February 15th, 2013

iAm iSaid

"Now I'm livin' in Hope..." ("Livin' in Hope...") "Livin' in Hope..." ("Livin' in Hope...")

I'm having a Rutles night. I'm on my second listen-through of the CD named for them.

The Rutles, as you may or may not know, were a fake band created by post-Monty Python Eric Idle and his singer-songwriter colleague Neil Innes (he played the minstrel singing about how Sir Robin could die in Monty Python and the Holy Grail). The Rutles -- Dirk, Nasty, Stig, and Barry -- were a bent funhouse mirror version of the Beatles, and starred in the impressively dense and funny 1978 mockumentary All You Need Is Cash: The Rutles, the Story of the Pre-Fab Four. (Yep, that's a cast of Python vets, original Saturday Night Live cast members, and George Harrison.) Spın̈al Tap might not have existed if the Rutles hadn't happened.

I like that the songs Neil Innes wrote, building on the conceit he and Eric Idle cooked up, are genuinely well-crafted. Still full of Beatles in-jokes (I love the chord at the end of "Cheese and Onions," which flips the end of "A Day in the Life" on its head), but there's more to them than that. Innes has spoken about how the composing of the songs started from very pure places: thinking about what it's like to hold someone's hand for the first time led to the very genuine core of the early Beatles-style "Hold My Hand," for example. Innes is a good enough songmaker that he could build the jokes naturally into the songs; if you listen to the Rutles after listening to the Beatles, they're there, and they're smile-causing.

Sometimes Innes did that especially well: "Cheese and Onions," meant as a Yellow Submarine-era song, later appeared on a Beatles bootleg -- taken, as Idle says, from Innes singing the song on SNL -- the guy who compiled the album claiming "Cheese and Onions" was a lost Lennon song. To this day I wonder if the bootlegger really thought it was, or if he was in on the joke and just messing with people. (Another time, when living in Eugene in the '90s, I heard a radio show analyze the Rutles song "Ouch!" as if it were a real Beatles song; those guys were definitely in on the joke.) And "Get Up And Go" was deemed so close to "Get Back" that the song wasn't included on the original Rutles album to avoid legal repercussions, and wasn't officially released until the CD I have came out.

And I still have a soft spot for the lyric "You'd better think twice...at least once more..." Not to mention "Psychadelicatessen..." *grins*

Thank you, Neil Innes. Who's still around, by the way.

One more Rutles sample!