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16 Music Week 28.09.12 INTERVIEW NEILINNES


With a restored Magical Mystery Tour imminent, one-time Rutle Neil Innes recalls life behind the scenes with The Beatles


oll up, roll up once more for the Magical Mystery Tour. And this time it is in glorious colour.

Savagely panned by critics when first screened

by the BBC on Boxing Day 1967 – not least because it was shown in grainy black and white – The Beatles’ supposed first creative disaster has been meticulously restored for release by Apple Films on DVD and Blu-ray on October 8. However, rather than being the “disaster” history

might have us believe, this new treated version reveals an enjoyable 53-minute journey that includes not only performances of songs such as I Am The Walrus, Fool On The Hill and Blue Jay Way but improvised scenes that are Pythonesque in places – nearly two years before Monty Python debuted on UK TV. Among the players were the then rising avant-

garde, comedy/rock band The Bonzo Dog Doo- Dah Band who perform their song Death Cab For Cutie in the film and whose line-up included Neil Innes, later with Python Eric Idle the creator of The Rutles, an hilarious parody of The Beatles that produced the film All You Need Is Cash. Innes tells Music Week how he went from filming with The Beatles to becoming one of the Prefab Four.

How fresh is Magical Mystery Tour in your mind? It is pretty fresh because it’s not the sort of thing you forget. The Bonzos weren’t on the bus so we only did one day, but we were in the Raymond’s Revue Bar, the strip club scene, and it was such a funny day. Obviously we had to keep doing it and we had the stripper and everything like that and I remember John and Ringo had their own 16mm cameras and I said, “What are you doing?” and they said, “We’re doing the Weybridge version.” When it came out it sounded quite coy for the so-called Swinging

“I said ‘George what do you think – do another Rutles album?’ and he, dark

humour, said, “Which one of you is going to get shot?” NEIL INNES

ABOVE RIGHT No Ruts, no style: Neil Innes, and as part of The Rutles alongside Eric Idle

Sixties. When [the stripper] took her bra off there was a big black rectangle [over her]. Royalty can’t expect that, can they?

Before the film did you have much of a relationship with The Beatles? Not really. We knew they used to come and see us because in those days they used to have false beards and what not to be in disguise. The Bonzos played The Saville Theatre a few times, which was owned by Brian Epstein and we knew they used to come and see us but we didn’t really start talking to them until that day and we sort of became friends really. What was nice was they knew we were a band in a van and they were pretty much a band in a van, even though they had been catapulted to such fame.

Then the following year after Magical Mystery Tour, Paul produced the Bonzos hit you wrote – I’m The Urban Spaceman. Paul came and it was wonderful and what really got me was he said, “I’ve just written this” and went over to the grand piano and started playing this dirge, which was Hey Jude. I think we heard it before the other Beatles.

BELOW Reach for the sky: The Beatles look out of the Magical Mystery Tour coach skylight on location in the West Country in September 1967

The way history recalls Magical Mystery Tour was Paul was running the show. When you were on set was that how it played out? Very much so. I think the others were quite glad someone was saying, “Well, we’ll do this now and do that.” The others were happy to let him do it really. It’s a sort of an art school film. We were fresh out of art school. It’s exactly what we’d have done with no particular plot. All the greats worked like that - Buster Keaton. He couldn’t get an idea he’d play baseball. I think it got a bit panned because maybe it was their turn to get panned. They hadn’t done anything worth panning before then, but I thought it was a happy movie. I loved it. They were very funny. They were funny guys.

And later you did The Rutles. The Rutles had to be made because it was getting too silly. The guy who put The Beatles on the road was offering them something like $20 million

each to do 20 minutes and a pet killer whale. George really wanted to see The Rutles made, a bit like wanting to see Life of Brian made. He of all the Beatles was the one at the time who said, “That’s enough. Let’s put the suit in the cupboard and move on.” He was very much not a showbusiness person. He was a lovely guy and we all miss him.

George, of course, was in the Rutles movie All You Need Is Cash. Did the other Beatles remark on it? I think John was giggling at it and Ringo was diplomatically saying, “Well, you know…”, but I don’t think Paul liked it because Eric was over the top and Paul has told me since he thought the music was fun and affectionate, which is what it was meant to be. But it came out just when Paul released London Town, which is a lovely album and, of course, he was being asked what he thought of The Rutles, which turned him against the project a bit.

Then you did The Rutles Archaeology album when the Beatles Anthology albums came out. At the time I didn’t want to do it, but so many people were saying you should do it and what persuaded me was in ’94 I was asked to go to a Beatles convention thing in New Jersey and I spent three or four hours a day signing Rutles albums and all the Beatles fans are Rutles fans. I asked Eric what he thought and he didn’t seem that keen. I went down to see George and I said “George what do you think – do another Rutles album?’ and he immediately, dark humour, said, “Which one of you is going to get shot?”

Photo: Apple Films Ltd

The question the individual Beatles were always asked was: will you ever get back together? Do you get that question about The Rutles? Yeah. I’m with Mick [ Jagger] on that. I hope not. The thing is The Rutles are all over the world. What would give me the most pleasure is if the word Rutle were to be put in a dictionary as a verb. To rutle: to copy or emulate someone you admire (especially in the music business)... because when you think about it The Beatles were rutling Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent and Elvis, so The Rutles were the biggest band in the world because everybody is rutling.

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