This is Spinal Tap While attempting to be nothing more than a comical spoof of the music industry, Spinal Tap was instead rocketed to cult icon status. The characters in the movie are so fully thought out that almost all rock and roll bands that became popular prior to and half a decade later than the release of the movie fit the stereotypes presented by this fictitious band that ended up being more real than any other legitimate bands of the time. The days of disco had long faded by the 1984 release of this film, and the punk scene was still for the most part underground. With the hair band scene just beginning to come to light, and rap music being confined to the street, this movie would sarcastically lay the groundwork for the sellout crowd arena rock groups of the eighties. Or as they are commonly referred to now, the hair bands. Now Spinal Tap as portrayed in the movie was in fact a metal band, but metal at that time would be called rock and roll just a few years down the road.
If you look at the bands such as Poison, Twisted Sister, Ratt, Def Leopard etc... you will notice that they are in fact Spinal Tap without the punch line. On a side note the wearing women's clothes and makeup were a strange occurrence thrown in from the new wave bands that were getting club play at the time. This is actually where the term hair band came from. That fact aside you will notice that everything from personality of the band members, to the groupies that follow them, and the inner relations of the band members themselves are just slightly exaggerated in the movie.
First and foremost you have the lead singer/ guitarist that got all the recognition. In spinal tap that character is none other than David St. Hubbies, who s long blond hair and happy go lucky attitude earned him the tender hearted yet clearly conceited member of the band. If you will notice he bore a striking resemblance to the Axel Rose type of singe that became so popular later on. The lead singer was responsible for most major band decisions that were outside of the managements control and usually the one to speak at interviews. As with most bands there is a bit of tension between him and other band members.
Which brings me to the next stereotypical band member, the quiet yet talented right hand man of the lead singer. This part is played by Nigel Tunnel who is in the band to make music first and money later. This character represents the member of the band who s talent clearly outshines the others and is most likely to leave the band for artistic reasons. In Spinal Tap this member plays lead guitar and does some backup vocals. He is far and away the most clue less member of the band and is the alternative to the fans who don t care much for the singer. Sorry to use so many Guns and Roses references but they seem to be the most identifiable band consistent with the Spinal Tap stereotype.
In which case Slash from Guns and Roses would represent Nigel. Nigel himself is full of the rock and roll ideal, so much as to where he boasts that they are the loudest band out because he has a special amp that has a volume control that goes to eleven instead of the usual ten. Then of course you have the quiet member who just seems to be there. This person is usually the most emotionally stable member of the band yet lacks the recognition of their counterparts. This character is the great Derek Smalls who plays bass guitar and is usually at a a loss for words.
While he does not say much, that he does say is usually the most relevant input from the band. In the fashion of Tom Jones and Ted Nugent he wears tight pants with a sock stuffed down the crotch. The last twenty seven members of the band are all past drummers who have died in tragic accidents. This aspect of the movie is particularly interesting because in true rock and roll fashion the band members have met their untimely death. Despite the fact that rock and roll has only been around for fifty years, it has become an industry cliche to die from unnatural causes.
The band itself is a running joke, not because they are not really a band, but because they know they are not a real band. While they do have albums that have been released and I even believe they have played a live show or two, they are still not a conventional band. It does seem strange but think of them as actors who are too carried away with their work. They did play the music for the movie and because of the reaction to the movie decided to occasionally play these songs elsewhere. So, they became a band because they played one in a movie. This is none of the many reasons that Spinal Tap, the movie and the pseudo band, has a huge cult following.
In the essay The Cult Files The authors make reference to cult following being popular because: It is a phenomenon that speaks powerfully of a diverse system of taste distinctions that both supports and masks the radical inequities of the age by dividing the audience into insiders and outsiders. (Reeves, Rodgers, Epstein, 266-7) With Spinal Taps appeal to fans of the music genre and critics alike it is no wonder they are a fairly household name. Although I am to young to fully remember the early eighties firsthand, I still, for the most part, know what happened. Over time I ve come to understand the eighties better through the movies, television shows, music, fashion, and other nuances of civilized society. The thing is, when you interpret something you cannot always take it at face value. For example every movie whether it be an academy award winner or part of the strait to video group, relays the ideas of the makers of the movie, and no matter how abstract the plot may be it still pertains to the popular culture at the time.
Now not all movies can be equally insightful but for the most part they all contain some hints of the atmosphere they were shot in. Certain movies such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off seem to be more of a snapshot of daily life back then, while others are revolutionary in the sense that they portray elements of society that are still years away, such as War Games which hinted at the importance of computers in the future. While both types of movies are common, some are lucky enough to give clues not only about the way things were but the way things are going to be. One of these such movies is This is Spinal Tap. While their influences are beginning to subside it is still amazing that four actors in a fairly low budget movie had an influence at all..