After years of only being available as a hideously overpriced import, when The Rutles finally received an official CD release in the UK, it was at least a decade too late, but hey, we have it now and the pre-fab four have never sounded better.
So why was it at least a decade too late? Well back in the mid-90s, the UK was under the inconsistent grip of Britpop and The Beatles decided to give themselves yet another pay-day by raiding the back of their collective cupboards and releasing the Anthology series. Something needed to be done to burst the bubble of hero worship that surrounded The Beatles and a timely re-release of this album would have done just that in the best taste possible.
You see The Rutles did Britpop fifteen years before it came into ascendancy, basking in Beatle-like melodies, riffs and rhythmic patterns. However, unlike everyone that followed The Rutles were actually designed as a comedy pastiche and to top it all they were given the seal of approval by three Beatles (George Harrison actually appeared in the accompanying mockumentary and both John Lennon and Ringo Starr took it as the good-natured piss-take it was).
Listening to The Rutles now what strikes you is actually how good the songs are. Neil Innes obviously had an enormous amount of love and respect or the act he was lampooning and he delivered a set of songs that made fun of The Beatles, while also remaining a warm tribute to them. The cheeky steals are obvious for all to hear, but there’s still a huge amount of fun to be head here and the musicianship is as good as anything on any Beatles album and from time to time it can actually surpass them.
While the whole album is a joy to listen to, I must admit I do have a number of personal favourites, with “Living In Hope” being a brilliant parody of a Ringo-fronted number, “Piggy In The Middle” being an”I Am The Walrus” flavoured celebration of psychedelia, and “Get Up And Go” being a brilliantly rocking little number. Best of all though is the utterly brilliant “Cheese And Onions”, a song where I struggle to find words adequate to describe its wonder.
Despite being a parody group, The Rutles have actually left us with a considerable legacy. Not only did they spearhead the rockumentary format (take that Spinal Tap!), but in addition, every band that have since nicked a Beatles riff owe them a significant debt. Innes himself, being a veteran of The Bonzo Dog Band and having since forged a unique career himself, as well as being the only man ever to look comfortable with a duck on his head, should also be applauded for acting with good grace when Oasis stole the melody for “Whatever”, from Innes’ far superior “Idiot Song”.
A genuinely groundbreaking release that would have been perfect if only it had included Barry Wom’s stirring ballad “When You Find The Girl Of Your Dreams In The Arms Of Some Scotsmen From Hull”.