The Rutles (also known as the Prefab Four) were the most influential band in the whole history of music. They consisted of four main members; Ron Nasty, Dirk McQuickly, Stig O'Hara, and Barry Wom. Their legend helped defined the 1960s, and will live on after other living legends have died.
On January 21st 1959, the Rutles story really 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 amateur drinker, agreed and on that spot a legend was created – a legend that will last a lunchtime. They were soon 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.
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 Fraulein and was never seen again. His influence on the other Rutles was so immeasurable that no one has ever bothered to measure it.
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.
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 photographs and tapes to London. Archie Macaw was the first A/R man to take an interest: “One day this rather odd chap hopped into my office. He’d been to see virtually everyone in the business and had been shown the door. He asked to see my door, but I wouldn’t show it to him. Instead he showed me the tapes and photographs of the Rutles. They were pretty rough but they had something. I think it was the trousers.” Macaw offered to record the Rutles and recommended Leggy to Dick Jaws, an unemployed music publisher of no fixed ability. “I liked the trousers right away. I’d been in the garment trade myself and knew a thing or two about inseams, and they were clearly winners. The Rutles themselves had many advantages: They were young, keen and above all very cheap, so I signed them up for the rest of their natural lives. Lucky really.” Elated, Leggy put the Rutles into the studio. Their first album 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. Even the Queen was impressed when they played before her at the Royal Command Performance. By December they had nineteen hits in the top 20. In 1964 the Rutles made the all-important breakthrough in America. 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 conquered 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.
A year later the Rutles were caught up in another scandal. In the heady atmosphere of the San Francisco of the mid-sixties, Bob Dylan had introduced the Rutles to a substance that was to have an enormous effect on them: tea. They enjoyed its pleasant effects, despite warnings that it would lead to stronger things, and it enormously influenced their greatest work, Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band. The release of this album – a millstone in pop music history – contributed greatly to an idyllic summer of bells, flowers and tea drinking. But it was not to last. Under questioning Dirk refused to lie to the British press and admitted to not only taking tea and enjoying tea, but biscuits too. The press, always envious of the Rutles, leapt at this opportunity to have it both ways. They grabbed the wrong end of the stick and started to beat about the bush with it. In the ensuing confusion many pop stars were arrested for using and possessing tea. Nasty himself was busted by Detective Inspector Brian Plant, who brought his own to be on the safe side. There was an immediate outcry against this police persecution. The Times carried a full page ad calling for the legalisation of tea, and the general feeling was that police should stick to their proper job of collecting bribes from pornographers and protecting the Royal Family from their subjects.
Stig meanwhile had fallen under the influence of Arthur Sultan, the Surrey mystic, and he had introduced Stig to his Ouija Board Work. Sultan now invited the Rutles on a get-away-from-it-all, table-tapping weekend near Bogner. As usual the press followed. But while the Rutles sat at the feet of the Surrey mystic seeking spiritual enlightenment at his hands fate dealt them an appalling blow. It was at Bogner that they learned the shocking news of the loss of their manager Leggy Mountbatten. Tired and despondent over the weekend and unable to raise any friends, Leggy had gone home, and, tragically, accepted a teaching post in Australia. It was a bombshell for the Rutles. They were shocked. And stunned.
The news was not entirely unexpected. Leggy’s recent behavior had been giving grounds for concern: He had been investing heavily in Spanish bullfighters and in California he had been arrested for giving the kiss of life to a rubber raft; but he had for many years held the Rutles together – often forcibly. Now he was gone. The Rutles first major flop The Tragical History Tour immediately followed the loss of Leggy. It was not the strongest idea for a Rutles film – four Oxford History Professors on a walking tour of English Tea Shops – and it was slammed mercilessly by the critics. In 1968 Dirk and Nasty flew to New York to announce the formation of Rutles Corps, their aim, as Nasty put it, “to help people help themselves.” Unfortunately Rutles Corps did just that – people helped themselves for years. So many parasites jumped onto the band’s wagon that at one stage they were losing money faster than the British government. Some clever Dutch designers “The Smart” persuaded the Rutles to open a boutique and took nearly a million dollars off them in only three weeks before Nasty blew it up.
The pilfering from Rutle Corps was on a monumental scale – typewriters, TV sets, telephones, cars, even offices disappeared overnight. Stig, meanwhile, had hidden in the background so much that in 1969 a rumour went around that he was dead. He was supposed to have been killed in a flash fire at a water bed shop and was replaced by a plastic and wax replica from Madame Tussauds. Several so-called ‘facts’ helped the emergence of this rumour. Firstly, he never said anything. Even as the ‘quiet one’ he had not said a word since 1962. Secondly, on the cover of their latest album, Shabby Road, he was wearing no trousers, an old Italian way of indicating death. Thirdly, Nasty supposedly sings “I buried Stig” on “I Am The Waitress.” In fact he sings “E burres stigano” which is very bad Spanish for “Have you a water buffalo?”
Fourthly, on the Sergeant Rutter album he was leaning in the exact position of a dying Yeti (from the Rutland Book of the Dead). And finally, if you sing the title of “Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band” backwards it is supposed to sound very like “Stig had been dead for ages honestly.” In fact it sounds uncannily like “dnab bulc strad ylno srettur tnaegres.”
Stig was, of course, far from dead. Although not far from London. He had fallen in bed with Gertrude Strange, a large-breasted, biologically-accommodating American girl whose father had invented the limpet mine. When Stig met her it was lust at first sight. They retired to his bungalow where he woke up exhausted a year later to find that Gertrude was gone, leaving only some crumbs in the bed and a lot of torn sheets. She left no forwarding address, no farewell notes, but also luckily no children. Barry meanwhile had also spent a year in bed as a tax dodge. Eric Manchester thinks that he had either received appalling financial advice or he was desperately trying to start a “Barry is also dead” rumour. When he finally got up to answer the telephone, Rutle Corps was in a perilous financial state. Nasty had flown back in a hurry from his honeymoon rally in Nurembourg to meet Ron Decline, the most feared promoter in the world, in an attempt to settle Rutle Corps’ appalling financial problems.
Unfortunately, Stig was by now accepting the financial advice of Billy Kodak, Dirk had hired Arnold Schwarzenweisengreenenbluenbraunenburger to handle his end of the name, and Barry was consulting the I Ching every three and a half minutes. Business meetings were crazy. Every five minutes ashen-faced financial advisors would discover that the boys had hired more financial advisors to check on them, and would come rushing out to hire more lawyers. At the final meeting 134 legal people and accountants filed into a small eight by ten room. Only 87 came out alive. The black hole of Saville Row had taken toll of some of the finest merchant banking brains of a generation. Luckily, that’s not very serious, but the Rutles were obviously self-destructing fast.
In the midst of this public bickering and legal wrangling Let It Rot was released as a film, an album, and a lawsuit. It showed the Rutles as never before – tired, unhappy, cross, and just like the rest of the world. Gone forever was the image of the four happy mopped-haired youngsters who had set the foot of the world a-tapping. In December 1970 Dirk sued Stig and Nasty; Barry sued Dirk; Nasty sued Stig and Barry; and Stig sued himself accidentally. It was the end of an era, but the beginning of another for lawyers everywhere, who could look forward to at least seven or eight years of continuous litigation.
There were two short-time members of the band: Leppo, the guitarist, who was last seen crawling into a trunk with a small German fräulein; and Kevin Issac Stuart Best (who preferred to italicise his middle names), the original drummer.
1955-1961 Formation and Early YearsEditIn 1955, Ron Nasty formed The Rutland Art Band with his friends Leppo, Kevin I.S. Best and Steve Allen. The band did not last long, which left Nasty wandering the streets looking for a job. In 1958 While wandering Egg Lane, Nasty bumped into Dirk McQuickly. Nasty invited Dirk to stand up and Dirk accepted. They were soon joined by Stig O' Hara. Nasty invited McQuickly and O' Hara to join The Rutland Art Band with Leppo and Best, they both agreed. In 1959, Kevin Best was kidnapped by Gene Vincent and forced to play drums for him. The origin of the group's name came from the label of Ruddles County English Ale, brewed in Rutland. Nasty was drinking this beer when Dirk bumped into him on the first day they met.
In 1960, they found Barrington Womble hiding in their van. When they did, they persuaded him to change his name to save time and his haircut to save brylcreem, Barry renamed himself Barry Wom. They gained their first manager, Arthur Scouse, as part of a bet (which they lost). Scouse was so impressed with their music that he sent them immediately to Hamburg. Thinking that Hamburg was just outside Liverpool they accepted. The Rutles were forced to play at The Rat Killer in The Ancient Hooker District. For fifteen months, The Rutles were forced to live and relax in a small, dark celler when they wern't entertaining for the Rat patrons. One weekend, The Rutles escaped The Rat Killer and tried to return to London, in the rush, Leppo crawled into a trunk with a small german fraulein and was never seen again. When The Rutles returned to Liverpool. 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 interest at all. In October 1961, Leggy Mountbatten went to see The Rutles in The Cavern, Leggy hated thier music, but he loved their trousers. Leggy approached Ron Nasty and asking him what it would cost to sign the Rutles. Nasty offered Mountbatten "A couple of jam butties and a beer". 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. Mountbatten hopped around London in order to sell the Rutles pictures and tapes. Dick Jaws, a music publisher of no fixed stability, signed them up to Capatol Records for the rest of their lives.
1962-1964 First studio album and Rutlemania Edit
On the 22 November 1962, Dick Jaws produced, recorded, published and distributed their first album, Meet the Rutles, in only 20 minutes. Meet The Rutles was a massive success, The Rutles were not in anyway a success in England but in America there was unprecedented scenes of mass adulation. By December they had nineteen hits in the Billboards Top 20. American DJ, Bill Murray the "K" nicknamed their popularity "Rutlemania". On 11 November 1963, The Rutles played at The Royal Vairety Show, the Queen was so impressed by the performance that she invited The Rutles back to her place to award them all M.B.Es. On Febuary 7th, 1964, The Rutles landed in America for the first time, 5000 screaming people and 5000 Rutles fans were at Kennedy Airport to greet them. Unfortunately the Rutles arrived at La Guardia. On Febuary 9th, 1964 the Rutles played their first U.S. performance at The Ed Sullivan Show before an audience of 73 Million. In March, Nasty had written and published a best selling book, Out of Me Head. In 1964, The Rutles released their first fearture film, A Hard Days Rut, with the help of Liverpool filmaker, Dick Leichestershire.
1965-1967 Che Stadium, Bigger than God and Tea Edit
In January 1965, Barry Wom returned to Liverpool to marry his childhood sweetheart, Brenda Liola. Inside the dimley lit, crowded church, Barry Wom was seperated from his fiance and ended up with a different bride. In the confusion, Liola got accidentally married off to a party of Scotsmen from Hull. Barry was heartbroken, but saw who hed married and soon cheered up. In April , Carynthia Nasty gave birth to Ron Nastys first son, Rude Nasty. In August, The Rutles released their second film, Ouch!, filmed entirely in Switzerland, entirely in colour and entirely not in London. In October, The Rutles played the world's first outdoor rock and roll concert at 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. In 1966, The Rutles went through a feeling of innovation. On January 1st, The group released The Rutles (The Triangular Album), along with its many strange tracks, to a large audience. In April, Nasty in a widley quoted interview had apparantley claimed the Rutles were bigger than God and had reportedley gone on to say that God had never made a hit record. Nasty's claim became the most controversial moment in American History. Sales of Rutles albums skyrocketed, people were buying albums just so they could burn them, many burnt their fingers attempting to burn they're albums. But it was in fact a gastly misunderstanding, Nasty, talking to a slightly deaf journalist, had only claimed that the Rutles were bigger than Rod (Rod Stewart would not be big for another eight years). Nasty made a public apology to God, Rod and the Press and the tour went ahead as planned. In November 1966, The Rutles played the last concert of their tour in Candlestick Park, San Francisco, where they met Bob Dylan at the concert after party, The Rutles invited Bob Dylan to Breakfast with them. Dylan secretley slipped The Rutles cups of Tea into their breakfast. The Rutles enjoyed the pleasent effects of Tea.
In June 1967, the effects of tea became the inspiration for there most popular album, Sgt. Rutters Only Darts Club Band. The release of this album inspired The Summer of Lunch, an idyllic summer of Bells, Flowers, Tea Drinking and free food. The influence of Sgt. Rutters lead thousands to experiment with tea. The press found out about the rutles usage of tea and offered Dirk the chance to deny it, which he refused. Dirks admittion created a scandal, many pop stars were arrested for buying and selling tea. Nasty was busted by detective inspector Brian Plant, who bought his own to be on the safe side. The Times carried a full page ad calling for the legalisation of tea, and the general feeling was that police should stick to their proper job of collecting bribes from photographers and protecting the Royal Family from their subjects. On June 25, The Rutles appeared live on Worldwide T.V, before an audience of 200 million, with a performance of thier song "Love Life".
1968-1970: Loss of Leggy and Rutles break-upEdit
In August 1968, Stig had fallen under the influence of Arthur Sultan after a particularly hot cup of tea. Sultan then introduced Stig to his ouija board work. Sultan invited the other members of the Rutles to a table-tapping weekend near Bognor. When they boarded the train for Bognor, Carynthia Nasty was left behind with Rude Nasty. During the Rutles weekend at Bognor, The Rutles learned that Leggy Mountbatten, tired and despondant over the weekend and unable to raise any friends, went home and accepted a teaching post in Australia. The Rutles' first major flop, Tragical History Tour, immediatley followed the loss of Mountbatten and was slammed by the press. After the release of Tragical History Tour, The Rutles flew to New York to announce the formation of Rutle Corp. An organisation where people go to them for money and they would give it to them, instead of going to a bank. For six months, three chapters of the Redditch Hells Angels lived in the basement of Rutle Corp, Stig politley asked them to leave before he was punched in the face by Big Vallery. The Rutles next opened a clothes boutique in London which lost nearly $1 million in three weeks, before Nasty blew it up. For two years, people helped themselves to Rutle Corp supplies, money, and even offices. In November, Barry Wom's erotic ballad, Yellow Submarine Sandwich, became the inspiration for The Rutles' first animated feature film, Yellow Submarine Sandwich.
In March 1969, McQuickly became aware of Martini, a French actress who spoke no English and very little French. Stig by now had stayed in the background so much that a rumour spread that he had died in a flash fire in a waterbed shop and been replaced by a plastic and wax replica from Madame Tussauds; in reality, he had fallen into bed with Gertrude Strange. Barry had also spent the year in bed--as a tax dodge, either from appalling financial advice or from trying to start a "Barry is Also Dead" rumour. In November 1969 Ron Nasty met Chastity Hitler during her Destructo Art Exhibition at The Pretentious Gallery, Soho. Nasty and Hitler announced their engagement the next day at a press conference held in their shower.In January 1970, when Barry finally got out of bed, Rutle Corp was in a financial plight. Nasty had flown back from his Honeymoon Rally in Nuremberg to meet the most feared promoter in the world, Ron Decline. Decline promised the Rutles that if he'd let him take care of their royalties, they would never have to worry about money again. Stig meanwhile was accepting the financial advise of Billy Kodak, Dirk invited Arnold Shvartsenveisengrenenblauenbluenburger to handle his royalties, while Wom was consulting the I. Ching every 3 1/2 minutes. At the final meeting of Rutle Corp., 134 lawyers and accountants were crammed into a single room; only 87 came out alive. On May 8, in the midst of public bickering, Let it Rot was released as an album, a film and a lawsuit. In November, McQuickly sued O'Hara, Nasty and Wom; Wom sued McQuickly, Nasty and O'Hara; Nasty sued Wom, McQuickly and O'Hara; and O'Hara sued himself accidentally. The Rutles played their final concert on top of the rooftop of Rutle corp, it was so bad that the Rutles were arrested. After their arrest, the release of the Let It Rot album was shelved.
After The Rutles' breakup, Dirk formed a punk-rock group with his wife Martini, along with Denny "Gilmour" Lane and Joey Mason, called Punk Floyd; Dirk McQuickly sings and Martini doesn't. Nasty quickly became a recluse and sat with his thoughts and memories. Barry became a hairdresser in the Redding area; he currently owns four fully-equipped salons. Stig accepted a job offer from Air India as an Air Hostess.
It is rumored that The Rutles acquired all their music from others. Many people said that they stole it from New Orleans blues legend Blind Lemon Pye, but he said that the Rutles music came from his next-door neighbor Ruttling Orange Peel. Ruttling claimed that he DID write the music, but his wife clams that he is always lying. She said that he also claimed to have started The Everly Brothers, Frank Sinatra, and Lawrence Welk.
1970-Present: After The RutlesEdit
Nasty, Dirk, Stig and Barry all released solo albums in the 1970s. Barry Wom's Barry (1973), is the only album to include compositions from all ex-Rutles, albiet in seperate songs.
On 1 August 1971, Stig O' Hara created The Concert for Balderdash, a beneft concert set to raise money for the Balderdash Rabbit Ivestation of 1971. The concert features performances by ex-rutle Barry Wom, Arthur Sultan, Stevie Blunder, Elvis Prunk, Bob Dylan and the band Arthur Hodgeson and the Kneecaps. In 1974, Nasty accidentally released a jam session he had with Dirk called A Beetroot and Coleslaw in '74.
In 1988, The Rutles are inducted by Mick Jagger into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. None of them showed up.
In 1994, Nasty, with a group called The Moptops backed by the Rutland Symphony Orchestra, performed as "Ron Nasty and The New Rutles" at a convention honouring the 25th anniversary of Monty Python. This led to a Rutles reunion on top of The Hard Rock Cafe in New York and a reunion album, Archaeology, in 1995, featuring Nasty, Stig and Barry. The reunion album, featured several tracks recorded in 1978 with three unreleased songs. The Japanese version included 4 bonus tracks.
On the 18th March 1996, The Rutles released Archaeology 2, the album included mostly original tunes, but with some new singles.
On 28th October 1997, The Rutles released Archaeology 3 with 100% unreleased original songs.
In 2000, Stig befriended the founder of renowned square dancing troupe Circle of Hay. Over beers in the Concourse bar, they discussed the idea of doing a Circle of Hay show using Rutles music but lost touch after Stig's retirement. With the blessings of Dirk, Nasty and Barry, who were easily reached, work began on recombining classic Rutle tracks in ways that could support the Circle of Hay show LUNCH.
After being asked by aging A&R man Archie Macaw to make experimental mixes from The Rutles' master tapes for a collaboration with Circle of Hay, Stumpy Mountbatten, the son of Rutles manager Leggy Mountbatten was shocked to discover The Rutles' original tapes had vanished. Fortunately, 2 Rutles CDs were still in print and provided the material to create LUNCH. Working with these CDs and a computer his father bought surplus from the East Adelaide Primary School, Stumpy has created a unique soundscape.
In 2002, Melvin Hall made The Rutles 2: Cant Buy Me Lunch, which remained unreleased for a year. The film features an even bigger number of celebrity interviewees discussing the band's influence.
On 25th February 2002, Ron Nasty, Barry Wom and Dirk McQuickly reunited for Concert for Stig, a celebration of Sitg O' Hara's 59th Birthday held at Che Stadium.
On 17 March 2004, all four Rutles reunited for the first time at a 30th anniversary screening of A Hard Days Rut at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The event included a performance by The Rutles.
In March 2008 "Rutlemania", a Rutles tribute show, ran for a week at the Ricardo Montalban Theater in Hollywood before doing a week in NYC at The Blender Gramercy Theater. The "Rutlemania" live show was conceived and written by Dirk McQuickly which starred the Rutles tribute group "The Pre-Fab Four" as The Rutles.
On 9 February 2014, Melvin Hall, Narrator of All You Need is Cash, came out of hiding and appeared on The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, noting how the Rutles had made their American debut 50 years earlier, and it was an amazing coincidence the Beatles were there the same day. He then lent straight narration to biographical sketches of the Beatles's early lives. On that same day, Dirk McQuickly and Barry Wom (The only Rutles that bothered to show up), reunited for The Lunchtime That Changed America Even More: A Grammy Salute To The Rutles.
In 2016, worldwide renowned Ron Nasty impersonator Ron Howard released a documentary about The Rutles' touring years called The Rutles: 48 Hours a Day. He was later sued by Melvin Hall for creating a documentary on The Rutles without his participation.