In a recent interview with The Horn 104.9 & AM 1260, JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford explained why he and guitarist Glenn Tipton loved the iconic mockumentary film "This Is Spinal Tap" so much when they first saw it back in 1984.
"I love satire. Glenn loves satire," Rob said (hear audio below). "The thing about satire, you can only make satire from great things that have happened in the real world. To us, that was just what 'Spinal Tap' was all about. We could see ourselves in that movie time and time again, whether it was in hotels or losing the way to the stage or things going wrong on stage with the props and the accessories. It was like watching ourselves from the outside looking in. We roared through the whole thing. It was kind of a miscommunication, I think, that this is about a real band called SPINAL TAP and this is a documentary about their life. So some of the people that were in the movie theater that afternoon that Glenn and I went to see the movie, they were very upset. They made their feelings known as they stormed out of the movie theater."
"This Is Spinal Tap" has become a cult classic since its first theatrical run over 35 years ago. The film was produced independently on a shoestring budget of $2.25 million by a company owned by the four creators, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean. Two years in production, the film was released in 1984. It soon became a cult favorite and spawned a genre that has come to be known as "mockumentary," inspiring many subsequent filmmakers. Phrases from the film's script have entered the general lexicon, including "none more black" and "it goes to 11," the latter phrase exemplified by the Tesla car, whose audio system's volume control goes to 11, as does that on the BBC's iPlayer.
Its reputation as one of the 20th Century's most enduring comedies has increased exponentially in the ensuing years. The film has garnered international praise and acclaim, having been included in "best ever" lists such as The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made; Total Film's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list; Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time where it appeared on the "Just Too Beloved to Ignore" list; and achieving the coveted No. 1 spot on Time Out London's 100 Best Comedy Movies list.
In 2002, the film's lasting appeal led the U.S. Library of Congress (the world's largest cultural collection), to designate it as a culturally, historically or aesthetically significant film.
Although "This Is Spinal Tap" was first released in 1984 in the U.S. and U.K., the band SPINAL TAP was actually created in the late 1970s. The band's rock musician characters "Nigel Tufnel" and "David St. Hubbins" were created by Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, with Harry Shearer creating bassist "Derek Smalls." SPINAL TAP's comedic sole claim to fame was as "one of England's loudest bands." Performing as their beloved stage personae in the company of a rotating cast of percussionists willing to risk the kit (as so many of their predecessors have been accident prone), SPINAL TAP has toured the world multiple times since the film's release. Hundreds of thousands of SPINAL TAP sound recordings have been sold over the ensuing decades and the film has been released on scores of video formats through the years.
In 2019, the band's creators concluded a new agreement with Universal Music Group. The band's recording of a full-length SPINAL TAP album featuring songs from the film is still available for physical sale, download and streaming today from UMG.
"This Is Spinal Tap" was released to little fanfare with some viewers convinced the bumbling dinosaurs — who had a knack of losing drummers in freak accidents — on screen were a genuine band. But word of mouth about the smartly observed film, which took a pop at bands such as STATUS QUO, LED ZEPPELIN and BLACK SABBATH, spread and it became a sleeper hit.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, McKean, Guest and Shearer prepared several scenes with Reiner but then ad-libbed. At the end of filming, they had more than 40 hours of footage, which was edited down to a more manageable form.
When "This Is Spinal Tap" was released, not everybody got that it was a "mockumentary." U2's The Edge immediately embraced it, saying: "I didn't laugh, I wept. It was so close to the truth." Ozzy Osbourne didn't understand it, saying the first time he watched it, he thought it was a real documentary. Early home video versions of the movie reportedly even had a disclaimer at the start and finish of the movie stating the band didn't really exist.