You’ve quite likely been forwarded to this page because you mistakenly typed www.spinaltarp.com into your browser. Oops! Before bailing out to visit the real Spinal Tap website, you might enjoy this page (and will possibly want to check out my book, The Mistakes That Make Us).
“This is Spinal Tap” is my favorite film of all time. I’ve seen it dozens of times going back to 1990 or so (on what might have been a bootleg VHS tape). My book’s cover designer (Don) and editor (Tom) are also both huge Tap fans, go figure.
Of course, “Spinal Tarp” and “Spinal Pap” are two of the mistaken ways characters in the film refer to the band. If you know, you know. If you’re a huge fan of the film, you don’t need any of the words on this page… but please enjoy the collected clips.
This page is a collection of mistakes made by characters in the film. I’m not referring to “filmmaking mistakes” or “continuity errors,” as you might find on the IMDB “goofs” page for the film.
What’s a “mistake”? As I say in the book:
“Mistakes are actions or judgments that turn out to be misguided or wrong. We believe we are making the right decision at the time, but eventually discover it was wrong, whether seconds or years later… Mistakes arise from decisions and actions that produce outcomes that don’t match our intended results.”
As the film’s director, Marty DiBergi, would say… but, hey… enough of my yakkin’. Whaddya’ say? Let’s boogie.
The mistakes begin early with the limo driver, played by Bruno Kirby, holding up a sign at the airport that greets the band as “SPINAL PAP.”
During their first song on screen, Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins are both labeled as playing “lead guitar.”
The band was initially called “The Originals,” but there was already a band in the East End with that name, so they “had to rename ourselves ‘The New Originals.'” That other band then “became ‘The Regulars.'” They could have changed it back, but what’s the point?
The limo driver made the mistake of thinking the band wanted to hear what he had to say about music, particularly Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. The band puts the divider glass up to cut him off. The limo driver then makes an incorrect prediction, “I mean I would never tell them this but this is uh…this is a fad.”
The manager, Ian Faith, thinks the New York Times will write something (he was probably wrong). He also says the Boston is gig is canceled, but mistakenly says not to worry about it because “it’s not a big college town.”
The record label decides not to release their new album “Smell the Glove” because they think the album cover is sexist. The band made the mistake of putting “a greased, naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck” on the cover. Nigel Tufnel mistakenly asks, “What’s wrong with being sexy?” He’s corrected… “sex-ist.”
When not chewing his gum, Nigel puts it on his finger. When asked about it by director Marty DiBergi, who probes, “Why don’t you put it on the table?” Nigel says, “I might forget about it if it’s on the table.” I guess he’s preventing that mistake.
Later, backstage, Nigel is confused by the sandwich tray and the small bread. Ian tells him to “fold it,” but Nigel mistakenly folds the bread when Ian meant for him to fold the meat and cheese to make it fit the small bread.
“But why would you keep folding it?” an exasperated Ian asks.
During a show, Nigel goes down on his back while playing guitar and can’t get up. He needs help from a roadie.
While showing off his guitar collection, Nigel holds up a guitar and tells Marty to “listen to the sustain.” Marty says, “I can’t hear anything.” Nigel replies, “You would… if it were playing.”
With his amp that “goes to 11” in volume, Nigel mistakenly thinks that’s louder than any “10” would be because “it’s one louder.” Marty asks, “Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top…
number…and make that a little louder?”
Nigel thinks and replies,
“These go to 11.”
When trying to check into a Memphis hotel, there’s a mixup. The band and their team were put on the 7th floor with one “King Leisure” suite instead of getting seven suites on one floor. Ian makes the mistake of calling the hotel clerk, played by Paul Benedict, “a twisted old fruit” (which draws an appropriately shocked reaction from the woman working behind the desk, since that comment wasn’t nice).
In the lobby, the band thought the excited-sounding woman was there for them. Nope, it was a fan of another rock musician, Duke Fame (played by Howard Hesseman). Duke thinks Ian’s name is “Liam.” David mistakenly thinks “they were still booing him when we came on stage” after following Duke at a concert.
David tells his girlfriend Jeanine that Des Moines is “in Indiana or something.” He also thinks it’s a great idea for her to join them on the tour, which turns out to be a mistake.
The band is excited to hear their old song on the radio, “Cups and Cakes” — but after it plays, they’re sadly discouraged by the DJ saying they are “currently residing in the where-are-they-now file.”
David thinks the band has made a mistake in visiting Elvis’ grave because it’s depressing. After their mistaken attempt to sing harmony on “Heartbreak Hotel,” David makes the mistake of cursing, and bass player Derek Smalls tells him to watch his language and to show some respect.
As David recalls playing at a “jazz-blues festival,” Nigel corrects him as it was “blues-jazz really.”
When they see the new album cover for “Smell the Glove,” David mistakenly asks if it’s a “test pressing.” The band thinks the all-black cover is a mistake and “it looks like death.” It’s the real cover, non-sexist type.
During a performance of “Rock and Roll Nightmare,” the pod doesn’t open for Derek and he’s stuck inside. There’s a quick roadie response to try to help. It finally opens just as David and Nigel are going back into their pods at end of the song. Derek then gets his arm caught in it closing when trying to go back in.
When asked about the previous drummers’ deaths, Mick Shrimpton mistakenly thinks the “law of averages” suggests he will survive. Spoiler alert: He does not.
Derek mistakenly thinks he can go through (pre-TSA) airport security with a foil-wrapped cucumber in his trousers. It gets detected, of course. At least airport security didn’t make the mistake of letting metal through!
Nobody shows up for the band’s record store album promotion and signing event. Publicist Artie Fufkin thinks he “oversaturated radio support” for the event.
The band also famously gets lost backstage before their Cleveland performance. They get directions from a maintenance worker and then end up back in the same spot. He tries telling them, “There’s a little jog there” (during their path to the stage) — and Derek replies, “We don’t have time for that.”
Jeanine thinks it would have been better if the album had been mixed right… “in doubly” (she means Dolby).
David thinks the solution to their problems is to do a stage production of their song “Stonehenge” that includes a replica monument. In one of the most famous mistakes in the film, the monument was incredibly small.
The napkin that Nigel sketched it on was marked as 18″ (18 inches) and not ‘ (18 feet). The designer built it to what she thought were the specifications (the napkin). She probably made a mistake by not checking to see if the piece was really supposed to be that small. Ian says something about “When we get the actual piece,” and the designer (played by Anjelica Huston) says, “But this is what you asked for… this is the piece.”
“Fuck the napkin!”Ian Faith
And then we see the reveal on stage (and the resulting argument).
Ian probably made a mistake in using the tiny Stonehenge on stage… unless he was so upset with the band that he did it intentionally (or passive-aggressively) to make them look bad.
David complains about what happened. Ian says, “I really think you’re just making a much too big thing out of it.”
Then Derek replies with one of my favorite lines:
“Making a big thing out of it would’ve been a good idea.”
The band blames Ian. “It’s not your job to be as confused as Nigel,” he’s told by David. Ian says that his job was to do what the band told him to do — although he probably should have used a little critical thinking in that situation to avoid the embarrassment on stage.
David starts complaining about other “gaping holes” (or mistakes) in the planning of the tour, blaming Ian. Ian asks why Jeanine is in the band meeting — is that a mistake? It might have been a mistake for Ian to ask.
Ian complains that the band doesn’t handle mistakes well:
David, whenever a single bump or a ruffle comes into this little fantasy, adolescent fantasy world that you guys, you guys have built around yourselves… you start screaming like a bunch of pansy hairdressers. I mean it’s just a problem you know. It get’s solved…
Except, as Jeanine says, “It doesn’t.”
Ian says the band focuses too much on the mistakes, defending himself by saying:
“For one thing that goes wrong…one…one single thing that goes wrong, a hundred things go right.”
David suggests that Jeanine basically co-manages the band, which is a mistake in that Ian quits as a result.
In the quiet aftermath, Derek makes the mistake of raising the practical question of whether they’re going to play Stonehenge tomorrow. David yells, “No we’re not gonna fucking do Stonehenge!!!”
Later, as the band practices, David is having trouble playing his parts and they’re all getting frustrated. Nigel mistakenly refers to Jeanine as David’s wife and gets corrected. This is after David previously got mad at Ian for calling her his “girlfriend.” So yeah, “Whatever the fuck she is,” as Nigel exclaims.
During the end credits, it’s disclosed that Nigel mistakenly thinks his t-shirt is his exact skeletal insides, including the green color.