New Rutles Rumor: Dirk Is Deaf
A friend of mine in Detroit recently called me with some very disturbing
information. Coincidentally, we had recently been discussing the fact that
Dirk McQuickly does not appear on the new Rutles Archaeology album.
We had both accepted the officially released reason, that Dirk had gone into
comedy. However, it seems now that there may be more to it than that.
My friend heard a disc jockey on his favorite Detroit radio station
talking about how a new rumor is going around that Dirk is deaf, and has
been increasingly hard of hearing for many years.
It seems they say that
Dirk was in an automobile accident with an Ice Cream truck, hit his head,
and this is when his hearing was damaged.
Because of his lack of hearing,
the radio went on to say that sometime maybe as early as late 1966, Dirk
had been replaced in the studio by a Dirk sound-alike. Even more important, even though the Rutles have kept this deception secret
from their fans, they have been hiding clues about it on the album
covers and in song lyrics all these years.
Indeed, there is a small picture of
what appears to be the other three Rutles reacting to seeing
Dirk's accident inside the booklet of the new Archaeology album.
This was the first clue fans noticed, and many more clues were quickly
The first thing I did when I heard these rumors was to immediately go to
my record shelf and look at my copy of A Hard Day's Rut.
there it was just like my friend said they said on the radio. Right on the album cover, there was a picture of
Dirk holding his finger to his ear, third row down, fourth picture from the left, in a pose obviously self-conscious about his
There are also several clues on the cover of the Sgt. Rutter's Only Darts
Club Band album.
Someone is holding a hand, palm out, over
Dirk's head, which is the symbol for "hello" in the sign language used by
the deaf, a language which Dirk must have been learning at the time in
order to communicate with others.
In addition, all the Rutles except
Dirk are holding horns (Dirk is holding a clarinet). Dirk would naturally
avoid holding a horn, as this would resemble the old type of horn the deaf
used to put up to their ears as a crude hearing aid.
And, on the cover of the Shabby Road album, Dirk is crossing
the road barefooted. He would obviously had not done this had he been
able to hear people warning him that the asphalt would be hot and
it would burn his feet.
There are clues in the lyrics of Rutles Songs, too!
In the last verse of Get Up And Go on the Let It Rot
album/movie/law suit, Dirk sings:
Cruising down the highway
in the middle of the
double white line
His foot down on the gas
and his head in the clouds
He didn't see the one-way sign
These lines obviously refer to the events leading up to the auto
accident in which Dirk lost his hearing.
Further, in the song Doubleback Alley, who's title includes the
word "Double" (as in Dirk and his performing stand-in), the singer sings of
a warning to:
steer you clear
According to the rumors, it was an Ice Cream Van that Dirk didn't
see and ran into while "his head was in the clouds".
of the funny man
in the ice cream van...
And in the song Easy Listening on the new Archaeology
album, a song title which suggests that it's still easy for the three remaining
Rutles to listen, but not Dirk, Barry sings:
Why don't we do it the
This repeats the same description of Dirk's reckless driving as in
Get Up And Go which lead to the crash.
middle of the road?
In addition, in another picture in the Archaeology booklet,
there is a picture of a car like the one Dirk was driving at the time of
Finally, on the Archaeology song Unfinished Words,
Nasty says (instead of singing, as if to highlight the clue):
I can't pretend to be
The "someone who pretends to be someone else" obviously refers to
Dirk's sound-alike, who's been filling in for Dirk since his hearing loss,
and the "pretend friend" Nasty is talking about is obviously Dirk, who has
only been pretending to sing and play all these years.
someone who pretends to be
Or so my pretend friend tells me
In many photographs and live concert footage, Dirk can be seen "playing"
the guitar. If these photographs are examined closely, you can clearly
see that Dirk is only faking playing, and is not fingering the guitar
at all. The picture at the left is one of many examples, this one from
the Rutles Let It Rot rooftop concert.
In addition, in All You Need Is Cash, the official Rutles
documentary, Dirk can be seen and heard trying to play the piano and
compose a new song for his new wife Martini on their honeymoon. From
the footage you can see and hear clearly that Dirk can no longer seem
to find the correct notes on the piano or sing on key because of his
advanced hearing loss. The fact that this footage was released shows that
the Rutles were finally getting tired of hiding the fact of Dirk's deafness
at this late point in their career, nearing their breakup.
How All The Pieces Fit
As I was studying the Rutles albums for clues, all of a sudden I remembered
something I just recently heard Nasty say in an Archaeology interview.
When asked about the mysterious disappearance of Leppo after Hamburg, Nasty
said it was due to "artistic differences" with the record label, and nothing
Leppo had done. But then he let it slip that Leppo had stood in with the
Rutles and played on some of the later tracks, before they split up.
In Hamburg, 1960
The only answer is that Leppo was only a stage name for Ollie Hallsal.
It says right in the liner notes for Archaeology that Ollie Hallsal
is on three Archaeology tracks, and he died in 1992. Ollie (Leppo) must
have been Dirk's recording stand-in in the later years. Of course Dirk
couldn't be on the new Archaeology, as his stand-in is no longer around!
Dirk McQuickly officially has no comment on the
subject. Although many clues point to this fact, I'm afraid we'll probably
never know for sure. However, we have uncovered one final weird clue.
Is Dirk really deaf?
In their early days, we know that one of the clubs the Rutles played in
Hamburg, later featured very prominently in the All You Need Is Cash
documentary, was called "Der Rat Keller". You might recall that Helen Keller
was the name of a famous deaf woman. Coincidence? I wonder...
This page last updated December 1, 1996.