To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of This Is Spinal Tap, we spent months researching the making of the movie and interviewing director Rob Reiner and cast members like Fred Willard and Fran Drescher ... and then asked famous fans like Jack Black, Arsenio Hall and Rob Zombie to join the YEAH! Spinal Tap party.
Need more reasons to watch Spinal Tap for the first time, or the thirtieth like you've never seen it before? Let's let these guys tell you...
Jack Black (Tenacious D)
I just marveled at how they all just existed on the screen. So natural and relaxed. Deeply funny and fully realized characters. Obviously Spinal Tap was the main inspiration for our comedy-rock band Tenacious D. They were the first and the best. But they also set the stage for all improvisational-based film and television ever since. From Curb Your Enthusiasm to the films of Judd Apatow and Adam McKay. We should all bow down and kiss their feet!
The love triangle was supremely funny. Nigel's jealousy was palpable and hysterical.
Kyle Gass (Tenacious D)
I'll never forget goin' to a movie theater in 1984 and having my mind exploded. This was it, the new gold standard in rock, comedy, improv, damn near everything I was into at the time -- hell, still am! To Spinal Tap , I bid a hefty, eternal debt of gratitude for pointing the way.
Hard to pick a fave moment, but the scene with the late great Bruno Kirby's cameo as the limo driver is tough to beat.
Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)
Spinal Tap is one of, if not the, best movies about rock music. Both hilarious and at times a little too close to the mark for comfort.
I have two. The first is the “Hello, Cleveland!” bit, where the band can't find the stage. Been there done that. And the second is the Stonehenge fiasco.
Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)
Back in the day, when we first started, bars would put the movie on after we played, as if to send us a message: “This is who you are!” And little did I know we’d one day argue about the deli tray. For all bands the film is prophetic.
I’m partial to the scene where the lead singer’s mystical, bossy girlfriend shows up and starts taking charge. The body language of the band behind him is priceless, and true!
Fran Drescher (The Nanny, "Bobbi Flekman" in This is Spinal Tap)
It’s the first mockumentary ever made, which set a trend for filmmaking. It was the first movie Rob Reiner directed, which launched his filmmaking career. And it's a classic music movie that is revered by every rock band in the business. As a result of that, you know, the character of Bobbi Flekman -- and myself through association -- is great concert tickets.
There was no script, but a 27-page outline and everything we said was improvised, which I actually love because I love improv. It was very low budget.
Jake Fogelnest (Sirius XM's Alt Nation)
The attention to detail in Spinal Tap is astonishing: They are playing the right chords on the guitars, and the video footage from the different eras looks accurate. No matter how outrageous the premise, the movie never winks at the camera or telegraphs the jokes. It's played real, and that to me is everything. In a way, Spinal Tap is responsible for teaching me how to write: Have a plan, have an outline, know your beats, but, by God, fuck around within them.
"I'm just as God made me, sir!" I would watch a whole other movie about the hotel clerk.
I love Spinal Tap. It is often imitated, but never duplicated. I've even dreamed of creating characters and ripping it off. I happen to be old enough to remember The Rutles, so you can imagine I became an instant Spinal Tap fan.
"No, we're all out. Do you wear black? See, that sort of thing I think could probably... muster up." If you're a huge Tap Head like me, you know what that's from.
Rachael Harris (Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration)
When I first saw This Is Spinal Tap I had an immediate reaction of "This is brilliant and unlike anything I've ever seen ... I want to be a part of that." I loved the characters, the music, and how real things were played in one moment and then how absurd they were in the next. I've been lucky enough to work with Chris, Michael and Harry, and it has been a dream come true.
When Howard Hesseman approaches the band in the hotel. Hideously awkward! "Yeah, listen, we'd love to stand around and chat, but we've gotta... sit down in the lobby and wait for the limo."
Jim James (My Morning Jacket)
Anyone who has ever been involved with the world of rock ‘n’ roll knows this is mandatory viewing. It makes me smile and think of when we first went on tour, riding in the van watching Spinal Tap and then quoting it for weeks. It is such a deep and sentimental film -- so understanding of how hard it is to be in a rock band or do anything you really love and also how stupid and hilarious we can all become when we take ourselves too seriously.
Nearly every single day, I find some excuse to say, "What's wrong with being sexy?"
Don Jamieson (VH1's That Metal Show)
Being a life-long metalhead and having never seen a mockumentary before, I didn't get a lot of the humor the first time I saw it. But then I heard a lot of it was based on one of my favorite bands, Saxon, so I watched it again and loved it.
Stonehenge, amps that go to 11 and the introduction to the world of Fran Drescher (I kind of have a Nanny fetish).
Brian Johnson (AC/DC)
The best documentary I have ever watched. Peter Mensch, the band’s manager at the time was an advisor on the movie and so I have always thought the black album in the movie was modeled on our own Back in Black album.
In the dressing room -- the meat is round, bread is square scene. "I just can’t work with this." Or the special amp that has a volume knob that goes to #11.
Maynard James Keenan (Tool)
I must have watched this film 100 times. And I still have a difficult time separating my anxiety from my enjoyment of this film. It's equal parts flawless comedy and dangerously accurate and insightful rock documentary. Anyone who has spent any significant time on the road will most likely echo this sentiment. This film cuts to the funny bone.
Any of the scenes where one of the cast members toss out an improv moment that the others didn't expect. When you see them trying not to lose it. Priceless. #shitsandwich
Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Fargo Rock City)
It was bizarre (and almost confusing) to watch a movie that seemed directly made for the exact person I was. Whenever I'd see a movie that was supposedly directed at a 15-year-old male, I usually hated it. But the humor in This Is Spinal Tap was so weirdly specific. I could not believe there were Stonehenge jokes. It had all this coded metal language that only made sense comedically if you were obsessed with metal earnestly.
The closing credits are funnier than 98 percent of all the other movies I've seen.
Steve “Lips” Kudlow (Anvil)
The movie has an extraordinary effect on rock musicians, as we live that shit every day. I like to laugh it off, but there are others that get extremely offended. Once you've seen this movie you never forget. Long live Spinal Tap!
The record-signing session. Artie Fufkin: "Kick my ass!" I've lived these moments!
J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)
Spinal Tap set the blueprint for my life. I went on to meet all those Bobbi Flekmans and wander through hallways looking for the stage.
The quotes are amazing. I taught my kid at age five to say, “What's wrong with being sexy?” after mom was teaching him not to be sexist. Mom obviously was not happy. I love the scene where they're trying to talk to a bigger band at the hotel, and as soon as [the singer] passes by they go from all smiles to calling him a wanker. That definitely rings true.
Ralphie May (Comedian)
I remember seeing Spinal Tap as a kid and thinking it was really funny. Now that I’m on the road, I also think of it as gospel. It’s the original mockumentary and in many ways set the stage for shows like The Osbournes and every so-called, non-scripted reality show since.
Where the volume’s turned up to 11. I’ve been trying to turn up life’s volume to 11 ever since.
Spinal Tap has always been on our tour bus. It is almost the true story of every rock band. Chris Guest is one of the most creative and funniest people I know, along with Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. I now don't care if my meat is too big for my bread, I will go on and be a professional, and I've made sure all my amps go to 11.
Their harmonies at Elvis' grave and when Harry Shearer got caught in his pod. The third, which I still cry over, is Stonehenge. P.S. Hello, Cleveland!
Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)
I've seen the movie 100 plus times and live Spinal Tap moments through my career in Pearl Jam. We actually did get semi-lost in Cleveland. I have had a radio frequency interrupt my guitar solo a few times. I have met many Arte Fufkins, Bobbi Fleckmans and Sir Eton-Hoggs along the way. Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean are my favorite comedy team. Spinal Tap is when they hit absolute brilliance … and the songs are great too.
When they are discussing the artwork for the album: "What's the matter with being sexy?" [McCready couldn't pick just one… see his top 11 Spinal Tap moments.]
Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings, Lost)
Alongside Life of Brian, probably my favorite comedy film of all time. Utterly quotable and funnier and funnier the more you watch it. I watched it every day for well over a year. I know huge sections off by heart and do a pretty phenomenal Nigel Tufnel impression.
So many to choose from! "Like lukewarm water." "Crushed by a dwarf!" "What is the end is my question … to … you."
Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)
Every band should watch Spinal Tap every six months as a litmus test. If your band is doing something in the movie, you may need to reassess... But the album they released with the movie was great -- un-ironically great. In college, we rocked out to it like we did to our other metal albums. The musicians play well, the songs are great, and they’re funny as hell.
The Bobbi Flekman scene: Clearly the writers have spent time in rock bands that have liaised with major labels.
Tim Mosher (Junkyard, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson)
I remember seeing Spinal Tap with a band mate of mine. We must have seen it a handful of times in the theater and bought it on VHS as soon as it was available. I can probably still recite 90 percent of the movie from memory. Spinal Tap never hits a false note.
The studio scene when David and Nigel are arguing because they can't get a part right. Nigel: “You can't fucking concentrate because your fucking wife…” David: “She's not my wife!”
John Kenneth Muir (This Is Spinal Tap: Music on Film)
I think Spinal Tap endures because it has an affectionate nature. We have all had Spinal Tap moments, like the empty album signing at the record store. We recognize those moments, and think, there but for the grace of God...
"I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn't believe anything." David St. Hubbins is so sincere in his delivery, but what he says is actually the opposite of what he means, which is funny, and could be the mantra of the band.
Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
Whether you subscribe to Aristotle’s view that “art imitates life” or Oscar Wilde’s view that “life imitates art,” this is another conundrum for the ages: Is This Is Spinal Tap a comedy, or is it a documentary? The movie would be even funnier if it weren’t for the sobering, bittersweet truth that these outrageously ridiculous things really do happen to entertainers and troubadours alike.
When Lt. Hookstratten says, “My hair’s getting a little shaggy too. Better not get too close to you -- they’ll think I'm part of the band. I'm joking, of course.” The second thing that usually comes out of someone’s mouth when I meet them is that they “used to have long hair.”
Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction)
Spinal Tap has provided a language to all musicians. We could be in Ireland on tour with a band we don't know and simply utter the words "Hello, Cleveland!" and become instant friends. It's almost as if knowledge of the lines has become an All Access World Pass to connections with others on the crazy path of touring. If you don't know Tap, you're not worth knowing.
We have actually experienced just about every scene in the film: The interfering girlfriends, the hotel mix-ups, getting lost backstage, the chatty drivers, bad reviews. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that it was a documentary about us.
Mike Ness (Social Distortion)
This movie is in my top ten. True genius. A tragic comedy! Never has a film hit so close to home. To this day, it is routinely referenced in life on the road as a musician. The unfortunate behind-the-scenes drama of the sometimes-not-so-glamorous sides of rock ‘n’ roll.
The Stonehenge scene, which is a perfect example of communication breakdown and disappointment when the band’s vision is left in the hands of others. Also, when Derek Smalls gets stuck in the pod is pretty good, too!
Buzz Osborne (The Melvins)
I once saw a double feature of This Is Spinal Tap and Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same. It was much harder to sit all the way through the Zep movie. I'm glad I was able to see the Tap live once in the mid-Eighties. It was the finest rock and roll show I've ever seen. Ha!
"Heavy heavy duty duty, heavy duty rock ‘n’ roll/Heavy heavy duty duty, brings out the duty in my soul.”
Pauley Perrette (NCIS, Lo-Ball)
I could write a book about Spinal Tap -- there's so much to comment on. When I was young and started watching it over and over, I just thought it was hilarious. Now, as an actor, musician and documentary-film producer and director, the layers are so much more. The documentary-film-style: perfection. Finding every single moment that actually happens when you're in a band and the actors’ unbelievable prowess with improv -- and restraint from ever breaking character -- are mind blowing. It is easily in my top three films of all time.
Every time Christopher Guest is on screen.
Monte Pittman (Madonna)
At Live Earth in 2007 Spinal Tap invited other bands to join them on bass for "Big Bottom." Each of Madonna's band members can play bass, so we all joined. Later, a couple of us couldn't find the stage, and we ran into Michael McKean and Harry Shearer and asked them. They laughed and said something like, "Nice one. We've never heard that before!" But we weren't joking, and we barely made it. We had a Spinal Tap moment with Spinal Tap!
The first time Ian quits and Derek Smalls asks the practical question, "We gonna do Stonehenge tomorrow?" That's where it all blows up.
Rob Reiner (Director, This Is Spinal Tap)
We knew it was funny, but we had no illusions about it becoming what it's become. People would say, "Why would you make a movie about a band nobody has ever heard about that's so bad?" Now it's become part of the National Film Registry in America. When I was making Princess Bride, Sting came to meet me about a part and he said when he was touring they watched Spinal Tap all the time on the bus. He said, "I must have seen this movie 50 times. Every time I watch it, I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
The first time we ever screened it in Dallas, 15% of the people liked it.
Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation, Murder Construct)
Cattle Decapitation had a few years of drummer problems where we had to hire guys to tour with us, similar to Spinal Tap’s revolving door of drummers, minus the “globules” and drug problems. This prompted us to make a T-shirt for a tour that was our name made out of the Spinal Tap logo. A little inside joke that went over really well with the fans. Why? Because everybody understands Spinal Tap.
I’ve always loved the piano part from Nigel’s magnum opus, “Lick My Love Pump,” and thought it would make a really beautiful song. Someone needs to do it!
Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone)
To me, it’s not just the greatest of rock & roll comedies -- it's the greatest of comedies. Even though everybody remembers the thrill of discovering it when you're a kid, it gets more resonant -- more painful -- when you're old enough to relate to the frustration and suffering in it. We have all had our puppet shows, haven't we?
When you see the roadies lifting the skull in the opening scenes. It's a funny sight gag, yet there's something noble and majestic about it. Most sacred things are pretty funny. One man's Stonehenge is another man's 18-inch clay model.
Jason Shevchuk (None More Black)
We plucked our band name from one of my favorite scenes from This Is Spinal Tap. In the process, I think we may have inherited their drummer problem. We are currently on our 11th drummer. Fortunately the previous 10 still have their lives. Nobody spontaneously combusted. I like to think of Nigel, David and Derek as real people, and I'd love to hang out with them.
When we see Nigel drawing a violin against his guitar strings making an incredible racket. He then takes the violin and quickly tunes it, as if it's going to make a difference.
Paul Shortino (Quiet Riot, "Duke Fame" in This Is Spinal Tap)
It's very cool that people recognize me as Duke Fame. I get it a lot. I met Nicolas Cage at a party in L.A., and he was like, "Duke Fame!" I was hanging with Roger Taylor, a big Spinal Tap freak, and he said, "You’re Duke Fame!" I said, "You’re from Queen!" It was such a small part, but Duke is treated like a huge rock star, and I'm truly grateful for everything. I got a Cadillac, and "Duke Fame" is on there.
I showed up on set in white leather and black boots, and casting went, "He's Duke! We don't even have to dress him.”
Brian Slagel (Metal Blade Records)
This Is Spinal Tap is so real that many of the things in the movie have actually happened to me and a lot of the bands on my label. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have watched it, and with so many bands. It's always cool playing it for young bands and seeing their reaction. Just as relevant today as it was the day it came out. A true classic!
The "Hello, Cleveland" moment. Every time we're lost in the underbelly of a venue, we always yell "Hello, Cleveland!"
John Swihart (Napoleon Dynamite)
I went to see Spinal Tap in theaters and later went to a live show where Nigel seemed obsessed with my girlfriend from stage. I guess she was pretty fine so … thanks, Chris? It was a perfect painting of my then-current life situation as a failed rock star. I still find myself quoting this epic tale, perhaps as some relief that I no longer pursue such glorification.
Combining Ian Faith (the perfect name for any manager) and “I wouldn’t worry about it … [Boston] is not a big college town." The cynic in me loves this.
Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy)
Spinal Tap is one of my biggest reference points. Fall Out Boy once did a tour where three of us were launched six feet up in the air like pieces of toast. At one show, the “toasters” broke and we had to climb out from under the stage in a very sad, slow manner, displaying our lack of upper body strength in front of at least 5,000 people. It was our collective "Derek Smalls stuck in the pod" moment.
The review of Shark Sandwich. "Merely a two word review, just said: 'shit sandwich.'" That's a short form of most Pitchfork Media reviews.
Eddie Trunk (VH1's That Metal Show)
There isn’t a day that goes by it seems where a reference to Spinal Tap doesn’t come up. I actually remember talking to bands that were offended by it. They were actually like the characters and didn’t get the joke!
The scene at the in-store record signing when Paul Shaffer’s character is telling the band to “kick his ass” because nobody showed up. I have released two books, and every time I peer out into the store during a signing I think of that scene and hope it’s not my turn.
Lahna Turner (Comedian)
I was about 10 years old when Spinal Tap came out. Little did I know the impact it would have on me as a comedian on the road. Even now, 30 years later, I hear people quoting it, see new fans being created and continue to see why it maintains its relevance and has such a huge impact. That’s a true testament to how completely cool the movie is.
When Nigel is at the piano playing a pretty arrangement and says he’s influenced by Mozart and Bach: “It's like a Mach piece... the piece is called ‘Lick My Love Pump.’"
My parents rented Spinal Tap and told me it was for "grownups only." It sounded like a horror movie. I remember sneaking a few peeks in the reflection of the stairway mirror from my bedroom and trying to understand what was happening in the movie and just being completely perplexed, enthralled and intimidated. Many years later, someone explained that it wasn't a "real documentary." I was blown away!
I like the part where Nigel is struggling with those small breads in his dressing room. I can relate to this on many levels, but I actually love those small kinds of breads.
Mark Weiss (Photographer)
I met Spinal Tap as MTV's set photographer in 1984 right before the movie was released. I went up to David St. Hubbins and, little did I know that I was talking to Lenny from Laverne and Shirley. The producers hadn’t told anyone that they were actors. We all fell for it.
Smell the Glove. I had a similar experience when I shot Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet cover, featuring the voluptuous girl in the clingy wet yellow T-shirt -- only to get scrapped after 200,000 copies were printed. The cover was re-shot with Jon simply writing “Slippery When Wet” on a black hefty garbage bag. A pure Spinal Tap moment.
Fred Willard ("Lt. Hookstratten" in This Is Spinal Tap)
Every time I go on a TV or a movie set, people remember the movie. But every musician I meet can quote almost the entire film. It's like the Bible to rock musicians. Years ago, Saturday Night Live had a reunion of all the people who had ever hosted, and Sting walked up to me said, “Fred, I'm a big fan!” He knew me from that movie. My wife was so impressed.
My favorite line that I did was the “we love your music, not yours in particular, but the whole genre," which is just a clueless thing that a fan would say.
When I first saw Spinal Tap, I definitely thought it was funny. But the more years I've spent in the music business with managers, promoters, etc., it's even funnier every time I watch it. Because it's all true.
Love the manager discussing his cricket bat and the great feeling of having a "good piece of wood" in his hands.
When I first saw Spinal Tap, I was not in a band so it was nothing more to me than a very, very funny movie. Now, having been in a rock band for the last 29 years, Spinal Tap is like a painfully true documentary of my life.
Nigel not understanding the problems with the Smell the Glove artwork and asking, "What's wrong with being sexy?"