This Week in History: Feb 26 - Mar 4

By: David Ball

This Week in History: Feb 26 - Mar 4

In a February 25, 2000 press release, it was announced - and with no sense of irony - that vapid bubble gum singer Britney Spears would be releasing her own brand of bubble gum under the clever title: "Britney Spears CD Bubble Gum". That's right folks: the pop icon's gum variety was cleverly packaged to resemble a compact disc. I never had the pleasure of sampling her short-lived chew, but methinks it tasted appropriately tart and smelled like Charlie Sheen after an all-night porn orgy.

I don't have the energy to write about what I really think of Motley Crue drummer, Tommy Lee, but I hope he receives Clockwork Orange-inspired "ultra-violent" karma before he eventually dies of an overdose. Lee was released on $500,000 bail on February 27, 1998 after he pled no contest to the charge of beating his wife (Pamela Anderson) and son. Lee was found guilty and spent 4 months in prison; couldn't happen to a nicer swastika tattoo-wearing, skank-chasing, all-star scumbag.

In a February 28, 1986 announcement, George Michael taunted those blessed with good music taste that Wham! would be breaking up, but we'd have to wait four more excruciating months for the wimp-duo's scheduled swansong at Wembley Stadium. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but I took the talented half of Wham! at his word when he promised that he wasn't "plannin' on going solo" on the Wham! hit, "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go". He obviously lied. Michael's solo career officially began in early 1987 with his one-off duet with Aretha Franklin, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)". Unfortunately for Michael, he took the phrase "going solo" to an entirely new place when he was arrested for doing a "lewd act" in a public restroom in Beverly Hills on April 7, 1998. Thankfully, Andrew Ridgeley's post-Wham! solo career ended in 1990 after the release of his chart-bombing debut, Son of Albert. 

With all due respect to the March 2nd death of jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, I'd rather highlight the world premiere of the greatest rock documentary of all time. Woodstock? Nope. Monterey Pop? Wrong again. Gimme Shelter? Nice try... but no. Of course I mean This Is Spinal Tap, which premiered in US theatres on March 2, 1984. Sure, most see This Is Spinal Tap as a mockumentary, and it is. But Rob Reiner's largely improvised film ingeniously blurs the line between outrageous satire and sobering reality; director Marty DiBergi's (Reiner) camera chronicles a reformed, aging British metal group - David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) - as they try, and hilariously fail, to regain past glories during their North American comeback tour, on the heels of the release of their new album, Smell the Glove. Anything and everything goes wrong for Spinal Tap during their travels: record stores ban their new album because it was deemed "sexist"; gigs were cancelled; props malfunctioned; Tufnel's amp broadcasts air-traffic control reports (Jimi Hendrix had a similar problem at the end of his final Isle of Wight performance, but nobody was laughing); the band got lost trying to find the stage moments before a show; David's girlfriend tries to take over the band; they are the support act for an amusement park's puppet show; and they almost break-up.

This Is Spinal Tap generated only moderate commercial interest upon its initial theatrical run, but found cult status turned up to "11" (as in the maximum dial levels on Tufnel's amp) when it was released on video. Critics praised the movie from the get-go, but found mixed reaction within the rock community. Some, such as Eddie Van Halen and The Edge, thought the film hit too close to home and Jeff Beck once accused Christopher Guest that his Nigel Tufnel character was based on the guitar legend, which Guest denied, but we know it's partly true. The Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and was also protected by the National Film Registry. The "surviving" members (which include a revolving door of ill-fated drummers) have reunited many times since the mid ‘80s and I doubt they'll retire for good. What rocker ever does?

Next week: Patsy Cline

Video: “Stonehenge” scene from This Is Spinal Tap

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