The Beatles reunion can never happen, but two Rutles, Neil Innes and John Halsey will get back to the backbeat at Swansea's Garage on May 25.
Kate Clarke talks to Neil, aka Ron Nasty, about being very nearly fab.
HE is responsible for such rock ‘n roll classics as The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse, What Noise Annoys a Noisy Oyster and Blue Suede Schubert, and he successfully sued Oasis for ripping off one of his own Beatles pastiches.
Neil Innes, sometime member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band and another member of the original prefab four, The Rutles, will do their off-centre thing in Swansea next month.
And while The Beatles were thoroughly cheesed off with being The Beatles, by the time they packed it in, The Rutles, says Neil, is a continuing pleasure for him.
“We don’t do it often, so when we do get together it is a lot of fun. We did 8 shows last August and there was such a conspiratorial feeling to things. We enjoyed ourselves and I still found it all very funny.
“In fact with the Bonzos, The Beatles used to come and see us play, and there was some envy there because somehow we were allowed to muck about. We did exactly what we wanted and got away with it. The Beatles had to be The Beatles.”
The Fab Four might not have always had fun, but they did change the face of pop music forever, and they were the epicentre of the most exciting time in British social history. Even if you weren’t there it’s easy to be nostalgic for 1960’s Britain.
Neil says he is aware how lucky he is to have been there.
“I do feel blessed to have been young in the 1960s. It was a golden time - probably because we had just come through a horrible world war and there was no counselling for those people when they came home. The older generation was trying to maintain this Britishness and their old way of life and the younger generation felt they wanted something else now - We felt we could create something completely new. The Beatles were such a big part of that. They were a phenomenon, on a primal level. It was dangerous in a way. “Young people loved them, old people loved them - what is that saying?: ‘men go mad in herds but they recover by themselves.’”
Being at the heart of that enjoyable foment, as Neil and his muckers in the Bonzos and The Rutles were, led to some surreal encounters.
“I met John Lennon a couple of times, just to exchange banter. I was at the Apple records Christmas party and my 3-year-old son had wandered off. I found him on a Hells’ Angel’s knee, being fed beer from this guy’s little finger. “Johns was there, lying down with Yoko.
“And we had worked together on Magical Mystery Tour. There is a camaraderie among people who have shared a van and a dressing room. You can’t pull the wool over each other’s eyes.”
Perhaps that’s why the acerbic Lennon put up with Neil playing him in The Rutles, as Ron Nasty. John was very much on the Rutles bus, says Neil. “I heard somebody went up to him in New York in the street and asked ‘what do you think of the Rutles?’ And he started to sing the Rutles song Cheese and Onions to them.”
Those years may have passed, but Neil has by no means lost touch with his rare gift for silliness. It is a talent that saw him pen 100-plus episodes of the Raggy Dolls, a show which appealed to his sense of the value of the undervalued.
“The story of seven little reject dolls helping each other out really appealed to me, and that was one of my favourite projects. “I love writing for children.
“What I love about my grandchildren is that when they laugh, they laugh from the toes upwards. And there is no more joyful sound that of a child really laughing,” says Neil.