This is Spinal Tap



This Is Spın̈al Tap – This is the rock documentary film, better than any real documentary that has ever been or ever will be. It’s a bit like Withnail and I, where you’re primarily watching it for opportunities to get more of that great dialogue, but the musical numbers are wonderful as well, and so are some of the sight gags. But you really just can’t get over that understated (and overstated) dialogue. When the drummer spontaneously combusted onstage, “the authorities agreed it was best left unsolved.” Choked on somebody else‘s vomit.” Mime is Money. Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal have mime bits, years before either of them made their very big films of the 1980s. Derek Smalls plays a ridiculous double-necked bass guitar. Howard Hessman gets a cameo, he’s probably the most famous actor (of the time) in the film. Between Mozart and Bach… Mach. Paul Shaffer plays weird local rep Artie “Kick My Ass” Fulkin. “Puppet show and Spın̈al Tap” listed on the billboard.

But the music is wonderful and the boys are great at approximating an energetic classic ’70s rock band’s stage show, and they fill an audience with extras ready to rock out. Kobe Hall in Tokyo. Nigel playing while wearing a Yomiuri Giants t-shirt. All classic stuff.

The extras are extensive, and there are more minutes of material than there are in the entire official film (culled from “dozens of hours” of footage filmed at the time). One of the featurettes is “Catching up with Marty DiBergi.” Marty and Spın̈al Tap fighting. He didn’t have anything to do with the 18 inch Stonehenge set, and is resentful he can’t get more work as a director. “It’s not my fault that Stanley Kubrick’s last film was bad. Don’t hold that against me. And I’m not as old as Stanley Kubrick.” The “Rare Outtakes” section includes over an hour of stuff, including more Billy Crystal mime segment stuff, together with some Dana Carvey and Bruce Kirby in some interesting scenes. The peculiar thing about the Spın̈al Tap movie is that there’s lots of rock ‘n’ roll, but there’s very little sex and drugs; the outtakes remedies some of that, and there’s a scene when they get conservative Sinatra-loving (“Rock and roll… this is just a fad”) limo driver Tony, played by Bruno Kirby, gets quite stoned, to the point where he’s dancing around in his undies singing Sinatra. Enter the plaster casters… except they cast buttocks. Paul Shaffer smashes an egg on his forehead. Drummer demonstrates his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball in a very funny skit about a radio show where a caller-in poses the typical redundant question (hey, I can relate – I’ve been there). The actors are actually good musicians – in one musical scene, Michael McKean is fretting a guitar whilere Christopher Guest is picking it – two musical hearts beating as one (it’s like Lips and Robb of Anvil many years later). Great! At the Flower People press conference, when asked what they think about free love, the say it’s too expensive. In the “Hell Hole” video, a skeleton arm sweeps over a doll set of the band on stage. Howard Hessman’s character produced music for Smegma Records.

In this case, I watched the film a second time with the commentary running, which is provided by the three main actors, so it’s more like a Beavis and Butthead-type commentary than the usual director-discusses-his-choice-of-camera-angles type of commentary, and the guys who play Spın̈al Tap members David St Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls remain in character throughout. Rob Reiner, the director, who plays Marty DiBergi, is not present, so the other three use the occasion to take potshots at him, and make the usual claim that he showed the band in an unglamorous light on most occasions, ha ha ha.

More Spın̈al Tap songs and albums: “Big Bottom”, “Intravenus de Milo”, “The Gospel According to Spın̈al Tap”, “Shark Sandwich,” “The Sun Never Sweats”, “The Incredible Flight of Icarus T Bottom”, “Blood To Let”, “Brainhammer!”, “Bent For The Rent”, “(Tonight I’m Gonna) Rock You Tonight”, “Rainy Day Sun”, “Nice ‘n’ Stinky”.

Great dialogue:

- “We were called The Originals. But there was another band in the East End called The Originals, so we became the New Originals. And then when that band broke up we considered going back to being called The Originals again.”
- “We’ve got armadillos in our trousers, and they run screaming.”
- “There’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
- “It is an endless party, we just don’t get invited to it all the time.”
- “I could hold my own with a gorilla. I read that they can say a few words. They can talk, but they can’t swear.”
- “Water’s a drug. Water on your face in the morning is the strongest drug.”
- “We toured the world and elsewhere.”
- “You can buy or rent those gold records that you put on the wall.”
- “This rehearsal was filmed at two in the afternoon – who’s awake.”
- “He could have been killed – missed opportunity.”
- “Her smoothness was over come by her stridency.”
- “It feels very fake. Well, not really fake, but false.”
- “They don’t choose to show the enjoyment, only the dismay. The de-joyment.”
- “When they say the camera doesn’t lie – they lie; it’s the champion lie of all time.”

She emailled me.
Are you on email?
Well.. my friend is.

Elvis was dead before it was cool to be dead.
Do you think he knew he was dead?
He didn’t know he was alive.

I gave that jacket to Jeff Beck.
Did he like it?
He said ‘fuck off’.

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