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Oasis singer Liam Gallagher thought Spinal Tap were a real band. This is the beauty of This Is Spinal Tap, it walks the line, of believable and outlandish impeccably. It is so well observed it is hard to tell that it’s a parody. The band, Spinal Tap, portrayed in the mockumentary have even influenced real life musicians and day to day language. A venture which would not convince production companies easily.
Hustling production companies
Director Rob Reiner hustled production companies until he was able to acquire $60,000 from Marble Arch Productions to write a script. They gave up on this venture when they realised that no script would truly showcase the sort of movie they wanted to make. A film with such outstanding physical performances and subtle nuances could’ve easily been shut down at the script stage. It would take a lot of trust from production companies to take a risk just based on a script.
As a result of working without a script the film is almost entirely improvised. Reputedly actors were given simple outlines detailing how a scene would start and end, with some character information but ultimately it was their own work. Where possible the first take is what was used in the final film in order to preserve natural reactions.
This Is Spinal Tap is a seminal work which is still influencing comedy today. Recent films worth checking out which take a cue from This Is Spinal Tap: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping from The Lonely Island crew and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. When films like these and This Is Spinal Tap exist it is a wonder how, the production companies working on, Bohemian Rhapsody thought it fit to release. It is a marvel that it was ever screened publicly let alone nominated for Best Picture. A record-label approved hagiography which Spinal Tap had skewered and left for dead 34 years prior. A soulless, forgettable, rapid fire biopic with no depth can win four out of the five oscars it was nominated for. It will never be remembered for as long as This Is Spinal Tap which has no nominations and no awards.
Of course it won’t, has any film ever pervaded the English language like This Is Spinal Tap. Take for example: “Up to 11.” Everyone has heard this idiom meaning; to an intense degree. It originates from this movie. In a scene where Christopher Guest as lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel is explaining to the documentarians how the numbers on their amps go “up to 11.” This scene also went on to influence real life musicians. Eddie Van Halen was reportedly the first to start buying equipment with knobs which went up to 11.
Metallica’s iconic eponymous album, commonly known as The Black Album, was inspired by the debacle Spinal Tap go through releasing Smell The Glove. Their original plans for a cover with a woman forced to smell a leather glove, wearing a dog collar on a chain held by a man. Picture that, obviously it would be in moody black and white. Now imagine instead of Spinal Tap for the artist’s name reads Mötley Crüe. Doesn’t that seem highly possible.
The band getting lost amongst the corridors backstage was inspired by a real video. At a gig, Tom Petty was caught walking through a series of doors to reach the stage. He subsequently came out at an indoor tennis court. After the film’s release Ozzy Osbourne is just one of many musicians who attested to the reality of this scene. Him along side Jimmy Page and Robert Plant said they had got lost in confusing arena backstages.
Unfortunately, hagiographic rock documentaries still continue but with a little help from This Is Spinal Tap they will be taken with a pinch of salt. Just as they continue; long may the mockumentary.
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