Movie poster for This is Spinal Tap (the stylized background on a black background)


Title: This is Spinal Tap
Released: 1984

Fix: Comedy Gold, Heavy Metal, Music
Platforms: Amazon Prime

Amazon Summary:

Mock rockumentary about a Heavy Metal band on the verge of spontaneous combustion.

FYA Summary:

A mockumentary about an aging British heavy metal band on a disaster-plagued American tour.

Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands, embarks on a North American concert tour to promote their newest album, ‘Smell the Glove.’ Filmmaker Marty Di Bergi, impressed with the band’s exuberance, raw power, and punctuality, makes a documentary of the tour. Things begin to fall apart as stores refuse to carry the album due to its extremely sexist cover, no one shows up for their record signings, and a the lead vocalist’s girlfriend attempts to co-manage the band. Will the boys pull through, or will they go on to other projects, such as that musical comedy based on the life of Jack the Ripper?

Familiar Faces:

Rob Reiner in Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner as Marty Di Berg

Reiner parodies himself as the almost ridiculously sincere director, serving as a fly on the wall during the band’s rehearsals, planning sessions, and concerts.

‘The review you had on ‘Shark Sandwich,’ which was merely a two-word review, just said sh*t sandwich’.

Michael McKean in Spinal Tap

Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins (lead vocals, guitar)

This versatile actor, who’s played everything from Lenny on Laverne and Shirley to Sgt. Shadwell in Good Omens, kills it as one of the founding members of Tap.

‘I’m sure I’d feel much worse if I weren’t under such heavy sedation’

Christopher Guest in Spinal Tap

Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel (lead guitar)

This is the man who introduced the phrase goes to eleven into the rock parlance. This film, incidentally, is the only one on the IMDB to be rated on an 11 point scale.

‘It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.’

Harry Shearer in Spinal Tap

Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls (Bass)

The Simpsons voice actor plays the band’s philosophical bassist, and managed to voice himself when the band toured Springfield.

‘We’re very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they’re like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They’re two distinct types of visionaries, it’s like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water.’

David Kaff in Spinal Tap

David Kaff as Viv Savage (Keyboards)

‘Have a good time, all the time.’

R.J. Parnell in Spinal Tap

R.J. Parnell as Mick Shrimpton (Drums)

The band’s laid back drummer, he’s not really bothered by the fact that there have been about a dozen previous drummers, all of whom died under mysterious and bizarre circumstances.

‘As long as there’s, you know, sex and drugs, I can do without the rock and roll’

Tony Hendra in Spinal Tap

Tony Hendra as Ian Faith, the band’s sleazy manager.

He desperately tries to hold the band together and hide the fact that the entire tour is falling apart. His crowning achievement is trying to cover up that the towering, custom-made Stonehenge prop that is to serve as the backdrop for their show-stopping finale is only 18 inches high.

‘Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful.’

Fran Drescher in Spinal Tap

Fran Drescher as Bobbi Fleckman, the band’s publicist

Bobbi: A greased naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash, and a man’s arm extended out up to here, holding onto the leash, and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it. You don’t find that offensive? You don’t find that sexist?

Ian: Well, you should have seen the cover they wanted to do.

Incidentally, that image she described was available on a Spinal Tap t-shirt, captioned with the title of another Spinal Tap hit,’B*tch School’. My future brother-in-law bought that when we were teenagers and wore it to school. He was shocked with the principal had a word with him.

June Chadwich in Spinal Tap

June Chadwich as Jeanine Pettibone

David’s astrology-obsessed girlfriend who joins the tour and attempts to supplant Ian as manager, becoming the band’s Yoko.

‘If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a hundred times: put ‘Spinal Tap’ first and ‘puppet show’ last.’

Paul Schaffer

Paul Shaffer as Artie Fufkin, the incompetent record company promoter

‘Do me a favor. Just kick my ass, okay? Kick this ass for a man, that’s all. Kick my ass. Enjoy. Come on. I’m not asking, I’m telling with this. Kick my ass.’

There are also cameos by Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Ed Begley, Jr, Fred Willard, and others.

Couch Sharing Capability: King Leisure Suite

This is a movie that’s much more enjoyable with friends. Especially if you’re a teenage guy and you and your buddies can spout quotes for the next several years, to the joy of your parents and occasional girlfriend.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Tap the Keg

Hits such as ‘Christmas With the Devil,’ ‘Big Bottom’ and ‘Sex Farm Woman’ can be appreciated more if you’ve had a couple. The actors are all talented musicians in real life and wrote and performed all the songs in the film. In 1992 they toured to celebrate the release of their new album, ‘Break Like the Wind.’ My friends and I had to go of course.

Young Brian standing with friends, wearing a Spinal Tap shirt

This was a much later photo of me in the concert shirt. There were, of course, no girls with us at the concert.

In 1993, I saw Michael McKean do some standup comedy and he brought out the David St. Hubbins character, much to the delight of the audience.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Well, I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.

Which is my way of saying if you’ve seen it before, you could probably quote the entire movie by heart, and if your friends haven’t seen it yet, they might not appreciate it. I found it makes a wonderful background when you have to come into work on Saturday to scan a hundred laptops into the system, and you can blast ‘Rock and Roll Creation’ through the halls of an empty elementary school. Also, be sure to check out the other movies with basically the same cast, such as A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show.


Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.