Study Guide

This Is Spinal Tap Setting

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Because the boys are on tour throughout the entire movie, there aren't really any single locations that get a ton of play. But there are a few places where some crucial events go down, so, let's take a gander at those.

The Atlanta Hotel

In the hospitality suite of the hotel, there's a little party being thrown for the band, apparently on the recording label's dollar.

It's here that we first get a serious inkling that there may be some trouble in paradise. Polymer Records is not cool with proposed album cover for "Smell the Glove," and it's creating some bad feelings between Ian and Bobbi, Between Ian and the band, between the band and Bobbi—really, between everyone and everyone else.

It's also an awfully swanky place. Why is that important? Well, we're still pretty early on in the tour. By showing the band living the high life here, and then gradually having to put up with smaller and shabbier locations, we can more easily get a sense of their fall from grace.

Well, okay, they were never all that graceful. Their fall from middling popularity—let's put it that way.

Shank Hall

At their Milwaukee stop, Jeanine joins the crew, and immediately begins to ruffle feathers. To be fair, she doesn't really do much wrong. She's simply loving and supportive toward David. A little too controlling and new-agey, perhaps, but her aura's in the right place.

Nigel isn't loving it, though. Right off the bat we can see his disdain, and sense his disapproval that she's doing any more than popping in to say hello. This is also when the sample album covers arrive. The ones that look like a two-year-old could have designed them. The band isn't happy, and we can't say we blame them.

So, all in one fell swoop, we get to see the band's growing dissatisfaction with their manager, and we're introduced to his eventual replacement.

Milwaukee works in mysterious ways.

Lindberg Air Force Base

Aside from a brief appearance by the great Fred Willard (look for him in just about every other Christopher Guest movie ever made), this scene stands out as featuring the performance where Nigel finally wigs out. And no, that doesn't have anything to do with the mop of gorgeousness on top of his head. That thing is totally real.

But Nigel was never going to walk out on the band when things were going well. If they were still playing a big venue before a sold-out, excited crowd, he would have stuck out his tongue and done his thing.

It had to take a truly miserable experience for him to call it quits, and that's exactly what we've got here. A venue that isn't built for musical performances, an audience that could care less about the group, and this weird Lieutenant guy who seems to be paying them a bunch of backhanded compliments. Sounds like things are ripe for a freak-out.

Also, the fact that this takes place on a military base is perfect. The armed forces are all about regulation, routine, being clean-cut and courteous. Rock and roll is the exact opposite. So it makes sense that Nigel's patience would finally sink while he's treading in such foreign waters.

The Stage

Not one stage in particular, but all of them. They sort of blend into one after a while anyway, don't they?

This is where every member of the band is truly comfortable; this is where they were born to live. We can see all of the troubles melt away when they're up there doing their thing. You know, as long as girlfriends aren't showing up mid-rehearsal, or band members aren't throwing guitars and storming off in a fit of anger.

Even if we're not in love with their lyrics, or their style of music, the stage is where the characters endear themselves to us more than at any other time. They are totally committed to what they're doing, they're good at what they're doing (kinda), and they're having an absolute blast. You definitely can't question that.

The fact that they killed it so hard in their musical performances is probably the main reason the actors have actually performed as Spinal Tap in real life hundreds of times over the years. Rock and roll nuts—or perhaps just aficionados of hilarious comedy—are still lining up to catch Nigel, David and Derek screaming their sexist, racist tunes in person.

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