Study Guide

This Is Spinal Tap Summary

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This Is Spinal Tap Summary

It starts out innocently enough.

Marty DiBergi has been a fan of Spinal Tap for years. He thinks they're one of the greatest and loudest heavy metal bands to ever come out of the U.K. When the band is about to embark on a U.S. tour to promote their new album "Smell the Glove," Marty decides this would be a great time to make a documentary about the band on tour. That's our film. Here's what we learn.

Spinal Tap (with David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel on lead guitar, Derek Smalls on bass), is one of the most successful British metal bands of all time. David and Nigel have known each other since they were children, and while other band members have come and gone (and exploded) through the years, the strong bond between these two has been the heart and soul of the group from its inception.

As the band begins their North American tour, they deal with the usual rock star stuff: groupies, cancelled bookings, undersized sandwich bread in the dressing rooms, creative differences, condescending management, crappy venues, technical malfunctions, and absent fans. Retailers are refusing to sell their new album because of its offensively sexist cover.


This band has clearly peaked. But the boys press on, showing off their equipment, both electronic and anatomical, and letting DiBergi interview them about what's behind their creative endeavors and why their drummers tend to die under bizarre circumstances. Hint: it's weird.

The arrival of David's girlfriend, Jeanine, causes tempers to flare. She begins to insert herself into the business side of things, which drives away their manager, Ian Faith. She also drives a wedge between David and Nigel, who will never stop laughing about Jeanine's mispronunciation of "Dolby" until the day he dies.

Nigel gives things a fair shake, but can't stand Jeanine and is visibly frustrated by the band's slow demise. During one performance at a less than desirable venue, he quits the band mid-song and vanishes for a good chunk of the U.S. tour. Things continue to go downhill, and at the end of the tour, someone asks the band if this is the end of Spinal Tap.

Ultimately, though, Nigel can't stay away. He shows up backstage before the show, and after putting up some resistance, David invites him back into the band, much to Jeanine's disapproval. Nigel saves the band from oblivion, by pointing out that the Japanese are huge Tapheads—why don't they do a tour there?

The film ends with the boys back on top of the Japanese rock world, minus their most recent drummer, who spontaneously combusted during a performance.

He can't say he wasn't warned.

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