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This Is Spinal Tap

Home video poster for This Is Spinal Tap
Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by Karen Murphy
Written by Christopher Guest
Michael McKean
Harry Shearer
Rob Reiner
Starring Rob Reiner
Michael McKean
Christopher Guest
Harry Shearer
Fran Drescher
Bruno Kirby
Music by Christopher Guest
Michael McKean
Harry Shearer
Rob Reiner
Cinematography Peter Smokler
Editing by Kent Beyda, Kim Secrist
Distributed by Embassy Pictures
Release date(s) March 2, 1984
Running time 82 minutes
Language English
Followed by A Spinal Tap Reunion: The 25th Anniversary London Sell-Out

This Is Spinal Tap (officially spelled This Is Spın̈al Tap, with a non-functional umlaut over the letter nn-diaeresis — and a dotless letter i) is a 1984 mock musical documentary directed by Rob Reiner about the fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap. The film 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.

Reiner and the three main stars are credited as the writers of the film, based on the fact that much of the dialogue was ad libbed by them. Several dozen hours of footage were filmed before Reiner edited it to the released film. A 4½ hour bootleg version of the film exists and has been traded among fans and collectors for years.[1]

The three core members of Spinal Tap—David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel—are played by the American actors Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, and British American Christopher Guest, respectively. The three actors play their musical instruments and speak with mock English accents throughout the film. Reiner appears as Marty DiBergi, the maker of the documentary. Other actors in the film are Tony Hendra as the group manager Ian Faith and June Chadwick as St. Hubbins' interfering girlfriend Jeanine. Actors Paul Shaffer, Fred Willard, Fran Drescher, Bruno Kirby, Howard Hesseman, Ed Begley, Jr., Patrick Macnee, Anjelica Huston, Vicki Blue, Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal all play supporting roles or make cameo appearances in the film. Scream queen starlets Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley appear in cameos as groupies of the band.

In 2002, This Is Spinal Tap was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.



The movie has the style of a documentary filmed and directed by the fictional Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner). The documentary covers a 1982 United States concert tour for the fictional British rock group "Spinal Tap" to promote their new album Smell the Glove, but interspersed with one-on-one interviews with the members of the group and footage of the group from previous points in their career.

The band was started by childhood friends David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) during the 1960s. Originally called "The Originals", then "The New Originals" to distinguish themselves from the existing group of the same name, they settled on the name "The Thamesmen", finding success with their skiffle/R&B success, "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". Ultimately, the band found their long success in heavy metal and produced several albums. The group was eventually joined by bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), keyboardist Viv Savage (David Kaff), and a series of drummers, each of whom had mysteriously died under odd circumstances, including spontaneous combustion, a "bizarre gardening accident" and, in at least one case, choking to death on the vomit of person(s) unknown ("you can't dust for vomit"). DiBergi's interviews with St. Hubbins and Tufnel reveal that they are competent composers and musicians, but are dimwitted and immature. Tufnel, in showing his guitar collection to DiBergi, reveals an amplifier that has a volume knob that goes to eleven; when DiBergi asks, "Why not just make ten louder and make that the top?" Tufnel can only reply, "These go to eleven." Tufnel later plays a somber classical music composition on piano for DiBergi, which he says is called "Lick My Love Pump".

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Problems listening to this file? See media help.

As the tour starts, concert appearances are repeatedly canceled due to low ticket sales. Tensions continue to increase when several major retailers refuse to sell Smell the Glove because of its sexist cover art and there is growing resentment shown towards the group's manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra). Tufnel becomes even more perturbed when St. Hubbins' girlfriend Jeanine (June Chadwick) — a manipulative yoga and astrology devotee — joins the group on tour and begins to participate in band meetings and attempts to influence their costumes and stage presentation. The band's label, Polymer Records, opts to release "Smell the Glove" with an entirely black cover without consulting the band. The album fails to draw crowds to autograph sessions with the band. In order to rekindle interest, Tufnel suggests staging a performance of "Stonehenge," an epic song that is traditionally accompanied in concert by a lavish stage show, and asks Ian to order a giant Stonehenge megalith for the show. However, Tufnel's mislabels the sketch's dimensions, using a double prime symbol instead of single prime. The resulting prop, seen for the first time by the group during a show, ends up only 18 inches high, making the group a laughing stock on stage. The group accuses Faith of mismanagement, and when St. Hubbins suggests Jeanine should co-manage the group, Faith quits in disgust. As the tour continues, rescheduled into smaller and smaller venues, including at a United States Air Force base and an amphitheater at an amusement park (second-billed behind a puppet-show), Tufnel becomes upset and leaves the group in the middle of a show, forcing the remaining members to perform fusion-esque experimental music for lack of Tufnel's material.

At the last show of the tour, as the group considers venturing into a musical theatre production on the theme of Jack the Ripper, Tufnel returns and informs them that while their American reception has ended, the group is wildly popular in Japan, and that Faith would like to arrange a new tour in that country. The group likes the idea, letting Tufnel back into the band for their final performance. Despite losing their drummer Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell) as he explodes on stage, Spinal Tap ends up enjoying great success on their Japanese tour.



This Is Spinal Tap was only a modest success upon its initial release. Audience feedback cards from early screenings had comments such as "Too shaky. Get new cameraman." However, the film found greater success, and a cult following, after it was released on video.

Since its release, This Is Spinal Tap has received universal acclaim from critics[2] and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1984.[3][4][5][6] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4 stars out of 4 and wrote "This Is Spinal Tap is one of the funniest, most intelligent, most original films of the year. The satire has a deft, wicked touch. Spinal Tap is not that much worse than, not that much different from, some successful rock bands."[7] Ebert later placed the film on his ten best list of 1984.[8] The film currently holds a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[9] In 2002, This Is Spinal Tap was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.[10]

Critics praised the film not only for its satire of the rollercoaster lifestyles of rock stars but also for its take on the non-fiction film genre. David Ansen from Newsweek called the film “a satire of the documentary form itself, complete with perfectly faded clips from old TV shows of the band in its mod and flower-child incarnations” (qtd. in Muir 31)[11]

Even with cameos from Billy Crystal and Patrick Macnee, Spinal Tap still managed to trick many of its moviegoers into believing the band existed. Reiner admits “when Spinal Tap initially came out, everybody thought it was a real band…the reason it did go over everybody’s head was that it was very close to home” (qtd. in Yabroff par. 1).[12]

The movie cut a little too close to home for some musicians. Robert Plant, Dee Snider and Ozzy Osbourne all reported that, like Spinal Tap, they had become lost in confusing arena backstage hallways trying to make their way to the stage.[13][14] Singer Tom Waits claimed he cried upon viewing it and Eddie Van Halen has said that when he first saw the film, everyone else in the room with him laughed as he failed to see the humor in the film. "Everything in that movie had happened to me," Van Halen said.[citation needed] When Dokken's George Lynch saw the movie he is said to have exclaimed, "That's us! How'd they make a movie about us?"[15] Glenn Danzig had a similar reaction when comparing Spinal Tap to his former band The Misfits saying, "When I first saw Spinal Tap, I was like, 'Hey, this is my old band.'"[16]

On Pete Townshend's 1985 album White City: A Novel, the back cover describes Pete Fountain, a "famous guitarist" visiting the title location, as seen by an old childhood friend. When Pete mentions an incident where his drummer complained that "the caviar in their dressing room was the wrong viscosity - for throwing," the friend notes "This is Spinal Tap is obviously a true story."

Lars Ulrich told a press conference crowd that the Metallica/Guns N' Roses 1992 tour seemed "so Spinal Tap." This tour was in support of Metallica's own "black album." Shortly after the tour started, Metallica's James Hetfield suffered third degree burns on his arms after he stood too close to a pyrotechnic device. Earlier in that tour, backstage at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Show, Metallica met with Spinal Tap and discussed how black album was a homage to Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove. This was captured on the Metallica DVD A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica.

According to a 1997 interview in Spin magazine with Aerosmith rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford, "The first time Steven [Tyler] saw it he didn't see any humor in it." When the movie was released, Aerosmith's most recent album, Rock in a Hard Place, depicted Stonehenge prominently on the cover.

It became a common insult for a pretentious band to be told they were funnier than Spinal Tap. As George Lynch put it, the more seriously a band took themselves, the more they resembled Spinal Tap.[15] After seeing a 1986 performance by British metal band Venom, singer Henry Rollins compared them to Spinal Tap.[17] In their respective Behind the Music episodes, Quiet Riot's Rudy Sarzo and Ratt's Robbin Crosby compared their own bands to Spinal Tap to some extent. For example, as a parallel to the "S*** Sandwich" incident, Quiet Riot's fourth album Condition Critical was given the two-word review of "Condition Terminal" in one magazine. In another example, the short-lived band GTR's eponymous debut LP was thus reviewed by Musician magazine: "SHT." R.E.M.'s Mike Mills described early tours as "very Spinal Tap", citing, among other things, the fact that they had indeed played at a United States Air Force base.

In 2008, Empire magazine ranked This Is Spinal Tap number 48 on its list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[18] The New York Times also placed the film on their list of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made.[19]

American Film Institute recognition

Home video release

This Is Spinal Tap has been released twice on DVD.

The first release was a 1998 Criterion edition which used supplemental material from the 1994 Criterion laserdisc release. It included an audio commentary track with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer; a second audio commentary track with Rob Reiner, Karen Murphy, Robert Leighton and Kent Beyda; 79 minutes of deleted scenes; Spinal Tap: The Final Tour, the original twenty minute short they shot to pitch the film; a mock promo film, Cheese Rolling; a TV promo, Heavy Metal Memories; and a music video, Hell Hole. Sales of this edition were discontinued after only two years and the DVD has become a valuable collector's item. Much of this material had appeared on a 1994 CD-ROM by The Voyager Company that included the entire film in QuickTime format.

In 2000, MGM Home Entertainment released a special edition with new supplemental material. It has a new audio commentary track with Guest, McKean and Shearer performing in character throughout, commenting on the film entirely in their fictional alter-egos, and often disapproving of how the film presents them; 70 minutes of deleted scenes (some of which were not on the Criterion DVD); a new short, Catching Up with Marty DiBergi (where it is revealed that the members of Spinal Tap were very disappointed in DiBergi for making a "hatchet job" of their film); a shorter version of Cheese Rolling; the Heavy Metal Memories promo and six additional TV promos; music videos for Hell Hole, Gimme Some Money, Listen to the Flower People and Big Bottom; segments of Spinal Tap appearing on The Joe Franklin Show; and the theatrical trailer. The special features were produced by Automat Pictures. However, this version of the film was missing the subtitles that appear throughout the film (for example, introducing band members, other personnel, and location names) and did not include the commentaries from the Criterion edition. The MGM DVD is missing the subtitles burned into the film; they have been replaced with player generated subtitles.

A 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Disc release was released on July 28, 2009. It includes all bonus features from the MGM DVD plus an interview with Nigel about Stonehenge and the band's Live Earth performance. It does NOT include the commentaries from the Criterion Collection DVD, even though MGM had stated that they would be included in the earliest press release for the Blu-Ray version (most likely due to legal issues.) Additionally, it does not include the promised "create your own avatars" features. However, this version DOES restore the subtitles that introduce band members/locales/events/etc. that were missing from MGM's DVD.

On IGN, This Is Spinal Tap was the only DVD—and seemingly the only thing reviewed on IGN—to get 11 out of 10, though this is a joke in reference to the memorable scene in the film.[20]

Related works

  • Break Like the Wind (1992) Album
  • A shorter made-for-TV sequel, The Return of Spinal Tap, was released in 1992 to promote Break Like the Wind. It consisted mostly of footage from an actual Spinal Tap concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • This is Spinal Tap: The Official Companion (ISBN 0-7475-4218-X) was published in 2000. It featured a "Tap'istory", full transcript of the film (including out-takes), a discography, lyrics and an A-Z of the band.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^,1984&title_type=feature&sort=moviemeter,asc
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Muir, John (2004). Best in Show: The Films of Christopher Guest and Company. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. pp. 31. 
  12. ^ Yabroff, Jennie (2009). The Real Spinal Tap. Newsweek. 
  13. ^ see the notes for Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978, Rhino Records, 2002
  14. ^ Q&A: Robert Plant : Rolling Stone
  15. ^ a b Konow, David (2002). Bang Your Head. Three Rivers Press. pp. 216–217. ISBN 0-609-80732-3. 
  16. ^ Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore. Feral House. pp. 207. ISBN 0-922915-71-7. 
  17. ^ Rollins, Henry, Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag, 2.13.61 Publications, 1994
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ IGN: This is Spinal Tap DVD

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

This is Spinal Tap is a 1984 "rockumentary" about the world's loudest band, the British heavy metal group Spinal Tap.

Directed by Rob Reiner and largely improvised by the main players Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.
Does for rock and roll what "The Sound of Music" did for hills


David St. Hubbins

  • [Asked what his epitaph should be]: "Here lies David St. Hubbins... and why not?"
  • [After the disastrous "Stonehenge" concert]: I do not think the problem was that the band was "down". I think the problem was that there was a Stonehenge monument on stage that was in danger of being a dwarf!

Nigel Tufnel

  • It's such a fine line between stupid and clever.
  • There's something about this that's so black, it's like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

Mick Shrimpton


[Nigel plays the piano]
Marty DiBergi: It's pretty.
Nigel Tufnel: Yeah, I like it. I've been fooling around with it for a few months now. Very delicate.
Marty DiBergi: It's a bit of a departure from what you normally play.
Nigel Tufnel: Yeah, well, it's part of a trilogy, a musical trilogy that I'm doing in D... minor, which I always find is really the saddest of all keys, really, I don't know why. It makes people weep instantly to play [plays and sings]
Nigel Tufnel: It's a horn part.
Marty DiBergi: It's very pretty.
Nigel Tufnel: You know, just simple lines intertwining, you know, very much like — I'm really influenced by Mozart and Bach, and it's sort of in between those, really. It's like a Mach piece, really. It's sort of...
Marty DiBergi: What do you call this?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, this piece is called "Lick My Love Pump."

Marty DiBergi: Why don't you make ten a little louder, make that the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pauses] These go to eleven.

Marty DiBergi: David St. Hubbins... I must admit I've never heard anybody with that name.
David St. Hubbins: It's an unusual name. Well, he was an unusual saint. He's not a very well-known saint.
Marty DiBergi: Oh, there actually is, uh... there was a St. Hubbins?
David St. Hubbins: That's right, yes.
Marty DiBergi: What was he the saint of?
David St. Hubbins: He was the patron saint of quality footwear.

Songs and lyrics

Big Bottom:
My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo. I love to sink her with my pink torpedo! Big bottom, big bottom, talk about bum-cakes... my girl's got 'em. Big bottom, drive me out of my mind. How can I leave this... behind?
The larger the waistband, the deeper the quicksand


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

This Is Spinal Tap is a 1984 comedy movie. This movie pretends to be a documentary. This movie pretends to tell the story of a rock music band called "Spinal Tap." In the movie, the members of this band are David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel. They are played by actors Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest.[1]

Rob Reiner directed the movie and also acted in it. He pretended to be Marty DiBergi, director of the documentary.[2]


  • Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins
  • Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnell (Tuffy)
  • Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls
  • Rob Reiner as Marty DiBergi
  • Tony Hendra as Ian Faith
  • David Kaff as Viv Savage
  • R.J. Parnell, (drummer for Atomic Rooster), as Mick Shrimpton
  • June Chadwick as Jeanine Pettibone
  • Bruno Kirby as limo driver Tommy Pischedda
  • Ed Begley, Jr. as John "Stumpy" Pepys
  • Danny Kortchmar as Ronnie Pudding
  • Fran Drescher as Bobbi Flekman
  • Patrick Macnee as Sir Denis Eton-Hogg
  • Julie Payne as mime waitress
  • Dana Carvey as mime waiter
  • Sandy Helberg as Angelo DiMentibelio
  • Zane Buzby as Rolling Stone reporter
  • Billy Crystal as Morty the Mime
  • Paul Benedict as Tucker "Smitty" Brown
  • Howard Hesseman as Terry Ladd
  • Paul Shortino as Duke Fame
  • Lara Cody as Duke Fame's groupie
  • Andrew J. Lederer as student promoter
  • Russ Kunkel as doomed drummer Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs
  • Vicki Blue as Cindy
  • Joyce Hyser as Belinda
  • Gloria Gifford as the airport security officer with the wand
  • Paul Shaffer as incompetent promoter Artie Fufkin (Polymer Records)
  • Archie Hahn as the room service guy
  • Charles Levin as Disc 'n' Dat manager
  • Anjelica Huston as Polly Deutsch
  • Fred Willard as the Lieutenant on the Air Force base


  1. Deming, Mark. "This Is Spinal Tap > Overview". AllMovie. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 

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