Spinal Tap, the Movie's Bogus Heavy Metal Band, Endures a Real-Life Tour
07/30/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
It's the classic case of life imitating art. Hundreds of fans jam a concert hall in Chicago, raising their fists in homage and screaming "Tap! Tap! Tap!" Suddenly five mock-menacing musicians dart onstage and serenade the mob with "I'm living in a hell hole, I don't want to stay in this hell hole!" This is Spinal Tap, the fictitious British heavy-metal group on a real-life tour that echoes their wacky big-screen performance. "It's as if we stepped out of the movie," says actor Michael McKean, 36, who plays lead singer David St. Hubbins.
Indeed they have. Before the tour Spinal Tap was just a jest created for the mock "rockumentary" by director Rob Reiner, McKean and writer-actors Harry Shearer, 40, and Christopher Guest, 36, who play the four principal parts. But This Is Spinal Tap was such a hit that the gang decided to take their act on the road, where they wowed fans with tunes like Big Bottom, Gimme Some Money and Sex Farm.
Spinal Tap's one-week, five-city tour turned out to be more like the movie than anyone planned. At their gig in Boston rain dripped down from the Channel Club's leaky roof onto the equipment during a sound check, a fuse blew on the electric keyboard in the middle of America, and their road manager (who was to carry their luggage and guitars) injured his leg. And Shearer was stranded at the airport when the group's chauffeur was detained for not having license plates on his limo. Things got worse in Milwaukee, where a 19-year-old promoter's arrangements for sound equipment fell through: The borrowed stage monitors that were scraped together didn't work, so although the audience could hear them, the band couldn't hear one another.
Not surprisingly Spinal Tap was relieved when the tour ended on July 14. "It was great for that one hour onstage. But one week was enough," confides Shearer. These days the erstwhile rockers are back in their real-life jobs as actors, writers and comedians. Guest and Shearer begin a one-year stint on Saturday Night Live this fall, and McKean is considering his next project. "In miniature our tour took the downhill slide just like in the movie," says a relieved Shearer. "The only consoling thought was, 'We're not doing this for a living.' "
The latest sex symbol is a Nunn named Terri
Alone in her hotel room by day, Terri Nunn studies for a degree in nutrition and worries about finding a boyfriend. But when night falls 22-year-old Terri is transformed into a New Wave siren: Dressed in a black cocktail gown, with her black-and-white hair a study in contrast, she hops into the white limo that will whisk her to the theater. She struts onstage in a burst of hot light, while screaming boys crowd the edge, trying to grab one of her spike-heeled legs. "We make love and it's all the same," coos the lead singer of Berlin to the frenzied crowd. "Your eyes show nothing, no lover's flame..."
"There's a connection between me and the audience," she admits, "and it comes out of necessity." That necessity, she claims, is her loneliness. For five years Berlin struggled for survival on the Southern California rock scene and "our personal lives were fine," Terri recalls. Then came success in the form of their 1982 single called Sex (I'm A...). The joy—and their personal lives—evaporated.
"Love has been the biggest problem for everyone in the band," says Terri, in the midst of a three-month tour to promote Berlin's LP, Love Life. "Now that the music has gone through the roof, everyone's romantic life has changed. My own relationship fell apart because I was never there."
Which leaves one of rock's most electrifying sex symbols "without that special person to call at 3 a.m." Correspondence courses claim a chunk of her time: "When I'm not onstage I'm in my hotel room forgetting who I am, being a student," says Nunn. She also spends hours on the phone with chums in her native L.A. Still, touring gets lonely. "Sometimes you just want to reach out and hug your mom."
Even in pain Billy Joel won't stop the music
As any rock star will tell you, life on the road can be a literal pain. On his recent 52-city tour Billy Joel performed all 67 concerts, although he was stricken in Dallas with a sometimes-excruciating kidney stone and sustained a painful twisted ankle in New York.
Joel didn't take any drugs before performing; instead he "used the pain to help concentrate and focus on what had to be done," he says. His one analgesic: girlfriend Christie Brinkley, who accompanied him to Japan and London and quelled rumors that the relationship was less than harmonious.