I never wanted to say those words. Not because Ron Nasty wasn't a miserable chap, he was. To prove it, he even married the girl who's father started World War II.
I didn't want to say those words because it means that the man who created the character, the man who wrote and composed those songs, had also died.
It meant, Neil Innes was gone.
It's more than sad. It's another end to an era. We've now lost John Lennon, the character that Ron Nasty was based on back in 1980, almost 40 years ago now. Every Beatles fan felt the loss. John was gone but at least we still had Ron. We could even eat our cheese and onions and think of them both. But not anymore...
I guess lunch is officially over.
Yes, I'm being silly of course but The Rutles by way of Monty Python would've wanted it that way. Silly is the norm, not the exception. Neil Innes himself can be found with pictures (plural) where there's literally a rubber duck on his head. He probably would've loved that the place I work actually sells both rubber ducks and rubber chickens. He would've found a certain symmetry to this silly fact. Customers often complain that my workplace doesn't sell anything anyone actually NEEDS. Of course not, it's not a medical supply or a even a grocery store. There's nothing there that you need to survive. But you don't need Rutles music either...or do you?
Music itself will not save your life. A rubber chicken will not save your life. But it will enhance it, it will even make life seem worth living. I've yet to hear a person still obsess over a glass of water they drank back in 1980, but we still talk about the Beatles, we still talk about The Rutles. At least the people I know, the good ones that is, still do.
It might seem easy to parody the music of The Beatles. Any semi talented musician can take three chords and write a song that reminds you of the fab four. There's so much music that you have a lion's share of musical styles from which to choose. Take your pick: British invasion, Power Pop, Hard Rock, Instrumental, Bubblegum Pop, Psychadelic, Experimental, East Indian music...the choices go on and on. The Beatles accomplished all of that in less than a decade, that's why they're the flipping Beatles.
But what Neil Innes did was not only copy a Beatles song, he made us realize just how much we LOVED THEM. EVERYTHING about them, from Please, Please Me to Abbey Road and everything in-between.
It was fun to listen to a Rutles song and try to decipher out which Beatles' song it reminded us of. Ouch! was obviously Help! Get Up And Go was so close to Get Back that Neil Innes was worried that it would cause the publisher to sue them. (They didn't) But then you get a song like Hold My Hand and you're thinking about several Beatles songs from that period. The production on the songs was spot on, so good that there's even backwards vocals and instrumental bits. There's a Ringo song, there's a George song, there's Penny Lane and there's John's softer acoustic songs too.
Thing is, it's not just a parody album, the songwriting is so good that it's like getting another Beatles album. Seriously. I challenge anyone to find a true Beatles fan, play them The Rutles and have them not love it. It's not possible.
I tried doing the same thing with the band Klaatu's music. A friend told me his girlfriend loves The Beatles, so I bought her a copy of Sir Army Suit and she didn't like it. Well, Klaatu Barada Pffftttth! I should've gone Rutles.
Neil Innes' influence is deep. Everyone knows that Death Cab for Cutie took their name from Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's performance in Magical Mystery Tour by now. Neil contributed songs to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and appears in The Monty Python film, The Life of Brian. Even George Harrison was a Rutles fan.
But I think his legacy was that every single person who was lucky enough to meet, work, interview and know him all say how nice a gentleman he was and will always be to us mere mortals.
Thank you Neil, you will be missed.