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March 17, 2008


by Don Rose

(March 16, 2008 - Hollywood, CA) It is safe to say that Chuck Berry was the first Poet Laureate of Rock and Roll. Once the torch passed to a new generation, Lennon and McCartney and Dylan became the Poet Laureates of rock's reinvention. But when one considers the realm of rock satire and homage, The LA Report hereby nominates Neil Innes as the Poet Laureate of Parody Pop. His talents as songwriter were on full display tonight at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, where the second of five "RUTLEMANIA" shows played to a packed audience (including all four original Rutles) tapping toes to the tunes of Innes, as played with perfection by Beatle tribute band The Fab Four (billed as The PRE-Fab Four for the five shows taking place this week).

I know what you're thinking. A simulation of a satirization? Yes, and it works. The combination of film/video footage projected behind the live band makes for a potent mix. The visual clips are composed of segments from the original 1978 film "All You Need is Cash" plus the "Rutles 2" sequel, featuring interview snippets with many stars, including Paul Simon, Garry Shandling, John Belushi (as Rutle manager Ron Decline, modeled on post-Epstein Beatle manager Allen Klein), Gilda Radner, and in the clip that got the greatest applause, George Harrison as a silver haired newsman interviewing Rutle Corps rep Michael Palin as the Rutle office gets robbed blind behind them. All of this is blended seamlessly with, and enhances the effect of, Neil's superbly crafted music. The Fab Four, who already have the Beatles down, prove they have mastered the Rutle song catalog as well. The show is in two parts: the Early Days (early-60s--2-minute-tunes--lovable-moptops--pre-1967ish), then intermission, then the Later Days (psychedelia, dropping tea, marriages, film flops and breakup).

The songs in "Rutlemania" include hits from the original album (we especially love "Cheese and Onions" and "Piggy in the Middle"), plus gems from the Rutle sequel song set "Archaeology" -- released in the 90's to coincide with The Beatles' own "Anthology" series. The "Archaeology" album (produced by Martin Lewis, who was at tonight's show along with original Rutles Innes, Eric Idle ("Dirk") - who devised and directed Rutlemania, Ricky Fataar ("Stig") and John Halsey ("Barry")) is, like the first record, filled with melodic masterpieces that combine witty imagery, catchy riffs and whiffs of Beatleness into a magical medley of music. Some Rutle songs sound very close to Beatle originals (example: "Get Up and Go" is about 80 percent "Get Back") while others can take some time to tease out the Beatle genetics, but all share great craftmanship and a love of pop hooks that please the ear while stimulating the mind with clever lyrics. Just the Rutle title "Blue Suede Shubert" encapsulates how perfect the parody is. The title combines/tweaks Beatle influences "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Roll Over Beethoven" -- but the actual song is not a mere mashing up of two classics. Instead, Innes fashioned a fresh, fun new tune that uses the verbal pun as an imaginative starting point for a solid rocker.

After the show, I had a chance to chat with Mr. Innes -- the Lennonesque Ron Nasty in the original Rutles and the mastermind behind their tunes -- who displayed a great deal of warmth, English charm and a genuine love of the Rutle phenomenon. I asked if he wrote the Rutle songs with the Beatles firmly in mind from the start, or whether he tried to create great pop tunes and then massage them into Beatlesque form. He said it was the latter approach, that the Beatleness was shaped mainly in the songs' post-production phase. Neil also wanted to encourage everyone to come and see the remaining shows, expressing a strong desire for the show to continue for a longer run -- and we at The LA Report have to agree, five shows seems way too short. Hopefully, if the crowds continue as packed and enthusiastic as tonight's, the show will indeed be extended.

Hail Brittania, and Rutlemania!

Rutlemania, at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, starring The Fab Four. Not the Rutles (a fab band that satirized The Beatles), but an incredible simulation. The Fab Four (a Beatles tribute band in "real" life) becomes The PRE-Fab Four for five nights of live Rutle classics. The LA Report recommends it as a Best Bet. Remaining Dates: March 19 at 8 pm; March 20 at 8 pm; and March 21 at 8 pm. Location: Vine Street, just south of Hollywood Blvd. Official poster with more info at www.rutles.org/tributeconcert.html. Tickets available at www.ticketweb.com. Related Rutle event: March 17 at the Egyptian; more information at www.modsandrockers.com.

Photo: Original Rutle Neil Innes ("Ron Nasty") and Don Rose (Editor in Chief of The LA Report).