This Is Spinal Tap has been celebrated as the ultimate metal mockumentary. But not everyone got the joke.
Aerosmith’s Joe Perry says that his bandmate Steven Tyler was not amused when he saw the 1984 film, directed by Rob Reiner and featuring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer as the group Spinal Tap.
“When we watched Spinal Tap, my wife and I saw it, and we fell on the floor,” Perry tells Ultimate Classic Rock. “It was great, every bit is brilliant as it was supposed to be, so good. Even then, we had been through it all six times. I told Steven the next day, ‘You’ve got to see this movie! It’s so fucking good. It’s hilarious.’”
The couple returned to the theater with Tyler and were surprised to see the singer have a completely different reaction from their own.
“He was squirming and squirming, and he did not laugh the whole time,” Perry says. “It was like he took the band’s side on everything. It was like he did not—he didn’t get it. He got indignant. And it was like, I couldn’t believe it.
“So, my wife and I were cracking up—and we’re watching Steven.”
Tyler explained his reaction in a Library of Congress interview that came to light in 2012. “That movie bummed me out, because I thought, ‘How dare they? That’s all real, and they’re mocking it’,” he said.
He wasn’t alone. U2 guitarist The Edge saw the reality in This Is Spinal Tap, saying, “I didn’t laugh, I wept. It was so close to the truth,” and Ozzy Osbourne reportedly thought it was a real documentary.
In related news, as we reported on February 9, 2017, Guest, McKean, Shearer and Reiner have brought a $400 million lawsuit against Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music. The suit claims the actors and director received just $98 in soundtrack royalties from This Is Spinal Tap between 1989 and 2006, despite having composed all of the film’s songs. In addition, they received only $81 for merchandise sales between 1984 and 2006, making for a grand total of $179 in earnings for the periods specified.
Shearer first filed suit against Vivendi last October, seeking $125 million in damages. His suit alerted the others to Vivendi’s alleged offenses. Reiner, Guest and McKean have since joined the lawsuit, raising the total amount in damages sought to $400 million.