EVENT: The Making of The Rutles - All You Need Is Cash
DATE: 1975

NEIL INNES (Musician): I was in the Drury Lane shows with the Pythons when Eric Idle asked me if I'd be interested in doing music for his TV series, Rutland Weekend Television, which was still in the planning stages. The idea was that he'd do sketches and I'd do musical comedy numbers.

IAN KEILL (Producer, Rutland Weekend Television): The Rutles were born out of something we did for the TV series. We were making a sketch about people suffering from lovesickness and Neil had written a song to go with it, I Must Be In Love.

It was a miserable day, November 24, 1975, and we took a crew down to Denham Memorial Hall in Buckinghamshire, which we'd hired for 6.75, to film what turned out to be the first Rutles song.

NEIL INNES: I had the idea of doing it in that black-and-white, semi-documentary style Dick Lester had used in A Hard Day's Night, mainly because it was cheap, which perfectly fit the idea of Rutland Weekend.

The song was quite Beatlish and Eric coined the name The Rutles, which I hated. This wasn't quite the same group that appeared in the movie. Instead of Rikki Fataar, we had David Bately as Stig, and John Halsey, who is Barry Wom in the film, was originally called Kevin.

Soon after that, Eric was asked to host Saturday Night Live, and he started a running gag about getting The Beatles back together, so they showed The Rutles clip and got a huge post-bag response to it. That's why Lorne Michaels, who owns Saturday Night Live, agreed to finance the film as a prime-time NBC special.

The next thing I know is, I'm asked to write 16 songs by next Thursday lunchtime in the style of The Beatles. I made a conscious decision not to listen to the records; I did everything from my memory of how it ought to sound. The psychedlic lyrics were easy, you just rhymed anything with anything else, but the earlier songs were difficult to get right, because one of The Beatles' trademarks is that the tunes and the words were always just a little bit unpredictable, so I was constantly throwing out tunes because they were too ordinary.

The whole Rutles group could play. Ollie Halsall -- who did a lot on the songs but is only in the film as Leppo, the fifth Rutle -- was an incredibly underrated guitarist and singer, as was John Halsey. Rikki Fataar was a very accomplished all-rounder who'd played with The Beach Boys. The best thing I did was to insist that we all rehearsed together, playing live several times before filming started, so we became a proper band.

Ollie did most of the Paul-type singing and Eric had to mime his vocals. He never quite forgave me for that.

ROGER SIMONS (Production manager): We started shooting in the summer of 1978. It was fraught with problems: we had a very small budget, under 100,000 I think, a crew of about 35, and we had only about four weeks to shoot it. To make matters worse, a lot of the actors were taking part purely as favors to Eric, so we had to fit our shooting schedule around when they happened to be available.

GARY WEIS (Co-director): We used up a lot of favours. Paul Simon, for example, is a friend of Lorne Michaels. He even lives in the same building in New York, so it was a simple matter to go and film him. Mick Jagger had connections with Eric. The great thing about Jagger is that he was simply recalling the real story of what happened between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and substituting the Rutles names at appropriate moments. Mind you, it took him quite a few takes to get them all right.

NEIL INNES: The Beatles were very good about it. They allowed us to use lots of their old footage -- stuff that eventually became the bones of the Anthology series -- and intercut it with newly filmed Rutles sequences to give it more authenticity.

DICK STRICKLAND (Stills photographer): Working so cheap and fast brought all kinds of headaches. On the very first morning of shooting, we did the Apple rooftop sequence on top of an editing suite in Dean Street. They had all grown their hair and beards to look like The Beatles in that era and, once we had it on film, they had it all cut off because they were going on that same afternoon to film the Buckingham Palace shots. The next day, we saw the rushes of the rooftop stuff and there was a lens hood showing in loads of the shots so it all had to be done again, this time with wigs and false beards.

CHRIS SARGENT (Second unit cameraman): The Ratkeller in Hamburg was actually a basement in Westbourne Park and we had to get in loads of live rats from an animal supplier. The Che Stadium sequence was cobbled together from several sources: the exterior shots were done outside the real Shea Studium in New York, the shots of the group going on stage were in Queen's Park Ranger's ground, and the scenes on the stage were done in Shepperton studios with a black backdrop. They come down the same fire escape a Hammersmith Odeon that was used in A Hard Day's Night, then run around in the next shot in a field near Shepperton.

Everybody doubled up doing extra things. While we were shooting in Morecambe Bay, I was dragged in to be a member of another imaginary group, Les Garcons de la Plage. Ron Wood's wife was on the set and she got drafted in as a groupie. Everybody's brothers and girlfriends got parts.

NEIL INNES: Bianca Jagger was an absolute poppet. She supplied her own dress, a beautiful antique lace thing made in 1849, and a one point Eric trod on it. She said, "Mind my 1849 dress," and Eric shot back, "Is that all it cost?" They both saw the funny side.

As filming went on, John Halsey and I started ad-libbing a lot of our lines. There's a scene where my character, Nasty, is in a shower with our version of Yoko, Chasitity. Eric was a reporter asking us why we were in the shower and I ad-libbed this line about civilisation being an effective sewage system. Eric totally cracked up, laughed so much we had to re-shoot it several times, with us getting progressively wetter and wetter.

CHRIS SARGENT: When we went to West Mailing airfield in Kent to do the shooting of Piggy In The Middle, I realised there was a big gliding school nearby so I suggested asking one of the instructors to fly over the set because it would make a good shot.

NEIL INNES: Gary Weis, Eric's co-director, was shooting it with the camera over his shoulder. The four policemen had clambered up on to the top of the wall. Suddenly, the glider shot into view over their heads, missing their helmets by about three feet. They went white as sheets.

GARY WEIS: George Harrison was involved almost from the beginning. He was around quite a lot, even when he didn't need to be there. We were sitting around in Eric's kitchen one day, planning a sequence that really ripped into the mythology and George looked up and said, "We were The Beatles, you know!" Then he shook his head and said, "Aw, never mind." I think he was the only one of The Beatles who could see the irony of it all.

The most surreal thing for me was that when we were doing the bits outside of the Apple building, and George is made up as a TV reporter interviewing Neil Innes, a teenage kid came up and asked George, "Is that John Lennon?" It never dawned on him who he was talking to.

ROGER McGOUGH (Liverpool Poet): Whenever I go abroad, people walk up to me and say, "Aren't you that bloke in The Rutles' movie?" Ten seconds of my life and I'm labelled forever.


[February 1996 issue of Q Magazine. Copyright (c) 1996, EMAP METRO.]