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The Rutles (LP)

ON JANUARY 21ST 1959 the Rutles story really began at 43 Egg Lane, Liverpool, where Ron Nasty and Dirk McQuickly first bumped into each other.  Ron invited Dirk to help him stand up.  Dirk, merely an amateur drinker, agreed and on that spot a legend was created – a legend that will last a lunchtime.  They were soon joined by Stig O’Hara, a guitarist of no fixed hairstyle, but it would be another two years before they found their regular drummer, Barrington Womble, hiding in the van.  When they did, they persuaded him to change his name to save time and his haircut to save Brylcreem.  He became simply Barry Wom.

They gained their first manager – Arthur Scouse – as part of a bet (which they lost).  So impressed was he with their music that he sent them immediately to Hamburg.  Thinking that Hamburg was just outside Liverpool they accepted.  It turned out to be not only in Germany, but in the very worst part of Germany.  The Reeperbahn Hamburg is one of the naughtiest streets in the world.  This is where they ended up, far from home, and far from talented.  In those days there was a fifth Rutle – Leppo – who mainly stood at the back.  He couldn’t play the guitar, but he knew how to have a good time, and in Hamburg that was more difficult.  For five hungry working class lads there are worse places than prison, and The Rat Keller Hamburg is one.  For fifteen months, night after night, they played the Rat Keller before they finally escaped and returned to Liverpool.  In the rush they lost Leppo.  He had crawled into a trunk with a small German Fraulein and was never seen again.  His influence on the other Rutles was so immeasurable that no one has ever bothered to measure it.

The Rutles returned hungry to Liverpool full of experience and pills.  They persuaded the manager of the Cavern to let them play there by holding his head under water until he agreed.  Very soon their music began to create no small interest.  In fact, no interest at all.  In October 1961 Leggy Mountbatten – a retail chemist from Bolton – entered their lives.  Leggy had lost a leg in the closing overs of World War Two and had been hopping around Liverpool ever since.  One day he accidentally stumbled down the steps of a dingy disco – what he saw there was to change his life: a sailor who told him about the Rutles.  It was a dank, sweaty, basement cellar, torrid and pulsating with sound.  Leggy hated it.  He hated their music, he hated their hair, he hated their noise: but he loved their trousers.  In his autobiography, A Cellarful Of Goys, Leggy tells of timorously approaching Ron Nasty and asking him what it would cost to sign the Rutles.  “A couple of jam butties and a beer” was Nasty’s reply.  Next day Leggy sent them a crate of beer, two jam butties and a fifteen page contract.  The Rutles, instinctively trusting this softly spoken, quietly limping man, signed immediately.

Leggy’s effect on the Rutles was immediately apparent.  He put them into suits, he made them turn up on time, and he took their photographs and tapes to London.
Archie Macaw was the first A/R man to take an interest: “One day this rather odd chap hopped into my office.  He’d been to see virtually everyone in the business and had been shown the door.  He asked to see my door, but I wouldn’t show it to him.  Instead he showed me the tapes and photographs of the Rutles.  They were pretty rough but they had something.  I think it was the trousers.”
Macaw offered to record the Rutles and recommended Leggy to Dick Jaws, an unemployed music publisher of no fixed ability.  “I liked the trousers right away.  I’d been in the garment trade myself and knew a thing or two about inseams, and they were clearly winners.  The Rutles themselves had many advantages: They were young, keen and above all very cheap, so I signed them up for the rest of their natural lives.  Lucky really.”
Elated, Leggy put the Rutles into the studio.  Their first album was made in twenty minutes.  Their second took even longer.  Success was only a drum-beat away.

In 1963 Rutlemania hit England.  It seemed that the Rutles could do no wrong.  A string of hits – “Rut Me Do,”  “Twist And Rut,” “Please Rut Me” – brought unprecedented scenes of mass adulation.

Even the Queen was impressed when they played before her at the Royal Command Performance.  By December they had nineteen hits in the top 20.

In 1964 the Rutles made the all-important breakthrough in America.  10,000 screaming fans were at Kennedy Airport to greet them.  Unfortunately the Rutles arrived at La Guardia.

Nevertheless the next day 73 million people watched them perform live on the Ed Sullivan Show.  To all intents and purposes the Rutles had conquered the world.

On their second visit to the States in early 1965 they played the world’s first outdoor rock and roll concert at Che Stadium (named after the Cuban Guerilla leader Che Stadium).  As a security precaution the Rutles arrived by helicopter a day early.  This enabled them to be safely out of the place before the audience came in.  It was a brilliant public relations coup.  The kids were screaming so hard that thousands never noticed the difference.  Promoter Syd Bottle described it as the most exciting twenty minutes of his life.

Inevitably the Rutles turned to films and conquered that medium too with the help of zany Rutland director Dick Leicestershire.

In 1966 the Rutles faced the biggest threat to their careers.  Nasty in a widely quoted interview had apparently claimed that the Rutles were bigger than God, and was reported to have gone on to say that God had never had a hit record.

The story spread like wildfire in America.  Many fans burnt their albums, many more burnt their fingers attempting to burn their albums.  Album sales sky-rocketed.  People were buying them just to burn them.

But in fact it was all a ghastly mistake.  Nasty, talking to a slightly deaf journalist, had claimed only that the Rutles were bigger than Rod.  Rod Stewart would not be big for another eight years, and certainly at this stage hadn’t had a hit.  At a press conference, Nasty apologized to God, Rod and the press, and the tour went ahead as planned.  It would be the Rutles’ last.

A year later the Rutles were caught up in another scandal.  In the heady atmosphere of the San Francisco of the mid-sixties, Bob Dylan had introduced the Rutles to a substance that was to have an enormous effect on them: tea.  They enjoyed its pleasant effects, despite warnings that it would lead to stronger things, and it enormously influenced their greatest work, Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band.  The release of this album – a millstone in pop music history – contributed greatly to an idyllic summer of bells, flowers and tea drinking.  But it was not to last.  Under questioning Dirk refused to lie to the British press and admitted to not only taking tea and enjoying tea, but biscuits too.  The press, always envious of the Rutles, leapt at this opportunity to have it both ways.  They grabbed the wrong end of the stick and started to beat about the bush with it.  In the ensuing confusion many pop stars were arrested for using and possessing tea.  Nasty himself was busted by Detective Inspector Brian Plant, who brought his own to be on the safe side.  There was an immediate outcry against this police persecution.  The Times carried a full page ad calling for the legalisation of tea, and the general feeling was that police should stick to their proper job of collecting bribes from pornographers and protecting the Royal Family from their subjects.

Stig meanwhile had fallen under the influence of Arthur Sultan, the Surrey mystic, and he had introduced Stig to his Ouija Board Work.  Sultan now invited the Rutles on a get-away-from-it-all, table-tapping weekend near Bogner.  As usual the press followed.  But while the Rutles sat at the feet of the Surrey mystic seeking spiritual enlightenment at his hands fate dealt them an appalling blow.  It was at Bogner that they learned the shocking news of the loss of their manager Leggy Mountbatten.  Tired and despondent over the weekend and unable to raise any friends, Leggy had gone home, and, tragically, accepted a teaching post in Australia.  It was a bombshell for the Rutles.  They were shocked.  And stunned.

The news was not entirely unexpected.  Leggy’s recent behavior had been giving grounds for concern: He had been investing heavily in Spanish bullfighters and in California he had been arrested for giving the kiss of life to a rubber raft; but he had for many years held the Rutles together – often forcibly.  Now he was gone.

The Rutles first major flop The Tragical History Tour immediately followed the loss of Leggy.  It was not the strongest idea for a Rutles film – four Oxford History Professors on a walking tour of English Tea Shops – and it was slammed mercilessly by the critics.

In 1968 Dirk and Nasty flew to New York to announce the formation of Rutles Corps, their aim, as Nasty put it, “to help people help themselves.”  Unfortunately Rutles Corps did just that – people helped themselves for years.  So many parasites jumped onto the band’s wagon that at one stage they were losing money faster than the British government.  Some clever Dutch designers “The Smart” persuaded the Rutles to open a boutique and took nearly a million dollars off them in only three weeks before Nasty blew it up.

The pilfering from Rutle Corps was on a monumental scale – typewriters, TV sets, telephones, cars, even offices disappeared overnight.

Stig, meanwhile, had hidden in the background so much that in 1969 a rumour went around that he was dead.  He was supposed to have been killed in a flash fire at a water bed shop and was replaced by a plastic and wax replica from Madame Tussauds.  Several so-called ‘facts’ helped the emergence of this rumour.

Firstly, he never said anything.  Even as the ‘quiet one’ he had not said a word since 1962. Secondly, on the cover of their latest album, Shabby Road, he was wearing no trousers, an old Italian way of indicating death.  Thirdly, Nasty supposedly sings “I buried Stig” on “I Am The Waitress.”  In fact he sings “E burres stigano” which is very bad Spanish for “Have you a water buffalo?”

Fourthly, on the Sergeant Rutter album he was leaning in the exact position of a dying Yeti (from the Rutland Book of the Dead).  And finally, if you sing the title of “Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band” backwards it is supposed to sound very like “Stig had been dead for ages honestly.”  In fact it sounds uncannily like “dnab bulc strad ylno srettur tnaegres.”

Stig was, of course, far from dead.  Although not far from London.  He had fallen in bed with Gertrude Strange, a large-breasted, biologically-accommodating American girl whose father had invented the limpet mine.  When Stig met her it was lust at first sight.  They retired to his bungalow where he woke up exhausted a year later to find that Gertrude was gone, leaving only some crumbs in the bed and a lot of torn sheets.  She left no forwarding address, no farewell notes, but also luckily no children.

Barry meanwhile had also spent a year in bed as a tax dodge.  Eric Manchester thinks that he had either received appalling financial advice or he was desperately trying to start a “Barry is also dead” rumour.  When he finally got up to answer the telephone, Rutle Corps was in a perilous financial state.

Nasty had flown back in a hurry from his honeymoon rally in Nurembourg to meet Ron Decline, the most feared promoter in the world, in an attempt to settle Rutle Corps’ appalling financial problems.

Unfortunately, Stig was by now accepting the financial advice of Billy Kodak, Dirk had hired Arnold Schwarzenweisengreenenbluenbraunenburger to handle his end of the name, and Barry was consulting the I Ching every three and a half minutes.

Business meetings were crazy.  Every five minutes ashen-faced financial advisors would discover that the boys had hired more financial advisors to check on them, and would come rushing out to hire more lawyers.

At the final meeting 134 legal people and accountants filed into a small eight by ten room.  Only 87 came out alive.  The black hole of Saville Row had taken toll of some of the finest merchant banking brains of a generation.  Luckily, that’s not very serious, but the Rutles were obviously self-destructing fast.

In the midst of this public bickering and legal wrangling Let It Rot was released as a film, an album, and a lawsuit.  It showed the Rutles as never before – tired, unhappy, cross, and just like the rest of the world.  Gone forever was the image of the four happy mopped-haired youngsters who had set the foot of the world a-tapping.  In December 1970 Dirk sued Stig and Nasty; Barry sued Dirk; Nasty sued Stig and Barry; and Stig sued himself accidentally.  It was the end of an era, but the beginning of another for lawyers everywhere, who could look forward to at least seven or eight years of continuous litigation.


QUESTION: Mick, when did you first become aware of the Rutles?

MICK: I suppose when we were living in Edith Grove in London and we were living in squalor and we didn’t have any money and there were the Rutles on TV with girls chasing them and we thought this can’t be that difficult, so we thought we’d have a go ourselves.

QUESTION: When did you actually meet the Rutles as individuals?

MICK: The first time I met the Rutles they all came down to see us at Richmond and we had just completed a number and suddenly they were standing there in their black suits, they’d just come off a TV show and they were just sort of checking out the opposition, and then they introduced themselves you know: Dirk, Stig, Nasty, and Barry.  They were very nice and complimentary, but that was the first time we’d met them.  They’d heard about us you know cos for a while we were the South’s answer to the Rutles.

QUESTION: Were you billed as that?

MICK: We were billed as that, yes.  When we got up to Birmingham it’d say “London’s answer to the Rutles.”

QUESTION: Were they trying to sell you songs at that stage?

MICK: A bit later on they did, yeh.  The one for that was Dirk really.  He was a real hustler for the songs.  Any old slag he’d sell a song to.  I remember they came down once and we were trying to rehearse and they said do you wanna song and we said “yeh.”  We were always really open to songs cos we didn’t write our own and the Rutles were always well known for their hit-making potential ability.  So they ran around to the corner to the pub to write this song and came back with it and played it to us and it was horrible.  So, we never bothered to record it.  I used to see them a lot then.  The Rutles in London, particularly Nasty.  Nasty and I got on well.  Barry used to get a bit drunk in nightclubs you know and start punching out the Bigamy Sisters.

QUESTION: Were you at Che Stadium?

MICK: Yeh,  I was at Che Stadium with the Rutles.  That was the first big outdoor concert by a rock band, the Rutles at Che Stadium, so it was an exciting event.  I even rented a helicopter for it.  Came in, zooming over the crowd, never seen a crowd as big as that for a rock concert before, ran in and met them before they went on.  I think they were nervous, you know, in front of all those people, but the thing I remembered most about them is running out in the middle of this field and you couldn’t see ‘em and they were just miles away.  Is it really the Rutles?  It might be somebody else.  And there was Barry on this eighteen foot drum riser swaying in the wind.  I thought it was going to fall over.  We had a good party afterwards though.

QUESTION: Did you hear much?

MICK: No. Nothing at all.  You couldn’t hear anything.

QUESTION: How long did they play?

MICK: About twenty minutes and that was it, off, helicopter, back to the Warwick Hotel, two birds each.

QUESTION: Did you know Leggy well?
MICK: Oh yeh, Leggy, yeh you kidding, Leggy got around a bit you know.  I think he was a very big influence on them.  He was like one of those old time managers you know, do this, do that, take all the responsibility off your shoulders: you wanna Rolls Royce?  I’ll buy you one, what color do you want it, what color do you want it painted?  And that was all right until he started going off with the bullfighters, and then I think they got a bit disenchanted with him and he didn’t know where to go in his life and they wanted to control themselves, you know.

QUESTION: You went to Bognor with them?

MICK: Yeh, the Bognor thing was really funny.  “The Bognor Express” they called it in the newspapers, “Aboard the Bognor Express.”  We all got on the train together and someone was very late, one of the girls, they’re always late.  Nasty thought we were trying to get on the Rutles mystical bandwagon which wasn’t true at all.  We were just as eager to find out what was going on at this board-tapping thing at Bognor as anybody.  Anyway, we had a bit of board-tapping and nothing much happened, we didn’t reach anywhere much and we had to spend the night there in a youth-hostel type place and I remember I was with Marianne Faithful and we only had single beds in the hotel so Marianne put the beds together so we could sleep together on the floor and Nasty came in and said “Oh Mick, all you think about is fucking sex, man.  We’re down here for board-tapping not sex.”  It was you know kind of a funny weekend that, and then of course at the end of it we found out that Leggy had gone off to Australia which kind of put the mockers on.

QUESTION: Did Keith like the Rutles?

MICK: Yeh,  I think Keith liked the Rutles songs from the beginning.  It influenced him a lot more than it did me.  I mean, I never used to like them very much you know, they were to me a bit sort of too “dee dee dee dee dee dee,” but Keith liked that.

QUESTION: Why do you think the Rutles broke up?

MICK: Why do I think they did?  Why did the Rutles break up?  Women.  Just women getting in the way.  Cherchez la femme you know.

QUESTION: Do you think they’ll ever get back together again?

MICK: I hope not.


(from The Silver Rutles’ Demo Sessions, previously unreleased)

(Parlourphone single R #4949.  10/5/62)

(from the Parlourphone EP “Twist And Rut” GEP #8882.  7/12/63)

(from the Parlourphone LP “Meet The Rutles” PCS #3045.  11/22/63)

(from the Parlourphone LP “Meet The Rutles” PCS #3045.  11/22/63)

(Parlourphone single R #5114.  3/20/64)

(from the Parlourphone LP “A Hard Day’s Rut” PCS #3058.  7/10/64)

(from the Parlourphone LP “A Hard Day’s Rut” PCS #3058.  7/10/64)

(from the Parlourphone LP “Rutles For Sale” PCS #3062.  12/4/64)

10. OUCH!
(Parlourphone single R #5305.  7/23/65)

(from the Parlourphone LP “Rutle Soul” PCS #3075.  12/3/65)


(Parlourphone single R #5570.  2/17/67)


(from the Parlourphone LP “Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band” PCS #7027.  6/1/67)


(from the Parlourphone LP “Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band” PCS #7027.  6/1/67)

(Parlourphone single R #5620.  7/7/67)

(Parlourphone single R #5655.  11/24/67)


(from the Rutle LP “The Rutles” PCS #7067/8.  11/22/68)

(from the Rutle Soundtrack LP “Yellow Submarine Sandwich” PCS #7070.  1/17/69)

(Rutle single R #5777.  4/17/69)

(from the Rutle LP “Shabby Road” PCS #7088.  9/26/69)

All selections written Neil Innes

Original Recordings Produced by: NEIL INNES

Produced for Compact Disc by: BILL INGLOT

Reissuing Coordination: HAROLD BRONSON and GARY STEWART

Recorded at CHAPPELL STUDIOS, London


Additional Tracks for CD Reissue (1, 3, 5, 8, 11, 19)

Digital Prep and Transfers: BILL INGLOT and KEN PERRY


NEIL INNES  Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals
OLLIE HALSALL  Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals
RIKKI FATAAR  Guitar/Bass/Sitar/Tabla/Vocals
JOHN HALSEY  Percussion/Vocals
JOHN ALTMAN  Brass and String Arrangements

Reissue Design: DOUG ERB

Original Album/Booklet Concept: ERIC IDLE


Art Direction: TONY COHEN



Additional Photos: DAVID GAHR

Contains Music from the Soundtrack of the NBC TV Special “All You Need Is Cash”
Directed by GARY WEISS and ERIC IDLE
Executive Producer: LORNE MICHAELS

The Rutles are:
Dirk McQuickly – ERIC IDLE
Ron Nasty – NEIL INNES

(P) 1978 & 1990 Warner Bros. Records, Inc., produced under license from Warner Bros. Records, Inc. © 1990 Warner Bros. Records, Inc.

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