Mind you, I was only 7 in 1978 and had a weak bladder problem, so maybe that wouldn't have been a good idea to do it then either...
I needed a drink.
I spotted a lovely looking pub just up ahead of me, white fronted and with a welcoming aura, 'The Castle Inn' the sign read... Well, I thought, I suppose if I couldn't interview music royalty I could still have a drink in a castle.
Entering the building I noticed that it was even nicer inside and after crossing the busy room, I sat down at the bar and ordered a pint. The barman seemed friendly and personable enough and as he poured my drink we made idle chit-chat; he asked my where I was from and out of politeness I answered him, but, to be honest I was in no mood to, after all I was the one meant to be asking the questions... How could I get it so bloody wrong?!
I saw a menu on the bar and scanned it... Ohh chips! Yes, chips! Chips would do the trick, nobody can be sad with a bowl of chips in front of them, I checked my watch, it was nearly 3pm and I was starving, yes chips would make me feel better!
It was quite late, so I checked with the barman if the food had finished yet? "My dad is helping out in the kitchen today" he told me, "And he does make good chips!"
So I ordered the biggest portion they had and continued my conversation with the barman to pass the time until they came... Then, not too long after I noticed the familiar swing of a kitchen door and watched as the guys father walked out with a steaming bowl of lovely hot chips... Now, on a normal day this would have been good enough for me... A nice pub, a cold pint and some hot chips... But this turned out to be no normal day... This turned out to be a bloody amazing day... Because the guy handing me the chips was none other than John Halsey!
So was it possible that I might be able to talk to a Rutle after all?... Actually...
I couldn't help myself and asked if he had a spare 10 minutes - or an hour - to talk about old times? And it seemed my luck was just getting better and better as the kitchen had just closed and he said would love to chat... Beer, chips and a Rutle?! I had to pinch myself!
I grabbed a couple of ketchup sachets, took a swig of my drink and got started.
So, John, how did it all start for you?
that band for 6 years and we went all over the world, we topped the bill in small venues and pubs and things like that. We had a bit of a fanatical following and we did lots of supports gigs on quite big tours... and we did about 3 or 4 albums and singles ... we did lots of things over 6 years… We never ever had any money, we always struggled, travelling round in the back of a van. But the band was well respected, it was always tipped for doing well and never ever really did, so eventually it split up and everyone went their own way…"
and then I started to work with different people and do different things, and at that time there was a big band called Grimms, in that band was Neil Innes, Zoot Money, Viv [Vivian] Stanshall, Brian Patten from Scaffold, Andy Roberts... There was loads and loads of people in this band and they used to go around doing this travelling review show with poetry and music and everything... It was really good! The drummer Jerry Conway left and Zoot Money suggested that they put me on drums, so I went and played drums for Grimms and we had a few tours and Neil was involved and [so] that’s how I met Neil. Neil and I became good friends and still are, that was 1973 and um… from then there were different bands that I was involved with until I joined a band called Fatso... So anyway, the we were out playing golf one day and he [Neil] said he wasn't doing anything… He moans when he’s busy
and he moans when he’s not doing anything! So he was moaning about not doing anything, so I said “Why don’t you come and play some gigs with this band?” It was a really good band and I was one of the session players and [we were] all really experienced players, so we did some rehearsals with him and learnt some of his songs, and so he started to play with the band, who then became 'Neil Innes and Fatso'…
But it was his idea anyway…"
But they couldn't sell the film on my name, could they?!"
John thought for a while before answering...
And favourite part of the filming?
"I think is where um… Neil and Gwen Taylor are sitting in that shower and they’re getting wet for peace... I think that’s funny because Neil nearly corpses! Neil is halfway to breaking into laughter! They said to him "You’re only going to be able to do this once, don’t fuck it up! Because once that suit gets wet and the wig gets wet and Gwen Taylors outfit gets wet, you’re going to look like it’s a retake"... So they said it’s got to be right fist time."
I did note that John called it Help!
...and there was a load of extras that they got from the Liverpool labour exchange, they got a day’s work appearing in the film! They brought them all up on a coach and they all rode around… There is that big lady with the hula hula girls, grass skirt on and all that… That was good fun... really good…"
"Yes, that was all! Well we did some recording in a studio in Hendon in the evenings... We did that for about 2 weeks, from about 6 to 10pm, because the demo studio was somebodies house and then we went into – I was working with Roy Harper at that time and I was recording an album and doing a tour with him… I was a busy player in those days, so I was then going off to do Rutles filming for about 3 weeks... but there was filming done before I was involved... and after... The bit where I was a hairdresser was done weeks and weeks after it. They wanted some bits to round the film off, with nasty in the wheelchair and Barry with his hairdressers, Eric being a punk and Ricky being an Indian airlines stewardess. I did this many weeks later as they didn't have anything to round the film off."
And it must feel weird watching Rutle tribute bands?
"We have come across a few, Neil and I performed the Cavern in Liverpool for the Beatles festival about 10 years ago and we were backed by the bootleg Rutles from Scotland who did all the songs very well. But in Japan in June 2014 it was a bit spooky. We played a couple of shows and the two support acts were both Rutle tribute bands. One was the 'Mountbattens,' the other I can't remember. They had the hair, the suits, the correct guitars and had all the songs down with the most peculiar lyrics. It was a very nice compliment, especially for Neil."
Oh dear, I sighed as I looked down at my empty glass and glanced at my watch, ah crap, my train was in 20 minutes and I had to be on it, so this would have to be my last question, better make it a goodun'.
I picked the last few cold, salty crumbs from the bowl with my fingertips and stood up from my stool, shaking Johns hand and thanking him profusely I took my leave...
... So it seems this legend really had lasted a lunchtime... Well a bowl of chips anyway...
http://www.rutles.org/ is the official site
or maybe visit John's pub; The Castle Inn in Cambridge... He might even be working! http://thecastleinncambridge.com
or go and see them on tour in December, Tickets available at https://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/the-rutles
or seriously just Google it...