Why George Harrison Said ‘The Rutles’ ‘Liberated’ Him From The Beatles’ Legacy

George Harrison said The Rutles “liberated” him from The Beatles‘ legacy. For most of his solo career, George had to deal with being tied to his famous former band. He grew sick of it fast.

However, the parody helped George come to terms with The Beatles.

The Rutles posing in leather jackets in 1978.
The Rutles | GAB Archive/Redferns

George Harrison was involved with ‘The Rutles’ movie from day one

In 1975, Eric Idle and Neil Innes created a sketch that followed a fictional band based on The Beatles called The Rutles. The sketch appeared on Idle’s BBC television series Rutland Weekend Television later that year. Then, the fake band became real when they recorded Beatle-y songs for an album called The Rutland Weekend Songbook.

In 1976, Idle played clips of The Rutles on SNL. The producer of the late-night comedy show, Lorne Michaels, liked the sketch and agreed to produce The Rutles‘ movie, All You Need Is Cash, with Idle. The Rutles line-up included Ron Nasty (Innes), Dirk McQuickly (Idle), Stig O’Hara (Ricky Fataar), and Barry Wom (John Halsey).

From day one, George got involved. He loved comedy almost as much as music. So, George didn’t hesitate to sign on to play a reporter in the movie. Director Gary Weis said (per The Rutles’ website), “George Harrison was involved almost from the beginning. He was around quite a lot, even when he didn’t need to be there.

“We were sitting around in Eric’s kitchen one day, planning a sequence that really ripped into the mythology and George looked up and said, ‘We were The Beatles, you know!’ Then he shook his head and said, ‘Aw, never mind.’ I think he was the only one of The Beatles who could see the irony of it all.

“The most surreal thing for me was that when we were doing the bits outside of the Apple building, and George is made up as a TV reporter interviewing Neil Innes, a teenage kid came up and asked George, ‘Is that John Lennon?’ It never dawned on him who he was talking to.”

George got a kick out of not being recognized. He ran and hid from screaming fans during the height of Beatlemania and still couldn’t go out without being recognized long after The Beatles split. So, it was refreshing for him to slide under the radar.

RELATED: After The Beatles Split, George Harrison Said John Lennon and Paul McCartney Were Only a Little ‘B*****’ With Each Other

George said ‘The Rutles’ ‘liberated’ him from The Beatles’ legacy

During a 1988 interview with Rockline (per Harrison Archive), George said The Rutles was important to his career. He said the parody “liberated” him from The Beatles’ legacy.

“The Rutles were so important to my career,” George said. “Everything I ever knew or wrote was The Rutles. You know, really… you know, The Rutles sort of liberated me from The Beatles in a way. And it was the only thing I ever saw of those sort of Beatle television things they made that was actually the best, funniest and most scathing, but at the same time done with the most love.

“But the sad thing about it was the songs that were so nice, such great parodies written by Neil Innes, also got ripped off by Sir Lew Greed [Grade] who later sold it to Michael Jackson […] so that’s the sad thing about The Rutles, but… brilliant. The Rutles are coming to Flushing.”

RELATED: Eric Idle Said George Harrison Would’ve Been Proud That Monty Python’s Concert for George Performance Lightened the Mood

How the parody liberated the Beatle

In an interview with Yahoo!, Idle said that The Rutles did liberate George. “I think it did,” the comedian said. “He would always refer to the Beatles as ‘The Rutles’ ever since. When I’d talk to him, he’d say, ‘When I was in the Rutles…'”

George didn’t like being a Beatle like the others. John Lennon and Paul McCartney treated George as a junior member and a glorified session man. They pushed his songs aside. Touring the world throughout Beatlemania aged him too.

Meeting Ravi Shankar in 1965 showed George there was more to life than fame. The legendary sitarist taught him sitar and spirituality. Suddenly, George wanted out of The Beatles. If he could, he would’ve dropped everything in his life to live out his days reading religious texts and meditating in the Himalayan mountains.

After The Beatles split, George was still a Beatle. All he wanted to do was garden, jam with friends, and live in privacy. However, the press kept a watchful eye on him as if it was still Beatlemania. He could barely go out.

When he performed, fans only wanted to hear his Beatle songs. Record companies only wanted hits when he went into the recording studio. Everyone continued to want a piece of him.

The Rutles finally allowed George to joke about his time with The Beatles. Suddenly, all the pent-up anger and resentment about his former band dissipated. The parody made George come to terms with being a Beatle.

Since it wasn’t all serious anymore and he could joke about the band, he was more willing to discuss his time with the Fab Four.

RELATED: George Harrison Didn’t Love Guitars Because They Were Sexual