What's Your Most Spinal Tap Moment?
Orginally printed in Guitar World, July 2005.
Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Gibbons, Angus Young and more share their most insane rock-and-roll stories ever!
After watching the “Stonehenge” scene in Spinal Tap, with the midgets, and seeing Alice Cooper incorporate a hanging act into his show, I thought, Why not fake the execution of a midget onstage? The one midget actor who could free himself for an eight-month tour turned out to be an alcoholic. He showed up late; he was drunk… It got to me after a while. So one night when he wanted to get on the tour bus, I threw him into the luggage compartment. Somebody grabbed me and said, “What you’re doing is not only illegal but inhumane!” I lost it. I yelled: “He’s my fuckin’ midget and I’ll fuckin’ do what I want with him!” There was a silence, and then a small voice emerged from the luggage compartment: “He’s right: I’m his midget and he can do what he wants with me.”
Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was a consummate practical joker, though not a very subtle one. One time, he shat in the dip sauce at some record company event. It was interesting standing there and watching the executives indulge.
In my wild years, my wife Sharon used to accompany me on tour to prevent me from committing adultery. Some nights, she waited up for me in our hotel room. One time, I was so drunk I’d forgotten all about her presence, and when a lovely Japanese girl chatted me up, I thought: Fuck me! Sex with a gorgeous Eastern girl is one of my big fantasies, so I’m not letting this one go! When we got into the hotel room, Sharon wasted no time: she decked the Japanese girl with one right hook. In the morning, I woke up alone in the bed, a bunch of Alcoholics Anonymous brochures beside me.
BILLY GIBBONS of ZZ Top
Somehow I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to get a huge stage set and “take Texas to the people.” We had a stage in the shape of the state of Texas, and a number of rattlesnakes, vultures and even a couple of buffalo onstage. It was authentic! It was disastrous. At first, everything went well: the rattlers behaved, the birds seemed to stand the noise and the buffalo grazed quietly—until one night one buffalo decided he’d had enough. He rammed two glass cages containing the snakes. Suddenly we had a dozen rattlers crawling around onstage. Our drummer suggested we play “something quiet, to soothe them”—a stupid idea, ’cause most snakes are deaf. We didn’t even attempt it. We just fled and left the roadies to minimize the damage.
ANGUS YOUNG of AC/DC
Many years ago, when Bon [Scott] was our singer, our manager had “a brilliant idea” to hire actors who would impersonate police officers and “arrest” us onstage. Unfortunately, this was carried out at a gig in Sydney [Australia], in front of hardcore AC/DC fans that started rioting as soon as “the police” came onstage. Minutes later, the real police force came in to control the riots. Unfortunately, we couldn’t distinguish the real cops from the fake ones. Bon thought he was hitting the fake cops, but he was messing with the real ones. One of the cops gave orders to his “colleagues,” who were, in reality, the actors! I just stood there laughing my head off, which the real cops didn’t appreciate. In short: total chaos ensued.
BILLY CORGAN of Smashing Pumpkins
When Mellon Collie came out , we played a concert in Chicago that was broadcast directly across the world. We had 10,000 people at the show, including the world press, and millions were listening in. During the third song, a generator blew out. Some of the lights still worked, but there was no sound. I thought, No problem, I’ll play an improvised acoustic set until the problem is cleared up. Of course, nobody could hear anything past the second row. Meanwhile, the sound of a hum was the only thing being broadcast—from Chile to Tokyo! Worldwide, our fans were beginning to question our new musical direction. It took only a quarter of an hour for them to fix things, but it seemed an age. A rock star without amplification is dickless: for 15 minutes, I had no dick.
ROBERT SMITH of the Cure
Singers usually don't eat before a show; you don’t want to burp while singing. But one night, I had eaten a lot, and something didn’t agree with me. So during “A Forest,” a couple eructations preceded full-on vomiting over the microphone and the monitors. It probably looked like a cross between a scene from The Exorcist and the Mister Creosote sketch from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
PETE TOWNSHEND of the Who
Our first drummer, Keith Moon, God rest his soul, was Spinal Tap incarnate. Most people know the story of how he drove his Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool. But on another occasion, Keith drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel and all the way up to the reception desk, got out and asked for the key to his room, all without blinking an eyelid. One time, on a plane, he poured the contents of a soup can into a paper bag, pretended to be sick in the bag and then to drink his own “vomit.” All of this in first class. The businessmen didn’t know what hit ’em.
RON WOOD of the Rolling Stones
I have fond memories of the night Mick Jagger and I went to see Marvin Gaye sing in New York. After the gig, we went to Marvin’s hotel suite, and Mick tried to impress him with his knowledge of soul music and the like. At least, that’s what Mick thought he was doing. After about an hour of this, our host said, “That’s great, but why don’t you tell that to Marvin? He’ll be here shortly.” Mick had been talking to Marvin’s brother, who wore the same kind of knitted wool cap Marvin wore.
Another fine moment was in the early Eighties. We were doing drugs in the dressing room when suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the door and said, “The police are here!” Holy shit! We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet. And then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in.
NOEL GALLAGHER of Oasis
People associate us with excess, but the only time I’ve actually been out of it onstage was in Philadelphia. I was plastered that night—truly fuckin’ drunk. During the first song, I made some Kiss-style “look at my giant phallic ax” gestures. The crowd loved it. I thought, Only in America. I continued in this vein, taking the piss, playing guitar solos with my tongue and all, and the fuckers loved it. That’s the only time Oasis were truly Spinal Tap. Well, it’s the only time I admit we were, anyway.
Earlier on, when I was a roadie with Inspiral Carpets, they played a show in Reading [England], where they had, for one reason or another, a replica of a cow onstage. They demanded I sucked one of its udders onstage during one song. I was too young and intimidated at the time, so I didn’t dare refuse. If I remember correctly, my girlfriend broke up with me on the spot because she thought I looked a real cunt.
TOMMY LEE of Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe got kicked out of several hotels for rowdy behavior. We usually deserved it, but there was one time I thought we were unjustifiably thrown out of a place. To get back at them, I put a turd on a room-service tray and placed it in a ventilator shaft, then turned the heat up. I imagine it took them a while before they’d discovered the source of that lingering smell.
KEITH RICHARDS of the Rolling Stones
When I recorded Talk Is Cheap [Richards’ 1988 solo debut], we shot a video in Los Angeles. The script called for a couple of tramps with dogs. The director felt a tramp should have a dog that was not only ugly or dirty but also weird or, at the very least, disfigured. His assistant suggested a lame dog. They called up some agency and the word came back: “We can get you a lame dog by noon. Which leg would you want missing?” These people were prepared to maim a dog for the sake of a fuckin’ video. I tell you, man, L.A. is one sick town.