One of the most iconic lines in movie comedy history – as the Band Spinal Tap gets lost in the bowels of Cleveland’s arena and can’t find the stage…
And of course, there’s also this:
Nigel Tufnel: “You can’t really dust for vomit.”
“This Is Spinal Tap!”
Arguably one of the funniest movies ever made, this is the first and funniest “mockumentary” ever made, directed by Rob Reiner. And there may be a Todd Rundgren connection!
In 1982 legendary British heavy metal band Spinal Tap attempt an American comeback tour accompanied by a fan who is also a film-maker. The resulting documentary, interspersed with powerful performances of Tap’s pivotal music and profound lyrics, candidly follows a rock group heading towards crisis, culminating in the infamous affair of the eighteen-inch-high Stonehenge stage prop…here is the trailer for this comedic masterpiece:
“But These Go To Eleven!”
Most of the dialogue was improvised – kudos to the entire “Tap” team of Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest – but this is now one of the most quoted film lines in modern movie history…
Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.
Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, and Michael McKean were given $10,000 to write a script. A 20-minute version of the film was made with the money to better demonstrate the improvisation they had in mind. Several scenes from this demo are in the final movie.
And Now, The Todd Connection – The Eggs That Won’t Open!
I was reading the biography of Todd, and I came across a chapter about the first Utopia tours, and guess what? There IS a Spinal Tap connection!
As you know, there is the hilarious scene from “Spinal Tap” when one band member gets trapped in a malfunctioning egg onstage…well, according to the book, that may have come from a Utopia concert!
Utopia’s First Tours! Todd’s Disasterous “Geodesic Dome!”
On page 230 of the Todd bio book “A Dream Goes On Forever Vol. 1”, Todd says one of the early Utopia tours “had this special geodesic dome for the syntheziser player (Jean Yves Labat) to sit in”. Well, it kept breaking down!
The story, as recounted in the book, clearly suggests that “Spinal Tap’s” malfunctioning egg was a direct parody of Todd’s “Geodesic dome!” Paul Fishkin says “I was at the Philly gig…at least one inspiration for ‘Spinal Tap’ was Jean Yves in the bubble, not being able to get out. it was so bad – indescribably bad!”
So Todd’s early synth musician Jean Yves Labat got trapped in the dome and couldn’t get out – just like Harry Shearer being trapped in Spinal Tap’s egg…
So the next time I watch Spinal Tap, I will put on the Theme From Utopia as well and savor the connection…if you want to read more about Todd, make sure to get the biographies…click here to read all about it:
The Spinal Tap “Stonehenge” Debacle!
Of course, Spinal Tap has many more problems than just malfunctioning eggs…they had a two foot tall Stonehenge!
This debacle was caused when the lead guitarist put “20 inches” instead of “20 ft.” on the design…when the tour manager tries to tell the band to play better, the lead singer gets angry:
David St. Hubbins: I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being *crushed* by a *dwarf*. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.
Ian Faith: I really think you’re just making much too big a thing out of it.
Derek Smalls: Making a big thing out of it would have been a good idea.
The Non-Black Sabbath Connection!
There’s a common misconception that the “too small Stonehenge” disaster is a parody of Black Sabbath’s over-sized Stonehenge sets from the Born Again tour. This is impossible, the Stonehenge Spinal Tap scene existed as early as 1982 when the film existed as a 20-minute short. Black Sabbath didn’t begin using their Stonehenge sets until 1983.
And Finally, The Album Reviews!
Another great moment is when Director Marty DiBergi reads the band their latest album review: “This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.”
Nigel Tufnel: “That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?”
Nitpicking indeed! “This Is Spinal Tap” is a classic movie comedy, and was ranked #1 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time”!
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I heard Harry Shearer and Noddy Holder say the pod scene is an homage to Slade and their movie “In Flame.” Early in the movie, Noddy is in a Alice Cooper like band that uses a coffin as a prop the singer (Noddy) emerges from at the start of their set. A rival band locks Noddy in the coffin, and he starts knocking on the lid like Derek Smalls.
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Thanks for this! It’s such a great scene, and I love that Utopia had a mechanical malfunction as well, even if it’s not the influence!
I always thought it was a mock of Angel. Their entrance to a show was very similar and of course, ridiculous
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I never thought of that…I prefer to think of it as a Utopia homage!