The Rutles Story


On January 21, 1959 the Rutles story began at 43 Egg Lane, Liverpool, where Ron Nasty and Dirk McQuickly first bumped into each other. Ron invited Dirk to help him stand up. Dirk, merely an ameteur drinker, agreed and on that spot a legend was created, a legend that will last a lunchtime. They were soon to be joined by Stig O'Hara, a guitarist of no fixed hairstyle, but it would be another two years before they found their regular drummer, Barrington Womble, hiding in the van. When they did, they persuaded him to change his name to save time and his haircut to save Brylcreem. He became simply Barry Wom.


Nasty, Barry, Stig, Dirk and Leppo in Hamburg

They gained their first manager, Arthur Scouse, as part of a bet (which they lost). So impressed was he with their music that he sent them immediately to Hamburg. Thinking that Hamburg was just outside Liverpool they accepted. It turned out to be not only in Germany, but in the very worst part of Germany. The Reeperbahn Hamburg is one of the naughtiest streets in the world. This is where they ended up, far from home, and far from talented.

In those days there was a fifth Rutle, Leppo, who mainly stood at the back. He couldn't play the guitar, but he knew how to have a good time, and in Hamburg that was more difficult. For five hungry working class lads there are worse places than prison, and The Rat Keller Hamburg is one. For fifteen months, night after night, they played the Rat Keller before they finally escaped and returned to Liverpool. In the rush they lost Leppo. He had crawled into a trunk with a small German Fraulien and was never seen again. (This inspired Nasty to write the song "Goose-Step Mama".) His influence on the Rutles was so immeasurable that no one has ever bothered to measure it.


The Rutles at the Cavern Club

The Rutles returned hungry to Liverpool full of experience and pills. They persuaded the manager of the Cavern to let them play there by holding his head under water until he agreed. Very soon their music began to create no small interest. In fact, no interest at all.

In October 1961 Leggy Mountbatten, a retail chemist from Bolton, entered their lives. Leggy had lost a leg in the closing overs of World War Two and had been hopping around Liverpool ever since. One day he accidentally stumbled down the steps of a dingy disco, what he saw there was to change his life: a sailor who told him about the Rutles. It was a dank, sweaty, basement cellar, torrid and pulsating with sound. Leggy hated it. He hated their music, he hated their hair, he hated their noise: but he loved their trousers. In his autobiography, A Cellarful Of Goys, Leggy tells of timorously approaching Ron Nasty and asking him what it would cost to sign the Rutles. "A couple of jam butties and a beer" was Nasty's reply. Next day Leggy sent them a crate of beer, two jam butties and a fifteen page contract. The Rutles, instinctively trusting this softly spoken, quietly limping man, signed immediately.

Mrs. Iris Mountbatten, Leggy's mother


 
Mrs. Iris Mountbatten
Leggy's effect on the Rutles was immediately apparent. He put them into suits, he made them turn up on time, and he took their photgraphs and tapes to London.

Archie Macaw was the first A&R man to take an interest in the Rutles. He offered to record the Rutles and recommended Leggy to Dick Jaws, an unemployed music publisher of no fixed ability, who signed them to a publishing contract for the rest of their lives.

Archie Macaw

Elated, Leggy put the Rutles into the studio. Their first album, Please Rut Me, was made in twenty minutes. Their second took even longer. Success was only a drum-beat away.

In 1963 Rutlemania hit England. It seemed that the Rutles could do no wrong. A string of hits - Rut Me Do, Twist and Rut, Please Rut Me - brought unprecedented scenes of mass adulation.

By December they had nineteen hits in the top 20. Even the queen was impressed when they played before her at the Royal Command Performance.

The Rutles talk about meeting the Queen


 
In 1964 the Rutles made their all-important breakthough in America, when Hold My Hand, the Rutles' first single on Capatol Records, became a big hit. When they travelled to America for the first time, 10,000 screaming fans were at Kennedy Airport to greet them. Unfortunately the Rutles arrived at La Guardia.

Nevertheless the next day 73 million people watched them perform live on the Ed Sullivan Show. To all intents and purposes the Rutles had captured the world.

On their second visit to the States in early 1965 they played the world's first outdoor rock and roll concert at Che Stadium (named after the Cuban Guerilla leader Che Stadium). As a security precaution the Rutles arrived by helicopter a day early. This enabled them to be safely out of the place before the audience came in. It was a brilliant public relations coup. The kids were screaming so hard that thousands never noticed the difference. Promoter Syd Bottle described it as the most exciting twenty minutes of his life.

Inevitably the Rutles turned to films and conquered that medium too with the help of zany Rutland director Dick Leicestershire.

In 1966 the Rutles faced the biggest threat to their careers. Nasty in a widely quoted interview had apparently claimed that the Rutles were bigger than God, and was reported to have gone on to say that God had never had a hit record.

The story spread like wildfire in America. Many fans burnt their albums, many more burnt their fingers attempting to burn their albums. Album sales sky-rocketed. People were buying them just to burn them.

But in fact it was all a ghastly mistake. Nasty, talking to a slightly deaf journalist, had claimed only that the Rutles were bigger than Rod. Rod Stewart would not be big for another eight years, and certainly at this stage hadn't had a hit. At a press conference, Nasty apologized to God, Rod and the press, and the tour went ahead as planned. It would be the Rutles' last.


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This page last enhanced September 21, 1997

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