In honor of the 1984 Rob Reiner-directed mockumentary This is Spinal Tap celebrating it’s 30th anniversary today, Metal Insider staffers share their favorite moments from the cult classic. Really, it’s hard to single just one moment from the film, which satirizes not just the pretentiousness and self-seriousness of metal, but also of documentaries. But while we’ve already asked metal bands what real life Spinal Tap moments they’ve had, and Ozzy told Zakk Wylde that he thought the film was about Black Sabbath, here are our top moments from the film.
It’s almost impossible to single out just one moment. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say that if you haven’t watched the whole film, you’re missing out on a vital piece of pop, er, make that rock, culture. In fact, I owe the name of the first newspaper column I wrote in Philly rag Out on the Town to the film (it was called Up To Eleven, naturally). But while that moment, Derek Smalls getting caught in his pod during “Rock and Roll Creation” and the “Stonhenge” scene are amazing, the band getting lost while trying to find the stage in Cleveland kills me every time.
– Bram Teitelman
The scene of Spinal Tap performing “Stonehenge” is a classic in and of itself. However, I always loved the scene directly following it, where they argue with their manager about the events that occurred. David St. Hubbins perfectly described what happened: “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.” Yet what really sold the ridiculousness of this scene was hearing Derek Smalls (despite the yelling match that just took place with the manager) deliver the following line: “Can I raise a practical question at this point? Are we gonna do ‘Stonehenge’ tomorrow?”
– Zach Shaw
I don’t know that this gag has the same renown as “These go to 11!” or “Hello Cleveland!” but for me, the airport security scene was the moment that sold me on Spinal Tap. It’s absurd, it’s feasibly something that could happen to a metal band in the 80s, and it’s a dick joke. How can any of that be bad? The big reveal is hilarious in itself; not only does bassist Derek Smalls have a cucumber in his pants, but it’s inexplicably wrapped in tinfoil. Yet what could have been a 5-second sight gag in lesser comedic hands turns into a solid 2 minutes of build-up and payoff, right down to the pricelessly awkward security screener and Derek’s clear reluctance to divulge a very, very funny trade secret. I know a few people who don’t find This Is Spinal Tap to be all that funny, but what they’re missing is the movie’s ruthless gift for these paradoxically uncomfortable moments that simply wouldn’t have been owned up to by rock gods of the era. And now, you can watch it again and imagine Brendon Small seeing it many years ago and taking notes for a death metal cartoon. It’s way more than just a movie; it’s a cultural force, and it stands as a brilliant reminder to metalheads that the genre’s often at its best when not taken too seriously.