Reviewed on this page:
Lenny And The Squigtones - Spinal Tap - Break Like The Wind - A Mighty Wind - Back From The Dead
A mock hard rock band, the subject of Rob Reiner's first feature
film, which has inspired Python-like loyalty among its many fans
(including yours truly). Eight years later, rather than make a film
sequel, the three stars (and composers) put out a follow-up CD without Reiner. They followed that up with a video, The
Return Of Spinal Tap, and in 1995, they released out with a CD-ROM composed of the original film plus some
The three lead actors have been involved in a myriad of side projects; Harry Shearer ("Derek Smalls") is probably the busiest,
doing everything from voices on The Simpsons to his own National Public Radio show. I haven't listed many of those
efforts, though I have reviewed the complete works of Lenny And The Squigtones.
There's an excellent Spinal Tap fan site.
David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), lead vocals, guitar;
Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), lead guitar, vocals;
Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), bass
Lemmings (Various Artists: 1973)
On this National Lampoon parody of the Woodstock festival, Christopher Guest contributes parodies of Bob
Dylan ("Positively Wall Street") and James Taylor ("Highway Toes").
Lenny And The Squigtones (Lenny And The Squigtones: 1979)
Michael McKean first got wide recognition as Lenny on the 50's-based sitcom Laverne & Shirley. After a couple
of singing performances on the show with his partner Squiggy (played by David Lander), they got the chance to cut their own
album. Recorded live at the Roxy in Hollywood, they churn out a bunch of pretty funny parodies of 50's rock ballads ("Night
After Night," "Squiggy's Wedding Day"). In between, there's plenty of schtick and patter, and most of that is funny as well
("So's Your Old Testament," "Babyland" - an incredibly corny poem in honor of Squiggy's mother Eva). The satire's not nearly
as sharp as Spinal Tap, the retro backing is conventional, and the 70s produced way more 50s nostalgia than anyone needs,
but by the same token, this is about a million billion times better than anything by Sha Na Na. Tap connection:
Christopher Guest is credited on guitar as Nigel Tufnel, marking the first appearance of the character; he may have been
involved in the writing too, but my copy doesn't list composer credits. Bonus spurious Tap connection: though I've read that
the album contains an early version of the Tap classic "Heavy Duty," I don't hear anything of the sort here.
Spinal Tap (1984)
Everyone talks about Tap's lyrics, but the musical parodies are
just as clever: 70s bombast and pretention on "Rock 'N' Roll
Creation," 60s cornball on "(Listen To The) Flower People,"
ripping off classical music on "Heavy Duty," and the Druid rock of
"Stonehenge." Just try and listen to the call and response between
bass and keys on "Big Bottom" without cracking up. In case you
aren't familiar with the lyrics, they're the best rock parodies
I've ever heard, surpassing even Frank
Zappa's. The only song not featured in the film, "America," is
a relative disappointment, but the songs are full length, not the
snippets you get in the film, so it's worth getting even if you own
the video. (DBW)
Break Like The Wind (1992)
A monstrous disappointment. Track after track plays out the same
joke - grandiose, meaningless lyrics - the best of these is "The
Majesty of Rock." Musically, it sounds just like contemporary hard
rock: it's not identifiable as parody. The galaxy of guest stars
(Cher, Slash, Joe Satriani, Dweezil Zappa - Jeff Beck is drowned in a sea of lesser
guitarists) confuse matters even further. The single "Bitch
School" is slightly more clever, but the only really good track is
"Christmas With The Devil." (DBW)
A Mighty Wind (Various: 2003)
McKean, Guest and Shearer reunited again in this film spoofing the early 60s folk craze: they wrote many of the songs
and make up one of the three groups featured, the clueless traditionalist Folksmen (presumably modeled on the Kingston
Trio). The other groups are the starry-eyed couple Mitch & Mickey (clearly based on Ian
& Sylvia) and the impossibly perky New Main Street Singers (very much like the New Christy Minstrels).
The soundtrack is made up of songs performed in the film, ranging from dull to very funny. The Folksmen have the most sharply
satirical material - the fumbling social comment "Skeletons Of Quinto," the well-meaning stereotype "Loco Man" - as
well as a hilarious cover of "Start Me Up," though "Blood On The Coal" never gets
rolling. The New Main Street Singers songs are indeed hokey ("Potato's In The Patty Wagon"), but that one joke doesn't
go very far, and "The Good Book Song" is the only one of their tunes that's actually fun to listen to.
Meanwhile, the Mitch & Mickey songs aren't recognizeable as parody at all, apart from the unfunny "Ballad Of Bobby
And June": "One More Time" and "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" are perfectly respectable love songs, while
"When You're Next To Me" is not quite at that level. The concluding title track, sung by all three acts, is a mild
dig at protest songs like "Blowin' In The Wind," but like many songs here, doesn't find anything
much to satirize.
Back From The Dead (2009)
Sort of a greatest hits, largely remakes of Tap tunes ("Heavy Duty" featuring Keith Emerson).
It's a fine line between stupid and