early 1964, guitarists David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel
formed The Originals. In late '64 they founded The
Thamesmen with bassist Ronnie Pudding (formerly with
The Cheap Dates) and drummer John Pepys (formerly with
The Leslie Cheswick Soul Explosion). They released their first
single, Gimmie Some Money in '65. After they toured
with keyboardist Jan van der Kvelk, they changed their name
to The Dutchmen. After going thru various name changes,
including The Ravebreakers, The Doppel Gang, The
Silver Service, The Bisquits, The Love Bisquits
and The Tufnel-St.Hubbins Group, they finally settled on
Spinal Tap and released their 1965 single (Listen To The)
Flower People, written by Pudding. In '67, Pudding
left and was replaced by Derek Smalls (formerly with the all
white Jamaican band, Skaface). That same year Spinal Tap
released their self titled first album (released in the U.S. as
Spinal Tap Sings (Listen To The) Flower People And Other
Favourites) which went gold. Their follow up album, We
Are The Flower People sold poorly. They toured Europe in
support of The Matchstick Men, developing a harder twin
guitar style. In '69, they released the live album, Silent But
In '72, drummer Pepys died in tragedy and was replaced by Eric Childs (formerly with Woolcave). They recorded and released Brainhammer and Blood To Let in '73. In '74, they recorded and released Intravenus de Milo. In '75, they released their concept album, The Sun Never Sweats, with keyboardist Ross MacLochness (formerly with Kilt Kids) and replaced drummer Childs who died in a sudden tragedy with session drummer Peter James Bond. In '77, they had their first hit single in the U.S. with Nice And Stinky from their 1975 live in Japan album, Jap Habit. In '80, the group signed with Polymer Records, replaced drummer Bond (who had died with tragic suddeness) with Mick Shrimpton (formerly with the Eurovision Song Contest house band) and released Shark Sandwich. In '82, they released Smell The Glove (also known as The Black Album). Director Marty DiBergi interviewed the group on film over the course of six years and finally in 1984, the documentary This Is Spinal Tap was released. In 1992, the band recorded their comeback album Break Like The Wind with side line help from Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani.
Spinal Tap (Flower People)
"These Go To Eleven"
Spinal Tap - 1967 Megaphone
Spinal Tap Sings (Listen To The) Flower People And Other Favourites - 1967 Megaphone (U.S. release)
We Are The Flower People - 1968 Megaphone
The Incredible Flight Of Icarus P. Anybody - 1969 Megaphone
Silent But Deadly - 1969 Megaphone (Live)
Brainhammer - 1970 Megaphone
Nerve Damage - 1971 Megaphone
Blood To Let - 1972 Megaphone
Intravenus de Milo - 1974 Megaphone
The Sun Never Sweats - 1975 Megaphone
Jap Habit - 1975 Megaphone (Live)
Bent For The Rent - 1976 Megaphone
Tap Dancing - 1976 Megaphone
Rock 'n Roll Creation - 1977 Megaphone
Shark Sandwich - 1980 Polymer
Smell The Glove - 1982 Polymer (The Black Album)
Heavy Metal Memories - 1983 Metalhouse
This Is Spinal Tap - 1984 Polydor (Soundtrack)
Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight
Rock And Roll Creation
Cups And Cakes
Gimme Some Money
(Listen To The) Flower People
Hear 'n Aid - 1986 Mercury
Break Like The Wind - 1992 Dead Faith/MCA
The Majesty Of Rock
Just Begin Again
Cash On Delivery
The Sun Never Sweats
Rainy Day Sun
Break Like The Wind
Stinkin' Up The Great Outdoors
Christmas With The Devil
All The Way Home
Still Working On This Page
Derek Albion (b1941): Derek joined Tap in 1967 after the
departure of Ronnie Pudding, who had left the group for a solo
career. A former member of the all-white Jamaican band Skaface,
Smalls was a student at the London School of Design (beginning at
age 17) and a member of groups such as Milage and the bar band Teddy
Noise, a power duo in which he learned the value of playing loud.
Derek grew up in Nilford-on-Null and was not as musically inclined
as his bandmates at a young age. His first girlfriend was an exotic
dancer named Miriam, and he enjoyed boxing for relaxation. After
Tap's 1982 tour of the United States and Tokyo, Smalls found himself
trapped in Japan for eight months when even hypnosis could not help
him find the hotel where he had left his passport. He made the time
pay off by developing a taste for Orientalia, a passion that
continues to this day ("if you've ever at his East London Docklands
flat, check out his collection of ceremonial robes!" says the 1992
official fan club newsletter). During his stay, Derek says he spent
"nights in many hotels with women of many nations. I took to playing
bass in the subway stations, but they don't like the bass in Japan.
It's too low for them." (RL) Later performed in North England pub
circuit in various Tap tribute bands. (GW) Also dabbled writing
jingles in Flemish for the Belgian milk board ("If it was any
richer-it would be cream!"), although he wrote a similar slogan for
the Milk Marketing Board while at the LSD. (LT) Used proceeds to
purchase two uncompleted flats on the docks of London after Tap's
1982 tour. In 1988, Derek replaced Geoff Hough in the Christian
hard-rock band Lambsblood, whose members included Moke, a former Tap
roadie. (HR) Like Nigel, a collector of fine cars, including at one
time a Lamborghini (which he lost in a divorce settlement), a Land
Rover and a Chevrolet Monza. (TR) A championship caliber Monopoly
player and orchid and rose grower (he wrote on the Tap Web page, "It
may sound strange for a bloke like me to have a green thumb, but my
own personal hybrid, the Big Bottom Rose, was given 'best of row' at
the Chelsea Flower Show"), he was portrayed by DiBergi as the
mediator of the band during its turbulent 1982 U.S. tour. (TS) He
was known for always seeking the "rational explanation" of any
situation, and for his sarcastic asides. When Jeanine arrives to
join the band in Milwaukee, for instance, he comments to Nigel,
"Visitor's Day, isn't it?" Earlier, in Atlanta, when Ian explains
that Polymer has delayed release of "Smell the Glove" to experiment
with some "new packaging materials," an exasperated Derek comments,
"They got monkeys opening it or what?" Besides his affinity with
lukewarm water, he also feels a kinship with snakes, keeping several
as pets (including a large boa named Clarence). "They are my soul
brothers, in a way. There is the slinky quality to them, which I try
to apply to my stage persona." Derek made his film debut before the
opening credits of Marco Zamboni's "Roma 79" (1976). Derek in 1998
achieved his dream of working with children, landing a job as a
"floater" at a primary school in Los Angeles (VH1). He also worked
as an assistant crossing guard.
April 14, 2003
Christopher Guest doesn't especially like hearing his movies - This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and, opening Wednesday, A Mighty Wind -- described as mockumentaries.
The 55-year-old multi-hyphenate artist argues that while most of his films are shot in documentary style, they aren't intended to mock anyone or document anything. They're reality-based, not in a network-TV sense, but one that allows the assorted dog shows, heavy metal concerts, community theater productions and folk reunions to serve as backdrops for comic character studies of people obsessed with their work or hobbies. Of course, it's much easier for journalists to label them "mockumentaries" and be done with it.
A Mighty Wind imagines a scenario in which a group of folk musicians - 40 years removed from the genre's heyday - are brought together as part of a tribute to their recently deceased manager and financial mentor. The interpersonal dynamics on display are at once touching and hilarious, especially those leading up to the long-awaited reunion of singing sweethearts Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara). Baby Boomers will get the biggest kick out of A Mighty Wind, but, typically, the comedy crosses all generational boundaries.
Movie City News interviewed Guest last month in Los Angeles. A separate interview with co-writer, co-star Eugene Levy follows tomorrow.
MCN: Audiences of a certain age are going to have a blast trying to guess which artists inspired the Main Street Singers, Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey.
CHRISTOPHER GUEST: There were a lot of groups like that in those days ... the Back Porch Majority, the Rooftop Singers, the New Christy Minstrels, maybe a half-dozen groups of a dozen or more people, and they made records that almost all sounded the same. There were tons of trios the Kingston Trio Peter, Paul & Mary. Then, there were all the duos Ian & Sylvia, the Farinas.
MCN: You seem to have a personal relationship with the music, though.
CG: This was the kind of music I played myself, in Greenwich Village, when I was living in New York in the '60s. I played at the Bitter End and in Washington Square, so I didn't have to do a lot of research. We picked these three types of groups, because they represented different kinds of folk music.
MCN: What happened to the lone protest singer Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs?
CG: It probably would have added too much baggage, because the undercurrent of their music was so serious. That's not what the story's about. We use folk music as a backdrop for a story about these characters and how they're trying to get back to that life.
We projected that on top of the main thing, which involves the situation with Mitch & Mickey. It's very emotional, and that emotion is what's at the core of the movie. You couldn't lay a heavy civil-rights thing on top of that.
MCN: Mitch & Mickey reminded me of Ian & Sylvia, and the fabled break-up of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and how folkies would obsess over their relationships.
CG: There also were Jim & Judy and the Farinas, and on and on. There was always some kind of drama going on around the duos. And, because their songs often were about romance, it only heightened the drama. So, when Eugene and I were writing the story, we put this emotional element at the core of the film.
MCN: There must be something endearing and timeless about the genre. The XM and Sirius satellite radio services even have channels dedicated to folk music.
CG: It's out there. There are young people playing folk music on campuses. Every major city has its own folk scene and folk clubs.
MCN: Within the cultural milieus described in your films, the characters display an almost cult-like obsession with the dog shows, community theater and heavy-metal scenes. It's their world, and almost nothing seems to exists outside of it.
MCN: But, you're not mocking these people, as some critics seem to think?
CG: No. But I am interested in the notion that people can become so obsessed by their world that they lose sense and awareness of how they appear to other people. They're so earnest about it. But that's true of so many things.
MCN: How do you come up with your ideas?
CG: I don't work with high-concept things that start with a premise, "Wouldn't it be funny if there was this spy who met a ..." For me, it could be, "What about people who sell shoes? That must be a bizarre world ... when they meet at conventions and talk about shoes."
That sort of thing fascinates me. Someone sells urinal cakes on the road. There are these worlds out there and it doesn't matter what it is. They're fascinating.
MCN: The characters are extreme, but also very recognizable.
CG: We populate the stories with people who share certain traits. Invariably, someone will say, "I know that guy." Every world has odd people. After Waiting for Guffman came out, people would come up to me and say, "I know that guy because he was my theater teacher in high school."
But, there are 180,000 people like that out there. It's not about one person. That's human behavior, and it's what I like to watch. I like to sit in the park and watch people.
MCN: I was struck by the smiles on the Bohners (John Michael Higgins and Jane Lynch). They were part of a contemporary New Christy Minstrels-type group, but they could have been part of a cult.
CG: With the Main Street Singers, there's this overlay of "What the hell is going on here? Why are they so happy?" Then, there's their thing about color therapy.
MCN: There's a very fine line between wholesome and creepy. Laurie Bohner, for instance, has no problem admitting that she once starred in porn films.
CG: I've always wondered about those groups, who sing in theme parks. What's really going on there? There's a kind of forced bliss.
So we give you a glimpse of this color religion the Bohners are into. That's the kind of thing we add to the characters.
MCN: Was there much of a learning curve for the actors playing these musicians?
CG: No, they understood immediately. I said, "You know the kind of group where there's this vaguely, almost religious thing where they're always very up."
Parker Posey's amazing at it. There was a bit more of a back story to her character, but, all we learn about her is that "she was on the street" before joining the Main Street Singers Sometimes, the more you don't say about someone, the better it is.
MCN: I once covered a ventriloquist convention in Las Vegas, and all of your movies remind me of that experience.
CG: I'd kill to do that. I did a little bit of ventriloquism in Best in Show. In fact, I found a journal from my family that went back 200 years, and one of my great, great, great, great ancestors was a ventriloquist, in London in 1802.
It was eerie because I did ventriloquism when I was a kid. I never had any training. The voices just came to me.
MCN: Working with the same group of actors must be helpful.
CG: These are people I trust implicitly. I revere their talents and they're good friends. What could be better than getting to play with your friends, literally.
MCN: I imagine you're able to communicate by shorthand?
CG: They're miles ahead of me. There's not a lot of explaining. Everything's at a pretty high level of communication.
MCN: You have a core of fans that will see anything you make on the first weekend. It takes other people time to discover your movies. There's a delayed response.
CG: With Spinal Tap, we didn't do anything in the theaters, but it's done extremely well over the last 20 years in video. Best in Show has done extremely well in video.
The movies have a way of seeping out there over time. We don't put them in 2,000 theaters. It wouldn't work that way.
MCN: How about the marketing ... posters that remind audiences of your other movies.
CG: It's all up to me. It's simple and to the point.
How else would they know what to look for? There aren't many familiar names.
MCN: Besides collaborating with Eugene Levy on the screenplay, you also put his character through an emotional wringer sort of a cross between late-Bob Dylan and early-John Denver.
CG: We've been working together for about eight years. We both came up with the same idea for Mitch. Because it played so much against type for Eugene, we both saw it as a challenge ... a stretch.
April 16, 2003
The role was a departure for Levy, who's made a tidy career for himself in Hollywood playing variations on SCTV news anchor Earl Camembert. The addled musician - half of the legendary singing-sweetheart duo, Mitch & Mickey -- is nothing at all like the Great North American Doofus character he's practically trademarked in such studio productions as American Pie, Bringing Down the House and Father of the Bride. But, that will hardly come as a surprise to fans of Levy's other SCTV stand-bys: Bobby Bittman, Stan Schmenge, Sid Dithers, Bruno the Hunchback and Rockin' Mel Slurrup.
In addition to
their work together on A Mighty Wind, Levy and
Guest co-wrote and co-starred in
Waiting for Guffman, Best
in Show and TV's D.O.A. Both considered Mitch to be something
of a "challenge" for the 56-year-old native of Hamilton, Ontario.
Like Guest, though, Levy didn't have to do a lot of research for his assignment in A Mighty Wind. He paid his folk dues as member of the Northern Lights ("Tears Are Not Enough," on the "We Are The World" album) and, later, performed in the original Toronto cast of "Godspell" with Victor Garber, Martin Short, Gilda Radner, and Andrea Martin. He also composed "God Loves A Terrier" and "Terrier Style" for Best in Show.
MOVIE CITY NEWS: So, how much of a stretch was it to play Mitch, the befuddled folk singer?
EUGENE LEVY: The greatest thing about doing this movie was that Chris and I both were involved in folk music in the '60s. I had a group, but I don't think it was at the same level as Chris, because he's an amazing musician.
The caliber of my musicianship was at the level of kids at school just picking up guitars and getting some gigs. But, doing the research for A Mighty Wind -- listening to the groups again -- took me right back.
MCN: Mitch & Mickey reminded me of your fellow Canadians, Ian & Sylvia. Anyone else?
EL: Richard and Mimi Farina also had a reputation of being the sweethearts of folk music, more so even than Ian & Sylvia. Richard and Mimi had a softer, more delicate, innocent kind of a sound. But, it's really about any married couple that performs together, and then has to live together ... Sonny & Cher.
I thought this was kind of a charming way for Mitch & Mickey to go. Their music always had a love theme to it.
MCN: The era depicted in A Mighty Wind seems to pre-date the Dylan-goes-electric and angry protest period in folk music.
EL: Yeah, it takes place in the late '50s, early '60s. We had to cheat a little bit. To go back that far, our characters would have to be in their 70s.
So, these groups probably would have had to be popular in the mid-'60s for the timing to be right.
MCN: The Main Street Singers reminded me of groups like the Pozo-Seco Singers, the Rooftop Singers, We Five, the New Christy Minstrels and Highwaymen, who had hits with songs like "Michael (Row the Boat Ashore)," "Green, Green," "You Were on My Mind" and "Guantanamera."
EL: Yeah, by the time you heard the Serendipity Singers do "My roof has a hole in it, and I might drown ..." on the radio, the folk movement was on its way out. Then, it was folk-rock and the Byrds ... I was into folk between about 1963 and 1973.
MCN: I imagined that the musicians who populate A Mighty Wind are some of the same people who booed Bob Dylan for going electric at Newport. The Bohners seemed to be possessed with something almost demonic.
EL: Chris and I spent a lot of time developing the characters and making them work for the story. Our outline alone was 30 pages long.
We tried to take the characters into different sorts of places, and give them a little bit of insanity. We wanted to add a demonic quality to these white-bread characters and their white-bread sounds.
MCN: If they weren't still singing folk songs, the Bohners (John Michael Higgins and Jane Lynch) would be leading a cult somewhere, with their color-based religion.
EL: Michael's character ... both of them, really ... were really very scary. And it was all in the guise of these happy-go-lucky, up-with-people songs.
MCN: Movies, like A Mighty Wind and Best in Show, are lumped under the general heading of "mockumentary." But I don't ever get the feeling that you and Chris are mocking anyone.
EL: That term really bothers Chris. We don't pick a subject to mock or skewer. SCTV was described as a "biting satire" on television, but I saw it more as a character-driven comedy.
The characters were part of the storylines that ran through each show, and then we went outside the studio to the town of Melonville, with Mayor Tommy Shanks, and there would be elections. We created a universe around those characters.
MCN: I still break out in a smile just thinking about the Schmenges and Bobby Bittman.
EL: These movies are all about characters, too ... putting them into a context. A Mighty Wind is like a documentary, because the camera follows the characters around.
It doesn't create a story you start in one place and end up somewhere else. Our edge isn't razor-sharp or cutting. It's much softer.
MCN: The audience certainly roots for Mitch & Mickey to get back together in song, at least.
EL: This is a subject Chris and I both loved. We're not putting it up for ridicule.
MCN: The dog owners and trainers of Best in Show might not agree.
EL: There was nothing inherently, bitingly satirical we wanted to do about the world of dog shows and dogs owners. The characters in Best in Show loved their dogs the same way real dog owners love their dogs when they put them in dog shows. We weren't sending anything up there. We were just reflecting something that was real, and we just followed our characters.
MCN: The popularity of your truly reality-based movies seems to define the term "word-of-mouth."
EL: That's one of the reasons they don't release them like they do Bringing Down the House or other commercial comedies that open in 2,000-3,000 theaters. The studios don't think that movies that are a little off-center will play well in Middle America or America, in general. They only think they will appeal to a small core of hip people.
MCN: But everyone I know who's found Best in Show loves it. They can't wait to rent Guffman.
EL: Personally, I think that if they had released Best in Show in 2,800 theaters, it would have done great business ... OK? Without star power, the studios don't know how to market pictures like this.
People might have gone out to see Best in Show just because it was about dogs. If they had, I'm sure they would have been surprised by how it made them laugh.
MCN: It's taken a while, but when people see the name, Eugene Levy, on a billboard or commercial for a movie, they assume it is going to be funny. I suppose American Pie was the movie that did that for you?
EL: I can feel it happening, but maybe it's because I'm doing better work. American Pie was a charming film ...
MCN: Jim's dad could have been played as yet another doofus father. But, he really was a great father.
EL: Yeah, he was. At first, I wasn't anxious to take it on, because the part wasn't written the way it turned out. It was just a kids' movie and kind of out there.
The Weitz brothers asked me how I wanted to change the character. We'd sit down and do some improvisations, and that was the way the scenes turned out, mostly. The Weitz' are really quite brilliant.
MCN: Not many real-life dads would be nearly as willing to help their sons cut through all the anxiety of achieving manhood.
EL: I wanted him to be a well-meaning father. I didn't want him to become one of the boys, or join in the sex deal. I wanted him to be removed and supportive of his son.
When you come down into the kitchen and find your son humping a pie, you just don't take out the belt. It was, 'Well, how do we deal with this. We'll just tell your mom we ate it all."
MCN: Were the Weitz' looking for an Earl Camembert archetype?
EL: They wanted me for this movie because they loved my work, and I think SCTV was a big part of it. For some reason they saw the fit between me and my character long before I did.
They were quite flexible about me reworking the character. They gave me carte blanche.
MCN: That was very smart of them.
EL: I think so, too. The writer, Adam Herz, also went along with the changes, and it became part of the process.
|Long after even the most celebrated
guitarists of this age have been forgotten, their picking hands
turned to putrid dust, Nigel Tufnel will be hailed for his
manifold contributions to rock and roll. Tufnel's brilliant
two-decade plus stint as lead guitarist with England's
now-legendary Spinal Tap has earned him an eternal place in the
pantheon of rock guitar legends. His pioneering use of such
techniques as "hair popping," his virtuosic facial contortions,
and his gut-wrenching solos on anthems like (Tonight I'm Gonna)
Rock You Tonight have delighted millions and caused thousands of
guitarists to set themselves ablaze.
Nigel was in rare form during our all-too-brief conversation, from which the following exclusive, private lesson was culled. Composed, candid and virtually overflowing with phlegm and keen insight, the personable guitarist demonstrated why, as repulsive pretenders come and go, he and Spinal Tap remain magnificent, if malodorous, fixtures in the world of hard rock.
There are reports that you've devised a Nigel Tufnel Theory of
Music. What exactly is this theory?
GW: How do
you incorporate harmonics into your playing?
other new developments on the fingerboard front?
them soon. My Nut Cozy is great, because
if you bash your finger down here [Photo L] it's soft.
night I was playing up here [Photo M], and my hair, by mistake, got on the strings [Photo N]. And what I discovered, by accident, is that this contact
triggered an organic overtone. You see, if something like metal
touches the string, it's not organic. But if it's part of your
body, it's totally organic, and it sets off a very beautiful
resonance. All the great players are aware of these things.