This Is Spinal Tap is possible the greatest music movie of all time, and certainly the greatest ‘fake’ band – so much of it inspired by real-life characters, by real events, by famous myths and legends within rock’n’roll. So how about we now take a quick look at some “real life” moments in music that feel like they would/should come from the pages of the book of Spinal Tap. And so, I say join me, let’s tap into idiocy.
I think immediately of the Metallica documentary, Some Kind of Monster. The whole film practically qualifies.
Elton John allegedly rang his lawyer/manager late at night, in another country, and asked him to do something about the wind. Seems rational, right?
Then, inspired by the film Spinal Tap (I can just see him saying “wow, what an incredible documentary!”) Ozzy Osbourne, who liked the Stonehenge sequence (with the “little people” of the song’s lyrics dancing around the miniature scenery) and had seen Alice Cooper incorporate a hanging act in his show, thought why not fake the execution of a little person on stage. The one actor who could free himself for an eight-month tour turned out to be an alcoholic. He showed up late; he was often drunk. Ozzy says it got to him after a while. So one night when he wanted to get on the tour bus, they threw him into the luggage compartment. Somebody pointed out that what they doing was not only illegal but inhumane. Ozzy is said to have lost it, yelling: “He’s my fuckin’ midget and I’ll fuckin’ do what I want with him!” There was a silence, and then a small voice emerged from the luggage compartment: “He’s right. I’m his midget and he can do what he wants with me.”
Not even the weirdest Ozzy Osbourne story of course.
Ronnie Wood, ex Jeff Beck Group, Faces and now of course still the “new kid” in the Rolling Stones, tells the tale of one time when they were “doing drugs” in the dressing room (yes, of course, it was just the one time) and the tour manager stuck his head around the door and said “the police are here! Holy shit!” Ronnie reckons they all panicked and threw the drugs in the toilet. Then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in.
So many of the stories from the band Motley Crue are of course captured in the book The Dirt (an excellent, essential read if you haven’t checked it out already – and a surprisingly okay film adaptation too) and there’s also the onstage idiocy of drum kits in revolving, elevated cages and Tommy Lee wanting to outdo that by creating a drum rollercoaster that would circumnavigate the venue with him spinning in a cage, playing his solo. The guys in charge of logistics would be dizzy with laughing and shaking their head so quickly at the same time.
Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top decided that his trusty guitar in the shape of the state of Texas (replete with Mississippi River pattern swirling up the neck to the headstock) was not enough. He wanted to have a “stage in the shape of the state of Texas and a number of rattlesnakes, vultures and even a couple of buffalo onstage”. Of course he did. Such authenticity would always be disastrous, and Gibbons describes “a buffalo deciding he’d had enough and ramming two glass cages containing snakes. Suddenly we had a dozen rattlers crawling around onstage. Our drummer suggested we play something quiet, to soothe them, which is a stupid idea because most snakes are deaf. We didn’t even attempt it. We just fled and left the roadies to minimise the damage.”
So many ridiculous stories – and it might be poor form to mention it but I believe the Great White gig of great disaster deserves to be mentioned as a Spinal Tap-esque moment; a band firing pyrotechnics indoors and suffering the ultimate consequence.
Spinal Tap summed up the absurdity of a generation of rockers. Then went on to be an influence to another generation almost immediately.