This Is Spinal Tap

I am a bad rocker. Although I was aware of this spoof band and the cult movie, I have never watched the movie This Is Spinal Tap till last night. As a lot of you will know, this is a 1984 mockumentary about a fictional English heavy metal band Spinal Tap and directed by Robb Reiner & produced by Karen Murphy. The movie¬†satirizes¬†the wild personal behavior and musical pretensions of¬†hard rock¬†and heavy metal musical bands, as well as the hagiographic¬†tendencies of rock documentaries of the time. For a movie in which most of the dialogue by the 3 main actors – Christopher Guest, Michael McKean & Harry Shearer – ad libbed the dialogues, it’s a really funny movie. Several dozen hours of footage were filmed before Reiner edited it to the released movie. The three actors play their musical instruments and speak with mock English accents throughout the movie.

What I also didn’t know that Fran Dreschler & my 1980s Scifi crush June Chadwick (Lydia from the original V) also play supporting roles in this movie. ¬†Actors¬†Paul Shaffer,¬†Fred Willard,¬†Ed Begley, Jr.,¬†Patrick Macnee,¬†Anjelica Huston, Dana Carvey & Billy Crystal all make¬† cameo¬† appearances in the movie. In 2002,¬†This Is Spinal Tap¬†was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the¬†Library of Congress¬†and was selected for preservation by the United States¬†National Film Registry. Reiner himself plays the director of the documentary, which focuses on a 1982 United States¬†concert tour¬†by the fictional British rock group to support their latest album Smell The Glove. We also have one-to-one or group interviews happening in between the scenes. The band was started by childhood friends, singer / guitarist David St. Hubbins and lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, during the 1960s. They started a band and called themselves the Originals but changed it to The New Originals when they found out that there was another band with the same name. Later they settled on the name “The Thamesmen”, finding success with their¬†skiffle/Rhythm and blues¬†single “Gimme Some Money”. They changed their name again to “Spinal Tap” and enjoyed limited success with the¬†flower power¬†anthem “Listen to the Flower People”.

Soon they found their heavy metal sound and Derek Smalls joined them on bass, keyboardist Viv Savage (David Kaff) and a series of drummers, each of whom mysteriously died in odd circumstances, including spontaneous human combustion, a “bizarre gardening accident” and, in at least one case, choking to death on the vomit of person(s) unknown. The band members are shown to be excellent musicians & composers (some of the songs are really good, the actors play their own instruments and McKean sings very well) but are dimwitted and almost naive. Despite their success, the band find that some of their shows in the US are getting cancelled due to low ticket sales and they fall into a sales slumps as some of the major retailers refuse to display their album because of an offensive album cover. There is growing resentment shown towards the group’s manager¬†Ian Faith¬†(Tony Hendra) and things turn a bit more craxy when St. Hubbins controlling & interfering girlfriend Jeanine arrives and offers to co-manage the group. Tufnel gets angrier as Jeanine injects herself in band meetings and influencing decisions, while the band’s distributor, Polymer Records, opts to release¬†Smell the Glove¬†with an entirely black cover without consulting the band. A signing session sees no one turning up and a stage show which is supposed to have a Stonehenge megalith for the show during the song “Stonehenge” – but rushing it sees a tiny model displayed on stage, making them laughing stocks. he group accuses Faith of mismanagement, and when St. Hubbins suggests Jeanine should co-manage the group, Faith quits in disgust.

The band continues in smaller venues and and at a USAF base, Tufnel gets upset with malfunctioning equipment and storms off the stage. The band continues without him, adjusting their material to compensate. However at the last show Tufnel comes to tell them that Faith would like to arrange a new tour in Japan as they are hugely popular there. At the concert David beckons Nigel on to join them and he grabs his guitar and plays with them onstage. Tufnel rejoins the band and they hire Faith back as manager. Despite losing their drummer Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell) as he inexplicably explodes onstage, the film ends with Spinal Tap playing a series of sold-out arena shows for enthusiastic fans on their Japanese tour.

Hilarious and mocking the big stage shows – malfunctioning cocoons and getting lost backstage – and the lifestyle. It’s something that all rockers have loved over the years. 8 outta 10!

2 thoughts on “This Is Spinal Tap

  1. I’m going to pretend like I didn’t just read that you’d never seen it before…just like I pretend that I didn’t hear Bill doesn’t like this movie *g*

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