Album: The Rutles
. . .
I’m not sure why 1978 produced not one but two definitive parodies of the career arc of The Beatles.
Maybe because it was long enough from the breakup that people could have enough perspective, but before John Lennon’s murder, after which these kind of things might have felt in bad taste.
The one that has been lost to history, of course, is Mark Shipper’s tremendous alternate history novel Paperback Writer, which had enough balls to envision what would happen at their reunion, and is still one of my all-time top 5 rock books.
The one that everybody knows is Eric Idle’s almost-as-tremendous All You Need is Cash, which was a history of a fictional band called The Rutles, whose career path as the Pre-Fab Four was full of silly jokes, all-star cameos and shittons of wordplay. I assume that you’ve seen it at least once.
And while Monty Python’s Eric Idle was the big name that got All You Need is Cash made, his co-writer Neil Innes was what made All You Need is Cash work. Innes was one of the key members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, a comedy rock group that made some inroads in the U.K, but did nothing here.
Crucially, Innes then worked with Monty Python, contributing to some of their great mid-1970s albums like Monty Python’s Previous Record and Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief, both of which your humble correspondent basically memorized in the late 1970s. He also contributed songs and/or performed in Monty Python and The Holy Grail and Life of Brian, the latter of which remains an absolutely sacred text.
In any event, it was Innes songs that truly put All You Need is Cash over the top, as they were either pastiches of multiple Beatles songs or just straight-up parodies. Given that they also had to serve the plot of the film, the degree of difficulty was incredibly high, and for the most part Innes — who also played Ron Nasty, the John Lennon character — totally nailed it. My favorite is “Ouch!”, which took on “Help!”
You’re breakin’ my heart
I’m fallin’ apart
What I liked about “Ouch” was that it kept the tricky call-and-response arrangement from “Help” while replacing Lennon’s plea for help with a set of lyrics that make more sense with the visuals — in the video, the band is jumping around a desert island and getting bonked by fruit — but at the same time, are still pretty poignant.
When we first met (when we first met)
I must admit I fell for you right from the start
(I must admit I fell for you right from the start)
Now when we meet
(Now when we meet)
All kinds of things it seems upset the apple cart
(All kinds of things it seems upset the apple cart)
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