy Eric Idle, Neil Innes, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Michael Palin, Gilda Radner, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Ron Wood, George Harrison and Bill Murray in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. Quickly. Before it is taken down by YouTube.