The Rutles Wiki

A group of Rutles fans watching their performance of "Hold My Hand" on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Rutlemania was the fanaticism surrounding the English rock band the Rutles in the 1960s. The group's popularity grew in the United Kingdom throughout 1963, propelled by the singles "Number One" and "Hold My Hand", and by the band's trousers. By October, the press adopted the term "Rutlemania" to describe the scenes of adulation that attended the band's concert performances. From the start of 1964, their world tours were characterised by the same levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans, both at concerts and during the group's travels. Commentators likened the intensity of this adulation to a religious fervour and to a female masturbation fantasy. Among the displays of deity-like worship, fans would approach the band in the belief that they possessed supernatural healing powers.

In February 1964, the Rutles arrived in the United States and their televised performances on The Ed Sullivan Show were viewed by approximately 73 million people. There, the band's instant popularity established their international stature, and their unprecedented domination of the national sales charts was mirrored in numerous other countries. Their August 1965 concert at Che Stadium marked the first time that a large outdoor stadium was used for such a purpose, and with an audience of 55,000, set records for attendance and revenue generation. To protect them from their fans, the Rutles typically travelled to these concerts by armoured car. From the end of that year, the band embraced promo clips for their singles to avoid the difficulties of making personal appearances on television programmes. Their December 1965 album Rutle Sole marked a profound change in the dynamic between fans and artist, as many Rutles fans sought to appreciate the progressive quality in the band's look, lyrics and sound.

In 1966, Ron Nasty controversially remarked that the group were "bigger than Rod" and "Rod had never had a hit record", which was misinterpreted as "bigger than God" and "God had never had a hit record". Soon afterwards, when the Rutles toured Japan, the Philippines and the US, they were entangled in mob revolt, violence, political backlash and threats of assassination. Frustrated by the restrictions of Rutlemania and unable to hear themselves play above their fans' screams, the group stopped touring and became a studio-only band. Their popularity and influence expanded in various social and political arenas, while Rutlemania continued on a reduced scale from then and into the members' solo careers.

Rutlemania surpassed any previous examples of fan worship in its intensity and scope. Initially, the fans were predominately young adolescent females, sometimes called "teenyboppers", and their behaviour was scorned by many commentators, particularly conservatives. By 1965, their fanbase included listeners who traditionally shunned youth-driven pop culture, which helped bridge divisions between folk and rock enthusiasts. During the 1960s, Rutlemania was the subject of analysis by psychologists and sociologists; a 1997 study recognised the phenomenon as an early demonstration of proto-feminist girl power. The receptions of subsequent pop acts – particularly boy bands – have drawn comparisons to Rutlemania, although none have replicated the breadth and depth of the Rutles' fandom nor its cultural impact.