- Directors: Rob Reiner
- Producers: Karen Murphy
- Writers: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
- Genres: Comedy, Music
- Actors: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Fran Drescher, Bruno Kirby
The movie has the style of a documentary filmed and directed by the fictional Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner). The documentary covers a 1982 United States concert tour for the fictional British rock group “Spinal Tap” to promote their new album Smell the Glove, but interspersed with one-on-one interviews with the members of the group and footage of the group from previous points in their career.
The band was started by childhood friends David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) during the 1960s. Originally called “The Originals”, then “The New Originals” to distinguish themselves from the existing group of the same name, they settled on the name “The Thamesmen”, finding success with their skiffle/R&B success, “Gimme Some Money”. They changed their name again to “Spinal Tap” and enjoyed limited success with the flower power anthem, “Listen to the Flower People”. Ultimately, the band found their long success in heavy metal and produced several albums. The group was eventually joined by bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), keyboardist Viv Savage (David Kaff), and a series of drummers, each of whom had mysteriously died under odd circumstances, including spontaneous combustion, a “bizarre gardening accident” and, in at least one case, choking to death on the vomit of person(s) unknown (“you can’t dust for vomit”). DiBergi’s interviews with St. Hubbins and Tufnel reveal that they are competent composers and musicians, but are dimwitted and immature. Tufnel, in showing his guitar collection to DiBergi, reveals an amplifier that has a volume knob that goes to eleven; when DiBergi asks, “Why not just make 10 louder and make that the top?” Tufnel can only reply, “These go to 11.” Tufnel later plays a somber classical music composition for DiBergi, which he says is called “Lick My Love Pump”.
At the last show of the tour, as the group considers venturing into a musical theater production on the theme of Jack the Ripper, Tufnel returns and informs them that while their American reception has ended, the group is wildly popular in Japan, and that Faith would like to arrange a new tour in that country. The group likes the idea, letting Tufnel back into the band for their final performance. Despite losing their drummer Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell) as he explodes on stage, Spinal Tap ends up enjoying great success on their Japanese tour.