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WATCH: Eric Idle's Beatles Parody The Rutles Premiered 43 Years Ago Today

  • On March 22, 1978, NBC premiered The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, a mockumentary parody of The Beatles written by Monty Python's Eric Idle, executive-produced by Lorne Michaels, and featuring appearances from several members of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. You can watch the entire special above.

    Originating as a 1975 sketch on the BBC series Rutland Weekend Television, it combined Idle's idea of a documentarian so boring that the camera ran away from him with collaborator Neil Innes' idea of doing a Beatles spoof. Innes was friendly with the Beatles and was featured in their film Magical Mystery Tour with his group, the Bonzo Dog Band, and the pair got encouragement, help, and inside story ideas from George Harrison himself, who supported the notion of deflating the myths surrounding the Beatles' legacy. Idle appeared on Saturday Night Live on October 2, 1976 and showed the sketch, and Michaels suggested expanding it to an hour-long mockumentary.

    The events of the film mirror the real-life escapades of The Beatles' career quite closely, and Innes' music did the same, featuring 19 spoof or pastiche tracks like "Ouch!" ("Help"!), "Get Up and Go" ("Get Back"), and "Cheese and Onions" ("A Day in the Life"), and the soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award. Idle starred as the Paul McCartney figure Dirk McQuickly, while Innes was the John Lennon-styled Ron Nasty, Ricky Fataar was Stig O'Hara (Harrison), and John Halsey was Barry Wom (aka Barrington Womble), the Ringo Starr riff.  The special also features appearances by SNL stars John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Al Franken, as well as cameos from Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Ron Wood, and Idle's Monty Python colleague Michael Palin. Harrison himself even appears as a TV news reporter.

    The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash bombed in the ratings, ending dead last in the U.S., but it fared quite a bit better when it aired on the BBC a week later, and it still enjoys a cult following. Lennon reportedly loved the film, while Starr liked it but felt that the parts dealing with their manager Leggy Mountbatten, the Brian Epstein figure, hit a little too close to home, as Epstein had tragically died in 1967. McCartney was purported to be not so pleased with it, even being a bit "frosty" towards Idle until his wife Linda changed his tune on it.

    Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.

    TOPICS: The Beatles, NBC, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, Saturday Night Live, Eric Idle, George Harrison, Lorne Michaels, Neil Innes, The Rutles