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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 Spın̈al 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 Tennessee Williams could have written a better character study.

For those of you who don't know Spın̈al 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 U.S. 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 The Power of Rock, this will affirm it like nothing else.note 

Spın̈al Tap's back catalogue includes (but is certainly not limited to):

  • Spın̈al Tap Sings '(Listen To The) Flower People' and Other Favorites (1967)
  • We Are All Flower People (1968)
  • The Incredible Flight of Icarus P. Anybody (1969) note 
  • Silent But Deadly (live - 1969)
  • Brainhammer (1970)
  • Nerve Damage (1971)
  • Blood To Let (1972)
  • Intravenus de Milo (1974)
  • The Sun Never Sweats (1975)
  • Jap Habit (live - 1975)
  • Bent For The Rent (1976)
  • Tap Dancing (1976)
  • Rock 'n' Roll Creation (1977) note 
  • Shark Sandwich (1980)
  • Smell The Glove (1982)
  • Heavy Metal Memories (compilation - 1983)
  • This Is Spın̈al Tap (soundtrack - 1984)
  • Break Like The Wind (1992)
  • Back From The Dead (2008)

All but the final three are *cough* "out of print".


"These tropes go all the way to eleven":

  • Achilles in His Tent: 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 tour of Japan.
  • Affectionate Parody: As ridiculous as the movie makes rock music in general and heavy metal in particular look, Guest, McKean and Shearer do themselves enjoy it, which is reflected in the obvious effort they put into writing the soundtrack. It's pretty harsh, however, since they didn't mind skewering glam rock, especially when compared to the affection they show for folk music in A Mighty Wind, which is kinder and gentler to its subject.
  • All There in the Manual / World Building: The creators put together an extensive backstory for the band before filming, which is a big reason why they were so easy to Defictionalize. For example, one of the stage hands is named Moke, but you wouldn't know that without knowledge of expanded materials (such as the DVD Commentary).
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sir Denis Eton-Hogg and a hotel manager that Ian calls "a twisted old fruit".
    Manager: I'm just as God made me, sir.
    • During the end credits, Ian reveals Sir Denis was knighted for Hoggwood, a summer camp for pale young boys. The band described it as "a pervert's paradise" in The Spinal Tap Reunion.
  • Artistic License – History: Played for Laughs (obviously) in the "Stonehenge" musical number. In his introduction to the song, David refers to the Druids as "a very strange race of people", describing them as if they were early inhabitants of the British Isles. The Celts were early inhabitants of the British Isles; the Druids were just the educated priest class in Celtic society (they were a social and professional caste, not a culture). The monument predates their presence in England by millenia.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: After Ian leaves after the disastrous Stonehenge set.
    Derek: Can I raise a practical question at this point? Are we gonna do Stonehenge tomorrow?
    David: NO, WE'RE NOT GOING FUCKING DO STONEHENGE!
  • Batter Up!: 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.
    • At the end of the film, Ian is palming his cricket bat, staring menacingly down at Jeanine.
  • Bigger Is Better: In a Deleted Scene, Nigel and David privately tell Derek he doesn't have enough "presence" in his tights on stage, leading to the Gag Penis incident below.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tap is still popular in Japan! But once again they have to put all their plans for the future on hold.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Early in the film, it's revealed that Spın̈al Tap's drummers die in mysterious ways, including once by Spontaneous Human Combustion. In the epilogue, the drummer explodes.note 
    • Also early on, Nigel shows off a wireless guitar of his to DiBergi. It makes another appearance later on when Nigel plays it during a crappy gig on an Airforce base and it suddenly starts picking up military radio chatter mid-concert. Needless to say the already pissed-off Nigel doesn't take it well.
    • The infamous Stonehenge episode receives a call back nearly eight years later; In The Return of Spın̈al Tap, a DVD covering their touring of new album Break Like The Wind, they get a properly sized Stonehenge prop... which is naturally too big for them to get inside the venue.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Spın̈al Tap has talent, but their work is incredibly generic, and their music style is whatever is popular at the moment.
  • British Rock Star: The band is made up of lads from England, with various accents, questionable fashion sense, and a love of fun.
  • Brutal Honesty: The most hurtful thing ever addressed to the band is radio DJ Johnny Q playing one of their early songs ("Cups and Cakes") as The Thamesmen, then saying they became Spın̈al Tap — and are in the "Where Are They Now?" file. In the MGM DVD commentary, David sighs that that statement still hurts, while Derek dismissively notes Johnny Q is now doing weather reports.
  • The Cast Show Off: All of the music was written and performed by the cast members, all of whom are highly-competent musicians.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid
    David: NIGEL TUFNEL, LEAD GUITAAAR!
  • Cheap Heat: Parodied - as the band gets lost behind the stage in Chicago, one of the band members yells "Hello, Cleveland!"
  • Comically Missing the Point: 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.
    • And of course:
      Marty: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
      Nigel: (long pause, gazing stupidly at Marty, then...) These go to eleven.
  • The Comically Serious: The entire cast does this. The humor is derived from everyone playing the most ridiculous situations completely straight.
  • Concept Album: 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".
  • Concert Film: Parts of the film are live concerts.
  • Contemptible Cover: 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. The band found Ian Faith's cover of a recent album cover of him (basically in an orgy) disgusting. On the DVD Commentary, Nigel called it "tasteless."
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Marty DiBergi, at the introduction of the movie: "I remember being knocked out by their, their exuberance, their raw power... and their punctuality."
  • Dead End Job: Drumming for the band, of course!
  • Dead Man Walking: Given the band's unfortunate history with drummers, Mick Shrimpton realizes he's likely one of these. Late in the movie he explodes on stage during a performance.
    • For Break Like the Wind, the band auditioned a few Real Life rock drummers. One was dismissed for wearing protective gear, saying he had too much "fear".
  • Demoted to Extra: The limo driver had a lot of scenes cut, such as sharing a hot tub with the band.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "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".
  • Deus ex Machina: The revelation that the band is still popular in Japan.
  • The Ditz: The whole band, but Nigel in particular, which even gets Lampshaded.
    Ian: Nigel gave me a drawing that said 18 inches. Now, whether or not he knows the difference between feet and inches is not my problem. I do what I'm told.
    David: But you're not as confused as him, are you? I mean, it's not your job to be as confused as Nigel is!
  • Double Entendre: "Big Bottom", about the singer's love of his girlfriend's large rear end, features many of these.
    How can I leave this behind?
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Nigel's guitars. Don't even look too long at them.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Invoked in a scene in which Mick Shrimpton is interviewed while taking a bath with a plugged in toaster sitting on the lip of the tub.
  • Fake Band: Spın̈al Tap was not an actual band at the time of the film's creation, though it has been Defictionalized.
  • Follow the Leader:
  • Foreshadowing: Bobbi argues that what's on an album cover has nothing to do with sales, namedropping The Beatles White Album as an example. Then comes Tap's all-black album.
  • Gag Penis: Subverted with Derek Smalls. In the MGM commentary, David is amused at the fact that Derek wrapped the zucchini in aluminum foil.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: An In-Universe example, as Spın̈al 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, chiefly thanks to Cheap Trick.
  • Glory Days: As much as the band might try to convince themselves otherwise, these days have clearly passed for Spın̈al Tap 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 Spın̈al Tap are well past their prime.
    • Later works involving the band shows they've made at least something of a comeback.
  • Good News, Bad News: Invoked in the DVD Commentary. Nigel complains that Ian never had any good news for the band. David states that Ian told him that they already had good news: they're rock 'n' roll stars. The bad news is everything else.
  • Heavy Meta: Parodied with the song "Heavy Duty (Rock And Roll)".
  • Heavy Metal: The band's current phase in the movie is a parody of then popular "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" bands like Iron Maiden.
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Parodied: the umlaut goes over the N, producing a letter that is only used in Jacaltec (a Mayan dialect), Malagasy, and Cape Verdean Creole. Inverted with the dotless "i", which occurs in Turkish.
    • For context, the letter N with an umlaut above it is pronounced as 'ng', indicating one should be grunting the band's name.
  • Heavy Mithril: Parodied with "Stonehenge".
  • High Turnover Rate: The band has gone through quite a number of drummers.
    David: 37 people have been in this band over the years!
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: 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!")
  • Hypocritical Humor: A montage example, at the beginning when teenaged fans at a Spın̈al Tap concert are being interviewed. An Ambiguously Brown 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, the leather."
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: "We'd love to chat, but we gotta sit in the lobby and wait for the limo."
  • 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 his own improvised mockumentaries, including Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration 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 Shark Sandwich) and the scene where David & Nigel are asked about the first song they ever wrote, "All The Way Home", are improvised by Guest and McKean, prompted by the questions coming from Reiner.
  • Informed Flaw: Spın̈al Tap's music is supposed to be terrible, as evidenced by their reviews ("Shit sandwich"), but while they are incredibly generic and the lyrics are repressed and juvenile, the music itself is quite catchy. Of course, part of the problem is the misapplied skills, such as Nigel writing a classical piece and calling it "Lick My Love Pump".
  • Intercourse with You: "Sex Farm", "Big Bottom"... actually a lot of their songs count as this. But that's metal for you.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: All over the place, but the most prominent example is a delicate piano piece entitled "Lick My Love Pump."
  • Mandatory Unretirement: A real-world example, as Guest, McKean and Shearer have to periodically bring out the Spın̈al 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 National Geographic Channel), a new video/DVD release, etc. - or the rights to the characters revert from them back to the film's holding company.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Of a sort, at least. On stage, Derek Smalls very heavily plays up the bestial, savage metal rock star image, but off stage he's very quiet, calm and meek. His bandmates invert this, being less 'extreme' on stage than Derek but much more egotistical and tantrum-prone off stage.
  • Meaningful Name: A spinal tap is one of the most painful procedures any human can have. It's doubtful the band intended that to be a commentary on their own music.
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint: A hilarious example when Derek Smalls sets off an airport metal detector because he has a foil-wrapped zucchini tucked in his pants.
  • Metaphorgotten / Comically Missing the Point: Derek Small's main hat.
    Marty: (reacting to Derek) So... you think of yourself as a preserved moose?
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: 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: Spoofs concert films which normally gloss over things similar to the events in this film.
  • Money Song: "Gimme Some Money" is a gold-digging little number, with lyrics like "Your face is OK / But your purse is too tight." It's an Affectionate Parody of "Money (That's What I Want)", best known to modern audiences in its cover version by The Beatles, although it was originally a Motown number.
    • The 90's 'Break Like The Wind' album has a number called 'Cash On Delivery'.
  • Narm invoked: In-universe with the Stonehenge scene.
    David St. Hubbins: I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.
    Ian Faith: I really think you're just making much too big a thing out of it.
    Derek Smalls: Making a big thing out of it would have been a good idea.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Ian. He never takes any blame for the band's steady decline and losing gigs and hotel rooms (such as Boston, which he quips "is not a big college town"note ). He also refuses to admit he should have noticed that the napkin said 18" and not 18'.
    • Nigel and David also have a bit of this in relation to the Stonehenge prop, since they were the ones who confused 'feet' and 'inches' to begin with.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The name "Marty DiBergi" is a Portmanteau of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Federico Fellini. Reiner's portrayal of him is mainly a goof on Scorsese, who was a rather clueless interviewer in his 1978 Rockumentary about The Band, The Last Waltz. But the USS OORAL SEA cap is a specific Take That! to Spielberg, who had a conspicuous habit of wearing military or law enforcement ball caps on his movie sets.
    • Nigel Tufnel is a loose parody of Eric Clapton, right down to his name. The writers arrived at the name "Nigel Tufnel" by combining a generic British first name ("Nigel" instead of "Eric") with the name of a posh London neighborhood ("Tufnell Park" instead of "Clapton Pond"), thus keeping the parallels relatively subtle.
    • 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 Spın̈al Tap.
    • David St. Hubbins sings lead vocal and plays rhythm guitar. Derek St. Holmes sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar for Ted Nugent.
    • Uriah Heep, as a long-running prog/metal Revolving Door Band, are a good candidate for a real life Spın̈al Tap analogue. In fact, their then-keyboardist John Sinclair helped out with the film's soundtrack, and inspired the Air Force base scene, which was an incident that really had happened to Uriah Heep. Saxon also provided some inspiration. Harry Shearer toured with them for research purposes before the film.
  • Noodle Incident: 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 Spın̈al Tap's opening band for the tour has a female singer with a cold sore.
  • Oblivious to Love: 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 mystified 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).
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Debateably, Ian Faith, the manager who picks up the pieces and consistently puts up with the band's stupidity and egocentricity, he's pretty much the only reason Spın̈al Tap is able to function on their tour. When he finally quits, the band quickly falls apart. Indeed, the only reason the band gets back together is due to him taking notice of the band's success in Japan. He does have some bizarre affectations (such as his cricket bat).
    • Bobbi Flekman is a more straight example. Every second when dealing with the band, she's barely repressing the urge to roll her eyes.
    • Marti DiBergi as well. He manages to stay detached and professional while dealing with people whom he clearly knows are almost completely detached from reality.
    • David is the only band member who has any brief flickers of self-awareness.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: 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 hereditary peer (The 5th Baron Haden-Guest) on his father's side.
    • Actually invoked with Shearer, as he based the character of Derek Smalls off of rockers who traveled so frequently between the UK and US that they ended up with a mid-atlantic accent, such as Jon Anderson and David Coverdale.
  • Overly Long Gag: Nigel's guitar solo. Not only is it horrible, but he even strums his guitar with a violin.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Quite a few of them. For one, DiBergi was impressed with the band's punctuality.
    DiBergi: They've earned a distinguished place in rock history as one of the loudest bands in Britain.
  • Pilot Movie: 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, Spın̈al Tap: The Last Tour, as their 'pitch' instead. Some sequences, such as the performance of "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.
  • Product Displacement: 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.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Spın̈al Tap has the habit of interjecting classical music in their songs, such as Pachelbel's Canon and Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. On the MGM commentary, Nigel claims he was always worried they'd get sued for using Pachelbel's Canon, but had to be reminded that Pachelbel died a long, long time ago.
  • The Quiet One/The Stoic: Compared to Nigel and David's egotistical flouncing, Derek is incredibly humble, quiet and unflappable.
  • Random Events Plot: After studio executives expressed concern about the story's episodic structure, Jeanine was added as a character specifically to give the film some sort of loose narrative arc.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: David and Nigel. Derek describes their complementary but conflicting personalities and musical instincts as "fire and ice", with him being somewhere in the middle, "sort of like lukewarm water".
  • Refuge in Audacity: The group's main hat, usually out of desperation for attention. One of the songs on the film's soundtrack album is "Christmas With the Devil", and it is as sacrilegious as it can possibly be.
  • Retraux: The band's songs from The '60s.
  • The Roadie: When there is a goof on stage (prop failure, or a fancy move has Gone Horribly Wrong), the stage crew tries valiantly to fix it.
  • The Rock Star: Three of them, in fact, though more in their own heads than in reality.
  • Rule of Funny: Why would a British band be confused by the 24 hour clock? Well, this is Spın̈al Tap we're talking about.
  • Running Gag:
    • 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 an amusement parknote . They're billed after a touring company of The Wiz and a puppet show. In the MGM commentary, David still has no idea what The Wiz is.
    • On the DVD commentary, every other scene is "the turning point". Also, them claiming every third person is now dead.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After being pushed too far by David and Janine following the disastrous Stonehenge performance, Ian tells her and the rest of the band to go fuck themselves and promptly quits.
    • Nigel follows suit during the gig at the air force base after being frustrated by the sound interference and by extension the lousy gigs. Janine also seemed to have a hand in his irritation
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll:
    • 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.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: A variation. David states Jeanine is not his wife.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The band going through many drummers was possibly inspired by The Grateful Dead's "curse" on keyboard players.
    • The band experiencing a revival of its fortunes in Japan is a Shout Out to Cheap Trick, whose 1979 live album Cheap Trick at Budokan was originally intended to be released only in Japan but which became their best-selling album by far
    • The argument in the studio also inspired by The Troggs Tapes, a bootleg of Studio Chatter by The Troggs arguing over a song, with plenty of profanity.
  • Sixth Ranger: In the DVD Commentary, Tap claim Marty wanted to be "the sixth Tap". (It's actually a reference to a Deleted Scene in which Marty did join Tap on stage.)
  • The '60s:
    • 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. (As mentioned above, the specific song most closely being parodied is "Money (That's What I Want)".)
    • Then there's "Cups and Cakes" is in the style of Peter and Gordon’s "Sunday for Tea."
  • Special Effect Failure: Happens a few times In-Universe.
    • 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".
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: The fate of three of the band's drummers—one who 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. In the DVD commentary, the band is happy DiBergi caught it on film, for insurance money's sake.
    David St. Hubbins: You know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported.
  • Stealth Parody: 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.
  • Stealth Pun: "Big Bottom" seems at first to be just another Stuffy Old Song About the Buttocks, but notice that the song features three bass players. In other words, it has a huge low end.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "Big Bottom" is a parody of such songs.
  • Stylistic Suck: The song lyrics are deliberately silly, though the songs themselves can be quite catchy.
  • Team Mom: 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.
  • Teeny Weenie: Derek's problem, according to Derek and Nigel in a Deleted Scene, not having enough "presence" on stage, which leads to the security point incident.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Nigel tells DiBergi that the most treasured guitar in his collection "can never be played" (or touched, or pointed to, or looked at). Truth in Television: That particular instrument is a Fender VI, a six-string bass guitar, which was originally produced only between 1961 and 1975, original mint-condition models of which would indeed be Too Awesome to Use in real life. Moreover, Tufnel's bass guitar is one of only two instruments which exist in the Sea Foam Green colour. Fender and Squier have since reissued the VI, partly because of the sheer mystique of the original instrument. Also Tufnel's '59 Gibson Les Paul, which costs slightly more today than an Amati violin.
  • Too Dumb to Live: 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.
  • Tragic Hero: 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."
  • Trope Codifier: This film was shot in 1982, one year before Quiet Riot released Metal Health, the first best-selling album to be universally referred to as "metal." As a result, This Is Spın̈al Tap can be credited with popularizing a number of metal tropes, particularly Heavy Mithril and Rock Me, Asmodeus!
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: 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.
    • According to the DVD Commentary, Joe "Mama" Besser (the drummer who replaces Mick after he explodes on stage in Japan) left the band because he couldn't stand "this 4/4 shit". invoked
  • Truth in Television: The film has a lot of this, but one of the more mind-spinning examples has to do with Nigel's piano piece, "Lick My Love Pump". Although Nigel's claims to be influenced by "Mozart and Bach" aren't really borne out by the piece itself (which doesn't sound much like either of them), Mozart did write a three-part canon called Leck mich im Arsch (Ger., "Lick me in the arse".)note 
  • Unbuilt Trope: Some of the most memorable scenes have Spın̈al Tap performing songs that aren’t 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").
  • Unfortunate Implications: In-Universe. The original cover of "Smell The Glove".
    Bobbi Flekman: You put a greased naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash, and a man's arm extended out up to here, holding onto the leash, and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it. You don't find that offensive? You don't find that sexist?
    Ian Faith: This is 1982, Bobbi, c'mon!
    Bobbi Flekman: That's right, it's 1982! Get out of the '60s. We don't have this mentality anymore.
    Ian Faith: Well, you should have seen the cover they wanted to do! It wasn't a glove, believe me.note 
  • Unit Confusion: Nigel draws a sketch of Stonehenge with measurements he wants for the model. Unfortunately, he writes it in inches instead of feet, leaving the band with a Stonehenge prop that is dwarfed by a pair of dwarfs.
  • Up to Eleven: The Trope Namer from Nigel describing why his speakers are so loud. Its score on IMDB even uses an eleven point scale, though you can still only rate as high as 10.
  • Visual Innuendo: Just watch the way Nigel handles the neck of his guitar, particularly around David.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: 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.)
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: The entire band is fading into this, until they tour in Japan.
  • Yoko Oh No: 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.


Alternative Title(s): Spinal Tap

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