Album Of The Week – May 9, 2022

This week brings one of heavy metal’s all-time classic albums. There’s a bit of a celebration in order for it as the album was just certified double platinum in the US. But shiny things on walls don’t really matter when we’re talking about one of heavy metal’s greatest statements.

Dio – Holy Diver

Released May 25, 1983 via Warner Records

My Favorite Tracks – Holy Diver, Gypsy, Rainbow In The Dark

The debut effort from Ronnie James Dio’s newly-formed band was a big deal from the word go. Dio had made his mark with turns in Rainbow and Black Sabbath and was stepping out on his own to take control after arguments over live album mixes and such. Dio would secure the services of former bandmates from both groups – Jimmy Bain from Rainbow on bass and drummer Vinny Appice from Black Sabbath. Rounding out the group was a younger hand, guitarist Vivian Campbell.

Holy Diver entered a landscape in 1983 where heavy metal was growing to become a major force in the music world. Hair metal was well on its way to taking over the decade, thrash was emerging from either US coast and even the beginnings of extreme metal were showing up. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal had already launched its most successful bands and the foundation for power metal was laid down.

Dio would enter the landscape along those lines, with a melodic-driven, classic approach to metal. It wasn’t a massive departure from work done in Rainbow and Sabbath and it brought the older form of metal into the new age. The music would also offer elements of fantasy in theme and lyrics, something that stood a bit apart from the subject matter of hair metal or thrash.

While the album is a heavy metal monolith, it’s also an easy piece to get into at 9 tracks in 41 minutes. Let’s have at it.

Stand Up And Shout

It’s an up-tempo offering to open the proceedings. While the song’s main riff would be at home on a Scorpions album, the song is given an extra bit of kick by the rest of the band. The song offers a positive, uplifting message – it’s one of many motivating tunes that would come from Dio and became one of his calling cards. And Vivian Campbell offers the first of many electric solos he would perform in his time with the band.

Holy Diver

There is a bit of an intro here that serves a bit of an anticipation-builder for the album’s title track and its signature song. Then the band launches into a mid-tempo ass kicker while Ronnie sings about some messiah figure on another planet or some such shit.

There isn’t a lot I really need to say – Holy Diver is one of heavy metal’s best songs. This is the top of the mountain, in 1983 or any other year really. It is every bit the masterpiece it is made out to be.

Gypsy

A high-flying number with Vivian going off from the word go, the song goes on about that kind of bad girl you just can’t help getting tied up with. The song has been a bit under the radar compared to other Dio standards but it’s always been a favorite of mine.

Caught In The Middle

The pace keeps going with another song about conquering inner doubt and rising up. For all of the talk about negative theme and energy in heavy metal and music in general, Dio always provided a fair amount of “self-help” type of stuff that always got left out of those conversations. Songs like this were at the forefront of heavy metal’s motivating power.

Don’t Talk To Strangers

Often highlighted as a personal favorite by many, we get a slow-builder to change things up a bit. After a quieter first verse, the band launches back into the heaviness and pace. Vivian is really putting on a show here without any hint of wankery, it’s some very solid guitar work all over the song. Ronnie has said the song is about his distrust of people after his Sabbath experience but the track is really about not taking candy or rides from strangers, which we 80’s kids were brought up to avoid.

Straight Through The Heart

This stomping number turns the heaviness up to 11 and lives up to its title. Ronnie apparently wrote the song about the woeful love life of their recording engineer. Suffering always makes for the best art, even better when it’s someone else’s suffering. Learning the easy way is great.

Invisible

This haunting tune delves into the issue of feeling lost to the world. Even in dealing with the tough issues of confusion and trauma, Dio still manages to impart an uplifting conclusion to the proceedings. And it’s more brilliant shredding from Vivian, something not in short supply through the album.

Rainbow In The Dark

The album’s second single has become one of Dio’s signature anthems alongside the title track. It’s another song Ronnie wrote after his acrimonious split with Black Sabbath and the darkness of that time period led to one of his greatest triumphs. Everything on the track works like magic, even that synth line that stands out like a sore thumb.

Shame On The Night

We close the record with a slow burner that uses the day and night as symbolism for life and death, light and dark. Again Dio offers triumph over the evil and darkness. The music provides a bit of atmosphere to contrast from the general heavy attack but still also stomps its way through the track.

That wraps up Holy Diver and one of heavy metal’s finest moments. Dio would go on to establish a legacy nearly three decades long before his death in 2010. The band on the debut would not hold, led by the acrimonious departure of Vivian Campbell in 1986.

But nothing can diminish the legacy of Holy Diver. The album is a cornerstone in the foundation of heavy metal and its influence is felt to this day. The album got its first US platinum certification in 1989 and just recently received its second certification. And no matter the sales, it is always at the forefront of heavy metal discussion. When someone new to metal asks for a list of recommended albums to explore the genre, Holy Diver is always toward the top of that list.

Revisiting The Legacy Of This Is Spinal Tap

On Monday I talked about the soundtrack to the movie This Is Spinal Tap. Today I’ll talk about the movie itself.

Of course, before I get into the main event, rest in peace again to Ric Parnell. Parnell played Mick Shrimpton in the movie and was the drummer for the 1984 album as well as the 1992 effort Break Like The Wind. Parnell died just a few days ago at age 70.

In terms of movies about music, there honestly are not many that measure up to This Is Spinal Tap. The “mockumentary” was a battle to get funding for and film, and then was a slow-burner that edged its way to cult classic and then eventually immortal status. While there are a handful of music films that are held in the highest regard (The Last Waltz comes to mind), there are few, if any, that do for rock and metal what Spinal Tap did.

The movie is a laugh riot, but the jokes aren’t the kind of setup-punchline thing. Much of the movie was done improv style and the jokes are left in a deadpan form for whoever wants to pick them up. Anyone else saying some of the stuff in the movie would come off just plain dumb, but it’s the most brilliant comedy when delivered in the movie.

And of course the film’s greatest legacy is that it’s almost not really a parody. There are many tales of rock stars seeing the movie and not finding humor in it – Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and The Edge of U2 are a few who thought the movie was so spot on that it wasn’t funny. Many musicians have recalled their own “Spinal Tap” moments on tour, the fake band’s name is now a term for real life happenings. And even the idea of having a black album cover would come to fruition – while Spinal Tap’s Smell The Glove didn’t get traction in America, Metallica’s “Black Album” seven years later would be the best-selling album of the 1990’s. That probably has more to do with Metallica than with Spinal Tap, but the parody band were openly cited as inspiration for Metallica’s cover.

And that’s really the thing about Spinal Tap – they’re pretty much just another band from the era of rock and metal. They informed the scene as much as they provided commentary on it. Rob Reiner went to see Judas Priest live as part of his homework to make the movie. And tell me that you don’t see Iron Maiden all over Spinal Tap, they’re almost the same damn band. Spinal Tap provided legitimate influence to countless bands over the years, and every big band has their “Spinal Tap” story of some absurd event almost too silly to be real.

This Is Spinal Tap is a movie that has entertained many rock denizens in the 38 years since its release and it has also bore real influence even as what was originally a mock band. The movie just rolls from start to finish with a completely packed guest list and absurd gag after absurd gag. It entered the general pop culture lexicon in many avenues – Harry Shearer’s gig on The Simpsons led to a Spinal Tap episode, Fran Drescher reprised her role as Bobbi Fleckman on her hit 90’s sitcom The Nanny, the esteemed Mick Fleetwood actually risked life and limb to become a Spinal Tap drummer for a spell in the early 2000’s, and Christopher Guest has helmed a series of award-winning mockumentaries in the same style of Spinal Tap. This led to a huge mash-up in 2003 on A Mighty Wind, where Guest mockumentary regulars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara joined the other Spinal Tap primary players and a host of other Hollywood talent in a folk revival mockup that garnered a similar reception to Spinal Tap.

There is no questioning the legacy This Is Spinal Tap has left on the rock landscape. To wrap up I want to recall three of the movie’s most famous scenes. This isn’t a list of “my favorites” per se, honestly the whole movie is my favorite. But these scenes are the ones that people go back to and that people who don’t even know Spinal Tap at least have heard of the references.

Hello Cleveland!

This scene is an absolute laugh factory – the band are getting ready to go on stage to a very energetic crowd in Cleveland and begin their journey from backstage. The only problem is that backstage to stage is a journey longer than one of Skyrim’s longest dungeons. The band get lost at multiple points and have to ask for directions from an employee, but even that doesn’t get them on stage. The band are lost in a broken down labyrinth.

This is one of the many scenes that have happened to countless musical acts in real life. I can’t locate the exact text now but the scene might have been inspired by a similar gaffe by Tom Petty. Even if not, rock stars and luminaries from every genre of music have their own Hello Cleveland! Stories.

These Go To 11

This scene doesn’t need much exposition – I’d imagine it’s the most famous line from the movie. Nigel is showing Marty an impressive guitar collection (the sustain!) when the Marshall head that goes to 11 is shown.

And it’s not just the concept, it’s also in the delivery – when Marty suggests that 10 could be made louder, Nigel simply chews his gum for a moment and then remarks “these go to 11.” Just amazing delivery.

This is the phrase that people know from the movie even if they don’t know the movie. It’s the signature line and it’s why we’re all here.

Stonehenge

It’s all there – the band break into their epic, brought out to revive flagging attendance numbers on tour. Everything is going great, then a Stonehenge monument falls from the sky that isn’t big enough to use as a footrest. The aftermath sees manager Ian Faith quit the band and a path to oblivion unfolds – that is, until Sex Farm hits the charts in Japan.

Stonehenge is everything that goes wrong with stage props, something that happens to bands all the time. But Stonehenge actually did happen to a real band, just in the opposite fashion – in 1983, Black Sabbath had to cancel several Canadian shows on their Born Again tour because their Stonehenge replica was too big to fit in venues. And the funniest part is that one didn’t influence the other – Spinal Tap had a draft version of their Stonehenge gag before Black Sabbath’s tour. It’s just one of rock’s freaky coincidences. Spinal Tap would twist the bit and do the “too big” version in 1992 at their Royal Albert Hall performance.

Any time I go back and watch the movie, it’s always the Stonehenge scene that has me on the edge of my seat. It’s the movie’s most pivotal moment and the biggest turning point for a band slowly flailing away on a tour that isn’t working. Everything before builds up to Stonehenge and everything after is a result of what happened. The whole scene, sadly not entirely represented in the clip, is really the point of the movie.

And there we have it – one of the greatest movies of all time and one of rock and metal’s most important moments. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the film in the future, this is a well that there is plenty more to go down before hitting bottom.

After all, what’s wrong with being sexy?

Judas Priest – RnR HoF Class of 2022

I’ll have at a quick post today to discuss the unexpected but very welcome news that came down yesterday – Judas Priest will be among the inductees to the 2022 Class of the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

The induction is kind of surprising. Priest were on a months-long fan ballot with other acts and did not place well in the results. The institution behind the Hall of Fame has always stated that the fan ballot is only one component of selection and so the group saw fit to grant Judas Priest induction.

In fact the group is being inducted in a different category from the typical “performers” one. Priest are being inducted via the Musical Excellence category. This is not a very big deal, despite some of the wankery being aired on social media about it. There are several different categories for the HoF so getting in by way of this one is not some huge issue.

With induction to the HoF comes the issue of who exactly gets in. In the case of Judas Priest, the following members will be inducted – current members Rob Halford, Ian Hill, Scott Travis and Glenn Tipton will be enshrined. Along with them, former members K.K. Downing, Les Binks and Dave Holland will also be inducted.

This does leave a few people out, of course. Original Priest singer Al Atkins won’t be inducted and I’m sure he’ll have something to say about it. Halford’s replacement in the 90’s Tim “Ripper” Owens also will not be enshrined, and I’m sure will be gracious as he often is about such things. There are a smattering of other members with some contributions but the Rock Hall generally just gets the classic-era names in for induction.

There are a few points of potential drama with a few of the names on the former members list. I won’t even get into one of them, I don’t know how that’s gonna play out but hey, they’re inducting him so I guess that’s decided. In the case of K.K. Downing there has been some past acrimony over his departure, but there’s no point in getting into all of that now. Early indications are that Downing is very happy about the induction and Rob Halford has already extended an invitation for Downing to be there so I’ll just play the part of the optimist and hope it all ends well.

But in the end drama is just drama, the point still stands – Judas Priest will be in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I wasn’t really expecting to see the day, I’d honestly given up on the institution years ago. I’ve deliberately avoided writing posts about who I think are the biggest snubs and things like that – I would prefer to just not give a shit about the whole thing. But I will set all that aside to celebrate the very deserved induction of one of my favorite groups and one of heavy metal’s pioneering outfits. It is fully earned and finally realized, and may the world celebrate the glory of Judas Priest later this year at their induction to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Upcoming Music – May the Fourth be with you

The title has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but it’s time to look at another pile of lead singles for upcoming releases. There is more music coming out than I can keep up with but that’s a good problem to have.

Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here

Skid Row were promising new music last month and have delivered. This is the title track to the new album due out on October 14. It marks the band’s first full-length album in 16 years.

It was pretty anticipated to see how Skid Row would sound on record with former DragonForce singer ZP Theart on vocals – and well, that anticipation will continue because the band have jettisoned Theart and replaced him with Erik Gronwall. Apparently Gronwall made waves awhile back with a cover of the Skids classic 18 And Life and now all of a sudden he’s fronting the band.

The song is a nice tune, it’s a cut from the cloth hard rocker that does recall the band’s glory days. Gronwall is the fourth singer for the group since the departure of classic-era singer Sebastian Bach in the 90s. I’m as curious as anyone why the band decided to switch singers yet again but it might be a while before anyone gives detailed accounts to the music rags about whatever went down.

Without detailed information, the singer switch feels like an attempt to capitalize on the buzz generated by Gronwall’s cover song performance. Maybe the band heard him and thought he’d be a better fit, I don’t know. If only there were a suitable singer around who could live up to the past performances of Sebastian Bach…

But anyway, the coming fall promises a new full-length and we’ll see what the band can get up to with another entry in their revolving door of singers.

Hank Williams Jr. – .44 Special Blues

The venerable Hank Jr. is releasing a new album of blues cuts. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Rich White Honky Blues is due for release on June 17.

Taking on blues standards is an interesting choice for Bocephus, but it’s not at all far removed from his own roots. The blues were a big influence on country and Jr. has been vocal about his appreciation for the blues in the past. Now he is offering up a full album of the blues and he certainly sounds like he knows his way around the genre.

IV and the Strange Band – Inbred

If Hank Jr. wasn’t enough, June 17 will see the debut release of his grandson Coleman’s band. Southern Circus is the first album from the next in line of the Williams family legacy. The son of renegade outlaw Hank III was preparing a fully self-released effort last year before reconsidering in the wake of the considerable buzz he generated. This new, fully produced effort represents a more polished first step forward.

Inbred is a song about the Fugate family of Kentucky. I’ll link the Wikipedia for anyone curious, though the title should give you a clue. The song is fine, it won’t set the world on fire or anything but I like the direction this seems to be going. It’s imperative for a Williams to go their own way and it sounds like Coleman and company will be doing their own thing. It has a polished southern rock/maybe “hipster” country feel to it and that’s fine by me. It’ll be very interesting to see how the musical path of IV unfolds. Even with going his own way, it is most likely to be his father’s fanbase that will line up early to see what Coleman has to offer.

Note – the group have released a newer single since I began this post, I decided to retain my original text.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Imbolc Dawn Atop Yns Wydrn. Ice Melts As The First Resplendent Rays Of Spring Pour Over The Horizon

Ok, that was a mouthful. This is a new track from my favorite artist in recent memory and is in advance of her new instrumental album EG2 – Dowsing Voice, releasing soon on Friday the 13th. The album is being released in physical form but its digital presence will be kept exclusively on Bandcamp, hence the unusual preview format.

This song, as with surely everything else on this instrumental (though with voice being used as an instrument) work, features the use of atmosphere and texture to create soundscapes. It is a different listening experience from the standard verse-chorus structure of standard songs but it’s musical direction I’ve been leaning more into in the past few years, probably with Emma being my shepherd to that. Emma conceived the album while in Wales in early 2020, just before the world broke apart. It’s also great timing for a release, even an unusual one, as Emma just performed at the Roadburn festival a few weeks prior and her performance was a hot topic of conversation from the fest.

Billy Howerdel – Poison Flowers

The A Perfect Circle guitarist will be releasing a solo album titled What Normal Was on June 10. The song is a nice example of gothic alt-rock or whatever it is, I’m not entirely sure. But it’s a pretty cool song and will command attention as Billy launches a solo tour through the same month as his album’s release.

Oni – Secrets

Newer metalcore brood Oni are preparing to release a new album Loathing Light on June 17. “Brood” may be a deceptive term as the band proper is comprised by a sole member, vocalist Jake Oni. Oni receives help in recording with longtime friend Mark Morton, guitarist of Lamb Of God. Morton’s bandmate Randy Blythe supplies guest vocals to Secrets, as does another unexpected guest, punk legend Iggy Pop. The track is a star-studded romp, we’ll see what the full album holds next month.

Septicflesh – Hierophant

The long-running Greek symphonic death metal outfit have prepared their eleventh album Modern Primitive for release on May 20. Septicflesh have become leaders of the symphonic element in death metal and from the sounds of Hierophant they will likely keep their momentum going with their new release.

Lamb Of God – Wake Up Dead

This new track from LoG is not a precursor to a new album or anything – it is a standalone release and a cover of Megadeth’s iconic song from 1986. Lamb Of God have been touring with Megadeth on the “Heavy Metal Tour of the Year” for a few years now (COVID-delayed, of course).

The band handles the song in true-to-the-original fashion, executing it with thrash precision rather than translating it into LoG’s groove-oriented approach. The band had a helping hand in the effort – Dave Mustaine joins in on vocals and guitar. It is a nice effort and also a placeholder for that new Megadeth album that Dave says is supposed to be out in July yet we haven’t heard anything new about in awhile, much less a teaser track.

Dylan Gers – Moon Rise

This single marks the debut from Dylan Gers, who is the son of Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers. The song is a minimalist piece that is not at all related to his father’s work. It’s a different sort of listen but something I can stand to hear more of, it’s not out of place with other things I’ve been getting into as I get on in years. There is no word about an album or anything else yet from the younger Gers.

Liam Gallagher – Better Days

I’ve already previewed one song from Liam’s upcoming May 27 album C’Mon You Know, but I figured I’d drop this third single from the record considering that we’re getting a double-dose of Liam on the 27th. Not only does the new studio album drop but also seeing release is a live 2020 set Down By The River Thames, which Liam and company recorded on a barge floating the river as a means of holding a concert during the COVID lockdown era. The event was filmed then released as a limited streaming event and will now be available on wax and digital.

That live set will feature Liam solo as well as Oasis tracks, though the bulk of the focus will be on Liam’s new studio effort. Better Days is an interesting tune that, to me, stands out more than the other preview tracks from the new record. The video is extremely well-done and so far this song appears to be a highlight from the new album. Liam is gearing up for a headlining set at the upcoming Knebworth festival, the site of Oasis’ great triumph almost 26 years prior (my thoughts on that set’s official release here). While he will revel in the glory days of Oasis, he now will also have plenty of his own songs to insert in the set as well.

That does it for this month’s edition of upcoming releases. Time keeps flying and so do the new songs and albums. Perhaps the next edition will finally feature a new Megadeth song, we will see.

Album Of The Week – May 2, 2022

I finished this post last Wednesday and got it all put together and scheduled yesterday, May 1. Just as I was about to head off to bed I checked my socials one last time and got unfortunate news very much related to my post today.

On May 1st, 2022, long-time drummer Ric Parnell passed away at the age of 70. Parnell was involved in a large variety of projects over his 50-plus year career, including Atomic Rooster and also being the drummer on the hit song Mickey by Toni Basil. But Parnell’s most well-known work would come as one of many to occupy the drum throne of British heavy metal legends Spinal Tap. Parnell played on the soundtrack I’m discussing today and also portrayed drummer Mick Shrimpton in the motion picture. Parnell would outlive his fictional counterpart nearly 40 years.

Condolences to the family and friends of Ric Parnell. Today I’ll do as I originally intended to, which is look at his most celebrated work.

I’m back after a bit of time off. I took some time to acclimate to a new work schedule. That’s pretty well sorted now and I’m ready to get back to business.

This week is the first time I’ll be offering up a movie soundtrack as the AOTW. Of course, this is a bit more than just a soundtrack. It’s not a compilation of songs with a few highlights and a lot of filler like most soundtracks. It’s a full-on offering of songs written for a movie and also performed by the cast. The band is fake but also became very, very real and are one of the rock and metal’s defining legacies despite being conceived to make fun of the scene.

There is none more black, and none more iconic

Spinal Tap – This Is Spinal Tap

Released March 2, 1984 via Polydor Records

My Favorite Tracks – Hell Hole, Stonehenge, Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight

It’s not totally unusual for a band to be contracted to record songs for a music-centric movie soundtrack. It is very unusual for the same actors in the movie to be the ones to also record the music. It worked in the case of Spinal Tap, who featured Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, who had already played together for several years and had conceived the Spinal Tap idea for a TV show pilot in the late 70’s. Harry Shearer, who had worked with McKean through the 70’s in another comedy group, joined in along with director Rob Reiner to give life to the Spinal Tap concept. The band was rounded out by some musicians – drummer Ric Parnell (again, RIP) and keyboardist David Kaff. Both Parnell and Kaff would assume roles in the movie as Mick Shrimpton and Viv Savage.

For simplicity and lore’s sake, I will be referring to the band members by their stage names in this discussion.

The original release of the This Is Spinal Tap soundtrack comprises 11 tracks (mostly) from the motion picture. A 2000 reissue offers a bonus track and is available on Spotify (I will not be covering the song today). A 2009 release called Back From The Dead does feature many of the songs in re-recorded form but should not be confused with the movie soundtrack.

Hell Hole

Opening the track is a song that was actually released as a single, complete with music video. Hell Hole is a great mid-tempo rock track that outlines the ups and downs of “making it,” then wishing for the simpler pleasures of being a pauper. The grass is always greener on the other side. The song features Nigel Tufnel handling the verse vocals while David St. Hubbins tackles the chorus.

Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight

The song that opens and closes the movie finds its spot as the second track of the record. It’s a splendid rocker that doesn’t seem like it has any business being as good as it is. The guitars, lyrics, keys and rhythm section are firing on all cylinders through this high-octane tune that gets both concert and film crowds going.

Heavy Duty

A proper heavy metal tune from Spinal Tap, this song goes hard and heavy and is all about the rock. It is totally one of those cliched “rock” songs which is so silly yet so good, something that serves the band and movie doubly well. They just want to make some eardrums bleed, and have accomplished the goal. It does seem to be pure coincidence that this Heavy Duty and Judas Priests’ song of the same name were both released in 1984. One probably couldn’t have taken from the other given the concurrent timelines and the obscurity of Spinal Tap pre-film. It’s certainly fitting but by no means is there any greater link.

Rock N’ Roll Creation

A track that feels NWOBHM-inspired or perhaps a “precursor to power metal” cut. It plays a role in the film when bassist Derek Smalls cannot release from his pod in time and has to hang out inside for most of the performance, only getting out when the others get back in at the end. The song is the genesis of rock and roll so of course it is cannon to me.

America

One song that did not make it into the movie, America is simply about the awe of a British band discovering the size and scope of America for the first time. The tune begins very slowly, perhaps betraying the actors’ future participation in another mockumentary as a folk outfit. As the song builds it suddenly shifts into a riff that 100% sounds borrowed from the first two Iron Maiden albums. Nothing says America like …, uh, anyway, on to the next song.

Cups And Cakes

This tune got a brief airing in the film on the radio that also put the band in the awkward spot of being in the “where are they now?” file. The song is utterly goofy and doesn’t really move the needle on the soundtrack but was a pivotal piece of the movie.

Big Bottom

One of the movie and by proxy album’s signature cuts, the song features both guitarists wielding bass guitars along with usual bassist Derek. It is probably the only time in recorded music history that guitar players actually sought to be bass players.

Big Bottom is a favorite of many from the movie and is a laugh riot through the praise of ample rear ends. It’s probably a pointed shot at the heaps of sleazy love songs populating the 1980’s but it’s a damn good time no matter what it is. The all-out bass assault with Viv’s keyboard embellishments just throw the whole track into overdrive. Big Bottom was the b-side to the Hell Hole single and, looking back, probably should have been the lead feature.

Sex Farm

I almost called Cups And Cakes the dumbest song on the album but I quickly held up because that isn’t true. Sex Farm is crude, rude and – well, pretty damn good. Not every good rock song needs to be a thesis statement or a pithy philosophical musing – some great rock songs are about the dumbest shit. The song that saw Spinal Tap rebound from a near-fatal end in the movie also lifts the soundtrack with its dumber than dogshit quips about sex and farms.

Stonehenge

While not “long” by any practical measurement, Stonehenge serves as Spinal Tap’s “epic” song. It tells a story and builds from a haunted intro into a full-out rock attack outlining the lives of those Britons who lived at ancient Stonehenge. It’s also one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, a topic I’ll save for a near-future post.

The song has elements of NWOBHM and what would come to be known as power metal. It builds from a quiet, haunting intro and launches into a melodic, rollicking tune that puts historical and fantasy elements on display. The song stands fine on its own but really can’t be separated from one of the movie’s signature events.

Gimme Some Money

This song is an offering from the band’s past before Spinal Tap was christened. The band performed as The Thamesmen in the apparent height of the British Invasion, as this song is absolutely cut from the same cloth as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and the whole 60’s British scene. It’s quite well-done, another one of their works that doesn’t feel like it has a right to be as good as it is. And of course it’s absolutely hilarious.

Also – The Thamesmen is a great name, someone should get that together if it hasn’t been done already.

(Listen To The) Flower People

The final song on the album is also the first offering from the properly-dubbed Spinal Tap, who jumped into the late-60’s psychedelia phase before charting a course for rock n roll. One one hand it’s not my favorite tune of the collection but on the other it’s a pretty well-done effort that does recall the music of the time (though not my most well-versed period of music, admittedly). This one does feel a little too on-the-nose humor-wise where the jokes in the movie and other parts of the soundtrack are allowed to land on their own. But again, still a nice song to round it all out.

This Is Spinal Tap stands on its own in the realm of movie soundtracks. Of course there are iconic soundtracks out there, they were huge especially in the 80’s. But to have the actual actors in the film record their own music and make it work and also fit in to the film is just an unbelievable feat.

The songs work in the movie, of course, but they also stand on their own. Though Spinal Tap’s legacy will always be the now legendary film, the songs have been talked about worldwide and covered by a who’s who of rock greats over the past 38 years. Spinal Tap themselves have toured and recorded again and again since and have become their own part of the institution of rock.

I’ll have a different post on Wednesday but on Friday I’ll do the obvious and discuss the movie This Is Spinal Tap in more detail. For all of the talk about rock and often the 80’s scene that I and others do, so much of it was informed by this off the wall and at the time obscure mockumentary that wound up taking on a life of its own and being its own influence on the life and times of 1980’s rock and metal. But in the wake of that discussion, the music of the film can’t and certainly shouldn’t be ignored.