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Spinal Tap (officially spelled "Spı al Tap", with a non-functional umlaut over the letter nn-diaeresis — and a dotless letter i) is a parody fictional heavy metal band that first appeared on a failed 1979 ABC TV sketch comedy pilot called "The T.V. Show", starring Rob Reiner. The sketch, actually a mock promotional video for the song "Rock and Roll Nightmare", was written by Reiner and the band, and included songwriter/performer Loudon Wainwright III on keyboards. Later the band became the fictional subject of the 1984 rockumentary/​mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. The band members are portrayed by Michael McKean (as David St. Hubbins), Christopher Guest (as Nigel Tufnel) and Harry Shearer (as Derek Smalls). The same trio of actors subsequently reunited as the American folk music revival band The Folksmen in the 2003 mockumentary A Mighty Wind.

This is Spinal Tap was accompanied by a soundtrack album of the same name. In the years since the film was made, the actors who portrayed the band members have played concerts and released music under the Spinal Tap name.

Guest, McKean, and Shearer toured in the U.S. in and performed as Spinal Tap in a "One Night Only World Tour" on 30 June 2009 at Wembley Arenamarker in London, three days after playing the Glastonbury Festivalmarker. Support at Wembley Arena came from The Folksmen.


Fans of Spinal Tap have assembled details about the band based on fictional film, albums, concerts and related promotional material, including a discography and a list of the band's former members.

Spinal Tap's fictional history includes a succession of drummers, all of whom are said to have died in strange circumstances: one in a "bizarre gardening accident," another "choked on [someone else's] vomit," and two from "spontaneous human combustion" onstage. Additionally, it is claimed that police described one of the deaths as "a mystery better left unsolved".


Spinal Tap "reunited" in 1992 for Break Like the Wind, an album produced in part by T-Bone Burnett, an accomplished musician and record producer. The album was accompanied by a promotional audition for a new drummer attended by Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction, Gina Schock of The Go-Go's, and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, who auditioned in a fireproof suit. A promotional concert tour followed, which included an appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, where they performed "The Majesty of Rock", a song they dedicated to Mercury and released as a single. The band also released the single "Bitch School."

On July 1, 1992, Tap crossed 5 time zones for three performances in St. John's, Newfoundland, Barrie, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia for Much Music and Molson's Great Canadian Party. For each performance of "Stonehenge", the miniature monument prop was delivered on stage in a courier envelope.

In 2000 the band launched a web site named "Tapster" where their song "Back from the Dead" was made available for download. Tapster was a parody of Napster, a peer-to-peer file sharing network.

In 2001, the band "reunited" for the nine-city "Back from the Dead Tour" that began on June 1 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Californiamarker. The tour included a show at Carnegie Hallmarker in New York Citymarker and ended in Montrealmarker in mid-July at the Just for Laughs festival. The opening act for some of these shows were The Folksmen, the folk trio seen in the film A Mighty Wind, and also performed by Guest, McKean and Shearer.

In 2007, Tap reunited again, this time to help combat global warming. "They're not that environmentally conscious, but they've heard of global warming," said Marty DeBergi. "Nigel thought it was just because he was wearing too much clothing – that if he just took his jacket off it would be cooler." This reunion also included the release of a new song called "Warmer Than Hell". The band played on the London leg of the SOS/Live Earth concert series, and Rob Reiner has directed a short film (entitled Spinal Tap) which was released on the Live Earth website on 27 April. The film reveals that Nigel Tufnel is now working as a farm hand looking after miniature horses. He plans to race them. David St Hubbins is currently working as a Hip-Hop producer and Derek Smalls is in rehab for being addicted to the Internet.

A new album, Back from the Dead, was released on June 16, 2009. The album consists mostly of re-recordings of songs from the original film's soundtrack, as they would have sounded had they really existed and been recorded in a studio.

On April 6, 2009 the band announced a one-date "world tour," performing at London's Wembley Arena on June 30, 2009. Support on this night came from The Folksmen. The band unexpectedly also self confirmed for Glastonbury Festival 2009 during an online interview on 8 May 2009 in the Philadelphia daily news following a "Unwigged and Unplugged" show in the city.

Other appearances

The band appeared as the musical guests on an episode of Saturday Night Live in the Spring of 1984. Barry Bostwick was the host. At this time producer Dick Ebersol approached Shearer, Guest and McKean to join the cast. Shearer and Guest accepted. (Mckean would not join until ten years later, by which time original producer Lorne Michaels was back at the show's helm.) Shearer's stint on SNL the following season—his second, the first having been the 1979–80 season—was to be short-lived, following creative disputes with the show's management. Shearer has said that when Ebersol made the offer during the Spinal Tap guest appearance "I didn't realize that guests were treated better than cast members."

In 1985, at the invitation of Ronnie James Dio, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer took part in the heavy metal benefit project Hear 'n Aid, to raise money for Ethiopian refugees. McKean and Shearer met dozens of real life metal stars, many of whom were huge fans of Spinal Tap. The musicians greatly enjoyed meeting McKean and Shearer and sharing their own stories of disastrous gigs and malfunctioning special effects.

As part of the promotion surrounding Break Like the Wind, Spinal Tap was portrayed in "The Otto Show" episode of the animated series The Simpsons for which Shearer is a principal voice actor. The Simpsons follows the approach of the original film by presenting the group as if they were a real group. During the disastrous performance, a massive devil balloon on the stage doesn't inflate properly, and Nigel is temporarily blinded by lasers. Later in the episode their tour bus is accidentally pushed off a cliff due to Otto's reckless driving.

In 1993, "Nigel Tufnel" appeared in the rockumentary Joe Satriani: The Satch Tapes.

In 1994, The Return of Spinal Tap was released on video; most of this was live material from a 1992 performance at the Royal Albert Hallmarker, but it also included some interviews and follow-up on the band members.

In 2000, while promoting, Spinal Tap appeared and performed on the short-lived series VH1 The List and appeared on the Late Show.

In 2006, "Nigel Tufnel" appeared in a Volkswagen TV commercial highlighting their offer of a free, exclusive First Act guitar with the purchase of qualifying automobiles. The guitar features knobs and inlays with the Volkswagen logo and pre-amps that allow it to be played through the car's stereo system. Also in 2006, the song "Gimme Some Money" was used in a TV commercial for OPEN from American Express, "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" appeared in Harmonix's video game Guitar Hero 2 and "Christmas with the Devil" appeared in BBC One promo spots for the network's Christmas program.

In 2007, while accepting an award from the BBC Two program The Culture Show, Christopher Guest broke into Nigel Tufnel, and considered what his wife and kids would make of the Mark Kermode shaped award. This segment of the show has been added to YouTube.

On July 7, 2007 Spinal Tap played at Wembley Stadiummarker in London along with many major bands and groups as part of Live Earth, a Climate Change awareness concert. Their set included a new song written for the occasion, "Warmer Than Hell". During their final number, the song "Big Bottom", St. Hubbins and Tufnel both picked up basses. Spinal Tap was also joined by "every bass player in the known universe", including Nate Mendel (of the Foo Fighters); Robert Trujillo, Kirk Hammett, and James Hetfield (Metallica); Gordon Moakes (Bloc Party); and Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA), of Beastie Boys. They were also joined on back-up vocals by Annette O'Toole, Michael McKean's wife.

In May 2008, Nigel Tufnel mysteriously cropped up in five viral videos found on YouTube, expounding his nonsensical theories about Stonehenge and who was responsible for building it. His claims to have invented "decoder" experiments capable of unveiling the true purpose of the monument are, as yet, unproven.

McKean, Guest and Shearer have made several appearances as their alter egos The Folksmen, including the television shows Saturday Night Live and Mad TV and the film The Return of Spinal Tap.

On March 2, 2009, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer held a press conference at the House of Blues in Los Angeles to announce their forthcoming album of new and old Spinal Tap songs, plus a 2009 "Unwigged & Unplugged" tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, This Is Spinal Tap. According to an L.A. Weekly report, when MTV News' Kurt Loder asked the trio "if they had plans beyond an album and tour, Shearer answered, 'We're gonna bomb Iran.'" The tour also features songs from the Folksmen and others from throughout the trio's career.

On April 1, 2009, Guest, McKean and Shearer played on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as the musical guest.

On June 15, 2009, Spinal Tap performed on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien as the musical guest.

On Saturday June 27, 2009, Spinal Tap performed on the main stage at the Glastonbury Festival with Jarvis Cocker guesting on bass during Big Bottom, and also inviting Jamie Cullum on stage to play keyboards. One of the unexpected highlights for Tap fans was a rendition of the newly-written overture from the mythical Jack the Ripper musical "Saucy Jack". Also on the bill were Kasabian, Crosby Stills & Nash and Bruce Springsteen.

On Tuesday 30 June 2009 Spinal Tap performed at Wembley Arena with The Folksmen as support. On later tracks in the Spinal Tap set, Keith Emerson joined them on organ/keyboards.

On Monday 27 July 2009 the band performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as the musical guest announcing their retirement and shortly thereafter their comeback.

The next day, Tuesday 28 July 2009, they were the musical guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

On August 25, 2009, Spinal Tap released a seven minute short film titled Stonehenge: ‘Tis a Magical Place celebrating their 25th anniversary. The video is distributed through INgrooves and is available only on iTunes. The short film depicts the founding members of Spinal Tap making a pilgrimage to Stonehenge for the first time.

Band members

Current members

Former members

NB This list contains both canonical fictional former members of Spinal Tap AND celebrities that the band have played live with. For more information, see the discussion page.

Guitar, backing vocals

  • "Ricky from San Francisco" (1982)
  • Rhyan Gordon (1992) also played baseball bat

Keyboards, backing vocals

  • Jan van der Kvelk (1965)
  • Tony Brixton (1965–1966)
  • Nick Wax (1965–1966)
  • Dicky Laine (1965–1966)
  • Denny Upham (1966–1968)
  • Ross MacLochness (1974–1975)
  • Viv Savage (David Kaff) (1975–198?) also played keyboard bass
  • John Sinclair (1982)
  • Jon Carin (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
  • Jamie Cullum (Glastonbury 2009)

Bass guitar, backing vocals

  • Ronnie Pudding (1964–1967)
  • Danny Jarman (1967)
  • David Gilmour (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
  • Tim Renwick (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
  • Pino Palladino (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
  • Cody Wheaton
  • Jarvis Cocker (Glastonbury 2009)

Drums, percussion

  • Actual
*Gary Wallis (Amnesty International performance in 1991) (Wallis pretended to explode at the end of the performance)
*Jody Linscott (Amnesty International performance in 1991)
*Mick Fleetwood (2000)
*Todd Sucherman (2009)
  • Deceased
*John "Stumpy" Pepys (1964–1967) (Portrayed by Ed Begley, Jr. in the video "Give Me Some Money") Died in a bizarre gardening accident, that the authorities said was "best left unsolved".
*Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs (1967–1974) (Portrayed by Russ Kunkel) Choked on vomit of unknown origin.
*Peter "James" Bond (1974–1977) Spontaneously combusted onstage.
*Mick Shrimpton (1977–1982) (Portrayed by R. J. "Ric" Parnell) Onstage explosion.
*Joe "Mama" Besser (1982) Quit the band, claiming he "couldn't take this 4/4 shit"; according to an MTV interview with Spinal Tap in November 1991, he disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
*Richard "Ric" Shrimpton (1982–1999) Allegedly sold his dialysis machine for drugs; presumed dead.
*Scott "Skippy" Scuffleton (2001–2007) Fate unknown.
*Chris "Poppa" Cadeau (2007-2008) Eaten by his pet python Cleopatra.
*Plus 14 other drummers at various times all of whom are dead.


  • Jeanine Pettibone (1982)
  • Daniel King (1982) - Backing Tambourine


  • Little Danny Schindler (1965–1966)


  • Keelan Hegarty (1965–1966)
  • Geoff Clovington (1965–1966)

Backing vocals

  • Lhasa Apso (1965–1966)
  • Julie Scrubbs-Martin (1965–1966)

Session members


Studio albums


  • Spinal Tap Sings "(Listen to the) Flower People" and Other Favourites (1967)
  • We Are All Flower People (1968)
  • Brainhammer (1970)
  • Nerve Damage (1971)
  • Blood to Let (1972)
  • Intravenus de Milo (1974)
  • The Sun Never Sweats (1975)
  • Bent for the Rent (1976)
  • Tap Dancing (1976)
  • Rock 'n' Roll Creation (referred to as The Gospel According to Spinal Tap in the film) (1977)
  • Shark Sandwich (1980)
  • Smell the Glove (1982)


Fictional "Live albums"

  • Silent But Deadly (1969)
  • Jap Habit (1975)

Fictional "Compilations"

  • The Incredible Flight of Icarus P. Anybody (1969)
  • Heavy Metal Memories (1983)



  • "All the Way Home" (1961) - an unreleased demo
  • "Gimme Some Money" (1965)
  • "(Listen to the) Flower People" (1967)
  • "Breakfast of Evil" (1969)
  • "Silent But Deadly" (1969)
  • "Big Bottom" (1970)
  • "Swallow My Love" (1970)
  • "Nerve Damage" (1971)
  • "Blood to Let" (1972)
  • "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" (1974)
  • "Stonehenge" (1975)
  • "Nice 'n' Stinky" (1975)
  • "Heavy Duty" (1976)
  • "Bent for the Rent" (1976)
  • "Tap Dancing" (1976)
  • "Rock 'n' Roll Creation" (1977)
  • "Sex Farm" (1980)
  • "No Place Like Nowhere" (1980)
  • "Hell Hole" (1982)


  • "Christmas With The Devil" / "Christmas With The Devil (Scratch Mix)" (1984)(also issued as a picture disc. )
  • "Bitch School" / "Springtime" (1992)
  • "The Majesty of Rock" (1992)
  • "Back from the Dead" (2000)
  • "Warmer Than Hell" (2007)
  • "Saucy Jack" (2009) (released as free MP3 download from official website)

Fictional Bootlegs

  • Top Hit for Nows (1968)
  • Audible Death (1969)
  • Live at Budokan (1975)
  • Openfaced Mako (1980)
  • Got Thamesmen on Tap (unknown date)
  • Maximum Tap (unknown date)
  • It's a Dub World (unknown date)

Actual Bootlegs

  • Ultra Rare Tap, Volume 11 (unknown date)
  • None More Black (unknown date - a three-CDR set)
  • The Ultimate Rock 'n' Roll Creation (unknown date)

Fictional "Unreleased material"

  • Here's More Tap
  • Flak Packet
  • Lusty Lorry
  • SEXX! (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Hernia
  • Shark Sandwich (1980?-1981?-1982?) Picture Disc. Long rumored and then confirmed in 1998 by internal record pressing company employees to have been prepared for release four (possibly five) times. It was said that the pressing plant initially encountered color printing problems with the red separation in the picture of the band members. Then the location of the album's spindle center hole was changed by the band to place the hole strategically over the pants fly location of a band member in the group picture on the disc. The hole change resulted in the album being completely unplayable because the hole was not located off center in the album. This required new artwork and pictures of the band for correct hole location in the next version. By the time the technical difficulties were overcome, the last two versions were obsolete, after drummer Shrimpton exploded onstage and Besser quit. Industry insiders related that the complete pressings of the four (possibly five) separate versions of the picture disc album were shredded and the plastic chips dumped offshore for a fish reef. One album plant employee reportedly said that record company executives referred to the versions as "the jaundice version, the "pre-Smalls-hole-change" version, the "bad hole" version, the "good hole/Shrimpton" final version(it is unknown whether this was a full release pressing or just a prototype run), and then last version known as the "frowning shark"/Besser artwork version. No copies of these picture disc pressings or the corresponding album sleeves are known to exist.

Fictional "Unfinished/unknown"

  • Nigel Tufnel's Trilogy in D-minor, including song with the working title "Lick My Love Pump"
  • David St. Hubbins' / Derek Smalls' Saucy Jack, a musical based on the life of Jack the Ripper
    • The title song from the musical was released in 2009 as a free MP3 download from the official Spinal Tap website

Fictional "Solo releases"

Nigel Tufnel

  • Nigel Tufnel's Clam Caravan (1979)
  • Pyramid Blue (unknown date)

Derek Smalls

  • It's a Smalls World (1978)

Ross MacLochness

  • Doesn't Anybody Here Speak English? (unknown date)

In popular culture


  3. Spinal Tap reunite, The Age, 26 April 2007.
  4. Petidis, Alexis, "Still Smelling the Glove", The Guardian Weekend 30.05.09 p. 26, "The Back From The Dead album is out on 22 June"
  8. Babayan, Siran. "Spinal Tap: Unwigged and Unplugged at its House of Blues Press Conference," L.A. Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-03-03
  9. Billboard, Allmusic
  10. [1],

External links

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