A tribute project of two people does not a true tribute make. Particularly as it relates to "This is Spinal Tap," the only true measure of the film's success is the critique of its peers. To that end, as with every tribute we do, Chris and I step aside to make room for the opinions of those who make the music we all love. Before we begin, allow me to take a moment to thank all the musicians listed below, and all the promotional and label reps who helped gather these anecdotes. As ever, our tribute project is only a success because of the legwork they do to make it come together. Also, a thanks to Chris for his spirited conversation which makes up the bulk of all these efforts. And to my wife for sitting through "This is Spinal Tap" and refraining from asking 'what the hell is this?' With that, let me step aside and let the pros go to work: ==M. Drew
I remember the first time I watched “Spinal Tap”. It was funny. It felt ridiculous. And it seemed like something so far into the realm of parody that I was sure it was just a joke, or an absolute worst case scenario that would never happen to me.
It turns out that “Spinal Tap” is true. All of it. This is just the reality of being a mid-level touring musician. After the better part of a decade on the road all traces of naivety and ego have been erased from my consciousness, and I can safely say that David St. Hubbins and crew had an experience that most of us can identify with.
I remember my first “Spinal Tap” experience. I was eighteen years old and my band was starting to do fairly well, regionally at least. We were pulling a good amount of people. We were signed to an indie label that we were fans of. We toured constantly. And I was a snot nosed, arrogant little bastard about it all.
On one particular tour we were headlining over a couple of bands and we took an offer, for quite a bit of money I might add, to play a church in northern Oklahoma. On the day of the show we set up our merch, loaded in, sound checked, and were waiting around when all of a sudden a horde of literal children began to show up. Now, heavy metal bands play to young kids all the time, but this was a crowd of literal 8-13 year olds, obviously unhappy that their parents forced them to spend their Saturday afternoon at church. They piled in, dozens of them, and stared apathetically at the stage while our tour package started to play. When we took the stage, our four full stacks and two bass rigs turned all the way up, the looks of apathy turned into absolute horror, then rage and disgust. We played our entire set, all twenty-five minutes of ear shattering power violence. As the last bit of feedback rang out we were given half of our guarantee and asked to leave as quickly as possible.
All I could think of as we loaded out was the scene in “Spinal Tap” where they open for a puppet show. I thought it was funny when I was in high school, but after that it became far more real than I ever thought possible. Since then I have gotten lost in venues, had artwork botched, forgotten what city we were in, had an unreal amount of gear malfunctions, toured with people I hate, and played dated, unpopular music to throngs of disinterested and slightly annoyed people.
I also haven't watched "Spinal Tap" in years. The experiences listed above may have something to do with that...
Bryce Lucien – Seeker
I always loved the Stonehenge scene in 'This is Spinal Tap'. Years later, Black Sabbath pulled an opposite-Spinal Tap when they had Stonehenge pieces made for one of their tours and they were too BIG to fit into any of the venues they were playing. There's truly a fine line between reality and absurdity.
Don Jamieson 'That Metal Show,' New Comedy CD 'Hell Bent For Laughter' Out Now
I saw Spinal Tap back in the mid ‘80s when my brother showed it to me. My brother was not only my gateway to heavy metal, but he was also the guy who showed me all of the cool movies out there. We would get together and watch everything from "Evil Dead" and "Friday the 13th" to "Revenge of the Nerds" and of course the mighty "SPINAL TAP"! I remember being young and asking him, "is this real?" He laughed and just said "it's kind of based on stuff that has happened to bands, plus these guys are just really good actors!" Over the years, I must have watched Spinal Tap close to a hundred times, maybe more. It's one my favorite all time movies and easily one of the greatest comedies ever made. There are so many lines to repeat and so many classic and funny as fuck moments. I could go on all day about it to be honest. Can you tell that "Spinal Tap" means a lot to me?
As far as how it has reflected my experience in music, I would say that some the stuff that happened to the guys and the band itself in the movie has happened to me, not everything, but still eerily similar. The hotel situation? CHECK. Stage and equipment malfunctions? CHECK! Shows being booked at WEIRD places? CHECK! Meddling girlfriends? CHECK! In band fighting? CHECK! Encountering crazy "normal" people while out on the road? CHECK! Coming up with "cool" ideas for the band only to have them turn into a disaster? CHECK! Tours being an overall disaster? CHECK! I have also seen some of our biggest rock stars say that they couldn't even laugh when they saw this movie, because it hit too close to home. It had all happened to them as well. But come on, if you can't laugh at this shit, you will drive yourself CRAZY! Luckily some of these rock starts that saw it and have also went through those events can laugh their asses off at it.
So as you can tell, I'm a HUGE "Spinal Tap" fan and always will be. I never get sick of this classic. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for any fan of heavy metal to watch. But anyone who likes a great comedy will enjoy it as well. SMELL THE GLOVE! MONEY TALKS AND BULLSHIT WALKS! CAUSE OURS GO TO 11! AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING SEXY!
Mike Abominator - Gravehill
I don’t see how any musician who’s been around for ten to twenty years at least can’t watch that and go ‘holy fuck.’ At the same time, there’s so many moments where you go ‘oh my god, did they do this?’ There’s times you’re like ‘this is real. This is fucking real.’ I don’t how many times we’ve been backstage somewhere and gotten lost. ‘Rock and roll! Rock and roll! What the fuck? Rock and roll!’ Every time those quotes get brought up. The different arguments with record labels. We have these moments in our show with flags and incense and it gets all satanic and shit and there’s moments where it’s like ‘we need to make sure this doesn’t fall over and have a Spinal Tap moment,’ like the tiny little Stonehenge. But that’s always the fear, because you know damn well the second anything goes wrong with any kind of overdone, dramatic shit, people are immediately going to think Spinal Tap, and you’ll be thought of as a joke. So it’s funny how pervasive that money is throughout the collective consciousness of music. I think it’s wonderful and it’s led to so many moments that could be frustrating moments and turning them into comedic moments. I think it gives you some relief to be able to go ‘haha, they did that on Spinal Tap.’
Nathan Gray - I am Heresy/Boysetsfire
“If you’re involved in the music business in any way, shape or form and you don't know “This is Spinal Tap”, then you don't deserve to play to eleven. Of all the important life lessons Spinal Tap taught me, the most important was the difference between inches and feet on a scale drawing....
Amanda Hocker – Extreme Management Group, Inc
I love this question! "This is Spinal Tap" is one of my favorite movies of all time. Being in a band makes the movie so relatable and hilarious. We've been watching it at least once a tour for the last eleven years, and are still quoting it as recently as a couple days ago on our current tour. This movie will stand the test of time and prove to be a true great.
Sean Danielsen - Smile Empty Soul
‘This is Spinal Tap’ means that my high school band teacher is bored and wants the class to watch a movie instead of doing any work. He probably shouldn’t be playing it in a public classroom but he does anyways and we all laugh along and eat our sack lunches. I think I’m too young for it to reflect in anything on it, I get annoyed with every Guitar Center bro constantly making “turn it to 11” jokes.
Chad Gardner -Kings Kaleidoscope
Spinal tap inspired us how to be a real rock star. It was a great realistic puffed up version of what it's really like to be in a rock and roll band. The girlfriend controlling the band, the album covers going wrong and them having to own it. The evolution in their sound, the crazy tour manager, the tension, the label, the bad reviews, and most of all the armadillos in their trousers. It's crazy how much of it's spot on. At the end of the day they were still just partying with their buddies cracking jokes and playing music they love and no matter what anyone said they still undyingly believed in themselves. And who doesnt love the unforgettable tracks like "Sex Farm", "Big Bottoms", "Listen to What the Flower People Say", and best of all "Stonehenge". Anti Mortem will always have a soft spot in our hearts for the band that made kids want to be rockstars. We still spin the original black album till this day!
Larado Romo - Anti-Mortem
I'm an absolute fan of “This is Spinal Tap”. What dude in a rock band isn't! “This Is Spinal Tap” to me represents all the real life scenarios a lot of bands have gone through and probably will go through. Although I think it's obviously exaggerated to an extent. But probably my favorite part is when the director is looking at the guitars and Nigel states that he loves every single guitar in the room and that he plays every single one of them, yet when the director looks at a certain one, he's like "Don't touch that! Don't even point at it! I never play that one". And then he goes on to talk about taking 150 guitars on tour, which is hilarious to me because everyone in our band usually has a backup for our main guitars (we use different tunings live) and it always seems like so many guitars to have on the road. At least it's not 150 whittled down to about 50!
Taylor Roberts – Cathercist
"This Is Spinal Tap" would have to be one of the funniest rock/mockumentaries ever made, and no matter how many times I have watched it, I still laugh at the many hilarious scenes in this movie. I would urge any youngsters who are playing in rock/metal bands, and who have not seen it, to watch this movie and have a good old laugh at the absurdities and excesses of the music world. Having played in bands for a considerable amount of time and also reading up on the history pop/rock and metal,one can relate to the many scenes that depict archetypal experiences in the rock'n'roll world. For example, David St Hubbins' interfering wife (think Yoko Ono vs The Beatles) and Spinal Tap's manager (Ian Faith) behaving in an aggressive manner (think Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin's manager). I can also relate, as would many other musicians to the scenes showing the infighting between band members David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel, having experienced something very similar. Obviously this is very much part and parcel of playing in bands.
Out of all of the characters in the movie, bass player Derrick Smalls steals the show. His persona, I even dare say his charisma are a total joy. His stage presence and even his dialogue such as in interviews are extremely funny. Think of the infamous airport scene!
Overall, I urge everyone to own a copy of this film. Even the outtakes and extra footage are worth watching. To conclude, I would like to reveal that in the very early days of Jupiter Zeus when we were known as "Weeping Cyclops", we in fact did a cover version of their song "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight". Believe it or not!
Simon Staltari - Jupiter Zeus
Thinking of the day I was watching the movie for the first time when I was a kid, in hindsight feels like I had been gazing into a crystal ball. It is all true. It ALL happens. All the characters truly exist: the female representative of Polymer Records, Nigel Tufnel's girlfriend, the giant inflatable monster that was delivered without ears and looked just like an inflatable Easter Egg… only… hold on, that wasn't Spinal Tap, that was EDGUY. Seriously, it's ALL TRUE!!! Even the story about the music critics calling the album “SHIT POLICE” or was it “SHIT SANDWICH”? I can't remember, it's been too long!
Tobias Sammet – Edguy/AVANTASIA
The movie was the first movie we’ve seen about comical experiences related to being in a band on the rise. The Chimpz band members are definitely fans. We enjoyed the humor and the band's performance and appreciated that the band had a couple of hits. We noticed that the band was focused and embraced the comical aspects of its journey as my band has had similar experiences while touring, including breaking down while on the road. We appreciate that there are more difficult and tougher ordeals bands go through as well, such as negotiating tours, meeting financial obligations and more, though the movie didn't seem to explore such more difficult times and, understandably, stuck to the humorous events. An overall enjoyable and killer movie for anyone to watch, whether or not in the music business.
Scary Cary - The Chimpz
The first time I saw “This is Spinal Tap,” I was thirteen years old, just starting my rock n roll journey. This film had me rolling on the floor. How could it not? Cucumbers in trousers, drummers exploding into green goo, Stonehenge. Every scene is memorable, quotable, and over the top. Just as rock n roll should be.
“This is Spinal Tap” simultaneously outlines the do’s and the don’ts of an active rock n roll musician. The list of don’ts include: calling an album “Shark Sandwich,” writing the lyric “I’m gonna wear you like a flesh tuxedo,” and getting stuck in a 6-foot see-through luminous egg.
Although every shot in the movie seeks to make the band look more stupid than the one before it, we are still with them every step of the way. Spinal Tap never gives up. They are always looking to the future. If there is one thing I’ve learned on how to have any success in “the biz” it is persistence. Although Spinal Tap takes every wrong turn imaginable they never stop believing or looking on the bright side. “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll”
Tom Boisse - Red Sky Mary
"This is Spinal Tap" means the world to me. The film has always remained a favorite of mine since I first saw it when I was in high school. As a film student in college and playing full time in a rock band, the mockumentary reveals the ups-and-downs, ins-and-outs and the overall ridiculousness that transpires while playing in a band. From songwriting to artistic image, the film reflects how a band banters its way through the rock 'n' roll process. And what a process it is. Playing music and being in a band is like a never-ending roller coaster ride. This is classically depicted in the mockumentary. I'm a fan for sure.
Sam Vlasich - Red Sky Mary
“This is Spinal Tap” is the one and only guideline for rock bands. You know how stuff works, on the road, in the studio and everything else, if you have studied it hard. Since I'm the drummer of the band I've studied it extra hard to avoid stuff that happens especially for drummers.
Toby Strandvik – Kamchatka
I think every band has experienced a Spinal Tap moment in their lives. After seeing the film I had to rewatch it so many times for it to actually sink in how unbelievably amazing it was. From not touching or even looking at the guitar to the volume goes to "11," priceless and getting lost back stage, even more priceless. Hasn't made an impact on my music but as a band they were awesome and seriously hilarious.
Paul Allender - White Empress
Am I a fan of Spinal Tap, I don’t know, I am Spinal Tap. Anyone who’s been a slave to live music for 10 to 20+ years breaches the bridge of what “This is Spinal Tap” “is”. Fiction to non-fiction, oil to water, fantasy to reality. “This Is Spinal Tap” is truth, “This is Spinal Tap” is reality, “This is Spinal Tap” is the backbone of the black hole we as weathered, tethered, leathered, beaten, battered so called recording artists and live rock entertainers call home…this is our comfort zone, our living hell, it is our fat heads lying on a big pillow, it is our socks left out to dry in the rain, it is all our dreams come true, it is our purpose…”This is Spinal Tap” is my Book of the Law, everything has been told and I shall proceed to infect the world with that which is none more black…it’s like space without the stars…
John Fitterer – Crowned by Fire
“Spinal Tap” was the first test of hiring a new band member. Make him watch “Spinal Tap” and if he didn't laugh, he didn't get hired.
John Longstreth - Origin
From a struggling musician's perspective, “Spinal Tap” is arguably the most important motion picture ever made about the music industry. It’s an incredibly funny look at the kind of crap a not-so-famous band has to put up with when out on the road. And while most of the situations in the movie are greatly exaggerated, they definitely hit upon a larger truth about touring – nothing is ever what it seems.
Case in point: our most recent European tour, which was at times a comedy of miscommunication, incompetence and downright absurdity.
Here’s are just a few examples of what I am talking about:
• We were told our tour package of 11 musicians and crew would be in a tour bus with plenty of room to sleep and stretch out. What we ended up in was a van that had enough room for about six people.
• Our accommodations in Denmark ended up being a one-room fishing hut with no heat – in mid November.
• No one told us to expect a full-scale soccer riot to happen right in front of the club we were playing.
• Our van driver’s GPS never worked, we got lost god knows how many times and ended up in some pretty seedy places.
If it weren’t for that movie, I don’t think we would be able to laugh through it all, still have a great time and a complete a largely successful tour.
Chris Pervelis – Internal Bleeding
I can't say I was a fan when I initially saw the movie, ‘cause I was really young and didn’t care. But years later now that I’ve developed a sense of humour and actually been on the road it's hilarious seeing this exaggerated presentation of touring and the music industry, sometimes being in a band feels that ridiculous.
Paul Ablaze – Blackguard
Film? I thought it was a documentary! Fantastic, but personally we prefer the English version that pre-dated Spinal Tap (I think.) 'Bad News' parts 1 and 2! Check 'em mate NWOBHM from back in the day! Too realistic for words!
Johnny Gorilla – Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
I have seen this film several times, I am definitely a fan! I remember the first time I saw the film really well, first of all because it was hilarious and so spot on. I still find myself laughing to myself when I think of some of those great moments – like when they run around in the corridors looking for the way to the stage. Second, because I find that it captures so well the bizarre world of rock’n’roll and making us all crack up about it. It might in many ways still be seen as a reality-check to many musicians – to not take what you do too seriously.
If you were in a rock band, doesn’t even have to be a metal band, though it’s great that it is, there’s got to be a cliché that’s happened to you. If you’ve been out on the road, put out a record, there’s something that has happened in “Spinal Tap” that has happened to you. I can pretty much attest to all of those things that happen to them in that movie, especially being in Exodus, that was a travelling circus.
There’s so many people that when you say something to them, they’ll say ‘rock and roll!’ Like, he says that when they’re trying to get on stage in Cleveland, and the guy explains how to get there, they have him go ‘rock and roll!’ That’s so metal, so rock and roll. Showing up in the motel with fifteen or thirty people and they’ve only booked one room. That’s happened a million times. I watch it a couple times a year because it’s so true and so funny.
You know what’s even funnier? Even though the movie’s that old and we’ve been through all this stuff touring, that stuff still happens. It’s still Spinal Tap – thirty years later and it hasn’t gotten any better. I can think about everything – the airport incident. The record store where nobody shows up? That happened to me before! It’s so identifiable in every respect. It’s so iconic because if you talk to anyone in the industry, they all know. If you see those guys around at gigs, backstage and stuff, everybody treats them like royalty because of what they’ve done for the business. They pop up from time to time. Two years ago in Oakland, the three of them, Harry Shearer, Michael McKeon and Christopher Guest did an acoustic thing at the Paramount theater in Oakland.
[The music] is so raw and real. They took it from the standpoint that heavy metal has no boundaries, especially for the era they wrote it – the movie came out in ’84, so they probably wrote it in ’83. Lyrically it was brilliant. I love when they play the songs, I know all the words!
[It represents metal] because it’s so dysfunctional. For those of us that have been around, I’ve seen it all and done it all. So to be able to poke fun at the stuff that is hilarious about it…and to signify what goes wrong, it’s so true!
Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza - Hatriot