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The Rutles (also known as the Prefab Four) were a band that were known for their visual and aural pastiches and parodies of The Beatles. Originally a fictional band, created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes for 1970s television programming and a satirical documentary film, became an actual group – whilst remaining a parody of the Beatles – which toured and recorded, releasing many songs and albums. The group disbanded after the death of Innes in December 2019.

Initially created for a short sketch in Idle's UK television comedy series Rutland Weekend Television, The Rutles gained international fame after being the focus of the 1978 mockumentary television film, All You Need Is Cash (often referred to as just The Rutles). Having been encouraged by the reaction to the sketch, featuring Beatles' music pastiches by Neil Innes, the film was written by Idle, who co-directed it with Gary Weis. It featured 20 songs written by Innes, which he performed with three musicians as "The Rutles". A successful soundtrack album in 1978 was, much later, followed in 1996 by Archaeology, which spoofed the Beatles' Anthology series which had recently been released. The Rutles pre-date the American parody Spinal Tap by about a year.

The band has become heavily popular in Beatles' fan-circles, with each of the fictional members even being cleverly hidden on the front of the fan-made cover-album Rutles Highway Revisited, as well as a wiki dedicated to expanding the Rutles universe, taking cues from The Beatles' history as well as the real lives of the actual people behind the project.

A second film, The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch — modelled on the 2000 TV special The Beatles Revolution — was made in 2002 and released in the US on DVD in 2003, but it did not prove as popular as the original film.

The Band[]

Rutland Weekend Television version (1975-76)[]

The Rutles members in the original 1975 skit on Rutland Weekend Television, which subsequently aired on Saturday Night Live, were:

  • "Ron Nasty" — Neil Innes;
  • "Stig O'Hara" — David Battley;
  • "Dirk McQuickly" — Eric Idle;
  • "Barry Wom" — John Halsey.

In the original skit "Stig" is the Paul McCartney character and was portrayed by Battley, with Idle portraying the George Harrison character as "Dirk". The John Lennon character is named "Nasty". The Ringo Starr character was originally named Barry, although in the series spin-off book "The Rutland Weekend Songbook", this character is mistakenly identified as "Kevin" -- the only appearance of this name in the entire Rutles canon. In the original sketch, the characters are given only the singular names Stig, Dirk, Barry, and Nasty.

However, as would happen frequently during the Rutles existence, some of the actors lip-synching The Rutles music on-screen were not musicians, and did not participate in the recording process. Rutles music for Rutland Weekend Television and the spin-off album The Rutland Weekend Songbook was recorded by Neil's Innes' own band Fatso, which consisted of:

  • Neil Innes - piano, vocal
  • John Halsey - drums
  • Roger Rettig - guitar
  • Billy Bremner - guitar
  • Brian Hodgson - bass

All You Need Is Cash version (1978)[]


The Rutles members in All You Need Is Cash

In adapting the characters for a full-length TV feature, several changes were made. Idle continued to play "Dirk", but Dirk was now modelled after Paul McCartney, not George Harrison. Battley was replaced as Stig by Rikki Fataar, and Stig became the George Harrison-inspired character. Additionally, the characters now all had first and last names.

The Rutles members in All You Need Is Cash were:

  • Ron Nasty (styled after John Lennon) — played by Neil Innes
  • Dirk McQuickly (styled after Paul McCartney) — played by Eric Idle
  • Stig O'Hara (styled after George Harrison) — played by Ricky Fataar
  • Barry Wom, ne Barrington Womble (styled after Ringo Starr) — played by John Halsey. The character's truncated name was a play on how Ringo had changed his name from 'Richard Starkey' to 'Ringo Starr'.

Also, in tracing the fictional history of the band, one other member was mentioned:

  • Leppo, The Fifth Rutle (styled after Stuart Sutcliffe) — seen only in a still photograph. The photo showed Ollie Halsall, who played and sang on the soundtrack. This name parodies that of the fifth Marx Brothers' member, Gummo Marx as well as Zeppo's.

Once again, the band that recorded the actual music was slightly different to the band that appeared on camera, as Idle did not take part in the recording process. On the soundtrack release of the music from All You Need Is Cash, The Rutles were officially:

  • Neil Innes: guitar, keyboards, vocals. Innes sang the John Lennon-inspired songs.
  • Ollie Halsall: guitar, keyboards, vocals. Halsall sang the Paul McCartney-inspired songs.
  • Rikki Fataar: guitar, bass, sitar, tabla, vocals. Fataar sang the George Harrison-inspired songs.
  • John Halsey: percussion, vocals. Halsey sang the Ringo Starr- inspired songs.
  • Andy Brown: bass

While the Rutles are often thought of as a four-piece band, the credits of the original LP release of their first album makes it quite clear they were a five piece band. Brown, however, did not appear in any role in All You Need Is Cash, and was not part of any Rutles reunion.

Archaeology version (1996)[]


The three Rutles reunited

After an 18-year hiatus, The Rutles (Innes, Halsey and Fataar) reconvened to record the 1996 album Archaeology (parody of the Beatles Anthology). Halsall had died in 1992, but appears on several tracks that were outtakes from the original 1978 album, and is credited as a band member (similar to the Beatles' "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love").

On record the band was augmented by keyboardist Mickey Simmonds, who would go on to play with the band live. Also appearing on the record was bassist Malcolm Foster, (ex-Pretenders), as The Rutles had no bass player. Guitarists Dougie Boyle and Bernie Holland were also featured.

Subsequent touring versions (1997–2019)[]

Innes and Halsey toured as The Rutles in the UK, augmented by other musicians, from 1997 until Innes' death in 2019. The touring group performed songs from the Rutles repertoire and from Innes's own solo career.

The touring version:

  • Neil Innes — piano, guitar and vocals;
  • John Halsey — drums;
  • Mark Griffiths — bass guitar and vocals;
  • Mickey Simmonds — keyboards and vocals;
  • Ken Thornton — lead guitar;(nicknamed "Rutling" by Neil Innes)
  • J.J. Jones — percussion.

Fataar played with this touring version of The Rutles on certain dates.


Rutland Weekend Television (1975-76)[]

The Rutles began in 1975 as a sketch on Idle's BBC television series Rutland Weekend Television. The sketch presented Neil Innes (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) fronting The Rutles singing "I Must Be In Love", a pastiche of a 1964 Lennon-McCartney tune. The band name was a continuation of the regional premise of the TV show.

The show was presented as a programme 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". When Idle and Innes created a parody of the Beatles, Idle suggested "Rutles".

Innes was the musician/composer for the series and created songs with ideas on how they could be presented.

Innes came up with parodying A Hard Day's Night. He had written "I Must Be In Love" which he realised 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.

The Rutles had connections with The Beatles, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Monty Python. The Beatles were fans of the Bonzos: they featured them in the 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour and Paul McCartney (working with Gus Dudgeon under the alias Apollo C. Vermouth) had produced their 1968 hit single "I'm the Urban Spaceman". The Bonzos and members of the Python team worked together in the late 1960s on the TV comedy show Do Not Adjust Your Set. George Harrison was a Python fan as well as being involved in The Rutles film (see below), his company Handmade Films later took over production of Python film Life Of Brian after the original backers pulled out, fearing its subject was too controversial, as well as financing the two first solo films of ex-Python Terry Gilliam, Jabberwocky and Time Bandits.

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").

Saturday Night Live (1976)[]

Two years later, on 2 October 1976 , when Idle appeared on the American NBC show Saturday Night (later Saturday Night Live), he took videotape extracts from Rutland Weekend Television — including the Rutles clip. That led to a suggestion by SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels to extend the skit into a one-hour mock documentary. This proposal led to the 1978 mockumentary All You Need Is Cash, directed by SNL film director Gary Weis (responsible for the programme's short films), though Idle was credited as co-director.

Saturday Night Live (1977)[]

On 23 April 1977, Idle made another appearance on Saturday Night Live, bringing along Neil Innes as a musical guest. A running theme for this episode is the "Save Great Britain Telethon," and at one point there is an appearance by "The Rutle who lives in New York, Nasty". Innes appeared as Nasty with a lone white piano, singing a short version of "Cheese & Onions". Later in the episode, as Neil Innes, he performed a pre-Rutles version of "Shangri-La".

The Beatles' reactions[]

“The Rutles were so important to my career. Everything I ever knew or wrote was The Rutles. You know, really… you know, The Rutles sort of liberated me from The Beatles in a way. And it was the only thing I ever saw of those sort of Beatle television things they made that was actually the best, funniest and most scathing, but at the same time done with the most love. But the sad thing about it was the songs that were so nice, such great parodies written by Neil Innes, also got ripped of by Sir Lew Greed [Grade] who later sold it to Michael Jackson […] so that’s the sad thing about The Rutles, but… brilliant. The Rutles are coming to Flushing.” - George Harrison, Rockline, 10 Feb 1988

Actual Beatle George Harrison was involved in the project from the beginning. Producer Gary Weis said, "We were sitting around in Eric's kitchen one day, planning a sequence that really ripped into the mythology and George looked up and said, 'We were the Beatles, you know!' Then he shook his head and said 'Aw, never mind.' I think he was the only one of the Beatles who really could see the irony of it all." George plays the interviewer who has his microphone stolen at Rutle Corp.

Harrison said that "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." Harrison showed Innes and Idle the Beatles unreleased official documentary The Long and Winding Road, made by Neil Aspinall. (Aspinall's documentary would be resurrected as The Beatles Anthology.) 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 and 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 ATV Music, owners of the Beatles catalogue's copyright at the time. The song was consequently 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 group members, and Apple Corps, consented to use of the Beatles's Shea Stadium concert footage, along with other "real" footage cut in with Rutle footage.

Idle claims on the All You Need Is Cash DVD commentary track that Harrison and Starr at one point discussed starting a band with Innes and Idle, based on the Beatles' and Rutles's shared and imaginary histories. But if he was correct, then this never came to pass. Harrison and Starr also surprised him and Innes one day by singing a version of "Ouch;" two of the Beatles singing a Rutles song to two of The Rutles.


The Rutles (Album)[]

The Rutles (Album) is the soundtrack album was released under Warner Bros. Records in 1978. It was also released on cassette, and along with the release of their next album, Archaeology, a CD version was released including 6 songs that were not featured on the 1978 LP and cassette. This album got remastered in 2006.

Singles from this album[]

I Must Be In Love + Cheese & Onions/With A Girl Like You (Some versions of this single replace Cheese & Onions/With A Girl Like You with Doubleback Alley)

The Rutles (EP) (Promo)[]

The Rutles (EP) is a promotional only vinyl that released in 1978 and features 5 Rutles songs. The EP was only available in transparent yellow vinyl and features a vinyl label parodying the Apple Crops label design, showing a peeled banana instead of a granny smith apple.


After an 18-year hiatus, the Rutles (Innes, Halsey and Fataar) reconvened to record the 1996 album Archaeology (a parody of The Beatles Anthology). It was released on vinyl, cassette, and CD. It features 13 previously lost Rutle recordings and 3 entirely new Rutle tracks written for Archaeology. The Japanese release included four bonus tracks, and in 2007 Archaeology was reissued in the United Kingdom with the four tracks from the Japanese version and also included a live track, "Rut-A-Lot".

Singles from this album[]

Shangri-La + Joe Public/Baby S'il Vous Plait/It's Looking Good

Live + Raw[]

Live + Raw is a live album released in 2014 on CD and is only officially available to purchase from Neil Innes official website. The live performance mostly consists of songs from the original Rutles LP in 1978, with four tracks from Archaeology, and one solo track by Neil Innes (as Ron Nasty), Imitation Song.

The Wheat Album[]

The Wheat Album is the last official Rutles album, and was available to purchase during the Rutles 2018 Major Happy Tour and is only currently available from Neil's official website. This is a demo album that features new remixes of these demos, with two new bonus tracks, being Absurd Reductions and Evolution Number Ten, and also includes Imitation Song.

Songs parodied by The Rutles[]

Rutles Song Album Original Beatles Song(s)
"Goose-Step Mama " The Rutles Early Merseybeat-style Beatles songs, such as "Some Other Guy" and "I Saw Her Standing There"
"Under My Skin" Archaeology A cover of the Cole Porter song "I've Got You Under My Skin". Canonically a live recording, it pays homage to The Beatles performances in the Star-Club and The Cavern Club. Parodying no song in particular, the 2007 version of Archaeology lists it as The Quarrlemen's first recording, so it could be a parody of The Quarrymen's earliest recordings such as "Puttin' On the Style" (1957), "That'll Be the Day" (1958), and "In Spite of All the Danger" (1958). The instrumental also sounds very similar to "Devil in Her Heart."
"Number One" The Rutles "Twist and Shout"
"Baby Let Me Be" The Rutles Mainly "I Wanna Be Your Man". However, also parodies 1950s rock and roll songs the Beatles used to perform in Hamburg such as "Slow Down", "She Loves You", "Long Tall Sally", "Kansas City", and others.
"Blue Suede Schubert" The Rutles Mainly "Roll Over Beethoven", with bits from "Boys" and "Blue Suede Shoes"
"Hold My Hand" The Rutles Mainly "All My Loving" and "Eight Days a Week", other elements from "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You"
"Baby S'il Vous Plait" Archaeology "Sie Liebt Dich", "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand"
"I Must Be in Love" The Rutles Guitar intro from "Ticket to Ride", song mainly taken from "A Hard Day's Night"
"With a Girl Like You" The Rutles Melody and lyrics from "If I Fell", rhythm and percussion from "And I Love Her", with elements taken from "Please Please Me"
"I Love You" Archaeology Mainly "And I Love Her", with inspiration from "Till There Was You"
"Lonely-Phobia" Archaeology "Things We Said Today"
"Between Us" The Rutles Mainly "I'll Be Back", but also bears resemblance to "I'll Follow the Sun", "Baby It's You", "Ask Me Why", "''Til There Was You" and "Devil in Her Heart"
"Now She's Left You" Archaeology Mainly "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party", but written as a thematic sequel to "You're Going to Lose That Girl" with elements from "I Will", and possibly "She Loves You"
"Ouch!" The Rutles "Help!"
"It's Looking Good" The Rutles Mainly "I'm Looking Through You", while also borrowing elements from "I'm Down", "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" and "I'm a Loser"
"Nevertheless" The Rutles "Love You To", "Within You Without You"
"Joe Public" Archaeology Mainly "Tomorrow Never Knows", elements from "Rain" and "The Inner Light"
"Doubleback Alley" The Rutles "Penny Lane"
"Major Happy's Up-And-Coming Once Upon a Good Time Band" Archaeology "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"Rendezvous" Archaeology Mostly "With a Little Help from My Friends", elements from "Good Day Sunshine" and a little bit from "Your Mother Should Know".
"Good Times Roll" The Rutles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Sun King", "All Thing Must Pass"
"The Knicker Elastic King" Archaeology Mostly "Getting Better", elements taken from "Picasso's Last Words", the Yellow Submarine film, "Your Mother Should Know" and "Penny Lane"
"Back in Sixty-Four" Archaeology Mostly "When I'm Sixty-Four", with the synth solo taken from "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and other elements from "Good Night"
"Cheese and Onions" The Rutles Rising strings from "A Day in the Life", main song from "Imagine", "Mind Games" and "Across the Universe", other elements taken from "I Am the Walrus"
"Love Life" The Rutles "All You Need Is Love"
"Piggy in the Middle" The Rutles "I Am the Walrus"
"Questionnaire" Archaeology Mainly "The Fool on the Hill" and "Strawberry Fields Forever", with other elements being from "I Am the Walrus", "Eleanor Rigby", "Lady Madonna", "Piggies" and "Nowhere Man", lyrical references to "Imagine" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"
"Shangri-La" Archaeology Mainly "Hey Jude", "A Day in the Life" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", with elements from "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "All You Need Is Love", "Magical Mystery Tour", "I Am the Walrus", "All Together Now", "'Yellow Submarine", "For No One", "Isn't It a Pity", "Lovely Rita" and "The End". The main melody and inspiration also come from "How Sweet to Be an Idiot" and later "Whatever".
"We've Arrived! (And to Prove It We're Here)" Archaeology Mainly "Back in the U.S.S.R.", with the last 40 seconds parodying "Flying" and the fade out paying homage to "Revolution 9".
"Let's Be Natural" The Rutles "Dear Prudence", "Julia"
"Unfinished Words" Archaeology Song parodies no particular Beatles song, with the main guitar riff coming from an uncompleted demo by Ollie Halsall (hence the title). Some fans have retroactively compared this tune to the likes of "Nowhere Man" and "In My Life"; however, most fans take its references of the Martin Lewis fake Beatle bootlegs to be a parody of "Glass Onion".
"My Little Ukulele" Archaeology Mainly "Crippled Inside", but the song also features bits from "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da", "Honey Pie", "You're Sixteen", "Crippled Inside", and "Jailhouse Rock"
"Another Day" The Rutles Mainly "Martha My Dear", with a melody borrowed from "Don't Bother Me", atmospheric choices likely taken from "For No One" and "Dear Prudence".
"Living in Hope" The Rutles Mainly "Don't Pass Me By", but in the film it is used to portray early Ringo songs such as "Act Naturally" and "Honey Don't".
"Evolution 10" The Wheat Album Mainly "Revolution 9", also borrows from "The Palace of the King of the Birds" for its ambient instrumental, "Rocky Raccoon" for its narration, and other elements from "I Am the Walrus" and "I'm So Tired".
"Get Up and Go" The Rutles "Get Back"
"Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" Archaeology Mainly "Come Together", with the organ riff borrowed from "Maybe I'm Amazed", with other elements taken from "The Ballad of John and Yoko", "Cold Turkey" and "Gotta Serve Somebody", with the title coming from classical piece. "Eine kleine Nachtmusik"
"Easy Listening" Archaeology Mainly "Octopus's Garden", with elements from "Don't Pass Me By", "Act Naturally" and "What Goes On?". Lyrical reference to "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?".
"Lullaby" Archaeology Mainly "Her Majesty", with elements from "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away".
"Hey Mister!" Archaeology Mainly "I Me Mine", with elements from "Yer Blues", "Helter Skelter", "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", and possibly "And I Love Her"
"Stig It" Neil Innes BBC session "Dig It"
"Don't Know Why" Archaeology Mainly "Free as a Bird", with a trumpet solo near the end lifted from "Penny Lane", and other elements (plus a general structure) from "Sexy Sadie". The song also references "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)".


Fictional lineup[]

  • Ron Nasty (Neil Innes) – vocals, guitars, keyboards, harmonica, bass (1960–1969)
  • Dirk McQuickly (Eric Idle) – vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, drums (1960–1970)
  • Stig O'Hara (Ricky Fataar) – guitars, vocals, sitar, keyboards, bass (1960–1970)
  • Barry Wom (John Halsey) – drums, percussion, vocals (1962–1970)

Real lineup – All You Need Is Cash[]

  • Neil Innes – vocals, keyboards, guitars (1975–1978, 1996–1997, 2002–2019; his death)
  • Ollie Halsall – vocals, guitars, keyboards (1975–1978; died 1992)
  • Ricky Fataar – guitars, bass, vocals, sitar, tabla (1975–1978, 1996–1997)
  • John Halsey – drums, percussion, vocals (1975–1978, 1996–1997, 2002–2019)
  • Andy Brown – bass (1978)

Subsequent touring band members (2001–2019)[]

Beginning in 2001, Innes and Halsey toured as the Rutles in the UK (and once in Japan), augmented by other musicians. The touring group performed songs from the Rutles repertoire, Neil Innes's solo career, and usually at least one George Harrison song per tour as a tribute to him.

The touring version:

  • Neil Innes – piano, guitar, ukulele, and vocals
  • John Halsey – drums, vocals, paper tearing
  • Mark Griffiths – bass guitar and vocals (2001-2015)
  • Mickey Simmonds – keyboards and vocals (2001-2014)
  • Ken Thornton (nicknamed "Rutling" by Neil Innes) – lead guitar, vocals, drums (2001-2019)
  • Steve Simpson – guitar and vocals (2001)
  • Jason Bruer – saxophone (2001)
  • Jason McDermid – trumpet (2001)
  • J.J. Jones – percussion (2004-2005)
  • Andy Roberts – guitar and vocals (2004)
  • Elliot Randall – guitar (2015)
  • Phil Jackson – keyboards, vocals, and percussion (2015-2019)
  • Jay Goodrich – bass guitar and vocals (2015-2018)
  • David Catlin-Birch – bass guitar and vocals (2019)


Fictional discography[]

  • Please Rut Me (1963)
  • Meet The Rutles (1963)
  • A Hard Day's Rut (1964)
  • Rutles For Sale (1964)
  • Ouch! (1965)
  • Rutle Sole (1965)
  • Semi-Automatic (1966)
  • Sgt. Rutter's Only Darts Club Band (1967)
  • Tragical History Tour (1967)
  • The Triangular Album (1968)
  • Yellow Submarine Sandwich (1969)
  • Shabby Road (1969)
  • Let It Rot (1970)

Real discography[]

  • The Rutles (1978)
  • Archaeology (1996)
  • Live + Raw (2014)
  • The Wheat Album (2018)

External Links[]