Rock and Metal Musicians Share Their Biggest Real-Life Spinal Tap Moments
The legendary mockumentary ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ celebrated its 30th anniversary this month. The film hit theaters on March 2, 1984, and became the stuff of legend. The movie followed the fictional hard rock band Spinal Tap, who experienced a string of comedic mishaps during their U.S. tour in support of their album, ‘Smell the Glove.’ The flick would prove to be so popular that Spinal Tap began touring as a real band after its release. Now, whenever anything goes comedically wrong on tour, its often considered a real-life Spinal Tap moment. Here, several rock and metal musicians exclusively share their biggest Spinal Tap moments with Loudwire:
It was on an OZZFEST in Arizona. DevilDriver was coming out onstage to a huge roar of applause and we were ready to DO BUSINESS! The rest of the band took there places and I grabbed the mic, ran out to the center of a massive stage, told the crowd to get ready to hit the dirt ….! Just as I said that, I hit a WET SPOT on the stage, fell backwards and was looking up at clear blue Arizona sky !
It took me literally a minute to realize WTF just happened to me and I got up to the whole place in applause! Thankfully it truly was a great show that day but started out f–ing ROUGH ROUGH ROUGH MAN !
FYI, they fired the stagehand who dropped the water that day. Hopefully, he learned his lesson not to play with a performers life like that! I didn’t feel sorry for him either!
The best Miss May I “Spinal Tap moment” would have to do with crowd response. I cannot remember the specific venue or city but we have a part in our set where I say, “Put your fist up and repeat after me!…” and then the song follows and the crowd sings along. One time though it went completely wrong and we lost it onstage in laughter. I accidentally said, “Repeat after me, Put your fists up!…” and then the entire crowd of thousands screamed “PUT YOUR FISTS UP!” and we lost it! We couldn’t even start the song for a few minutes because our crew and ourselves we just laughing our asses off. That was for sure our best Spinal Tap moment.
My first time returning to Ohio, where I grew up, to play a hometown headlining show with The Word Alive was in in 2011. I had my whole family out, kids I grew up with, and the show at the time was our biggest headlining show to date at just around 800 kids. I was very eager to play and to show off for my family and friends, and decided I was going to go all out for them. A few songs into our set I did a backflip off of the drum riser and over rotated. I flew off the front of the stage and crashed into the steel barricade. I was a little banged up but my pride wouldn’t let me slow down. Two songs later I was headbanging and managed to come down full force right when our bass player was raising his bass up in the air. His tuning peg went into my face right above my eye, splitting my head right open. At first I was so out of it I assumed someone dumped a water bottle over my head. Alas, it was a ton of blood shooting out of my head and running down my face. I wanted to act tough though so I finished the set before going to the hospital to get my face stitched back together. Definitely a show people won’t ever forget.
Besides literally getting lost backstage like in ‘Spinal Tap,’ which has happened more times than I’d like to admit. I had one show where the button on my pants snapped off and they fell to my feet. I play guitar so I couldn’t just stop to grab them. After I pulled up my pants when the song was over, there was no way to keep them up so eventually I just let them fall and played the rest of the show with my pants at my feet.
My real life Spinal Tap moment happened to me offstage. Before Steel Panther was the global powerhouse it is today, all of the guys in the band had to get money wherever we could. Our number one source of income was strippers. If they weren’t around, then we had to find odd jobs to scrape enough cash together to pay for our rehearsal studio. I had been friends with KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer. He knew about my situation and would try to help me get work whenever I could. Well, I got the call one day. KISS was doing an in store signing at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. on a Tuesday morning back in 1997. They were going to have 40 foot KISS inflatables in the parking lot and they needed someone to make sure nobody f—ed with them. I took the gig. I didn’t think too much about it at first but I quickly regretted my decision around 2:15AM when all the clubs closed and all my friends rolled by with all of their chicks, only to find me guarding these massive vinyl dolls. Everyone had a good laugh at my security guard detail. Needless to say, I was quite embarrassed, but in the end, I got my money and NOW look at me! No more doll watching for the Stix-man!!!
Exodus was playing in Argentina, our dressing room was in this medieval looking basement. We got lost going to the stage, we ended up back at our dressing room two times, we started laughing and started quoting ‘Spinal Tap’ right away…
I’ve also said hello to the wrong city, not knowing where I was. I was so burnt on the three-month tour, after that the crew was writing the name of the city in my setlist…
We were in Japan and I think I had some bad sushi. I was sick for days and went to the hospital for dehydration. I started the show fine and about halfway through I felt so sick and I couldn’t play anymore.
I ran for the bathroom! Nobody from the band saw this. Scott went into a rant about the next song and when he finished he expected the 4 count from me, but I was gone! I was on the floor in the bathroom puking my guts up. It was bad, but a ‘Spinal Tap’ moment!
The band traveled to New York for a music video shoot for our first single ‘Laid.’ I was so excited the night before and exhausted from a 20-hour drive. So I drank myself to sleep. The call time for video was 8AM. I shot my scenes around 10:30 as the sun was getting hot. We were in an old junkyard and they were still working around us so it smelled like burnt rubber bad. I was standing on top of an old truck in my shots. The stylist came up to me after the first take to powder my face and fix my hair. Just as she got me looking pretty I threw up all over her, myself, and my guitar. I’ve been asking for the footage for a couple years!
During a live performance of ‘Little Sister,’ a fan threw a bag of white powder onstage. I thought they were giving me free drugs, but actually it was ashes of their loved one!
Five minutes before a stand-up gig in a jam-packed club, the manager comes up to me and says the mic isn’t working. In front of several hundred people I proceeded to do comedy through a megaphone. I didn’t know whether to tell punchlines or instruct people to come out with their hands up!
We have nothing comparable to receiving a model of Stonehenge 18 inches tall or pods malfunctioning, but what is always pleasant are surprises. Once we arrived at the first gig of the tour to find no P.A. and the main “stage lighting ” was a series of chandeliers one might see in an elderly couple’s dining room. Also arriving at a club where it was uncertain as to where we or anyone else might be playing — which basement area. After it was determined, we had to break down more than a few circular dining room style tables each more than 5 feet in circumference. But … that place had everything we asked for on our rider!
There have been many ‘Spinal Tap’ moments over the years, but the most recent one that stands out happened in 2013. We were playing at a venue in the Midwest and a fuse blew in the PA system … It instantly turned off and the crowd couldn’t hear anything, but since we all perform with in-ear monitors (those things that look like we’re wearing small headphones), the band didn’t notice and kept playing because WE could still hear ourselves … So we’re up there jumping around, singing, etc., like nothing happened and all of a sudden we see the vibe of the audience change; they went from smiling and rocking out to looking at us like we were insane! Picture it: our lead vocalist, Taki, singing his heart out into the microphone totally oblivious to the fact that not a word was coming out of the PA … The people in the audience must’ve been thinking, “Why are these idiots still playing and singing when they know we can’t hear them?!” When the band finally realized that the audience couldn’t hear us we stopped, but needless to say, we felt really stupid … We laugh our asses off about it now, but at the time it was super embarrassing….SO Spinal Tap!
When I discovered Billy Sheehan, Mike Portnoy and I missed our midnight flight departure from Japan to Rio by 24 hours!
Katon W. De Pena
My Spinal Tap moment was onstage during one of the highlights of the HIRAX show. We we’re playing in a forest in the middle of Mexico at a big outdoor festival. I grabbed a lighting rig pole on the side of the stage while I still was singing into the microphone and I was electrocuted. I began to shake and make crazy faces. The audience thought it was a part of the show. They had no idea I was being electrocuted. I thought I was going to die.
The Italian fans of Saxon are fervent and volatile, which makes a great concert. In our first tour there with Nigel Glockler, the articulated semis and our bus managed the winter snow drifts but the smaller backline truck containing guitars & amplifiers could not climb through the Swiss Alpine passes to reach Milan. The Saxon crew waited for our gear, as long as they dared, to start the concert by borrowing anything remotely resembling guitars & amplifiers from the support bands. We started as late as Axl Rose (!) would when the kids would not accept more excuses. The stage curtain scrim shielded the backline but the wings were open to the balcony crowd, who were throwing cans at anyone responsible for their wait. One tinny hit Nigel, “DONK!”, who shouted, “Bloody charming! If that happens again, I’m off!” – “DONK!” Of course we did the professional business, sounding like a deafening Country Festival on borrowed weak gear.
No doubt Biff will tell of his ‘Pod’ moment. He had a racing bike in full decals on flying chains, to descend from the overhead lighting truss when we started Motorcycle Man. One of the chain motors failed so he was being tipped like a camel dismounter. He needed a microphone to be passed to him when the intro became laughably long.
Steve Dawson and I had a dry ice fog moment, when the New York Palladium had PVC stage protection from the dampness of the machine that melts the carbon dioxide frozen nuggets. Every night we should run at the audience for the aggressive effect, except there in New York, with famed musicians on the guest list, a crazed Noo Yoik crowd ready to be assailed, we slid almost into them on our asses. Heavy Metal Slapstick truly!
Prong has played a lot of weird, sad gigs over the years. We’ve never opened for a puppet show; that would have been more prodigious. From Mexican swap meets, to woodwind music schools, to tenement squat houses to gay bars, the punishment has never really ended. I have to go way back through the years to recall the worst of all.
We were billed at an opening of a disco “room” at a pizzeria in Bayonne, New Jersey. Basically the owner cleared a few tables out of the front of the joint and made, what he thought, was a classy renovation to his establishment. He bought a medium sized disco ball and hung it from a string from a ceiling fan in the middle of the room. When we loaded in, the tough “connected” looking owner grabbed me and had a talk with me in his heavy Jersey accent. “I don’t care what kinda crap you guys play, but nuttin’ betta happen to my disco ball or you ain’t gettin no fifty bucks and there is gonna be trouble!” Well we were there and we said screw and set up on the floor in this small front room with a two mic P.A. system. We were ready to go and I can see the owner and his tough buddies at a table far left of “the stage” in the corner. As I looked at him with the 20 or so kids waiting for us in front of the band, he put two fingers to his eyes and pointed to me. Well I start, saying “We’re Prong for New York” and the kids cheer and we start into “Freezer Burn”. Immediately kids start slamming. To my amazement, I see a kid get on the shoulders of another kid in a “chicken fight” maneuver and my stomach starts to churn. I yell into the mic: “NOOOOO!!!!”. The kid starts wailing his arms and what happens? Of course he punches the disco ball and it goes flying and rolls right up the “bosses” table. He loses it, jumps up and starts screaming “Everybody out, get the F— OUT OF HERE!!!” Needless to say, we high tail out of there. Of course, we didn’t get our 50 bucks, But we made it out without broken legs.
I think we’ve had more drummers than Spinal Tap but I’ve lost count.