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[[quoteright:313:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/spinal-tap.jpg]]
->'''Marty [=DiBergi=]:''' (quoting a review) "''This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.''"\\
'''Nigel Tufnel:''' That's just nitpicking, innit?

Marty [=DiBergi's=] ''This is Spinal Tap'' (1984) is one of the greatest {{rockumentaries}} of all time. It may not be about one of the legendary bands, but it's a more intimate portrait than would have been allowed if it were about a more well-known band. It really gets inside the head of these rockers, and has more heart than any of those other rock films which consist mostly of filler between the concert scenes.

Not even Creator/TennesseeWilliams could have written a better character study.

For those of you who don't know Spinal Tap, they're a hard rock band that's been making some of the loudest heavy metal music around for years. David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls, and a long line of drummers, are musical geniuses. Even if you don't know the band, you know their hits, like "Big Bottom" and "Stonehenge".

The movie chronicles what may have been their darkest time; their infamous US tour in the early 1980s. They nearly broke up, but they proved that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and they came back strong, despite all the mishaps and mismanagement.

For those of you who truly believe in ThePowerOfRock, this will affirm it like nothing else.[[note]]Alright, so it's actually a {{Mockumentary}} spoofing the egos and mishaps of other rock stars, starring Creator/MichaelMcKean, Creator/ChristopherGuest, Creator/HarryShearer, and Creator/RobReiner who also directed. It's become a cult classic, with the actors making appearances elsewhere in character, and three real-world in-character albums by the band.[[/note]]
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!!! "These tropes go all the way to eleven":
* AchillesInHisTent: Due to worsening circumstances on the tour, and increasing personality conflict with David's girlfriend Jeanine, Nigel leaves the band in the middle of the show; only to return during the band's final performance to reunite them for a [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff tour of Japan]].
* AffectionateParody: As ridiculous as the movie makes rock music in general and heavy metal in particular look, Guest, [=McKean=] and Shearer do themselves enjoy the music, which is reflected in the obvious effort they put into writing the soundtrack.
* ArsonMurderAndJayWalking: Marty [=DiBergi=], at the introduction of the movie: "I remember being knocked out by their, their exuberance, their raw power... and their punctuality."
* BatterUp: Ian keeps a cricket bat around for use during "management disputes".
** In a deleted scene, Ian uses the cricket bat to strangle a geeky, irritating concert promoter - which is shown briefly in the final film's "cricket bat" montage.
* BrickJoke: Early in the film, it's revealed that Spinal Tap's drummers die in mysterious ways, including once by spontaneous human combustion. In the epilogue, the drummer explodes.
* BritishRockStar: The band is made up of lads from England, with various accents, questionable fashion sense, and a love of fun.
* TheCameo: In spades, many before (some during) they played notable characters in other TV & film, in so that some appearances could count as a HeyItsThatGuy:
** [[WhenHarryMetSally Billy Crystal]] and [[SaturdayNightLive Dana Carvey]] as a pair of catering mimes.
** The late [[CitySlickers Bruno Kirby]] as a limousine driver. (His part was larger in the PilotMovie.)
** [[WKRPInCincinnati WKRP's]] Johnny Fever as Spinal Tap rival Duke Fame.
** [[DavidLetterman David Letterman's bandleader]] as the band's A& R rep.
** [[TheNanny The Nanny]] as a record company exec.
** Dr. Victor Ehrlich from ''StElsewhere'' (OK, for the younger folks, [[Series/ArrestedDevelopment Stan Sitwell]]) as a previous drummer during their Beatles phase.
** The leader of ''Series/TheAvengers'' (no, not [[Film/TheAvengers that one]]) as the head of Tap's record company.
** Diana's rival from the original ''V'' as David St. Hubbins' girlfriend.
** Fred Willard as a military commander at an airbase Tap performs at.
** [[Creator/AnjelicaHuston Anjelica Huston]] as the poor prop designer who is told to '[[spoiler: fuck the napkin!]]'
** B-movie scream queens Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley as groupies.
** Mr. Bentley from ''TheJeffersons'' as a put-upon hotel concierge.
* CheapHeat: Parodied - as the band gets lost behind the stage in Chicago, one of the band members yells "Hello, Cleveland!"
* ComicallyMissingThePoint: After the Stonehenge debacle:
-->'''David:''' We had a Stonehenge monument that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.
-->'''Derek:''' We could redo the choreography. Keep the dwarf clear.
* TheComicallySerious: Several characters, including Sir Dennis Eaton-Hogg, Jeanine, and [[PlayingAgainstType (ironic given the actress who's portraying her)]] Bobbi Flekman.
* ConceptAlbum: Parodied multiple times, once with an album of "religious rock songs" inspired by the Book of Genesis, and again with the band's ongoing work on a "rock opera inspired by the life of Jack the Ripper".
* ContemptibleCover: Though never actually shown (although easily found online), the original cover of Smell the Glove is described on no uncertain terms as representative of this.
* DeadEndJob: Drumming for the band, of course!
* DeadManWalking: Given the band's unfortunate history with drummers, Mick Shrimpton realizes he's likely one of these. [[spoiler: Late in the movie he [[SpontaneousHumanCombustion explodes on stage]] during a performance.]]
* DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment: "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight".
** On the "Back From The Dead" DVD, David explains that another band had done a song titled "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You," hence the necessity of an extra "Tonight".
* DeusExMachina: The revelation that the band is still popular in Japan.
* DoubleEntendre: "Big Bottom", about the singer's love of his girlfriend's large rear end, features one of these.
--> How can I leave this ''behind''?
* DVDCommentary: The original commentary for the film released on DVD by Criterion was played straight. For the commentary when MGM re-released the film on DVD twelve years later, Guest, [=McKean=] and Shearer do the [=DVD=] commentary ''in character'', and spend most of it ripping director [=DiBergi=] for the "hatchet job" he produced.
* FakeBand: Spinal Tap was not an actual band at the time of the film's creation, though it has been Defictionalized.
* FollowTheLeader: [[invoked]]Throughout their history, Spinal Tap seem to be in the habit of jumping on the bandwagon for whatever the latest musical trends are, such as the BritishInvasion, psychedelic folk-rock and, most recently, glam metal.
* GagPenis: Subverted with Derek Smalls. In the MGM commentary, David is amused at the fact that Derek wrapped the zucchini in aluminum foil.
* GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff: An InUniverse example, as Spinal Tap's latest album unexpectedly proves to be very successful in Japan, leading to a much more successful tour in that country (where metal is very popular in real life). This trope is actually sometimes called "Big in Japan" in the music industry.
* GloryDays: As much as the band might try to convince themselves otherwise, these days have clearly passed for Spinal Tap [[spoiler: at least outside of Japan]]. The venues are getting smaller and are selling less tickets, only one person comes to get their new album autographed (with the clear implication that it's also not selling well), and overall the general vibe is that Spinal Tap are well past their prime.
* HeavyMeta: Parodied with the song "Heavy Duty (Rock And Roll)".
* Music/HeavyMetal: The band's current phase in the movie is a parody of then popular "NewWaveOfBritishHeavyMetal" bands like Music/IronMaiden.
* [[HeavyMetalUmlaut Hešvy MŽtal ‹mlaut]]: Parodied: the umlaut goes over the ''N'', producing a letter than is only used in Jacaltec (a Mayan dialect), Malagasy, and Cape Verdean Creole. Inverted with the dotless "i", which occurs in Turkish.
* HeavyMithril: Parodied with "Stonehenge".
* HighTurnoverRate: The band has gone through quite a number of drummers.
-->'''David:''' ''[[RevolvingDoorBand 37 people]]'' have been in this band over the years!
* HitMeDammit: After a poor showing at a record signing, Artie Fufkin demands this of the band. ("I'm not asking you, I'm telling you! Kick my ass!")
* HypocriticalHumor: A montage example, at the beginning when teenaged fans at a Spinal Tap concert are being interviewed. An AmbiguouslyBrown male fan tells the interviewer that "Heavy metal's deep; you get stuff out of it." He is followed a few seconds later by a blonde girl who remarks that she likes "the way they dress, [[HellBentForLeather the leather]]."
* INeedToGoIronMyDog: "Sorry, but we need to go wait for our bus over there."
* {{Improv}}: The vast majority of the dialogue in the movie was improvised. Basically, the cast were given extensive back-stories and character sketches, and turned loose in front of the camera. Reiner shot several hours of footage, and distilled the best parts down into the movie. A couple hours of additional footage were included on the DVD releases, while quite a bit more circulates on a bootleg three-VHS set. This basic set-up was used by Christopher Guest to make a his own improvised mockumentaries, including ''Film/WaitingForGuffman'', ''BestInShow'', ''Film/AMightyWind'' and ''ForYourConsideration'' and used many of the original cast members.
** As examples, the sequence when the band comments on reviews of previous albums (including the rather terse review of [[spoiler: ''Shark Sandwich'']]) and the scene where David & Nigel are asked about the first song they ever wrote, [[spoiler: "All The Way Home"]], are improvised by Guest and [=McKean=], prompted by the questions coming from Reiner.
* IntercourseWithYou: "Sex Farm", "Big Bottom"... actually a lot of their songs count as this. But that's metal for you.
* LyricalDissonance: All over the place, but the most prominent example is a delicate piano piece entitled "[[spoiler:Lick My Love Pump]]."
* MandatoryUnretirement : A real-world example, as Guest, [=McKean=] and Shearer have to periodically bring out the Spinal Tap characters - either through a one-off concert appearance (such as their appearance at the 2009 Glastonbury festival), a full concert tour, a TV appearance (such as Nigel's interview on Stonehenge for the Discovery Channel), a new video/DVD release, etc. - or the rights to the characters revert from them back to the film's holding company.
* MetalDetectorCheckpoint: A hilarious example when Derek Smalls sets of an airport metal detector because he has a foil-wrapped zucchini tucked in his pants.
* MinimalisticCoverArt: The released cover of "Smell The Glove".
-->''"It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black."''
* {{Mockumentary}}: As often as "mockumentary" and ''This Is Spinal Tap'' get mentioned in the same breath, it might as well be the TropeNamer.
** In fact, if you don't count ''Radio/TheWarOfTheWorlds'' (a fake ''news broadcast'') as a Mockumentary, then this film is the TropeMaker.
* MoneySong: "Gimme Some Money" is a gold-digging little number, with lyrics like "Your face is OK / But your purse is too tight."
* NoCelebritiesWereHarmed: Apparently Reiner's [=DiBergi=] character is a goof on Creator/MartinScorsese, who was a rather clueless interviewer in his 1978 {{Rockumentary}} about TheBand, ''The Last Waltz''
** Guest and [=McKean=] note in the Criterion DVD commentary that the archetype of the long-lived British band whose star power has faded, but yet continued to ride their fame and grind out tours year after year, calling out Status Quo in particular, formed much of the inspiration for Spinal Tap.
* NoodleIncident: One former drummer is said to have perished in "a bizarre gardening accident".
--> '''Nigel Tufnel:''' Authorities said... best leave it... unsolved.
** Another former drummer appears to have somehow choked on someone else's vomit.
** The band members are shown with cold sores at some point, without any explanation. A deleted scene reveals that Spinal Tap's opening band for the tour has a female singer with a cold sore.
* ObliviousToLove: Nigel obviously has a bit of an obsession with David - whether it's just a case of serious bromance or an actual romantic crush - and is rather devastated when David's girlfriend comes to join the tour. However, David simply doesn't see it, and is mistified as to why Nigel is constantly giving her hate-filled glares and trying to make fun of her at every opportunity (although Jeanine does seem to have an inkling)..
* OohMeAccentsSlipping: To a British ear, Harry Shearer's most of the time. [=McKean's=] strays into Australian on occasions. Listen to how he says "purpose" in particular! Chris Guest's accent is pretty flawless -- he's British-American of course, and is actually a [[BlueBlood hereditary peer]] (The 5th Baron Haden-Guest) on his father's side.
* PilotMovie: When they were given seed money to pitch the film, the cast (being unsure how to put the style of the movie across) instead of filming scenes or developing production concepts, shot a complete twenty-minute film, ''Spinal Tap: The Last Tour'', as their 'pitch' instead. Some sequences, such as the performance of [[spoiler: "Gimme Some Money"]] are lifted from the original short film. It appears only on Criterion's long out-of-print pressing of the DVD, not on MGM's more recent pressing.
* ProductDisplacement: Marty's cap in the film says "USS OORAL SEA". This is because the Navy would not allow the film to feature the USS Coral Sea's name. A quick adjustment to the cap and it was fixed. The MGM commentary makes fun of it, pondering where the USS Ooral Sea was located.
* TheQuietOne[=/=]TheStoic: Compared to Nigel and David's egotistical flouncing, Derek is incredibly humble, quiet and unflappable.
* RedOniBlueOni: David and Nigel. Derek describes their complementary but conflicting personalities and musical instincts as "fire and ice", with him being somewhere in the middle, [[CrowningMomentOfFunny "sort of like lukewarm water"]].
* {{Retraux}}: The band's songs from TheSixties.
* TheRockStar: Three of them, in fact, though more in their own heads than in reality.
* RuleOfFunny: Why would a British band be confused by the 24 hour clock? Well, this ''is'' Spinal Tap we're talking about.
* RunningGag: The band playing before ever smaller crowds in ever lamer venues as the tour goes along. By the time they reach California, they're performing before only a couple dozen people at what looks like either Disneyland or Magic Mountain (now Six Flags Magic Mountain).
* SexDrugsAndRockAndRoll:
** Mick Shrimpton says he literally lives for the three things and that if he gets kicked out of the band, sex and drugs will be enough for him to scrape by on.
** Viv Savage (on his epitaph): Have a good time ''all'' the time.
* TheSixties: Parodied with one of the band's previous hits, "(Listen To The) Flower People", which is done in the style of psychedelic pop bands of the time like Jefferson Airplane.
** Also, "Gimme Some Money", is a drop dead parody of Beatlesque pop and of The Beatles' ''Ed Sullivan Show'' appearance, right down to their bow at the end.
* SpecialEffectFailure InUniverse:
** The Stonehenge monolith is 1/12 its intended size and in serious danger of being knocked over by a dwarf.[[invoked]]
** The embryonic pod that froze shut trapping Derek Smalls during the band's performance of "Rock and Roll Creation".
* SpontaneousHumanCombustion: The fate of three of the band's drummers--one whom is said to have gone up in "a flash of green light," leaving "a little green globule" on his drum seat, and two more who explode on the band's tour of Japan.
--> '''David St. Hubbins:''' You know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported.
* StealthInsult: Quite a few of them.
-->'''[=DiBergi=]''': They've earned a distinguished place in rock history as [[DamnedByFaintPraise one of the loudest bands in Britain]].
* StealthParody: Perhaps partially due to the fact that the {{Mockumentary}} was a little-known genre at the time, many people assumed that the film is a real documentary, apparently missing all the talk about spontaneous human combustion.
* StealthPun: "Big Bottom" seems at first to be just another [[StuffyOldSongsAboutTheButtocks Stuffy Old Song About the Buttocks]], but notice that the song features ''three'' bass players. In other words, it has a huge low end.
* StuffyOldSongsAboutTheButtocks
* StylisticSuck: The song lyrics are deliberately silly, though the songs themselves can be quite catchy.
* TeamMom: Jeanine believes herself to be this. In reality she isn't terribly good at it, and tends to create as many (if not more) problems as she solves.
* TechnologyMarchesOn: Dear God, those wireless amps are ''huge''. Also, playing ''Missile Command'' on the Atari 800. With a keyboard.
-->'''[=Viv=]''': Quite exciting, this [[MagicalComputer computer magic!]]
* TooAwesomeToUse: Nigel tells [=DiBergi=] that the most treasured guitar in his collection "can never be played" (or touched, or pointed to, or looked at). TruthInTelevision: [[spoiler:that particular instrument is Fender Bass VI, a six-string bass guitar, of which only some 300 were produced - and which indeed are TooAwesomeToUse even in real life. Tufnel's bass guitar is one of only two instruments which exist in the Sea Foam Green colour in the RealLife]]. Also [[spoiler:Tufnel's '59 Gibson Les Paul, which are approximately as expensive as Amati violins today.]]
* TooDumbToLive: Granted, Tap's drummers tend to die at an incredible pace, but Mick is shown in one scene in a filled bathtub ''with a plugged in toaster'' on the side of the tub.
* TragicHero: A depressing undertone of the movie is that Hubbins and Tufnel are genuinely talented composers and musicians, but squander their talents due to their immaturity and infatuation with the "rock star" life. One scene in particular has Nigel showing the director his latest piece, a beautiful piano instrumental, citing influence from a range of classical composers. He calls it "Lick My Love Pump."
* TropeCodifier: This film was shot in 1982, one year before Music/QuietRiot released ''Metal Health'', the first best-selling album to be universally referred to as "metal." As a result, ''This Is Spinal Tap'' can be credited with popularizing a number of metal tropes, particularly HeavyMithril and RockMeAsmodeus
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible: The released cover of "Smell The Glove" gets played up as this in a scene. David doesn't buy it.[[invoked]]
** By the time of the 2000 DVD commentary, David had brought himself to agree that Ian's argument for the black cover 'looking like death' ("Death sells") was accurate.
* UnbuiltTrope: Some of the most memorable scenes have Spinal Tap performing songs that arenít strictly heavy metal but that owe their existence to subgenres of rock music that strongly influenced metal, including rockabilly ("Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight") and rhythm-and-blues ("Big Bottom").
* UnfortunateImplications: InUniverse. The original cover of "Smell The Glove".
-->''"You should've seen the cover they'' wanted ''to put out. It wasn't a glove, I can tell you that."''
* UpToEleven: The [[TropeNamers Trope Namer]].
* VisualInnuendo: Just watch the way Nigel [[DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything handles the neck]] of his guitar, [[HoYay particularly around David]].
* YokoOhNo: An in-universe example. Janine (David's girlfriend) takes over Faith's job of managing the band and does such a piss-poor job that it nearly results in the band breaking up. In fact, Janine was actually created as a parody of Yoko Ono.
* WantonCrueltyToTheCommonComma: One band member's inability to remember how to write measurements in the imperial system results in a stage prop of Stonehenge smaller than the dwarfs they've hired to dance around it. (Specifically, he confuses the abbreviations for feet -- an apostrophe -- and inches -- two apostrophes.)
* WhiteDwarfStarlet: The entire band, although it's a parody.
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