A MUCH NEEDED VOID

First up, apologies to those of you who have been awaiting this review for longer than you should have awaited it. The fault was mine entirely in that I was confused because I thought I had three different albums to listen to again but it seems that I sort of didn’t. More one-and-a-bit. Let me tell you the story of a band half way between fire and ice, and an album that’s none more black.

When Polymer Records first sent the slightly dog-eared black vinyl copy of This Is Spinal Tap I was excited because I’d never received an album by a band with an umlaut in their name before. The excitement was short-lived, however, when I discovered that not one of my computer’s one hundred and fifty-five fonts has an ‘n’ with an umlaut over it. I drafted a review anyway, jogging the offending vowel mark to the left but the Editor rejected this, saying it looked like I’d dotted the ‘i’ twice. So the piece was shelved for a while, in the hope that the internet would be invented and such things would become commonplace. That’s umlauts on consonants, not Spinal Tap albums of course.

After taking the record to the local second-hand shop and being told it was worth almost a dollar, I decided to listen to the album anyway. The gatefold sleeve was unusual, with this sticker on the front that wasn’t really a sticker. It just looked like one. How clever is that!?

This is Spinal Tap LP

Six years later, Polymer/Polydor sent me another copy to review, this time on the Compact Disc medium. That was pretty confusing, because the CD case —they’re called jewel cases, but aren’t worth much either as containers or as an investment—, the jewel plastic box HAD A STICKER on the front. Here’s the puzzling part: it did not say ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ like the LP but just ‘Spinal Tap’. Did that mean that the band was not Spinal Tap any more and someone else was pretending to be Spinal Tap? I’d spilt coffee on the press release, so there was no way of knowing.

Everything else was the same, however, including the umlaut, except for the back cover. Below is a photo of both the record and the compact disc back covers. Which do you prefer? I like the disc-one because I enjoy reading stuff while I’m listening. As a result, I can say ‘The Compact Disc’s superior performance is the result of laser-optical scanning’ in German and Italian and a third language of unknown country of origin.

 

IMG_6749

Another difference between the formats (that’s a phrase you’ll need to get used to if you want to keep up with technological advancements) is the information inside the gatefold sleeve is much, much smaller on the Compact Disc. So I’m really glad I didn’t sell the LP back then, as I can now read the informative excerpt from Rocklopedia Brittanicus (page 743, if you want to look it up yourself. Should have been page 666, Ha Ha) helpfully included to informatise the band’s history. But it wasn’t very helpful because of all the many names involved. Too many to even think about, really.

All you need to know is that the main men are David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel and they wrote the songs with the bass player, sometimes with help from another guy called Rob Reiner*. Oh, the small version (on the CD, which stands for Compact Disc) the song list doesn’t include the albums the songs came from, which is disappointing if you want to track down the whole Tap catalogue, or Tapalogue**. Neither does either gatefold include pictures of ALL the albums, which is a shame for the same reason. I really want to see what the cover of Bent For The Rent looks like. Or the live album, Jap Habit, recorded, I believe, in Japan.

Crickey, I’ve discovered another difference between the C-Disc and the Record. That’s because I just found an extra sheet inside the album cover where the actual record goes. It’s got all the song words on it, which is really funny. I mean, it’s funny finding the sheet after all these years. The actual lyrics aren’t funny at all. And it’s not funny at all that the technological uptakers of the new medium didn’t get the words although they didn’t miss much, especially as some of them are quite rude.

Spinal Tap Picture Disc

Rare Tap pic disc borrowed from the Smithsonian Museum of Metal

Wasn’t the dawn of the new millennium something? Lots of new albums were released in The Year 2000 probably because they wanted to be there at the beginning of something. I received lots of new music, so much so that quite a few are still sitting in a pile. The pile is so high, I stand my telephone (or should I say, ‘landline’!) on it which is very convenient. But yesterday, when I bumped the CD tower after falling asleep waiting for my internet provider to help me get back into the web, as I was clearing up, I stumbled upon—actually, I stepped upon—a compact disc that I thought was just a mock-up, kind of ‘advance copy’ of something. You know, the white label pressings of records? This was—or so I thought—a black cover test pressing of some band trying to get in on the ground floor of the millennium. But it wasn’t! It was another copy of This Is Spinal Tap.

IMG_6751

Minimalist cover art or none-more-black promo? You decide.

This one didn’t have either a sticker, or a ‘not-a-sticker’ on the front cover. It didn’t have anything at all. In fact, if I hadn’t smashed the jewel case (not worth very much. Ha) and had to replace it, I would never have seen the photo of the band and recognised Derek Smalls’s leopard-skin tights and moustache.

So what is different about this new improved re-release of an old album? Well, in addition to the photograph UNDER the CD, which you wouldn’t find unless you either took the disc out of the case or dropped it or stepped on it, or both, there is the same picture on the back cover. That back cover just keeps on changing, doesn’t it? Crazy. Also, the record company is now Polymer/Polydor/Studio Canal, Universal Records, A Division of UMG Recordings Inc.

This is Spinal Tap gatefold

Thankfully, the song words are now included in the CD booklet, though they haven’t improved much. Also, there is a bonus track. It says ‘Bonus Tracks’ but really, there’s just one in two versions. It’s called ‘Christmas with the Devil (Scratch mix)’ and is a worthy edition to the Spinal cannon (Ha ha).

That’s all I have space for in this week’s column.

Executor’s Summary

A varied hotchpotch of tired ideas, poorly executed in a rich range of repetitive styles. That’s the review. This band is rich but deserve to be poor. They should take a rest or be executed.

The Score

11/10 (1984 vinyl edition)

10/10 (1990 Compact Disc edition)

107/8 / 10 (2000 CD edition)***

Spinal Tap CD

 

*** Loss of  one-eighth mark for not being vinyl

** Or maybe Spinalogue. Ha ha ha.

* This review is in honour of the mid-point between the birthdays of Christopher Guest (February 5th, 1948), Michael McKean (October 17th, 1947), and Harry Julius Shearer (December 23rd, 1943)

 

This is Spinal Tap DVD

Ed.: Love the stuff about the cover art, but what about the music?

VC: It’s awful. It made my eardrums bleed.

*

22 comments

  1. Sorry for the brief response, just heading to bed. Brilliant post.

    Should the last score be 9 7/8?

    Goodnight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The debate will probably go for years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. BTW, there’s a Criterion Collection version of the DVD, with lots more bonus stuff. I have both, because the OTHER DVD edition has stuff not on the Criterion.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Will have to watch out for that one. You can never have too many Tapextras.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I agree. I’m still waiting for the Reunion special to be reissued on DVD. It was only ever made on VHS. I believe on that tape, the Folksmen were opening for Tap.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. this review is an 11 ! just had to say that….this level of detail really makes me an informed buyer – thank you so much

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated Douglas. The dissemination of misinformation is my major goal. I think.

      Like

  3. I approve of the mark deduction for being non-vinyl. I like to view my CD collection in a similar way. Ha. But yes, I liked this one a lot – you seemed to have been enjoying yourself (not that I’m saying you don’t usually, of course).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An absolutely incredible post from someone who’s more than just the lükewarm water of our blogging community (see what I double-did there?). Not much I can add here, other than the fact that I bought this LP after seeing the movie on video (so probably a year after it hit theaters), and for years friends & co-workers couldn’t believe I would choose to listen to an album by a fake band. I will never apologize for loving good songs, parody or not.

    Cheers to you, Bruce. You’ve put a smile on this drummer’s face. *poof* (sorry, that was me spontaneously combusting).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Given how terrifying it must be for a drummer to engage with the Tap story, I’m delighted that you risked your life (or at least, peace of mind) by reading this humble post.
      With you on the joy of the music. Next stop, The Rutles?

      Like

  5. Bruce, if you catch me longing for the pre-internet age, please redirect me to this post. For 2 reasons:
    1. To remind me of how much easier it is now to obtain a font with consonant umlauts
    2. To remind me that pre-world wide web, I would not be reading such fine posts from my (nearly exact) geographical antipode!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Ğëöḟⓕ

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I may have to start using that G accent – once I learn how to pronounce it!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Perhaps some growly metal singers could coach you?

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating, almost worthy of AJ Weberman. For future reference see this. http://www.nthuleen.com/teach/misc/typingumlauts.html

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the very helpful link. Though I note it is lite (sic) on umlauted consonants.

      Re the AJ Weberman connection, I absolutely deny that I have been charged with aggravated assault of Nigel Tufnel’s garbage, though it is indisputably true that ‘Sex Farm’ was a litely disguised tribute to my fornicatory prowess.

      Like

  7. This album is on my “must own” list (at #11, of course!). I may have to break down and buy it online. Fun read, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do it! Being able to spin ‘Cups and cakes’ at will is a necessity in life.

      Like

  8. Polydor totally spoil that record with the orange label! I have a Wolfsbane 12″ that does the totally black thing, like totally, black – no sticker even.

    Obviously as a metal fan, this is all too close to home to laugh at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Take two Anthrax LPs and call me in the morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dude! Thanks for making me aware of this review. Quite literally brought tears to my eyes.Up till now, I had been totally unaware of umlaut-gate. As I mentioned on my site, I recently re-watched the movie. And having done that I can say one thing with complete certainty – it is 82 minutes long. Anyway, if this band ever needs a biographer, seems to me they will eventually find one.

    BTW, who are Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer? Roadies?

    Liked by 1 person

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