Pop Goes The Movies: THIS IS SPINAL TAP - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Pop Goes The Movies: THIS IS SPINAL TAP

This Is Spinal Tap might not immediately come to mind when discussing great movie soundtracks. However, upon closer inspection, it's clear that this satirical rockumentary gave birth to one of the most iconic soundtracks of the 1980s. Let's journey back to the world of heavy metal, hair bands, and Stonehenge, as we delve deep into the music that made This Is Spinal Tap unforgettable.

For the uneducated, the film This Is Spinal Tap, directed by Rob Reiner in 1984, is a mockumentary that chronicles the fictional British heavy metal band, Spinal Tap, on their tour of the United States. Filled with hilariously exaggerated rock 'n' roll clichés, the film satirizes the excesses and absurdities of rock bands during that era. It has since become a cult classic and is often cited as one of the best comedy films of all time.

The soundtrack album, released concurrently with the film, captures the essence of the parody, mimicking the styles of big rock bands of the time, whilst also showcasing surprisingly competent musical chops. Each track is performed by the core members of the fictional band: David St. Hubbins (played by Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).

Let's dive into the tracks:

  1. "Hell Hole" - An anthem for the disenchanted youth, the track is both a caricature of and homage to the anthemic rock songs of the era. Featured in a scene where the band reminisces about their roots, the track perfectly captures their delusional grandeur.

  2. "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" - Blurring the lines between satire and genuine rock appreciation, this track accompanies the band's concert scenes and is an uproarious testament to over-the-top rock ballads.

  3. "Heavy Duty" - Evoking the heavier metal sounds of the 80s, this track is a showcase of the fictional band's supposed evolution with times and musical trends.

  4. "Rock and Roll Creation" - Satirizing the origin stories of rock music with religious undertones, this track stands as a classic example of the era's love for epic backstories.

  5. "America" - Used in a scene where the band travels across the U.S., this song is a humorous poke at British bands trying to encapsulate the essence of America.

  6. "Cups and Cakes" - A mockery of early rock and British Invasion pop songs, this track is as silly as it is catchy.

  7. "Big Bottom" - Arguably one of the most memorable tracks, with its innuendos and the use of multiple bass guitars, it perfectly encapsulates the film's tongue-in-cheek approach to rock 'n' roll.

  8. "Sex Farm" - With its overtly sexual overtones, this track is a nod to the era's penchant for sultry rock tunes.

  9. "Stonehenge" - Infamously remembered for the movie scene involving a disastrously small Stonehenge prop, this song exemplifies the grandiosity and delusion of rock operas.

  10. "Gimme Some Money" - A catchy tune representing the early days of the band, complete with 60s-inspired sounds.

  11. "All The Way Home" - A soulful ballad, this track showcases the band's "softer" side, satirizing the inevitable slow track on every rock album.

In the US, the This Is Spinal Tap album peaked at number 121 on the Billboard 200, while in the UK, it enjoyed moderate success, reflecting the film's cult status. While no singles from the album charted significantly in mainstream listings, tracks like "Big Bottom" and "Stonehenge" have since gained legendary status among fans.

Contrasting with other notable movie soundtracks of the era, like Footloose or Dirty Dancing, which leaned heavily on pop hits, This Is Spinal Tap was a true oddity. Instead of being a collection of chart-toppers, it was an intrinsic part of the movie's satire, and yet, the craftsmanship in its composition was undeniable.

Looking back, many critics have praised the soundtrack. Richard Cromelin from Rolling Stone commented, "The film's satirical prowess is matched by the group's absurd musical skill." However, not all reviews were glowing. A critic from Melody Maker noted, "While the movie amuses, the album falters as a standalone experience."

Decades later, the soundtrack, like the film, stands as a testament to the quirks and extravagances of the rock 'n' roll world. It remains a brilliant pastiche, blurring the lines between genuine appreciation and parody.

In today's era, where rock music has undergone multiple transformations, This Is Spinal Tap and its soundtrack remind us of a time when rock was not just about the music but an entire spectacle, a way of life with its own absurdities, joys, and heartbreaks.

In conclusion, the This Is Spinal Tap soundtrack is an immersive experience into a satirical rock world. It might not have set the charts on fire, but it certainly has etched its place in the annals of movie and music history.

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