1964 in England, as the Originals
Unleashed Into Pop Culture:
1984, via Rob Reiner's rockumentary/mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap (Compare Prices)
- David St. Hubbins (AKA Michael McKean) - Lead vocals, guitar
- Nigel Tufnel (AKA Christopher Guest) – Lead guitar, background & occasional lead vocals
- Derek Smalls (AKA Harry Shearer) – Bass guitar, background vocals
Other Key Members & Figures:
- Viv Savage (AKA David Kaff) – Keyboards
- Mick Shrimpton (AKA R.J. Parnell) – Drums
- Ian Faith (AKA Tony Hendra) – Band manager
- Jeanine Pettibone (AKA June Chadwick) – St. Hubbins’ girlfriend & muse
- Marty DiBergi (AKA Rob Reiner) - Rockumentary filmmaker & commercial director
Overview of the Film’s Creation of a Rock Band:
Comedic parodists McKean, Guest and Shearer found a perfect target for satire in the often ridiculous excesses of ‘70s and early-‘80s hard rock, particularly the mystical mumbo jumbo of bands like Led Zeppelin or Iron Maiden and the big, dumb, sophomoric rock of groups like Kiss and (again) Led Zeppelin. As a vehicle for satire, the group turned out to be so convincing that many people believed the band was just another hard rock act, a tenuous reality made even more puzzling to some because the quality of the band’s music often exceeded that of the groups being mocked.
Much of Spinal Tap’s early history is rather hazy, partially because the group’s career has been such a bizarre whirlwind but mostly because that history (at least before 1984) is complete and utter fiction. Still, the band’s origins can be traced back to 1964 in England, when childhood friends St. Hubbins and Tufnel began to play music together. The Originals turned into the Thamesmen before the duo settled on the name Spinal Tap in 1967, and during this period the group explored typical Merseybeat and psychedelic styles popular in England at the time.
Spinal Tap Goes Hard Rock… and Perseveres:
For Spinal Tap the ‘70s were characterized by a harder-rocking style, a consistent succession of album releases, and a series of bizarre deaths afflicting the band’s rotating cast of drummers. Through it all, the band’s three core members stayed constant, changing with the times to play mystical or juvenile heavy metal, depending upon the song. As the ‘80s began, Spinal Tap’s appeal in the lucrative American market had become questionable, especially around the 1982 release of the band’s Smell the Glove album. This is where the film picks up, and precisely when Spinal Tap transformed from a fake band into a real one.
Spinal Tap Comes to Life:
McKean, Tufnel and Shearer played their own instruments and co-wrote (with director Reiner) all of Spinal Tap’s songs that appeared in the film and on its soundtrack. The 11 tracks on This Is Spinal Tap (Compare Prices) both perfectly skewer their objects of parody and stand up remarkably well as subversively intelligent blasts of silly hard rock. Therefore, with just a handful of songs, Spinal Tap registered then and always as one of the ‘80s most distinctive and observant rock and roll entities, which is a lot more than can be said for many “real” bands of the era.
Subsequent Reunions & Staying Power:
After a decade of relative silence (other than the continuing popularity of the 1984 film on video), Spinal Tap finally released its long-awaited second album, Break Like the Wind (Compare Prices), in 1992. The group’s three core members embarked on a tour to support the album, even releasing a live video of some of these performances the next year. Since then, group members have made occasional appearances on TV and gone out on brief tours, and in 2007 a short parody film from Reiner surfaced that announced a reformation of Tap to fight global warming, of all things. A related concert in London is set for July 7.