Monday, March 20, 2023

Spinal Tap: Doing without the rock and roll

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise Spinal Tap weren't a real band. Their lyrics were always funny as hell, but I had no idea they were entirely fictional for the longest time.

The original movie is a deadset classic, with so many good jokes and so many good lines, all perfectly delivered. I've occasionally watched the deleted scenes - and there is a lot of them - and they're funny as fuck too, but then you realise how perfectly weighted the original cut is.

But I had no idea about any of that for many years. All I knew about Spinal Tap was a tiny poster I saw at the big old St James cinema on Moray Place in Dunedin (a cinema that is still going as a chain multiplex now) when I went to see Mad Max 3. The poster didn't even have the band, just the picture of a twisted guitar and the classic line: 'As long as there's sex and drugs, I can do without the rock and roll'.

I've looked for this poster online and have never been able to find it, but I'm certain it exists, because that line stuck in my young brain.

And that was all I had to go on for a while, but I sometimes heard Spinal Tap songs on the radio. They did seem slightly more ridiculous than all the other hair metal bands of the late eighties, but only slightly. The group would show up on various TV things, or they'd do some weird concert that they'd play at 10pm on a Friday night, and they seemed real enough. I had no reason to think any different.

It was The Simpsons that broke the illusion. Not when the band appeared - that was perfectly in keeping with their fictional versions - but because the hype was so intense in the first year or so and  you were finding out who did the voices, and holy shit, that's Derek Smalls.

I had some mates that were into Spinal Tap, and while none of us were that obsessed with them, we listened to their tapes and talked about how funny they were, and I'm fairly sure they knew I thought it was a real band.

They let me rabbit on all the same, because that's the sort of thing mates do. Maybe they laughed about it later, but they didn't ruin the fun.

They might not be real, but Spinal Tap have got just as old as everyone else, and they're coming back in a new movie, apparently. I can't wait to see how they've aged ungracefully, even if they're made up.

(On an only slighted related note, I keep seeing clips of the Oscars last week, and while they're in my cool book at the moment, I think the most goddamn delightful thing about the whole affair was Nigel bloody Tufnel sitting in the front row, beaming away all weekend because his awesomely talented missus has just been crowned acting royalty. Go on, my son.)

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