Cinemusic: Metal On Tap

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Chris Morley turns it up to 11.


Blood, sweat & riffs - the very essence of heavy metal. And for the team behind This Is Spinal Tap, a rich wellspring of parody.



In a display of incredible virtuosity they also collaborated on the music - director Rob Reiner (Marti Di Bergi) & leading men Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls, bass), Michael McKean (David St Hubbins, guitar/vocals) & Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel, guitar) running Tap almost along the lines of those they were looking to satirise! Closer inspection reveals a series of similarly inspired borrowings from the real world of rock & roll. Consider for starters Big Bottom, their hymn to the joys of the larger lady......



The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin'
That's what I said
The looser the waistband, the deeper the quicksand
Or, so I have read
My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo
I love to sink her with my pink torpedo.

Big bottom
Big bottom
Talk about bum cakes
My gal's got 'em
Big bottom
Drive me out of my mind.
How can I leave this behind?
How could they not have listened to, to name but two possible sources of inspiration, AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie & Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls, we might well wonder? And then there's the famous Stonehenge sequence...



It's to Black Sabbath & the Born Again album we can turn to at this juncture. Touring the album in 1983, band manager Don Arden came up with the idea of using a replica of the ancient stone circle as a backdrop. Which should put to rest the myth that it was all bassist Geezer Butler's idea.........
"It had nothing to do with me. In fact, I was the one who thought it was really corny. He came up with the idea of having the stage set be Stonehenge. He wrote the dimensions down and gave it to our tour manager.

He wrote it down in meters but he meant to write it down in feet. The people who made it saw fifteen meters instead of fifteen feet.

It was 45 feet high and it wouldn’t fit on any stage anywhere so we just had to leave it the storage area. It cost a fortune to make but there was not a building on earth that you could fit it into."
The lyrics of the song titled after this stoniest of henges poke fun at the pomposity of prog rock in dealing with mystical topics.



Heavy Duty also contains a well played dig at its approximation of classical music with a solo of Boccherini's Minuet thrown in . Fans of ELO & ELP take note!
In ancient times,
Hundreds of years before the dawn of history
Lived a strange race of people, the Druids

No one knows who they were or what they were doing
But their legacy remains
Hewn into the living rock, of Stonehenge

Stonehenge! Where the demons dwell
Where the banshees live and they do live well
Stonehenge! Where a man's a man
And the children dance to the Pipes of Pan
This Is Spinal Tap is often quoted as the greatest rock and roll movie of all time, regardless of its spoof-style status. It's down to the attention to detail amongst the absurdity. Harry Shearer explained that they just wanted to do justice to the music.
"The animating impulse was to do rock 'n' roll right. The four of us had been around rock 'n' roll and we were just amazed by how relentlessly the movies got it wrong. Because we were funny people it was going to be a funny film, but we wanted to get it right."
Evidently they loved it so much they had to get in on folk music too!



Shearer, McKean and Guest are also responsible for The Folksmen, who take a swipe at the likes of Peter, Paul & Mary. They've opened for Spinal Tap in what might seem an unlikely shared billing. As Christopher Guest put it,
"One time, we had The Folksmen open for Spinal Tap because we always wanted to do a culmination of our entirely different personas. So there we were in caps playing folk music, opening for Spinal Tap, and the audience looked completely bewildered, like "What the fuck is going on here?"

It was great. My son was at the show, and asked, "Mom, when are the old guys getting off and loud guys coming on?" That may have been a moment of weirdness for some people, but so what?"
2003's A Mighty Wind, directed by Guest, tells the story of their reunion. As part of that McKean would reveal the closeness that informs much of his work with his co-conspirators.
"We're pretty much in contact all the time.

We were rehearsing for some "Spinal Tap" concerts and Chris came to rehearsal and said, "We've got an idea about doing this movie."

We had talked about doing a longer form thing with The Folksmen because they had pre-existed for quite a number of years."
The spats & line-up changes which in some sense characterise metal not cropping up here, then. Next week a harder luck story in a similar vein with Anvil!

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