Spinal Tap (stylized as Spın̈al Tap, with a dotless letter i and a metal umlaut over the n) is a parody English heavy metal band that first appeared on a failed 1979 ABC TV sketch comedy pilot called The T.V. Show, starring Rob Reiner. The sketch, actually a mock promotional video for the song "Rock and Roll Nightmare", was written by Reiner and the band, and included songwriter/performer Loudon Wainwright III on keyboards. Later the band became the fictional subject of the 1984 rockumentary/mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. The band members are portrayed by Michael McKean (as David St. Hubbins),Christopher Guest (as Nigel Tufnel) and Harry Shearer (as Derek Smalls).
This Is Spinal Tap was accompanied by a soundtrack album of the same name. In the years following the film's release, the actors have portrayed the band members at concerts and released music under the Spinal Tap name. Guest, McKean, and Shearer toured in the United States in April and May 2009 and performed as Spinal Tap in a "One Night Only World Tour" on 30 June 2009 at Wembley Arena in London, three days after playing the Glastonbury Festival. Support at Wembley Arena came from the same trio's fictitious folk music band The Folksmen.
- 1 Contents
- 2 Background
- 3 Reunited
- 4 Other appearances
- 5 The Folksmen
- 6 Band members
- 6.1 Current members
- 6.2 Former members
- 6.3 Session members
- 7 Discography
- 8 In popular culture
Contents[edit | edit source]
- 2 Reunited
- 3 Other appearances
- 4 The Folksmen
- 5 Band members
- 6 Discography
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Background[edit | edit source]
Although the 1984 film portrays the band hailing from the United Kingdom, all three actors who play the principal band members were actually born in the United States (although Christopher Guest was raised in both countries, and currently has dual citizenship and a title of nobility: Baron Haden-Guest).
Fans of Spinal Tap have assembled details about the band based on fictional film, albums, concerts, and related promotional material, including a discography and a list of the band's former members.Spinal Tap's fictional history includes a succession of drummers, all of whom are said to have died in strange circumstances: one in a "bizarre gardening accident", another "choked on vomit, " (a reference toJohn Bonham and Bon Scott's death) but not his own vomit, and two from "spontaneous human combustion" onstage. Additionally, it is claimed that police described one of the deaths as "a mystery better left unsolved."
Reunited[edit | edit source]
Spinal Tap "reunited" in 1992 for Break Like the Wind, an album produced in part by T‑Bone Burnett, an accomplished musician and record producer. The album was accompanied by a promotional audition for a new drummer attended by Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction, Gina Schock of The Go-Go's, and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, who auditioned in a fireproof suit. A promotional concert tour followed, which included an appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, where they performed "The Majesty of Rock," a song they dedicated to Freddie Mercury and released as a single. The band also released the single called "Bitch School."
On July 1, 1992, Tap crossed five time zones for three performances in St. John's, Newfoundland; Barrie, Ontario; and Vancouver, British Columbia, for MuchMusic and Molson's Great Canadian Party. For each performance of "Stonehenge", the miniature monument prop was delivered on stage in a courier envelope.
In 2001, the band "reunited" for the nine-city "Back from the Dead Tour" that began on June 1, 2001, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, California. The tour included a show at Carnegie Hall in New York Cityand ended in Montreal in mid-July at the Just for Laughs festival. The opening act for some of these shows were The Folksmen, the folk trio seen in the film A Mighty Wind, and also performed by Guest, McKean, and Shearer.
In 2007, Tap reunited again, this time to help combat global warming. "They're not that environmentally conscious, but they've heard of global warming," said Marty DeBergi (portrayed by Reiner). "Nigel thought it was just because he was wearing too much clothing – that if he just took his jacket off it would be cooler." This reunion also included the release of a new song called "Warmer Than Hell". The band played on the London leg of the SOS/Live Earth concert series, and Rob Reiner has directed a short film (entitled Spinal Tap) which was released on the Live Earth website on 27 April. The film reveals that Nigel Tufnel is now working as a farm hand looking after miniature horses. He plans to race them. David St Hubbins is currently working as a hip-hop producer and Derek Smalls is in rehab for being addicted to the Internet.
A new album, Back from the Dead, was released on June 16, 2009. The album consists mostly of re-recordings of songs from the original film's soundtrack, as they would have sounded had they really existed and been recorded in a studio.
On April 6, 2009, the band announced a one-date "world tour," performing at London's Wembley Arena on June 30, 2009. Support on this night came from The Folksmen. The band unexpectedly also self-confirmed for Glastonbury Festival 2009 during an online interview on 8 May 2009 in the Philadelphia Daily News following a "Unwigged and Unplugged" show in the city.
Other appearances[edit | edit source]
The band appeared as the musical guests on an episode of Saturday Night Live (SNL) in the spring of 1984. Barry Bostwick was the host. At this time producer Dick Ebersol approached Shearer, Guest and McKean to join the cast. Shearer and Guest accepted. (McKean would not join until ten years later, by which time original producer Lorne Michaels was back at the show's helm.) Shearer's stint on SNL the following season—his second, the first having been the 1979–80 season—was to be short-lived, following creative disputes with the show's management. Shearer has said that when Ebersol made the offer during the Spinal Tap guest appearance, "I didn't realize that guests were treated better than cast members."
In 1985 at the invitation of Ronnie James Dio, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer took part in the heavy metal benefit project Hear 'n Aid, to raise money for Ethiopian refugees. McKean and Shearer met dozens of real-life metal stars, many of whom were huge fans of Spinal Tap. The musicians greatly enjoyed meeting McKean and Shearer and sharing their own stories of disastrous gigs and malfunctioning special effects.
As part of the promotion surrounding Break Like the Wind, Spinal Tap was portrayed in "The Otto Show" episode of the animated series The Simpsons, for which Shearer is a principal voice actor. The Simpsons follows the approach of the original film by presenting the group as if they were a real group. During the disastrous performance, a massive devil balloon on the stage does not inflate properly, and Nigel is temporarily blinded by lasers. Later in the episode, their tour bus is accidentally pushed off a cliff due to Otto's reckless driving.
On July 1, 1992, as part of MuchMusic's Canada Day "Great Canadian Party" festival, Spinal Tap completed an unprecedented tour of Canada in less than 24 hours. Jetting across five time-zones, the band played St John's, Newfoundland, Barrie, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia. That evening, during a performance of "Stonehenge", Tap received their signature, triptych set-piece via Canada Post in a small, bubble-wrap envelope that Derek Smalls signed for onstage. Bemused, Smalls tore open the packaging, and revealed to the cheering crowd the prop which looked to be half the size of the original 18 inch Stonehenge rock from the film.
In 1994, The Return of Spinal Tap was released on video; most of this was live material from a 1992 performance at the Royal Albert Hall, but it also included some interviews and follow-up on the band members.
In 2000, while promoting Tapster.com, Spinal Tap appeared and performed on the short-lived series VH1 The List and appeared on the Late Show.
In 2006, Nigel Tufnel appeared in a Volkswagen TV commercial highlighting their offer of a free, exclusive First Act guitar with the purchase of qualifying automobiles. The guitar features knobs and inlays with the Volkswagen logo and pre-amps that allow it to be played through the car's stereo system. Also in 2006, the song "Gimme Some Money" was used in a TV commercial for Open fromAmerican Express, "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" appeared in Harmonix's video game Guitar Hero 2 and "Christmas with the Devil" appeared in BBC One promo spots for the network's Christmas program.
In 2007, while accepting an award from the BBC Two program The Culture Show, Christopher Guest broke into Nigel Tufnel, and considered what his wife and kids would make of the Mark Kermode shaped award.
On July 7, 2007 Spinal Tap played at Wembley Stadium in London along with many major bands and groups as part of Live Earth, a Climate Change awareness concert. Their set included a new song written for the occasion, "Warmer Than Hell." During their final number, the song "Big Bottom," St. Hubbins and Tufnel both picked up basses. Spinal Tap was also joined by "every bass player in the known universe," including Nate Mendel (of the Foo Fighters); Robert Trujillo, Kirk Hammett, and James Hetfield (Metallica); Gordon Moakes (Bloc Party); and Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), of Beastie Boys. They were also joined on back-up vocals by Annette O'Toole, Michael McKean's wife.
In May 2008, Nigel Tufnel appeared in the National Geographic show Stonehenge Decoded, expounding his nonsensical theories about Stonehenge and who was responsible for building it. His claims to have invented "decoder" experiments capable of unveiling the true purpose of the monument are, as yet, unproven.
On March 2, 2009, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer held a press conference at the House of Blues in Los Angeles to announce their forthcoming album of new and old Spinal Tap songs, plus a 2009 "Unwigged & Unplugged" tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, This Is Spinal Tap. According to an L.A. Weekly report, when MTV News' Kurt Loder asked the trio "if they had plans beyond an album and tour, Shearer answered, 'We're gonna bomb Iran.'" The tour also features songs from the Folksmen and others from throughout the trio's career.
On April 1, 2009, Guest, McKean, and Shearer played on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as the musical guest.
On June 15, 2009, Spinal Tap performed on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien as the musical guest.
On Saturday June 27, 2009, Spinal Tap performed on the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival with Jarvis Cocker guesting on bass during "Big Bottom," and also inviting Jamie Cullum on stage to play keyboards. One of the unexpected highlights for Tap fans was a rendition of the newly written overture from the mythical Jack the Ripper musical Saucy Jack. Also on the bill were Kasabian, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Bruce Springsteen.
On Tuesday 30 June 2009 Spinal Tap performed at Wembley Arena with The Folksmen as support. A variety of special guests featured including, Keith Emerson (joined them on organ/keyboards - which he later destroyed during the show), Justin Hawkins from the Darkness and others.
On July 27, 2009, the band performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as the musical guest announcing their retirement and shortly thereafter their comeback.
The next day, Tuesday July 28, 2009, they were the musical guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
On August 25, 2009, Spinal Tap released a seven-minute short film titled Stonehenge: ‘Tis a Magical Place celebrating their 25th anniversary. The video is distributed through INgrooves and is available only on iTunes. The short film depicts the founding members of Spinal Tap making a pilgrimage to Stonehenge for the first time.
The Folksmen[edit | edit source]
Main article: The Folksmen
The same trio of actors (Guest, McKean and Shearer) also portray the fictitious American folk music revival band The Folksmen, who first appeared on the November 3, 1984 episode of Saturday Night Live. Some Spinal Tap concert appearances in the 1980s and beyond have even featured Guest, McKean, and Shearer opening for themselves as The Folksmen. The folk trio is also featured prominently in the 2003 Christopher Guest-directed "mockumentary" film A Mighty Wind.
Band members[edit | edit source]
Current members[edit | edit source]
- David St. Hubbins (portrayed by Michael McKean) – lead vocals, rhythm & lead guitar, acoustic guitar (1964–present)
- Nigel Tufnel (portrayed by Christopher Guest) – lead guitar, backing & lead vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass, violin, violin bow, harmonica, clarinet, keyboards, piano (1964–present)
- Derek Smalls (portrayed by Harry Shearer) – bass guitar, backing & lead vocals, acoustic bass guitar (1967–present)
- "Caucasian" Jeffery Vanston (portrayed by C. J. Vanston) – keyboards, backing vocals
- Gregg Bissonette (as himself) – drums, percussion
Former members[edit | edit source]
This list contains both fictional former members of Spinal Tap and celebrities that have played with the band.
Guitar, backing vocals[edit | edit source]
- "Ricky from San Francisco" (1982)
- Rhyan Gordon (1992) also played baseball bat
Keyboards, backing vocals[edit | edit source]
- Jan van der Kvelk (1965)
- Tony Brixton (1965–1966)
- Nick Wax (1965–1966)
- Dicky Laine (1965–1966)
- Denny Upham (1966–1968)
- Ross MacLochness (1974–1975)
- Viv Savage (David Kaff) (1975–198?) also played keyboard bass. Savage was allegedly killed when he went to visit the grave of former drummer, Mick Shrimpton, whose grave exploded due to methanegas build up.
- John Sinclair (1982)
- Jon Carin (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
- Jamie Cullum (Glastonbury 2009)
Bass guitar, backing vocals[edit | edit source]
- Ronnie Pudding (1964–1967)
- Danny Jarman (1967)
- David Gilmour (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
- Tim Renwick (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
- Pino Palladino (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
- Cody Wheaton
- Jarvis Cocker (Glastonbury 2009)
Drums, percussion[edit | edit source]
- John "Stumpy" Pepys (1964–1966) (Portrayed by Ed Begley, Jr. in the video "Gimme Some Money") Died in a bizarre gardening accident, that the authorities said was "best left unsolved."
- Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs (1966–1967) Choked on vomit of unknown origin, perhaps but not necessarily his own, because "you can't really dust for vomit."
- Peter "James" Bond (1967–1977) (Portrayed by Russ Kunkel whose character was mistakenly credited as the name of the previous drummer) Spontaneously combusted on stage during a jazz festival on the Isle of Lucy, leaving behind what has been described alternatively as a "globule" or a "stain"
- Mick Shrimpton (1977–1982) (Portrayed by R. J. "Ric" Parnell) Exploded onstage.
- Joe "Mama" Besser (1982) (Portrayed by Fred Asparagus). Claimed he "couldn't take this 4/4 shit"; according to an MTV interview with Spinal Tap in November 1991, he disappeared along with the equipment during their Japanese tour. He is either dead or playing jazz. The name is a play on that of Joe Besser, who similarly had a short-lived and ill-fitted stint as a member of The Three Stooges.
- Richard "Ric" Shrimpton (1982–1999) Allegedly sold his dialysis machine for drugs; presumed dead.
- Sammy "Stumpy" Bateman (1999-2001) Died trying to jump over a tank full of sharks while on a tricycle in a freak show.
- Scott "Skippy" Scuffleton (2001–2007) Fate unknown.
- Chris "Poppa" Cadeau (2007–2008) Eaten by his pet python Cleopatra.
- Plus 9 other drummers at various times (Probably between 1970 and 1981) all of whom are dead.
Tambourine[edit | edit source]
- Jeanine Pettibone (1982) After Spinal Tap split, Jeanine opened her own irish clothing store named Potato Republic.
- Stewart Ikin (1982) - Backing Tambourine-Reports of his death (see above) exaggerated. Unless you count leaving the band to join Creme Brulee.
- Oliver Ridout (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
- Billy Murgatroyd (1996) Murgatroyd is the only Tambourine player of the band to be killed, overdosing on coffee creamer.
Harmonica[edit | edit source]
- Little Danny Schindler (1965–1966)
Horns[edit | edit source]
- Keelan Hegarty (1965–1966)
- Geoff Clovington (1965–1966)
- Dan Taman (1967) Died while falling off a train as it was entering Kings Cross station, his body was never recovered.
Backing vocals[edit | edit source]
- Lhasa Apso (1965–1966)
- Julie Scrubbs-Martin (1965–1966)
- Xof Lorac (1982- 1983)
- Andy Sutcliffe (1987) died beating himself to death with his own shoes.
Session members[edit | edit source]
- Dweezil Zappa – guitar on "Diva Fever"
- Cher – vocals on "Just Begin Again"
- Slash – guitar on "Break Like the Wind"
- Steve Lukather – guitar on "Break Like the Wind"
- Joe Satriani – guitar on "Break Like the Wind"
- Jeff Beck – guitar on "Break Like the Wind"
- Timothy B. Schmit – backing vocals on "Christmas with the Devil," "Cash on Delivery"
- Steve Vai – guitar on "Short And Sweet"
- John Mayer – guitar on "Short And Sweet"
- Phil Collen – guitar on "Short And Sweet"
Discography[edit | edit source]
Actual discography[edit | edit source]
Fictional discography[edit | edit source]
Solo releases[edit | edit source]
In popular culture[edit | edit source]
See also: Up to eleven
|This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. You can help by converting this section to prose, if appropriate. Editing help is available. (July 2013)|
- The name of the band is rendered with an umlaut over the "n" and a dotless I, as a parody of the heavy metal umlaut. Although an "n̈" is not found in languages such as German, it does exist in theJacaltec language of Guatemala and the Malagasy tongue, where it represents a velar nasal consonant.
- The Monks' Black Monk Time, The Damned's Black Album, Metallica's Metallica, Utopia's Oblivion, AC/DC's Back in Black, King Crimson's Earthbound, Jay-Z's The Black Album, Prince's The Black Album, The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat and Status Quo's Hello! are examples of (almost) all-black album covers. The parody in the film was probably a take on The Beatles "White Album."
- Ozzy Osbourne said he thought the band was real at first because the happenings in the film have occurred on some real tours.
- A number of Spinal Tap's songs cover identical subjects to renowned songs by other bands. For example, "Gimme Some Money" is a parodic rewrite of The Animals' cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" (and Spinal Tap's performance of it in This Is Spinal Tap parodies television appearances by not only the Animals but also various other British Invasion acts including the Beatles and Herman's Hermits) and "Big Bottom" is similar to Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." The subtext is that Spinal Tap is so unoriginal they do not just imitate other bands' sounds, but their subject matter as well. "Big Bottom" features three bass guitars.
- In the video game Brütal Legend, the opening scene features a Stonehenge look alike that the main character, Eddie Riggs, has built. The lead singer and manager of the fictional band, Kabbage Boy, disapproves of the stage and wants Eddie to build a new one.
- In Guitar Hero 2 the song "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" is featured as the encore in the first PS2 set and second Xbox 360 set, the drummer also "explodes", and turns into a green goo after encores as a reference to the band's drummer turning into a stain on his drum throne.
- The entire Back from the Dead album is available as downloadable content in Rock Band and Rock Band 2. In Addition, Spinal Tap appears as Lego figures in Lego Rock Band playing "Short and Sweet".
- There are a number of references to Spinal Tap in the television series Supernatural. In the episode "Asylum" Dean Winchester introduces himself to another character as Nigel Tufnel. The song "Stonehenge" is also featured in the episode "Simon Said".
- In 2009, "Stonehenge" was parodied by The Fringemunks to recap Fringe episode 1.18, "Midnight."
- In the novel Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez the good fortune god Lucky says "The path to enlightenment is found in the lyrics of Spinal Tap."
- The 22nd episode of the 3rd season of The Simpsons, The Otto Show, involves Bart attending a Spinal Tap concert. 
- The improvisational troupe Insert Foot Theater parodies a "ridiculously cliched rock duo" at what is billed as "Treefort music festivals (sic) very own Spinal Tap!" in Boise, Idaho.
- A La Vergne, Tennessee subdivision contains streets named Smalls, Tuffnel, and St. Hubbins Drive.
- In the second episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 titled "Real Me" Buffy mentions that the owners of a shop have "The life expectancy of a Spinal Tap drummer."
- The Fall used the riff from the Spinal Tap song "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" in their song "Athlete Cured" from the 1988 album The Frenz Experiment.
- In an episode of Beavis and Butt-Head, a Def Leppard video is panned with the comment "Spinal Tap really sucks lately".