Tonight We’re Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This Is Spinal Tap is one of the most well-known examples of the “Mockumentary” genre and pretty much started that genre all by itself. The film has gone down in history as a cult classic and is often quoted, especially when anyone wants to crack something up to 11! Let’s take a look back at this classic film with some facts that you may not have known…

30. The Stonehenge scene predates a similar incident involving Black Sabbath

be102f 20170208 spinal tap e1604926622323 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

For years, This Is Spinal Tap has been hailed as one of the funniest films ever thanks to its hilarious portrayal of the rock star lifestyle.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

What makes the film all the more amusing is the fact that many of its most absurd moments are based on real incidents – although in one notable scene, the film uncannily predicts a rock’n’roll blunder which had yet to occur.

This includes the unforgettable Stonehenge sequence, in which a set designer (Anjelica Huston) builds a replica of the legendary monument based on a sketch from the band.

Unfortunately, the sketch provided gave the proportions in inches rather than feet, hence the band end up playing alongside a miniature Stonehenge on stage.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

This scene was originally shot in 1982 for a short film which helped the filmmakers get a green light for the feature – but a year later, a bizarrely similar thing happened in real life to Black Sabbath.

Screen Shot 2020 11 09 at 13.00.53 e1604926941207 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The British rockers commissioned a replica of Stonehenge for their set on their 1983 tour – but as in This Is Spinal Tap, it wound up the wrong size due to an administrative error.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In Black Sabbath’s case, rather than having a model a fraction of the size of the real Stonehenge, theirs was more than twice as big as the real monument.


29. Ozzy Osbourne thought it was a genuine documentary

DFWFh UAAARpnT e1604927291246 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The funny thing that a lot of people don’t seem to realise about This is Spinal Tap is that it isn’t an actual documentary.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

On release, many viewers were so taken in by the film’s realistic style that they thought it starred an actual English rock band, and not a bunch of American comedians.

1200x 1 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

To this day, there are plenty of people who think Spinal Tap were for real – but this doesn’t just include ill-informed millennials.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

One of the true pioneers of heavy metal music, Ozzy Osborne, was also completely suckered by the film.

Screenshot 2020 10 16 at 13.51.45 e1602852729153 2 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The Black Sabbath frontman said that when he first watched the film, he was the only one who wasn’t laughing as he thought it was a genuine documentary!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Other rock superstars said to have been similarly fooled include Liam Gallagher of Oasis, who was left distraught as his brother Noel knew all along that Spinal Tap wasn’t a real band but didn’t tell him.

28. The tiny sandwich scene was inspired by Eddie Van Halen

GettyImages 136995905 446221 e1602856212542 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The key reason that a lot of rock stars initially didn’t see the humour in This Is Spinal Tap was that the band’s behaviour seemed totally normal to them.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Reportedly one such rocker who had this problem when watching the movie was the late guitar hero Eddie Van Halen.

eddie van halen 2015 1280x720 1 e1604929272972 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

There was a certain irony there, as – although he might not have known it – the guitarist and his bandmates directly inspired one scene.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The scene in question comes when Christopher Guest’s Nigel starts throwing a tantrum over the buffet served up backstage.

The guitarist is bewildered by the size of the bread in the spread provided by the venue. This, director Rob Reiner confirmed years later, was inspired by infamous stories of Van Halen’s backstage demands.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Most notoriously, the band routinely stipulated they be provided with bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out.

27. The film inspired Metallica’s ‘Black’ album

cf8ba87fc19c621e6c915e6e99900adbb3 metallica superlative.rsquare.w1200 e1604928639411 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Another of This is Spinal Tap’s most famous gags comes when the band face trouble over the cover of their latest album.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

After complaints that their chosen image is sexist, the band’s manager takes inspiration from The Beatles’ White Album by making the Spinal Tap cover completely black.

The band’s manager Ian (Tony Hendra) hopes this will ensure great publicity and high sales, but things don’t work out that way.

However, in 1991, heavy metal legends Metallica would take direct inspiration from this, to considerably greater success.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

While the record in question (the band’s fifth album) is officially entitled Metallica, it is popularly known as The Black Album.

maxresdefault 1 e1604928949898 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This, of course, is because the band given the record a completely black cover, in homage to Spinal Tap.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The album became Metallica’s biggest hit, earning Diamond Record status with over 16 million copies sold in America alone.

26. The dying drummers inspired Harry Potter’s Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers

the dark truth about gilderoy lockhart in harry potter e1602853049919 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This Is Spinal Tap has famously inspired scores of comedians and rock musicians over the years.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, it may come as a surprise that it was also the inspiration behind a recurring element of the Harry Potter series.

B002CMXAYW ThisisSpinalTap UXMG1. SX1080 1 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

One of This Is Spinal Tap’s most memorable gags is the unfortunate fates of its many drummers, who all die in mysterious circumstances.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has confirmed that this joke inspired a similarly dangerous job in her series of novels.

200610 jk rowling al 1348 c9a1eed578999b876d0ef072061a87c3 e1604928464569 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This is the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, a role taken by a new teacher in every book.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Most of those who teach this subject either end up dead or are in some way rendered unable to return by the novel’s end.

25. Spinal Tap reunited for an album and TV special in 1992

Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Eight years after This Is Spinal Tap, the band got back together for a second album entitled Break Like the Wind.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Once again Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer took up their instruments as Nigel, David and Derek.

Nigel Tufnel Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

They also had some big-name guest musicians this time around, including legendary guitar heroes Slash, Jeff Beck, Steve Lukather and Joe Satriani.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In addition, the song Just Begin Again featured none other than Cher on guest vocals.

The band toured in support of the album, including a performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall (at which, as you can see in the video above, Cher was not in attendance). This performance was filmed and broadcast as one-off TV special The Return of Spinal Tap.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Spinal Tap have since reunited once more to record a third album, 2009’s Back from the Dead.

24. The film was almost entirely improvised

PIC 5 3 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

As well as breaking new ground in its fake documentary approach, This Is Spinal Tap was also hugely influential in its use of improvisation.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The film was shot based around a script for a short film which would have lasted a mere 20 minutes.

rs 197476 84900332 scaled e1604927892557 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Using this as the starting point, director Rob Reiner and the cast ad-libbed virtually everything else.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

For this reason, the director and cast approached the Writers Guild asking that they allow screenplay credit to be given to “everyone.”

Screen Shot 2020 11 09 at 13.21.01 e1604928120305 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

To their dismay, the Guild’s Board of Directors unanimously declined this request, instead giving the credit to Reiner, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Many contemporary comedy directors such as Judd Apatow and Paul Feig encourage similar levels of ad-libbing from their casts.

23. The cast wrote and performed all the music themselves

gettyimages 635942657 e1604937097858 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Spinal Tap might not in the strictest sense a ‘real’ band – but they did play a band for real. (We’re confident Spinal Tap themselves would understand that distinction.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Christopher Guest (guitarist/vocalist Nigel Tufnel), Michael McKean (guitarist/vocalist David St. Hubbins) and Harry Shearer (bassist Derek Smalls) all played their own instruments in the film.

sdut spinal tap turns thirty 2014mar03 e1604937206775 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

In addition, Guest, McKean and Shearer also co-wrote all of the songs, along with director Rob Reiner.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Supporting actors David Kaff (keyboard player Viv Savage) and Ric Parnell (drummer Mick Shrimpton) also played their instruments for real: both men were professional musicians.

harry shearer spinal tap scaled e1605102496530 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Guest, McKean and Shearer also served as the producers on the officially released soundtrack album featuring the songs from the movie.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The only musicians who play on the tracks but don’t appear in the movie are keyboard and synthesizer players Harlan Collins and John Sinclair.

22. Rob Reiner was originally going to be in the band, but he didn’t look good in spandex

large spinal tap blu ray5x e1602853005515 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

As we’ve established, director Rob Reiner stars in This Is Spinal Tap as documentarian Marty DiBergi.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, this was a change of plan from what Reiner and company originally had in mind.

4cb4f6dc1f124715a08dabf7519bb767 e1604928215697 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

At first, the plan had been for Reiner to also be a member of Spinal Tap as well.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, Derek Smalls actor Harry Shearer reportedly told Reiner that he didn’t look good enough in spandex.

Rob Reiner to guest star on Showtimes Happyish e1604928301927 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

For this reason, the director opted instead take the role of the more casually-dressed documentary maker.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Reiner was a successful actor for many years before moving into directing, most famously appearing in sitcom All in the Family.

21. There was a Spinal Tap Christmas single

No self-respecting musical comedy act can really say they’ve made it until they’ve put out a novelty Christmas record.

Spinal Tap did just that in December 1984 with their first official single, Christmas with the Devil.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The single was released as a picture disk 7 inch with an image of the Devil in a Santa Claus hat.

R 2921868 1493188240 8114.jpeg Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

As the single hit shelves nine months after This Is Spinal Tap opened in cinemas, we might have thought it would be a hit.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Unfortunately, This Is Spinal Tap was not much of a hit on release, taking only $4.7 million at the box office (although this easily recouped its $2 million budget).

 

GettyImages 534298612 e1605095563240 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This might explain why Christmas with the Devil didn’t chart at all in 1984, although it has been included as a bonus track on subsequent releases of This Is Spinal Tap’s soundtrack.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Spinal Tap would go on to release a further four singles, two of which reached low chart positions in the UK.

20. Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World) turned down the chance to direct

crm090118spheerisessay012 1536847041 e1605002295971 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This Is Spinal Tap was the directorial debut of Rob Reiner, and set him on a path to become one of the most successful filmmakers of the years ahead.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Reiner went on to direct such acclaimed hits as Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, Misery and A Few Good Men.

Penelope Spheeris by AS loose crop enh e1605002217175 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

However, he wasn’t always poised to direct This Is Spinal Tap himself. Early on, the director’s chair was offered to Penelope Spheeris.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Spheeris was already established as a director of both feature films and documentaries, and was a confirmed lover of rock music.

Penelope Spheeris Waynes World e1605002257583 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

However, the director opted to turn down This Is Spinal Tap, feeling she couldn’t make a movie that made fun of the culture she so respected.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Later, Spheeris would have her biggest hit with another rock’n’roll-oriented comedy, Wayne’s World.

19. Fran Drescher revived her character on an episode of The Nanny

MV5BZTRhMjVmY2ItYjBjYy00MmJiLWJlYjUtODE4YWY3MDJhNWJhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTU1OTUzNDg@. V1 SX1777 CR001777820 AL e1604937908778 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

One of the many famous faces who make brief appearances in This Is Spinal Tap is Fran Drescher.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Drescher appears in the movie as record company executive Bobbi Fleckman, who warns of trouble concerning the band’s planned cover art.

36AFDLKPKNC4XIJMA6DW43ISNY e1604937963905 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The actress and comedian, famed for her nasal voice, would later reach a wide audience in 90s sitcom The Nanny.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In the fifth season of The Nanny, one episode saw Drescher play her This Is Spinal Tap character a second time.

rs 600x600 200404141958 600 the nanny.ct .040420 e1604938077946 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The episode in question was entitled The Bobbi Fleckman Story, and cast the character as a former business partner of male lead Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy).

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Drescher’s dual role in the episode saw her regular character of Fran Fine (the nanny of the title) forced to pretend to be Bobbi Fleckman.

18. More than 100 hours of footage was shot

spinal Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Because This Is Spinal Tap relied so heavily on improvisation, vast quantities of raw footage was shot.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

It is estimated that a staggering 100 hours worth of material was on film by the time they wrapped shooting.

this is spinal tap final shot e1605003161995 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Given that the final film is only 82 minutes long, that means there’s a whole lot more out there we haven’t seen.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Some of this deleted footage showed up on the film’s first DVD release in 1998, which boasted around an hour of new material.

thisisspinaltap1 e1605003232918 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

There are also known to be bootleg copies of an early cut of the film lasting upwards of four hours.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

These rare and coveted cuts of the film have been known to fetch a pretty penny among hardcore fans.

17. Working on the film saved the life of actor Tony Hendra

maxresdefault 3 e1605002819444 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Tony Hendra takes a key supporting role in This Is Spinal Tap as Ian Faith, the band’s cricket bat-wielding manager.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The English-born actor (also a writer for National Lampoon magazine and TV’s comedy Spitting Image, and a former school mate of Stephen Hawking) was cast in the film at a low point in his life.

tumblr op3bh4ATzZ1rhrsf1o1 1280 e1605002856717 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

In his 2004 book Father Joe, Hendra admits that he was struggling with depression just before This Is Spinal Tap went into production.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Hendra actually attempted to take his own life the day before he was set to start principal photography on the film.

MV5BMTkwMTA0MTIwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDEwNzAxOA@@. V1 e1605002995258 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Happily, working on This Is Spinal Tap was such a joyful, life-affirming experience that it helped Hendra on the road to recovery.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Unfortunately, this heartwarming story doesn’t have such a happy ending: In the years since, Hendra’s daughter has publicly accused her father of abusing her as a child.

16. Spinal Tap went on to appear in The Simpsons, in which Harry Shearer is a main cast member

7a7ac7a5631ef63213a949eb2fb56e29 e1605002597737 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Five years after This Is Spinal Tap, Harry Shearer was cast in a new animated comedy series called The Simpsons.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The show proved wildly successful beyond everyone’s expectations, and it’s still on the air today.

harry shearer scaled e1605002731173 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Shearer continues to voice several recurring characters, including Ned Flanders, Mr Burns, Smithers and Principal Skinner.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In 1992, Shearer added Derek Smalls to his long list of Simpsons voice credits in season three episode The Otto Show.

maxresdefault 2 e1605002543996 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Christopher Guest and Michael McKean also reprised the roles of Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins in the episode.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The episode saw Spinal Tap performing a riotous gig in the town of Springfield, with Bart and Millhouse in attendance.

15. The film’s first VHS included a disclaimer that it wasn’t a real documentary

full This Is Spinal Tap 1 WB LR UBG e1602853125985 1 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This is Spinal Tap’s ‘mockumentary’ format was ground-breaking for the time, and has inspired many films since.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, as we’ve mentioned it was the cause of much confusion among the wider audience who assumed it was for real.

VHV62RFOXNBDPHIUA4BBZFUQOQ e1604927682584 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Some confused viewers even suggested to director Rob Reiner that the film might have been better if he’d got a more famous band!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Because of this, some early VHS copies of the film had a disclaimer printed on the cover.

rs 28038 spinaltap 1800 1394048900 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This disclaimer made it clear to the uninitiated viewer that the film is in fact a work of fiction.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

While the cast have continued to explore the format, director Rob Reiner has not made another ‘mockumentary’ since.

14. Rob Reiner and the cast launched a $400 million lawsuit over unpaid royalties in 2016

rs harry shearer 7bfa1e1c 035b 4b2f aa42 3f9b269d2c04 e1604937502843 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

In October 2016, This Is Spinal Tap actor and co-writer Harry Shearer sued Vivendi, the media group owning the rights to the movie, for $125 million.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Three months later Shearer’s collaborators Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner joined him in the suit, with the demanded sum increasing to $400 million.

tdy pop spinal tap 190429 1920x1080 e1604937583661 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The filmmakers alleged fraud, saying they had been paid a paltry $98 in royalties for album sales between 1989 and 2006.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Initially, the suit demanded that StudioCanal (the film studio owned by Vivendi) surrender the rights to This Is Spinal Tap.

chris michael harry press scaled e1604937644193 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The legal battle is ongoing, but the section of the suit relating to the soundtrack was settled out of court in November 2019.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

According to the settlement, the music rights will eventually revert to Guest, McKean, Reiner and Shearer.

13. Marti DiBergi’s cap appears in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride

5d9ac9a1788d07221c2e0928c2676ce5 e1604927404917 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner appears in the film as Marti DiBergi, the ‘director’ of the faux-documentary.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Throughout the film, Reiner wears a distinctive US Navy cap – which, three years later, would appear in his later film The Princess Bride.

NINTCHDBPICT000450666862 e1604927450621 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Look closely in the scenes set in Fred Savage’s bedroom, and you may spot the cap in the background.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Reiner included this at the behest of Mark Knopfler, guitarist of famed 80s rock band Dire Straits.

0000214885 e1604927539216 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Knopfler agreed to provide the score for The Princess Bride on the condition that Reiner’s Spinal Tap cap would appear in the film.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The director made good on this (using a cap that closely resembled it, as the original had been lost). Afterwards, Knopfler admitted this slightly absurd request had only been a joke!

12. It was marketed in Norway as a sequel to Airplane!

Airplane movie with the autopilot e1604925917670 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

As we’ve established, This Is Spinal Tap proved to be a somewhat difficult film to market on its initial release.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

This proved to be even more of a challenge when selling the film to markets around the world.

Screenshot 2020 10 16 at 14.03.01 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

In Norway, the marketing people came up with a rather different way of selling the film when it was released to VHS there in 1986.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The film was retitled Help! We are in the Pop Business! This was a reference to the Norwegian title for mile-high slapstick Airplane!, which was Help! We are Flying!

MV5BMzhjYWE5NDQtYTA2MC00MWIxLTg1ZDktMGY3NDY1ZTc3MDQwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTEwODg2MDY@. V1 SY1000 CR007431000 AL e1604925819851 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The VHS cover art also featured a guitar tied in a knot, just like Airplane!’s titular vehicle.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Of course, in reality Airplane! spawned a sequel of its own, 1982’s Airplane II: The Sequel.

11. The film’s IMDb rating goes up to 11

large spinal tap blu ray2x e1602853408931 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

One of the most famous jokes in This Is Spinal Tap involves the Marshall amplifier owned by guitarist Nigel Tufnel.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Where most amplifiers have ten as the maximum setting, Tufnel’s extra-loud amp goes instead to 11.

20180604 imc ywu338 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This scene proved so impactful that ‘going up to eleven’ has long since become part of the popular vernacular.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

It also explains why, at renowned film information website IMDb, the fan rating score for This Is Spinal Tap is a little different.

5MXX5YCYEZDM7GQVLMYKXKY2HY e1604929169521 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Where all other film pages offer a fan rating out ten, This Is Spinal Tap’s rating goes – yes, you guessed it – to 11.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, despite this crowd-pleasing joke, fans can still only give the film a rating out of ten. (Spoilsports!)

10. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler took personal offence to the film

d6961b94c7fc178e4ff62bc922396616a1 22 joey kramer aerosmith.rsquare.w1200 e1605093951864 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

As we’ve established, not everyone who saw This Is Spinal Tap realised it was a comedy at first, including some prominent rock stars.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Still, one rocker saw the movie knowing full well it was a comedy, but entirely failed to see the funny side.

image e1605094069968 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Steven Tyler, lead singer of famed US rock band Aerosmith, was outright offended by the film.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Tyler’s bandmate Joe Perry told Classic Rock, “my wife and I saw it, and we fell on the floor… I told Steven the next day, ‘You’ve got to see this movie! It’s so f***ing good. It’s hilarious.’”

Aerosmith800 1 20 e1605094109282 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

However, when Perry took Tyler to see it, “he did not laugh the whole time… he didn’t get it. He got indignant. And it was like, I couldn’t believe it.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Tyler himself confirms, “That movie bummed me out… I thought, ‘How dare they? That’s all real, and they’re mocking it.'”

9. Harry Shearer toured with British metal band Saxon for research

485845 1 e1605101434231 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

One of the real-life bands to have the greatest influence on This Is Spinal Tap are Brit rockers Saxon.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

These heavy metallers rose to prominence around the same time as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, although they’re not quite so well known today.

vintage saxon poster 1982 original 360 6f34f3e3849d99ddebe8e43f3f15af6e e1605101500417 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Before production began on This Is Spinal Tap, Harry Shearer spent a few days on tour with Saxon as research.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Saxon’s bassist Steve Dawson recalls, that the band thought Shearer “was just another journalist… [he] got us to talk about things that happened on the road.”

Saxon Promo Nov 2017 e1605101548513 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Shearer modelled elements of Derek Smalls on Dawson, in particular imitating his tendency to play bass one-handed whilst pointing at the audience.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

When the members of Saxon saw the film later, they thought it was hilarious – although frontman Bill Byford says he prefers Bad News, a similar heavy metal spoof by British TV comedy group The Comic Strip.

8. A deleted subplot saw the band all catch an STD from the same woman

SpinalTap 101Pyxurz e1605092263266 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

If you watch closely, you may notice that at different times in This Is Spinal Tap, the band members appear to have cold sores.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In the version of the film that we’ve all seen, this passes without any comment or explanation.

thisisspinaltapnormansrareguitarstshirt e1605092303146 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

However, a subplot which was deleted in its entirety would have made the situation clear as day.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Originally, we would have seen that Spinal Tap had another band opening for them on tour with a female vocalist.

maxresdefault 4 e1605092342249 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

It then transpired that all of the band had slept with this woman, and that she gave them all the same STD.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

We can only assume this is one of the plot threads that is restored in the fabled four-hour-plus bootleg cut.

7. The band first appeared in a failed 1979 comedy pilot

Screen Shot 2020 11 11 at 11.12.52 e1605093392757 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Like so many of the best comedies of the 80s and 90s, the characters of This Is Spinal Tap had their origins on the small screen.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Rob Reiner came up with the characters in 1978.

At the time the quartet were working on a pilot episode for a proposed comedy sketch series entitled The TV Show.

This pilot saw Guest, McKean and Shearer portray Spinal Tap for the first time, playing the original song Rock’n’Roll Nightmare.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The actors ad-libbed heavily while shooting the sketch, and started to form ideas about the characters in the process.

Spinal Tap 1280x720 1 e1605093440638 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Ultimately, The TV Show did not get picked up for a series, although it did air as a one-off special.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, the creators were excited by the potential of Spinal Tap, and began exploring the idea of a movie.

6. The cast have made several other ‘mockumentaries’ since Tap

Best in Show e1605093656542 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

In the years since This Is Spinal Tap, actor Christopher Guest has gone on to direct many films in a similar, semi-improvised style.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Guest returned to the musical mockumentary format as co-writer, director and star of 1996’s Waiting for Guffman.

B004G75MD8 WaitforGuffman UXWB1. RI e1605093703570 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

The actor-director explored similar territory with Best In Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Guest also appears in front of the camera on all these films, and some reunited him with his fellow Spinal Tap veterans.

9d8d3084944adce626c1fbf7125bde77 scaled e1605093846528 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Michael McKean appears in Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration, whilst Harry Shearer is in the latter two.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

These films also co-star Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, who have since reunited on acclaimed sitcom Schitt’s Creek.

5. ‘Nigel Tufnel’ was a play on Eric Clapton’s ‘dull’ name

0 yOynPZAWJJwgK7Ab e1605102681567 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Before This Is Spinal Tap went before cameras, Christopher Guest played as Nigel Tufnel on 1979 album Lenny & Squiggy present Lenny and the Squigtones.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Lenny and the Squigtones were a comedy musical act formed by Guest’s fellow Spinal Tap member Michael McKean.

Linda Christopher Guest e1605102613899 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Guest explained years later that the main inspiration behind the name Nigel Tufnel came from a real-life guitar hero.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The comedian came up with the character’s name as a play on the iconic British rocker Eric Clapton.

eric clapton justin bieber fan e1605102722965 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Guest’s rationale was that it should be a combination of a ‘dull name’ and a location in London.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Subsequently, he chose the first name Nigel as a stand-in for Eric, and Tufnel in the place of Clapton.

4. Christopher Guest has called the film a ‘spomage’

this is spinal tap e1605101976220 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This Is Spinal Tap is frequently held up as one of the greatest parodies ever put on film.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, the filmmakers have always disputed that the film is 100% a spoof of the rock world.

55369 mgm 0 e1605102027637 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Christopher Guest told The Washington Post when the film was released that it was a “spomage” – i.e. midway between spoof and homage.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Guest explained, “We do have great affection, not only for the music… but for those people.”

this is spinal tap e1605102400668 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Rob Reiner agreed, “The four of us all grew up on rock ‘n’ roll, we all love rock ‘n’ roll.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

“Most of the satires that have been done in the past have been by people who didn’t really like rock ‘n’ roll… they didn’t have the affection.”

3. Spinal Tap’s numerous previous names were inspired by The Band’s

21852 posts.article lg e1605101777384 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

One standout scene early on sees Spinal Tap reflect on the years in the music business, with flashbacks to the early days playing British Beat and psychedelic rock.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Along with that, David and Nigel list the many names they went by over the years, including The Lovely Lads, The Originals, The New Originals and The Thamesmen.

hqdefault Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

This sequence was directly inspired by a similar (but entirely non-satirical) moment in Martin Scorsese’s famed ‘rockumentary’ The Last Waltz.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The Last Waltz centres on famed folk rockers The Band, and one scene sees them list some of the many names they went by prior to their current one.

waltz c7a660ef 2330 4990 8f19 b808280ba22d e1605101718597 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

These include such unmistakably 60s monikers as The Hawks, The Canadian Squires, Chocolate Subway and Marshmallow Overcoat.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Finally, they settled on The Band when performing as back-up for Bob Dylan in 1966.

2. The band played Big Bottom at 2007’s Live Earth with “every bass player in the known universe”

maxresdefault 5 e1605100795276 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

One of the best-loved songs from the soundtrack of This Is Spinal Tap has to be Big Bottom.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Notable for its self-consciously sexist lyrics, the song is directly inspired by Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls.

75262545 scaled e1604937286580 1 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

However, it’s also notable for the fact that, to further the bottom-heavy theme, it’s played on multiple basses with no guitar.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In live performances, Spinal Tap have taken advantage of this by having special guest bass players join them on stage.

The most spectacular such performance occurred at the 2007 Live Earth climate change awareness concert at Wembley Stadium.

For this performance, Michael McKean (in character as David St. Hubbins) declared they were joined by “every bass player in the known universe.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Virtually every bassist at Live Earth joined them to play bass on Big Bottom, including (amongst many others) Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch of the Beastie Boys, Nate Mendel of the Foo Fighters, and all the members of Metallica.

1. The film reduced Sting and The Edge to tears (and not just from laughter)

untold truth sting the police scaled e1605092666999 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

For the average viewer, This Is Spinal Tap is a comedy classic that’s always guaranteed to elicit laughs.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

However, for those rarefied few who’ve made it big in the music business themselves, the film hits a lot closer to home.

sting residency vegas e1605105508986 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Some rock stars were so struck at how realistically it portrays the absurdities of the rock star life that watching the film proved somewhat traumatic.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Rob Reiner stated in 2019, “Sting saw it many times – he told me, ‘I see it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!’”

the edge u2 siriusxm e1605092757442 Tonight We're Gonna Rock You With 30 Facts About This Is Spinal Tap!

Similarly, The Edge of U2 says, “The first time I ever saw it, I didn’t laugh. I wept… because I recognised so much and so many of those scenes.”