ROCK / A legend in their lunchtime: Thirty years ago this month, four young lads from Rutland released their first single. The rest is history. Neil Innes talks to Ron Nasty of the Rutles

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The Independent Culture
Nasty: 'This isn't gonna take long is it?'

Innes: 'No, no, just a few questions. They say that if you can remember the Sixties - you weren't really there . . .'

Nasty: 'Neither was I. It was another Time and Space . . . was it really 30 years ago? Back then, no one who was anyone had ever lived that long. Teenagers had only just been invented - we'd 'never had it so good' - no National Service, plenty of jobs, and only the barest whiff of Sexual Politics.'

Innes: 'What about Free Love and Love-ins and all that?'

Nasty: 'Free Love? Yeah, that was a good one] The basic idea was that any 'groovy' young man in tight trousers who could grow his hair, play the guitar and sing, could then take his pick of the adoring young women who threw themselves at him - or otherwise made themselves available - 'make love not war' to four or five of them and then sod off in the van. It was the only way to stop the screaming.'

Innes: 'How did they 'otherwise make themselves available'?'

Nasty: 'Well, you know . . . they used to break into the hotels, hide in the wardrobe, or under the bed, hang about outside the house, that sort of thing . . . they were very ingenious. Of course, some of them didn't make it and ended up with the roadie - or some complete stranger who maybe looked a bit like somebody 'famous' - you know, the hair was the same, or maybe the nose . . .'

Innes: 'You certainly had lots of imitators. But what about the early days, before your phenomenal success? Does it seem like only yesterday?'

Nasty: 'No way] Looking back, I dunno how we did it] We all just piled into the back of a grotty van and 'aggravated the gravel' - we didn't really have any plans for making it big - not then anyhow, we just wanted to have a good time and look like Elvis.'

Innes: 'But you did make it big - really big. How did that come about?'

Nasty: 'After Germany. We'd been playing in Hamburg and foolin' around with writing our own songs - like 'Goose-Steppin' Momma' and 'Blue Suede Schubert' - back in England, when Leggy discovered us in a cellar, we'd already written 'Hold My Hand' and 'I Must Be In Love'.'

Innes: 'Leggy Mountbatten was your manager and got you your first recording deal - what did he see in you? Was it the music?'

Nasty: 'No . . . it was the trousers. Leggy was really into all that, you know, the look, the image.'

Innes: 'That's when you really took off, a string of Number 1s in the hit parade, Rutle-Mania, films, MBEs . . .'

Nasty: 'Yeah, we were everybody's darlings - even old people liked us.'

Innes: 'But then the 'image' changed - why was that?'

Nasty: 'We were all shagged out. We couldn't tour any more because of the screaming - nobody could hear us, we couldn't hear ourselves] It was like we couldn't go out to play until our 'Tea had gone down'.'

Innes: 'Ah yes, the Tea . . . what turned you on to that?'

Nasty: 'Are you serious? Everybody knows that a nice pot of Tea helps you relax and unwind - and what's wrong with a nice biscuit to go with it?'

Innes: 'But didn't you start dressing up colourfully - and writing different sorts of songs - like 'Double-Back Alley' and 'WC Fields Forever'?'

Nasty: 'So what? I don't recall anyone complaining about Sgt Rutter - it sold zillions.'

Innes: 'Oh indeed - it was a landmark. It changed the whole recording industry - it was the first concept album - the face of pop would never be the same again.'

Nasty: 'Lots of people had Tea and biscuits . . .'

Innes: '. . . the interwoven melodies - the flowing tapestry of lyrics - sparkling with images that danced like sunlight on water and stuck in your brain like a toffee in a handkerchief . . .'

Nasty: 'I don't remember that]'

Innes: ' . . . and then came 'The Tragical History Tour' - who can forget songs like 'I Am The Waitress', 'The Fool On The Pill' and 'Your Mother Should Go' . . .'

Nasty: 'Ah] That was mostly Dirk, he was really keen on . . . '

Innes: ' . . . even Stig, 'the quiet one', wrote songs like 'Nevertheless': 'make the most of it, make the most of it - Nevertheless]' - he was all musician - and dear old Barry, with his 'Living In Hope' - OK, he could just about hold a tune, but nobody could thump a tom-tom like him . . .'

Nasty: 'I've had enough of this . . .'

Innes: '. . . and yes] There was the world-wide live TV hook-up, when you chewed gum and sang 'Love-Life' - with all the balloons and confetti, the girls and the orchestra - all the beautiful people were there - clapping along and singing 'Love is the meaning of Life, Life is the meaning of Love' over and over again it brings a lump to the throat - just to think of it. Even now, so many owe so much to so few.

'The Rutles, four war babies who grew up in an ugly duckling world that was just about to see its new reflection. They sang songs and made people smile. The future was a million miles away . . . Or was it? 'See How The Good Times Roll' always haunts me . . . 'like ice in a drink, invisible ink, or dreams in the cold light of day . . . the children of rock'n'roll never grow old, they just fade away . . .'

'Don't you think so Nasty? Well, of course you do, after all, you wrote it . . . Nasty? where are you? Sorry if I went on a bit . . . Nasty? Wait for me . . . '

The Rutles In All You Need Is Cash is available on Telstar Video.

(Photograph omitted)