A Hard Day’s Rut

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash – This 1978 made-for-television movie has a pretty simple concept: it’s a parody of the career of the Beatles. The story of how it came to exist is quite interesting, though, at least to me. It’s a collaboration between Eric Idle and Neil Innes, formerly of the Bonzo Dog Band. The Bonzos’ original recordings were contemporary with the Beatles, who were known fans. They performed “Death Cab for Cutie” in Magical Mystery Tour, and Paul McCartney co-produced “I’m the Urban Spaceman.” Neil also worked quite a bit with Monty Python, and later on Eric’s first post-Python project, Rutland Weekend Television. After Neil wrote a song that sounded a lot like the Beatles, he came up with the idea of a full-on spoof of the Fab Four, which originated as a sketch on the show before becoming a movie. Neil wrote all the songs, coming up with quite adept Beatles pastiches. Apparently there was some legal trouble, and Neil had to testify that he wrote the songs from memory rather than direct study of the Beatles’ catalog. The law can be weird sometimes. Although Eric plays Dirk McQuickly, he doesn’t actually sing. In addition to the spoofing of the Beatles’ career, much of the humor in the film comes from Eric’s rather inept narrator, who parodies a lot of documentary conventions. There’s also quite a bit of star power, with Mick Jagger and Paul Simon making appearances, and George Harrison himself as an interviewer in one scene. A lot of then-current Saturday Night Live cast members showed up as well. It’s really a quite clever film, but I’m sure you already knew that. I also find the idea of fake bands releasing actual records to be rather fascinating, so I might have to pick up the albums at some point.

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8 Responses to A Hard Day’s Rut

  1. halinabq says:

    “A Mighty Wind” later extended the fake documentary concept to folk music. And the various cast members wrote the “oldies” for that also. Check it out if you haven’t already; some of the dialog, which was all ad libbed, is truly hilarious.

    Guess I should check out the Rutles myself.

    • Nathan says:

      I haven’t seen A Mighty Wind, although I have seen This Is Spinal Tap, which had some of the same cast and operated along the same basic lines.

  2. Will says:

    The Rutles, May of 78 my interest in The Beatles, Monty Python and Saturday Night Live all combined into one. In fact this program made me appreciate the Beatles even more

  3. Will says:

    My bad it was March of 1978, in fact I was on Easter break from school

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