NEIL INNES IS BEST KNOWN FOR HIS PORTRAYAL OF RON
Nasty in the “Prefab Four,” the Rutles, a band that brilliantly spoofed and paid tribute
to the Beatles. He’s also a gifted songwriter and comedian who was in the Bonzo
Dog Doo-Dah Band and worked with Monty Python, writing “Sir Robin’s Song”
for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. His latest release is Innes Own World, Best Bits
Part One, which features his music and comedy sketches. Innes took time before
his San Francisco gig to talk Rutles, Beatles, and songwriting.
Some of your Rutles tunes are fairly straightforward takeoffs, like “Number One,” but
some, like “Double Back Alley” and “Love Life” are deep and layered. “Love Life” has the oddmeter
feel from the original, as well as some similar wordplay, which elevates it beyond simple
parody. Did you see it as a tribute or was it all a joke?
It was absolutely a tribute. I was determined not to trivialize what they had done.
I wanted it to have meaning. There’s nothing wrong with the sentiment of “All You
Need Is Love.” I wanted to do something that was almost like a mirror image of it.
The Rutles (left to right)—Dirk McQuickly, Barry Wom, Stig O’Hara, and Ron Nasty.
George is in the movie, so obviously he was in
on the joke, but what did the others say to you
about the Rutles?
I never talked to John directly about it but
he was very supportive. He said, “Watch out
for ‘Get Up and Go.’ I think you’ll get into
trouble with that one.” So, we took it off the
album and just left it in the film. Paul is fine
with the music. I think he’s not too happy
with Eric Idle’s portrayal of him, but Paul and
I are fine. And Ringo’s just so easy going.
What advice would you give someone who
wants to write original but familiar melodies
and chord progressions?
Don’t do it deliberately. If you write
a good song, it’s going to have some of
the best songs ever written in it. It
can’t help it. It’s best not to look.
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