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The Rosetta Stone of Rutledom

July 28, 1996|Steve Hochman

Everybody knows the story well.

The legendary tapes were stuck in a time capsule in 1970--"to thwart bootleggers. And tax authorities"--with instructions that they should not be dug up for 1,000 years.

But now, just 26 years later, they've been unearthed, and on Oct. 29 clamoring fans will finally get to hear the long-lost Rutles album, "Archaeology."

Rutles frontman Ron Nasty explains the premature release by simply stating, "Things change."

Well, to quote one of the project's co-conspirators: Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

And to quote George Harrison, who knows a thing or two about historical anthologies: "Milk it for all you can."

That's what Harrison told his friend Neil Innes, the former Bonzo Dog Band member and Monty Python musician whose Ron Nasty character is the Lennon-like figure in the Rutles. The fictional group's uncannily Beatles-esque music and history, the subject of "All You Need Is Cash," a 1978 TV documentary conceived and executed by Innes with Python member Eric Idle (Rutles bassist Dirk McQuickly), has inspired a rabid cult following.

Innes is currently holed up in a London studio polishing these "rediscovered" treasures--the first "new" Rutles material since the 1978 soundtrack album from "All You Need Is Cash." Among the 12 songs are "Major Happy's Up & Coming Once Upon a Good Time Band," "We've Arrived (and to Prove It We're Here)," "Knicker Elastic King" and "Back in '64." Plans are also on the drawing board for video projects (though not another comprehensive documentary like the last one) and a possible tour to follow the album's release.

Like the TV film, which featured cameos by Harrison, John Belushi, Mick Jagger, et al, the new album is expected to have guest stars, though Innes would not reveal any names. He does, though, proudly name such leaders of the current British pop revival as Oasis, Blur and Pulp as bands that cite the Rutles as an influence. Innes himself owns a piece of the Oasis song "Whatever," which refers to his song "How Sweet to Be an Idiot."

The current project was initiated two years ago when Innes, as Nasty, led a band of Mop Top imitators in a concert of Rutles songs at the Troubadour (Innes, as Innes, was the opening act). The interest among both fans and record executives made the project inevitable, and recently a deal was signed with Virgin Records for the "Archaeology" album.

As to the belief that the Rutles never really existed, Innes says, "The Rutles do exist on a plane where everybody likes to pretend to be someone else. I like the idea of the word Rutle becoming a verb. Even the Beatles were Rutles by pretending to be Eddie Cochran or Elvis Presley when they started out."

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