‘This Is Spinal Tap’ Turns 40: Let’s Amp It Up With These 11 Wild Facts

L to R: Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean
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It is hard to believe that it has been 40 years since we were introduced to the fictional band Spinal Tap. Rob Reiner‘s directorial debut came with the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap, which follows the fake English rock group on their American tour. It led the way for other hilarious mockumentary-style films, including Borat. The film starred Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer as members of the band, and Reiner played the documentary filmmaker Martin “Marty” DiBergi. The film is a satirical take on heavy metal bands and their documentaries.

While the film didn’t do that well at first, it has since become a cult classic. Let’s turn it up to 11 with these fun facts about the film, ahead of a highly anticipated sequel coming this year!



A bootleg recording of British band the Troggs arguing in the studio inspired a scene in the movie


Michael McKean got his breakthrough role as Lenny Kosnowski on the classic sitcom Laverne & Shirley (1976-83). Soon after that show, McKean got his big-screen break as guitarist David St. Hubbins of the fictional British rock band.


SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Harry Shearer as Mark Shubb, Christopher Guest as Alan Barrows, Michael McKean as Jerry Palter during the 'Old Joe's Place' skit on November 3, 1984 --

Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

The trio are actually musicians and recorded all the songs for the soundtrack, but lip-synced in the film. They have even gone on to be a music trio in another mockumentary, The Mighty Wind, as the Folksmen, and went on tour performing songs by both bands in honor of Spinal Tap‘s 30th anniversary.


The band infamous for going through drummers went through several of them due to strange circumstances: a gardening accident, spontaneously combusting onstage and choking on someone else’s vomit.



Mick Hutson/Redferns

It is said that Nigel channels Jeff Beck and bass player Derek channels Lemmy from Motorhead, though neither actor has fessed up to this.


Although a mockumentary, Ozzy Osbourne thought it was a real documentary, and other musicians like U2‘s The Edge stated he cried since it was very close to the truth, while Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. and Gene Simmons of Kiss both recalled their bands having some of the same experiences.


THE SIMPSONS, from left: Derek Smalls (voice: Harry Shearer), Nigel Tufnel (voice: Christopher Guest), Bart Simpson (voice: Nancy Cartwright), David St. Hubbins (voice: Michael McKean), 'The Otto Show', (Season 3, ep. 322, aired April 23, 1992).

20th Century Fox Film Corp./courtesy Everett Collection

Immortalized on The Simpsons in the episode “The Otto Show,” and rightfully so, as Harry Shearer voices several characters on the show.


Director Rob Reiner was going to play a fourth band member, but opted for playing band manager Marty DiBergi instead when Harry Shearer told him he did not look good in spandex. Bonus: Reiner’s character is a combination of directors De Palma, Scorsese, and Speilberg’s names.


NEW YORK CITY - MAY 29: Actress Jamie Lee Curtis and actor/writer Christopher Guest attend the "Perfect" New York City Premiere on May 29, 1985 at the Coronet Theater in New York City.

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

When Jamie Lee Curtis saw a picture of Nigel in Rolling Stone, she said she was going to marry that guy. And she did! Curtis and Christopher Guest have been married since 1984.


The tiny sandwich scene was inspired by Van Halen’s tour demands of removing brown M&M’s from the bowl they requested to be in their dressing room. David Lee Roth wanted this to make sure promoters were reading their contracts.



Everett Collection

A scrapped subplot was going to expose that the band had an all-female band as an opening act. All members were to have been involved with one of the ladies, hence why all had contracted herpes/cold sores.



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March 2023

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