Mar 12

The Rutles: “Ouch!”/The Beatles: “Help!”


The cigarette in Dirk McQuickly’s hand played right into the “Dirk is Dead” rumors.

The Rutles

The Beatles

This week, instead of Cover Friday, I’m making it “Parody Friday” — and for the specific idea of doing the Rutles, my thanks go to loyal Reselect reader Terry McDermott, who suggested it earlier this week. Seeing as I had nothing else yet lined up for today anyway, it seemed as good a week to do it as any.

The Rutles were a 1978 parody group of the Beatles, initiated by Eric Idle of Monty Python. With the songwriting talents of Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band (and a former pal of the Beatles, having appeared in their Magical Mystery Tour TV film) and the support of SNL producer Lorne Michaels, Idles was able to make The Rutles documentary — All You Need is Cash — a reality, complete with soundtrack album. And the resulting mockumentary is pretty much the most dead-on music parody (a very affectionate one, of course . . . these guys loved the Beatles) that you’ll see — it’s on an equal footing with Spinal Tap in every way.

While the concept and writing of the Rutles film were funny, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good if it weren’t for Innes’s ability to write such accurate, clever spoofs of Beatles songs. He specialized primarily in writing Lennon-style songs — if you listen to the whole The Rutles album, you definitely note a pronounced lean toward Lennon. The best of those for my money are “Piggy in the Middle” — a spoof of “I Am the Walrus” — and “Ouch!,” a masterful dead-ringer for the “Help!” And it’s “Ouch!” that made the final cut for Reselect today. With its extremely catchy but not-quite-exactly-the-same melody, and lyrics as deep and insightful as this:

Don’t desert me
Please don’t hurt me

Was there really any other choice? (Well, yes, about a dozen or so others, but I’ll leave it for you to check out the full album.)


  1. i think that’s me favourite song from the rutles though many are so spot on you forget it’s a spoof, of all the guest appearances – Mick Jagger talking about the shea stadium appearance.
    as for another priceless cover – nouvelle vague doing ever fallen’ in love’ which is really, or too drunk, which is really funny.

    1. Nouvelle Vague does a good job with a number of covers, as I remember — thanks for the reminder!

    1. No…say it ain’t so!

  2. Vassilis says:

    You probably know it already, but “the Beatles”-Apple threatened to sue for copyrights and the new editions of the Rutles state Lennon/McCartney as composers too. As if the boys haven’t offered them much already. Or they don’t have enough…

    1. Actually, I hadn’t heard about the inclusion of Lennon/McCartney as composers — that’s ridiculous. Innes also had to give up 50% of his royalties to the publishers, from what I read. Thankfully the Beatles themselves had nothing to do with the suit.

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