Funny bunny stuff, an abstract presented in full at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society (AMS) South-Central Chapter
“Analyzing the Rutles: The Music and Identity of the Pre-Fab Four”
Christine Boone, University of Texas at Austin.
"On March 22, 1978, NBC aired a new made-for-TV “docudrama” about a fictional 1960s British Invasion band entitled The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. The Rutles is a phony documentary about the “pre-fab four:” Ron Nasty, Dirk McQuickly, Stig O’Hara, and Barry Wom. The movie is an obvious parody of the Beatles. Every still photograph shown and almost every bit of video footage has been modeled on an actual photograph or video clip of the Beatles.
"Eric Idle, the film’s creator, said that “the Beatles and the Rutles are so
intertwined, you can’t quite tell where the legend ends and the comedy takes over.”1 It is this particular comment that will be investigated through the course of this paper. The movie features a number of songs performed by the Rutles, but each Rutles song is not based on a single Beatles song. Composer Neil Innes does not simply take Beatles songs and replace the lyrics, in the style of the popular song parodies of Weird Al Yankovich. Using John Covach’s idea of stylistic competency, I will deconstruct the musical content of two of the Rutles’ songs and unearth a web of references that work together to create a parody of the Beatles’ style. These songs work in such a way that they can be (and in one famous instance, were) easily misidentified as actual Beatles songs, thereby helping to conflate the identities of the two groups."