When it comes to quotable endeavors rock and roll is not very high up on the list but oddly, a rock and roll movie, 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap, is very much quoted. Probably the most quoted line is from a scene where Spinal Tap lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) demonstrates to documentary film director Marty DeBergi (Rob Riener) how much more powerful his amplifier is than that of other bands. The volume control of amplifiers range from a setting of 0 to a high of ten but Nigel’s custom amp has volume knobs that go to eleven. “These go to eleven “has been quoted many times by musicians over the years and not just to brag about how loud they can get but for a wide assortment of things and activities where more is best.
When Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) lobs a derogatory sexual term at a hotel clerk (Paul Benedict), he calmly responds, “I’m just the way God made me,” invoking the nature verses nurture argument. One of my personal favorites occurs when the band runs into an acquaintance played by Howard Hesseman in the lobby of the same hotel and are told, “we’d love to stand around and chat, but we’ve gotta sit down in the lobby and wait for the limo.” In other words, I’d rather do nothing and wait then continue to speak with you guys. This line clearly demonstrates the brotherhood among professional musicians. When told by their record label their choice of album cover art was rejected due to its inappropriateness, Nigel and band mate David St, Hubbins (Michael McKean) reflect on the observation that “it’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
When I was in high school Columbia Studios shot a low budget motion picture at my school that had the shooting title; The Young Graduates. Several of my friends and I appear as extras in the film playing high school students, as I am a Method actor. One of the stars of the film was a young Bruno Kirby who appears in This Is Spinal Tap as their rudly ignored limo driver. He takes their lack of interest in his personal hero, Frank Sinatra, in stride and explains to Marty DiBergi, ” When you’ve loved and lost the way Frank has, then you know what life’s about.” Indeed.
One of the final notable quotes in the movie and one of the greatest rock and roll quotes of all time is drummer Mick Shrimpton’s (R.J. Parnell) brutally honest confession; “As long as there is, you know, sex and drugs, I can do without the rock and roll.” This is especially poignant if you’re a rock musician as a great many of the drummers you’ll meet invariable will tell you they’re really into playing Jazz. Sex and drugs are fine but if that’s all I wanted and didn’t care about music, I’d just become a pimp.