2015 Blind Spot Series: This is Spinal Tap (1984)

A high energy ”rockumentary”. Hailed as “one of England’s loudest bands”, legendary British rock band, Spinal Tap, is followed by a documentary film-maker during their attempt at an American comeback tour.
If you didn’t know this is a fictional mockumentary you could be fooled into thinking it was an actual band. The band members behave in a natural way and the dialogue and songs are so realistic, that it’s authentic, but with enough comedy that the spoof works. While I didn’t love the music or think it was as funny as the poster indicates, I did enjoy the ”fake” interviews and backstage antics. Some people took this seriously when it first came out. You could accept Spinal Tap as a documentary about a real, deluded band that just isn’t that good at songwriting.

There are a huge number of quotable moments such as ”goes up to eleven”, ”miniature bread”, “Oh we’ve got a bigger dressing room than the puppets?!” “I’m sure I’d feel much worse if I weren’t under such heavy sedation” , and “It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None … more black.”

A groundbreaking film which is worth seeing, but maybe some of the satire about the music industry would only be funny to those familiar with music from the era. But you don’t have to be into rock music to find it entertaining and amusing, as it’s clear that some things never change such as groupies, band arguments, being spoilt, and the desire to be remain popular.
The band members are basically comedians and actors, Christopher Guest would go on to pen the comedy Best in Show (2000). Michael McKean has acted in many films besides Spinal Tap. The third prominent member of the band, Harry Shearer, is probably most famous for his voice-acting on The Simpsons.

So meticulously crafted that there is a legitimate Spinal Tap album and fake band discography. The soundtrack works because it mimics what it poked fun at. My favorite tracks are probably “Rock and Roll Creation” and “Stonehenge“, which mock the music and image of mystical, allegedly demonic bands like Black Sabbath. “Big Bottom” and “Sex Farm” are two more highlights that needle the rampant misogyny, sexism, and machismo in the heavy metal subculture.

Rating 8/10

Thanks for reading! Have you seen This is Spinal Tap (1984)? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome

23 thoughts on “2015 Blind Spot Series: This is Spinal Tap (1984)

  1. Oh God, I fucking love this film. There's so many great songs in that film and moments that just keeps me laughing. And you know what is really fucked up about this film? These things actually happened. You know the scene where Derek St. Smalls got stuck inside the pod because it wouldn't open? That actually happened to Boy George one time during the 80s but no one pulled that off better than U2 during their Popmart tour of '97-'98 when the band were inside a lemon at a show in Norway. Due to an electrical failure, the lemon wouldn't open and the band got stuck inside it for about 30-40 minutes.

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  2. @thevoid99: There’s a lot to love in the film, especially for those who enjoy music. I didn’t know those stage moments actually happened! Thanks for sharing

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  3. This really brings back memories! 🙂 I couldn't agree more about it being quotable. My husband and I haven't seen this in many years, but we still sing some of the lyrics to “Big Bottom” and “Give Me Some Money.” Such a fun movie.

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  4. Nice Review. If I would have heard these songs before seeing this flick, I would have hated it. Yet when watching it. The songs become F__ing awesome. If you get a chance, check out the DVD audio commentary that has the band members of Spinal Tap talking about the movie. It's a lot of fun

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  5. @TheVern: Thanks, yes, the satire in the songs probably wouldn’t make much sense without the context of the movie. I listened to the album afterwards.

    I haven’t listened to the dvd audio commentary, I may just do that, it sounds entertaining!

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  6. I'm the oddball on this one. I thought it was pretty good, but only sporadically funny. It definitely could pass for a real doc, though. For whatever reason, it didn't tickle my funny bone enough to really become special.

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  7. I agree on listening to the commentary because it's done in character. It's the band members talking about the “documentary”, not the actors commenting on a movie.

    Rock acts at the time LOVED this because it absolutely nailed the goings on. I remember seeing an interview with Alice Cooper and he mentioned the getting lost backstage thing as having happened to him. And every lead singer ever has had a “Hello Cleveland!” moment (or whatever the city was in the movie).

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  8. @Wendell Ottley: I didn’t laugh out loud, and I agree it's only sporadically funny. The satire about the music industry is fun to watch

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  9. @Chip Lary: the ”in character” audio commentary sounds very unique.

    I didn’t know Alice Cooper (and others) had made comments on the movie. The situations do feel authentic, including getting lost backstage.

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