Years before This Is Spinal Tap and almost two decades before Homer’s Barbershop Quartet there was The Rutles, the first ever rock and roll mockumentary and the first spoof of the career of the Beatles. It was created by Monty Python’s Eric Idle and Neil Innes who also wrote the music.
Anyone who knows the Beatles career and enjoys their music will enjoy this fantastically funny parody which also features a lot of cameos by the Python’s Michael Palin as well as respected musicians such as Paul Simon, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and the Beatles’ own George Harrison, who was of course close friends with Eric Idle and the rest of the Python’s and was apparently a part of this project right from the start. Also appearing are many Saturday Night Live alumni such as Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi.
The plot of the movie follows the career of the Rutles, four Liverpool lads who took the pop world by storm after being discovered by Leggy Mountbatten, who went onto be their manager. The four, Ron, Dirk, Stig and Barry impressed the one legged Mountbatten with how tightly they wore their trousers rather than their music. There was also a fifth member, Leppo, who left the group when he climbed inside a trunk with a small German fräulein and was never heard from again. Luckily, he couldn’t play anyway.
The film follows the career of the Pre-fab Four from their days playing at the Liverpool Cavern right through to their final album Let It Rot, and features lots of their musical highlights including Ouch!, Goose Step Mama, Cheese And Onions and Get Up And Go.
Apparently most of the Beatles loved the film. George of course had a cameo, while Ringo is said to have liked the happy scenes but thought that the sad ones cut a bit too close. John loved the film and refused to return the preview tape he’d been given, but warned that one song, Get Up And Go, was a little too similar to Get Back and thought that McCartney may sue. Paul refused to comment on the film and was apparently a little frosty towards Idle for a while after, but Linda was said to be a fan.
This film served as inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap as well as the numerous Beatles parodies that have appeared over the years. I feel that this is better than Spinal Tap and is undoubtedly the best of the Beatles parodies.
As a side note, this was one of the first videos that I ever saw back in the early 80s. This movie was a preview on most videos that we borrowed, which is how I learnt of the films existence as a 7 year old. (Other movies always found as previews include Idi Amin, Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan and King Kong!)