The “rockumentary,” This Is Spinal Tap, catches the iconic group as they release the Smell the Glove album. With cameras trailing the band at each turn, moments of triumph are captured. Unfortunately so are blunders. Join us, as we revisit the ten greatest Spinal Tap moments.
GETTING LOST BACKSTAGE
Early in the film we witness the exciting moments before Spinal Tap takes the stage. Chants of “Tap” echo through the arena. Filled with adrenalin, the band begins a triumphant march to their adoring audience…until it all goes hilariously wrong!
Arenas can be a dizzying network of tunnels and the band finds themselves lost during a stop in Ohio. Trying to remain pumped, Nigel makes faces for the camera. Derek shouts “Hello Cleveland.” A maintenance man gives directions but the band still walks in circles. It’s an unglamorous glimpse into the realities of rock and roll.
NIGEL FALLS ON STAGE
Fortunately the Cleveland incident unfolded backstage. Sometimes mishaps happen in full view of the audience. Very often, these calamities are precipitated by off-stage drama. One city’s precarious deli tray left Nigel quite upset.
Ian Faith, being an experienced manager, knows a musician’s emotional state can affect performance. He voices this concern to Nigel, who insists that he is a professional. Shortly after, Nigel takes a tumble mid-guitar solo.
A professional indeed, Nigel does not let his plight ruin the song. It’s a stoic dedication to his craft but our guitar hero is unable to get up. It’s only with the aid of a roadie that Tufnel returns to his feet.
Derek Smalls is also the victim of an on-stage mishap. During “Rock and Roll Creation,” green alien pods open to reveal the band members. Derek’s prop undergoes mechanical failure. Roadies helplessly try to open the hatch as the band plays on. The bass player is freed in time for the song’s finale. Nigel and David St. Hubbins return to their pods. In one last stroke of misfortune, Derek now gets locked OUT of his pod!
CUCUMBER IN PANTS
Derek’s woes aren’t confined to the stage. He causes quite a scene at the airport when the metal detector seemingly goes haywire. Tuning forks, coins, and zippers are removed to no avail. As the attendant waves the machine in front of Smalls, it’s clear the problem is his crotch. Forced to submit to a very public embarrassment, Derek removes a tin foil wrapped cucumber from his pants.
THESE GO TO 11
For all the things that can go wrong, being a rock star has its perks. Nigel’s guitar room is the embodiment of excess. His collection includes a Les Paul with endless sustain and an untouched guitar that can never be played. Most memorable is Tufnel’s Marshall amp. Modified to go to 11, Spinal Tap is capable of delivering unprecedented volume!
LICK MY LOVE PUMP
Nigel may be at home with his Marshall is on 11, but he occasionally embraces the piano. Sitting in front of the camera, Tufnel unveils a tender composition inspired by Mozart and Bach. Performed in D minor, “the saddest of all keys,” the romantically titled “Lick my Love Pump” is a testament to Nigel’s musical depth.
ALL BLACK ALBUM COVER
Smell the Glove was plagued with problems from the start. Much to the band’s displeasure, the record company refused to release the original cover. An image of a woman being forced to sniff a leather glove was deemed sexist.
In the end, Smell the Glove was shipped with an all-black cover. How much more black could it be? None…..none more black!!!
In 1991, Metallica would also release an all black album. That self-titled release sold considerably more copies than the ill fated Smell the Glove. Success did not keep Spinal Tap from confronting Metallica.
AIR FORCE BASE/THEME PARK
Rock audiences can be a fickle bunch. If a show is cancelled due to poor sales, secondary options are considered. In one of the tour’s stranger stops, Spinal Tap found themselves performing at an air force base. Despite an unenthusiastic crowd, the band plows through classics like “Sex Farm” before Nigel storms off stage.
It gets even worse when Tap is forced to play at a theme park. Although the marquee lists the band below the “Puppet Show,” Spinal Tap puts their bruised egos aside for a rare performance of “Jazz Odyssey.” The sparse crowd is unimpressed with Tap’s new direction.
Of course it all comes around. Despite “their appeal becoming more selective” in the states, Japan soon discovers Spinal Tap. The film is closed out with a triumphant appearance at Kobe Hall!
Spinal Tap’s lengthy list of drummers have died under mysterious circumstances. Original drummer, John “Stumpy” Pepys, set the precedent for the ill-fated drum position when he succumbed to an unsolved gardening incident.
Pepys’s replacement, Eric “Stumpy Joe” Childs, didn’t fare much better. Stumpy Joe fatally choked on vomit. SOMEONE ELSE’S vomit. One can’t be sure who regurgitated into the mouth of the deceased. After all, “you can’t really dust for vomit.”
Peter “James” Bond also had an unusual death. While performing at a Jazz-Blues festival (or possibly Blues-Jazz), Bond spontaneously combusted. It’s not as strange a fate as it may seem. Nigel informs us that “dozens of people spontaneously combust each year, it just isn’t widely reported.”
Given the propensity for untimely deaths, Mick Shrimpton is asked his thoughts on the drummer phenomenon in a bathtub interview. Surely it can’t happen to EVERYONE. It’s agreed that the law of averages ensures that it WON’T happen to him.
Alas, Shrimpton also falls victim to the drummer curse. Shrimpton tragically exploded on stage while performing at Kobe Hall!
Performing on arena stages requires a spectacle of both sight and sound. New ideas are always considered. Nigel had the genius idea of creating a life-size Stonehenge for their tribute to England’s ancient moment. What could go wrong?
The Stonehenge disaster can be traced back to this napkin.
Poor confused Nigel. Having used the symbol for inches rather than feet, a miniature replica of Stonehenge is built and incorporated into the show. The audience laughs as dancing dwarfs tower above the tiny prop.
Nigel would have the last laugh. In the years following the Stonehenge incident, Tufnel became a notable Stonehenge scholar. His appearance on National Geographic demonstrates that Spinal Tap moments have continued long after the movie credits rolled.