Spinal Tap Hits The Road Unwigged And Unplugged 25 years after their musical mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean are back... not as Nigel, Derek and David, but as themselves.
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Spinal Tap Hits The Road Unwigged And Unplugged

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Spinal Tap Hits The Road Unwigged And Unplugged

Spinal Tap Hits The Road Unwigged And Unplugged

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. This time, the amps will not go to 11, a miniature Stonehenge will not drop from the ceiling and no drummers will spontaneously combust. But Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer are on the road again. Not as the spandex stars of Spinal Tap, perhaps the best known fake heavy metal band in history, but as, well, as themselves. Three long time friends ditch the wigs, the customs, the accents, and the electric guitars to perform songs from Spinal Tap of course, but also from "A Mighty Wind" where they starred as The Folksmen, and from "Waiting for Guffman."

If you'd like to talk with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer about their long careers, their many collaborations, their music or their friendship, give us a call, 800-989-8255, e-mail us talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site at npr.org, just click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later in the program, New York Times editor Dana Jennings is wedging a battle against cancer. Among the weapons in his arsenal, his buzz cut. But first, this is not Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer join us from the studios of NPR West in Culver City, California, and it's nice to have you today on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER GUEST (Lead Guitarist, Spinal Tap): Thank you.

Mr. MICHAEL McKEAN (Lead Singer and Rhythm Guitarist, Spinal Tap): Thank you.

Mr. HARRY SHEARER (Bass Guitarist, Spinal Tap): Thank you.

CONAN: And was I going out of the limb there? So, you guys are friends?

Mr. GUEST: No, you did so well that we really have nothing to talk about now.

CONAN: Well, good.

Mr. SHEARER: What we decided, it was a good idea. We're going on to work on that friendship.

Mr. McKEAN: Yeah.

CONAN: And this is a 30 city tour that you're going to go on. Is this going to be, you know, everybody on a bus and lots of debauchery or is it three guys, three separate private jets?

Mr. GUEST: Three - three different debaucheries for sure…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: …because we have different tastes, don't we?

Mr. SHEARER: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GUEST: No, we - yeah, we are going to do a little bus travel. Mainly, we're air borne.

Mr. SHEARER: But at our stage of the business, it's more bauchery than debauchery.

Mr. McKEAN: We're rebauchering.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEARER: Rebauchering, yes.

CONAN: And you decided not to go into character, at least not on stage. To some degree, you know, Nigel and those guys, they must be old friends by now and it must be a little sad not to have them on stage with you.

Mr. GUEST: Well, I would - no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEARER: It's sadder when they're on stage.

Mr. GUEST: No, it's much - much more sad. We did - this is Christopher Guest speaking. We did a few shows as ourselves, and it was a delight to not put on the wigs and not - and the funny clothing. And play the songs that we had written and we thought we would do it again.

Mr. McKEAN: But they still show up within the songs.

Mr. GUEST: They do.

Mr. McKEAN: There are certain things you just can't do, you know, in that street clothes voice, for example.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Do you find that the songs are different? I mean, that they're - you know, hey this is actually pretty good?

Mr. SHEARER: Well, we always wrote them with the idea that the - at least musically they'd be pretty good, lyrically they might be questionable.

Mr. McKEAN: They're still questionable.

Mr. GUEST: They're still questionable.

Mr. McKEAN: May be more so now.

Mr. GUEST: Up to the minute.

Mr. McKEAN: Yeah.

Mr. GUEST: But as we are rehearsing these songs for the show, we're finding that certain of them we're clearly re-imagining them as - for the first time, we're playing them as opposed to the choices that our characters would make in playing them, so they will be a little bit different.

Mr. GUEST: For example, we had gotten to the point where we had 19 bass players on stage…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: …at the Wembley Stadium year and a half ago, and…

Mr. SHEARER: For "Big Bottom."

Mr. McKEAN: Yeah, for "Big Bottom." And so, now we've gone, kind of, minimalist.

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah.

Mr. GUEST: Just check minimalist clown act, you know that, when the little car drives up and one clown gets out.

CONAN: And one clown gets out.

Mr. GUEST: It's kind of similar to that.

CONAN: Okay. Well, why don't we leave the listeners judge for themselves. I understand you have a tune for us that debuted originally in "Spinal Tap."


Mr. GUEST: Yes it is. That's true. In fact, this purports to be the disc debut of a group called The Thamesmen which later morphed into the Tap we know and love.

Mr. McKEAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GUEST: Did I say love?

Mr. McKEAN: Yeah, you did.

Mr. GUEST: Okay. How is it going? Can you discuss.

Mr. McKEAN: It goes like this, it's called "Gimme Some Money."

(Soundbite of song, "Gimme Some Money")

Mr. McKEAN: (Singing) Stop wasting my time, you know what I want, you know what I need ,or maybe you don't. Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?

Mr. McKEAN, Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme some money, gimme some money.

Mr. McKEAN: I'm nobody's fool, I'm nobody's clown, I'm treating you cool, I'm putting you down, But baby I don't intend to leave empty handed.

Mr. McKEAN, Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme some money, gimme some money. I said yeah!

Mr. SHEARER: Go Christopher Guest, go.

Mr. GUEST: Wah wah wah.

Mr. McKEAN, Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme some money, gimme some money, gimme some money, gimme some money.

Mr. McKEAN: Now don't get me wrong.

Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme Gimme some money.

Mr. McKEAN: Try getting me right.

Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme Gimme some money.

Mr. McKEAN: Your face is OK, but your purse is too tight

Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme Gimme some money.

Mr. McKEAN: I'm looking for pound notes, loose change, bad checks, anything.

Mr. McKEAN, Mr. SHEARER, and Mr. GUEST: (Singing) Gimme some money, gimme some money. Gimme some money, gimme some money. Gimme some money, gimme some money. Gimme some money, gimme some money.

CONAN: Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest as, well, I guess originally as The Thamesmen, later as Spinal Tap and now, well as themselves on NPR West. 800-989-8255, e-mail us talk@npr.org. Christopher Guest, that was you on - on the wah wah break there?

Mr. GUEST: Yes. We're going all analogue…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: …on this tour and…

Mr. McKEAN: Biologue in this case because you're making all the sounds by yourself.

Mr. GUEST: Yeah. I've developed a vocal wah wah pedal. Saves on electricity.

CONAN: And I did detect…

Mr. SHEARER: Difficult at dinner time though.

CONAN: Yes, it must be.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I did detect a little bit of British invasion beat in that tune, so it's…

Mr. GUEST: Yeah. Kind of Mersey side, you know.


Mr. GUEST: Well, Thames side, I guess, yeah.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation and why don't we start with - this is Belinda(ph). Belinda with us from Boston.

Mr. SHEARER: Umm, Belinda.

Mr. GUEST: Umm.

BELINDA (Caller): Hello.

Mr. McKEAN: Hello.

BELINDA: I've got one big question.

Mr. GUEST: Oh no.

Mr. SHEARER: Okay.

BELINDA: Are you going to do anything from the Lenny and the Squigtones album?

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. GUEST: We actually talked…

BELINDA: That's the very first album I bought for myself…

Mr. GUEST: Oh.

BELINDA: …it changed my entire life.

Mr. GUEST: I'm sad to hear that, but do you still have it?

Mr. McKEAN: Oh.


BELINDA: I sure do. With the poster…

Mr. GUEST: You hang on to that. That's going to be worth like $11 some day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BELINDA: I love that record. Or for that matter, anything from the Lemmings?

Mr. SHEARER: Oh wow, wow.

CONAN: A real fan and they let you make these calls from that institution, Belinda.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BELINDA: I do work for the state, thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: We actually - we briefly talked about doing "Creature Without A Head"…


Mr. GUEST: …which was the love theme from the motion picture of the same name.

BELINDA: You're getting me all excited now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: Okay.

Mr. SHEARER: What city did you live in?

BELINDA: I'm in Boston.

Mr. GUEST: Oh, well maybe for the Boston appearance, maybe we'll thrown them in, what do you think?

BELINDA: I do have tickets.

Mr. GUEST: Okay.

BELINDA: And I do a radio show here on a college station and I play you a lot.

Mr. GUEST: Oh, that's so cool. Thank you.


Mr. GUEST: Thank you. You've got so much.

CONAN: Thanks Belinda.

BELINDA: You're welcome.

CONAN: Fill us in a little bit: the Lemmings was a satirical group?

Mr. GUEST: No. Lemmings was a show…

CONAN: Oh, I'm sorry.

Mr. GUEST: …that the National Lampoon did in - I think it was '73 or 4. And at that time, John Belushi, Chevy Chase and I were part of a group that…

Mr. McKEAN: Paul Shaffer.

Mr. GUEST: …and Paul Shaffer…

Mr. SHEARER: Paul Shaffer.

Mr. GUEST: And we did a radio show and then we did this live show for a year, in New York City. And there was an album that came out of it.

CONAN: Hmm. Okay. Let's see if we can now go to Kevin(ph), and Kevin's with us from Fort Wayne in Indiana.

KEVIN (Caller): Gentlemen, how are you doing today?

Mr. GUEST: Great, how are you?

Mr. SHEARER: Good.

KEVIN: I'm phenomenal, and I have to say when I hopped in the car and heard you were going to be on, I was really, really pleased to hear that.

Mr. SHEARER: Oh thank you. It's almost like gas selling for a dollar again, isn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEVIN: Yeah, it's actually - I was happier to hear it. I'll be honest with you.

Mr. SHEARER: Okay.

KEVIN: But you know what guys, I had one question. Neal, at the top of the show, you mentioned something about Spinal Tap being a fake band, and guys, my question for you is this: When you are acting as Spinal Tap, do you see yourselves as a fake band, or tell me a little bit about that.

Mr. McKEAN: We try not to look at ourselves at all when we're…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEARER: No mirror. The no-mirror rule.

Mr. GUEST: Well, I think a little history may be in order that Michael and I started writing songs together in college in 1967.

Mr. SHEARER: God, you're old.

Mr. GUEST: And the three of us have been playing music together for 30 years.

So it's only - it's a real group in the sense that we've gone out on several tours and played, but it's an imaginary group, obviously, in the film. So there's a distinction.

KEVIN: Right.

Mr. SHEARER: And the characters we play are not real, but when we're standing on stage playing music, we're them, and we're kind of playing as they would, with their taste.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: When you go back into character, do you have to have meetings to figure out what has happened to David and Nigel and Derek in the meantime?

Mr. GUEST: Well, we usually have some little moment where we ask each other that question. Usually, there's a journalist standing there with a pencil and paper…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: …but we, you know, we have filled ourselves in a little bit. Not much has changed.

Mr. SHEARER: The last time we had to do that, we did a little short film for Live Earth, and each of us sort of manufactured the most recent developments in our lives. So we're fairly up to date.

CONAN: Because that's a lot of the process, or at least some of the process, Christopher Guest, for the movies. A lot of these people work on their back stories so that they know each other.

Mr. GUEST: No, they don't work on the back stories. Eugene Levy and I create all the back stories for the actors, and then we make the movie.

CONAN: Oh, get them to inhabit them.

Mr. GUEST: Exactly.

Mr. McKEAN: I've been making up stuff. I've been totally working on back stories.

Mr. GUEST: Yeah, but you're the exception, Michael. Don't tell Harry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah, really don't tell me.

CONAN: Kevin, thanks very much for the call.

KEVIN: Hey, thank you very much, gentlemen.

Mr. SHEARER: Good question. Enjoy your ride.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail from Mark(ph) in Frankfort, Kentucky. I'm a big fan of all three of your guests. Besides the material they've collaborated on, what are each guest's favorite material of the other two guests? This should be short.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McKEAN: Well, I like a lot of the funny stuff that Chris wrote with other people and alone in the Lampoon years, and just aside from that, you know, a short film that he did about the agents around the table. It's one of my favorite pieces of comedy writing. I don't know what that's called.

Mr. GUEST: I don't, either.

Mr. McKEAN: Okay. So good luck finding that. And…

Mr. GUEST: That's called business as usual.

Mr. McKEAN: And Harry is one of my favorite satirical songwriters. I couldn't think of just one thing from Harry. Want to hear my favorite Tom Lehrer(ph) song? I can do that. Easier to pick out my favorite Tom Lehrer…

Mr. GUEST: Well, he stopped writing 35 years ago.

CONAN: Made it easy to memorize them.

Mr. GUEST: I like all of Michael's songs. He's written, whoa, dozens of songs - there's people singing.

(Soundbite of song, "A Mighty Wind")

Mr. GUEST: And Harry's radio show is one of the great radio shows ever.

CONAN: "Le Show."

Mr. GUEST: "Le Show," yeah.

Mr. SHEARER: And I'm a huge admirer of the one Christopher Guest I've had nothing to do with, which is "Best in Show," the dog movie. And I have to second that. Michael is one of the great songwriters of our time. You should hear more of his stuff.

CONAN: We will after a short break. We're talking with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer this hour, erstwhile members of Spinal Tap. More after the break. 800-989-8255 if you'd like to join the conversation. Stay with us, it's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Twenty-five years ago, they were the trio behind Spinal Tap. Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer are with us this hour as themselves.

They're about to take their show on the road again, this time unwigged and unplugged. They are taking your calls, 800-989-8255, e-mail is talk@npr.org, and you can join the conversation at our Web site. That's at npr.org. Just click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And why don't we get some more callers on the line. This is Sheila(ph). Sheila with us from Pleasant Plains, Ohio.

SHEILA (Caller): Hello. I'm a great Harry Shearer fan. I love "Le Show."

Mr. SHEARER: Thank you, Sheila.

SHEILA: I'm listening to all three of you on this program, and I'm wondering if all three of them, if there really are all three of you, or are you all three of them?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Harry, are you doing all these voices?

Mr. SHEARER: No, no I couldn't possibly. No, they're all here.

Mr. GUEST: Release the hounds.

SHEILA: Can you all three make a tone together and so I know there are actually…?

(Soundbite of humming)

SHEILA: Yay. Thank you so much.

Mr. SHEARER: There you go. Thanks Sheila.

SHEILA: Have a great day.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Sheila.

E-mail from Joe(ph) in Minneapolis. Have you guys ever thought of making a mockumentary about fake public radio station?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Believe me, it'd be long and dull.


Mr. GUEST: There was a great idea floating around about the Mel Lyman people taking over KPLK

Mr. SHEARER: Oh yeah, back in the '70s. The problem with that idea, Neal, is the fundraising for the movie would have to go on forever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: Twenty minutes out of every hour of the movie, we'd have to be fundraising.

Mr. SHEARER: We're trying to complete this movie, ladies and gentlemen.

Mr. GUEST: Ladies and gentlemen, you can't leave the theater…

CONAN: Until such time. Collins(ph) is on the line from Milford in Delaware.

Mr. SHEARER: You pay for your other movies. Now pay for this one. Sorry, go ahead.

COLLINS: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm a big fan.

Mr. SHEARER: Thank you.

COLLINS: And this is my problem is, is most - I like to take my kids to select concerts, different things that they would like.

Mr. SHEARER: Mm-hmm.

COLLINS: Most concerts I'd want to take them to, I can't afford to. Ticket prices are $75, $100, $125 a ticket.

Mr. SHEARER: Oh, we're nowhere near that.

Mr. GUEST: Oh, we're…

Mr. SHEARER: Nine hundred dollars a show.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. GUEST: So you're out of the…

Mr. SHEARER: No, go ahead.

COLLINS: I was going to say, are you going to be playing some venues where the ticket prices are going to be reasonable?

Mr. GUEST: Yeah.

COLLINS: Where working people can afford to go?

Mr. GUEST: That's the idea. I mean, working people have to afford to play there, too. So we have to be a certain size, to - the actual capacity.

Mr. SHEARER: We don't know exactly what they're charging, but we're playing in, like theaters that are like 2,000, 3,000-seaters. We're not playing big rock-'n'-roll venues. and I think one of the reasons, Neal, that we are doing this show this way this year is because both for us and for the public, it's a more affordable venture than to do a big, you know, rock and roll extravaganza that nobody could afford at this point in time.

CONAN: Just shipping all that equipment is just a…

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah, exactly, and shipping us.

CONAN: A statistical nightmare. Yeah, well, that's another issue, got to put holes in the boxes.

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah, exactly.

CONAN: Collins, thanks very much.

Mr. GUEST: Thank you.

CONAN: And let's see if we can go to…

Mr. SHEARER: I thought he was going to ask if we were - if the show was clean enough to bring his kids.

Mr. McKEAN: I asked that question, yeah.

CONAN: We're not going there. Matt's(ph) on the phone from Livermore, California.

MATT (Caller): Hey, guys, huge fan here.

Mr. SHEARER: Thank you.

Mr. GUEST: Thank you.

Mr. McKEAN: Thank you.

MATT: I have to say "Spinal Tap" and "Best in Show" are probably two of my favorite films of all time,

Mr. SHEARER: Thank you.

Mr. GUEST: Thank you.

Mr. McKEAN: Thank you.

MATT: And the question I have about the mockumentary genre: How much of that is improv, and how much of that are you following a script and, you know, line to line?

Mr. GUEST: Eugene Levy and I create an outline. This is Christopher Guest speaking. Eugene Levy and I do an outline that's typically about 25 pages long, where we've done a description of the characters and a very intricate description of what happens in the story, and then during the scenes, there are no lines written down. So the entire film - all the films that I've done, have been improvised films.

Mr. SHEARER: And "Spinal Tap," as well. If you looked at one of these scripts, it would look like a normal movie script that the CIA had come in and redacted all the dialogue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Matt, thank you.

MATT (Caller): Thanks, guys.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Now it's the turn of Tom(ph), Tom in Sunnyvale, California.

TOM (Caller): Huge, huge fan, guys, and the music, I actually enjoy the music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM: But I'm waiting for that mocha ice rap album.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: You know, the rap scene has been pretty well parodized kind of in similar fashion. There was "Fear of a Black Hat" and "CB4," you know, both very funny movies that are about that scene.

Mr. SHEARER: And also, Vanilla Ice has now apologized for "Ice, Ice Baby."

Mr. GUEST: Which, yeah, by itself is pretty damn funny.

Mr. McKEAN: Now wasn't the film "Gladiator" really about that?

Mr. GUEST: Yes, and it was improvised.

CONAN: Isn't it fair to say also that you guys do music, you're making fun of the music you grew up with to some degree?

Mr. McKEAN: Yeah, absolutely.

Mr. GUEST: Well, I don't know if it's making fun of it. It's looking at it in a different way.

Mr. SHEARER: We grew up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: There's that extension, too.

Mr. McKEAN: You're making the air quotes.

CONAN: We were talking about the - in "A Mighty Wind," you perform as a folk trio, the Folksmen. I think it was Martin Mull who said at one point, well you know, back in the '60s, there was a real danger. That stuff almost caught on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEARER: He referred to it as the big folk music scare.

CONAN: Yes, the big folk music scare. Would you perform something from that for us?

Mr. SHEARER: Sure.

Mr. GUEST: I think we sort of have to.

Mr. McKEAN: We might.

Mr. GUEST: I think it's contractual.

Mr. SHEARER: I think it might sound something like this. It's called "Never Did No Wanderin'."

(Soundbite of song, "Never Did No Wanderin'")

Mr. GUEST: We should start that again.

Mr. McKEAN: I think so. A tiny bit, a tiny bit…

Mr. GUEST: I'll tell you why. I'm not getting entirely all the mandolin and the…

Mr. McKEAN: I think you just moved further away from it, Chris.

Mr. GUEST: I did. That's what I mean. One, two, three, and…

(Soundbite of song, "Never Did No Wanderin'")

Mr. McKEAN: (Singing) My mama was the cold North wind, my daddy was the son of a railroad man from west of hell, where the trains don't even run.

Mr. GUEST, Mr. McKEAN: (Singing) Never heard the whistle of a southbound freight or the singing of its driving wheel. No I, never did no wanderin', never did no wanderin', never did not wanderin' after all.

They say the highways just one big road, and it goes from here to there, and they say you carry a heavy load when you're rolling down the line somewhere.

Mr. GUEST, Mr. McKEAN: (Singing) Never seen the dance of the telephone poles as they go whizzin' by. No I, never did no wanderin', never did no wanderin', never did no wanderin' after all. Never did no wanderin' high. Never did no wanderin' low!

Mr. McKEAN: A sailor's life is a life for him, but it never was for me, and I never soared where the hawk may soar or see what the hawk might see

Mr. GUEST, Mr. SHEARER: (Singing) What the hawk might see, what the hawk might see.

Mr. GUEST, Mr. McKEAN, Mr. SHEARER: (Singing) Never hiked to heaven on a mountain trail, never rode on a river's rage. No I, never did no wanderin', Never did no wanderin', never did no wanderin' after all. Never did no wanderin', never did no wanderin', never did no wanderin' after all. Never did no wanderin' after all.

CONAN: The Folksmen, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, and the glory of radio is we can imagine them all in identical, candy-striped, buttoned-down shirts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEARER: You don't have to imagine. That's what we look like.

CONAN: Oh really? You left your blazers out there in the hallway?

Mr. SHEARER: In the hot sun.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Tony(ph), Tony with us from Cleveland.

Mr. SHEARER: Hello, Cleveland.

Mr. McKEAN: Hello, Cleveland.

TONY: Hi. I was just wondering if Nigel had ever finished his mock-inspired classical song on the piano?

Mr. GUEST: Yes. You're referring to the one in D Minor?

TONY: Yeah.

Mr. McKEAN: The saddest of all the keys. Yeah. Mr. GUEST: The saddest of all keys. No, that's a long haul for Nigel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: Nigel's been working on it for 30 years, and he's really not any further along than…

Mr. SHEARER: Hey, Schubert didn't finish a symphony, too.

CONAN: Yeah, but Paul McCartney did.

Unidentified Man #22: Yeah, well he's no Schubert.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Tony.

Mr. GUEST: Nobody's Schubert now.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go to…

Mr. GUEST: Neither ice cream nor Schubert.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Brian(ph), Brian's with us from Vacaville in California.

Mr. SHEARER: Brian.

BRIAN (Caller): Hi gentlemen. Hey, this is Brian calling from Vacaville. I play drums for Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks.

Mr. GUEST: Oh my God.

Mr. McKEAN: Oh yeah.


Mr. GUEST: I was just talking about Dan Hicks. He was just (unintelligible). Were you - you were just playing here with Vandyke(ph) and the whole gang, right?

BRIAN: Well actually, no. He doesn't take a drummer on the road with him…


Mr. SHEARER: I know the feeling.

BRIAN: So I play mostly local gigs and also with his Bayside group, and also, I'm on the new album called "Tangled Tales," which came out last week.

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah. I just bought it. It's wonderful.

BRAIN: Oh, glad you liked it. We spent a lot of time on it. We recorded down at the Record Plant in Sausalito and it was fantastic.

CONAN: And we can tell you're a professional musician because you got the plug in nicely. Go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRIAN: Oh, sorry. Sorry. Anyway, hey, I've got tickets for your show…

Mr. GUEST: Great.

BRIAN: …in Oakland on the 22nd and just real quickly, do you want me to bring my drums?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McKEAN: If you value your life, I wouldn't.

Mr. GUEST: Real quickly, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: No, we're not set up for - we're traveling like Dan with no drummer.

BRIAN: Okay. Well, I just thought I'd give it a shot.

Mr. GUEST: But thank you. Thank you very much.

BRIAN: And once again, I really appreciate your movies and your music is topnotch.

Mr. GUEST: Thanks.

Mr. SHEARER: Thanks so much.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Brian.

Mr. McKEAN: My car broke down in Vacaville one time.

Mr. GUEST: Really?

Mr. McKEAN: Yeah. Still there.

Mr. GUEST: That's a song.

CONAN: Another caller from Cleveland, this is John(ph).

Mr. SHEARER: Vacaville means cow town.

JOHN (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Hello, Cleveland.

JOHN: Hey, you know what? I got to tell you, I've played in Spinal Tap, not your band, per se, but we've had the exploding bass player. And I just wanted to say thanks because the movie sums up every band that I have ever played in. And I don't know what else to say than that - oh, when you played here in Cleveland, I had to say I was impressed and everybody I took with me was impressed. You guys are better live than you are on the album.

Mr. GUEST: Oh, thank you.

Mr. McKEAN: Thank you.

Mr. SHEARER: Thanks very much.

JOHN: And it was a great show. Are you guys coming to Cleveland this time?

Mr. McKEAN: We are.

Mr. GUEST: Yes, we are.

Mr. SHEARER: Absolutely.

JOHN: Excellent. I'm getting tickets.

Mr. GUEST: Cool. Okay, man. Yeah…

JOHN: I hope you have a good time when you're here.

Mr. GUEST: Thank you.

Mr. SHEARER: We always do. Thank you. He brings up a point, which is we were on tour a few years ago as Spinal Tap and people would come up and ask us, do you guys really play? And we'd laugh at that for a moment and then we'd think, well, most of the big acts that are out there now are using digital stuff and digital backups and digital vocals and stuff, and it's like, only the joke band is, like, actually play.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: We actually do play.

CONAN: It's also the fact that you're working on a new album. Of course all the songs in "Spinal Tap," the album that he referred to, they were performed, well, a la live so they were from the soundtrack album.

Mr. GUEST: Right. So we've done something about that. We've actually went - gone and rerecorded all the songs from the original movie kind of to make them sound like the way they would've sounded if they had been released…

Mr. SHEARER: The lost studio record.

Mr. GUEST: The lost studio record is exactly what it is.

Mr. SHEARER: With some new songs.

Mr. GUEST: Pay no attention to the calendar. It happened a long time ago. But it does sound a lot better and we, you know…

Mr. McKEAN: We've added about seven or eight new songs, as well.

Mr. GUEST: Yeah, that's right.

CONAN: Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, aka The Folksmen and Spinal Tap. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go to Elijah. Elijah with us from Warsaw, Indiana.

ELIJAH (Caller): Hi. I'm a really big fan of all your stuff and it's really cool to hear you on NPR here.

Mr. GUEST: Thank you very much.

ELIJAH: I was wondering, are there any mockumentaries in the mix coming up here in the next couple of years? Anything you have planned?

Mr. GUEST: There may be - nothing I'm involved in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ELIJAH: Oh, okay.

Mr. GUEST: No, I'm not working on another film. I have set aside the year, really, to do some music, and we're doing that.


Mr. GUEST: So I have nothing coming out tomorrow.

Mr. SHEARER: Chris also did a beautiful record that just came out of not funny music with his pals David Nichtern and CJ Vanston, which is…

Mr. GUEST: It's called The Beyman Bros., and that's more of a - it's an instrumental album. And it's, well, I was going to say it's real music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: It's actual music. Yeah.

CONAN: Thanks very much.


CONAN: Here's an email from Michael in Richmond, California. As a member of the working rock and roll community, albeit as a crewmember, I must tell you that "This Is Spinal Tap" is required viewing on every tour bus in the country. The only time your movie was not funny was in the middle of a Great White tour where we got snowed in on the bus between Salt Lake and Denver. Everything that happened in the movie happened to us on that tour. We could no longer laugh. This is in 1990. I laugh again now. Thank you for everything.

Mr. SHEARER: Thank you. Great White snowed in. It sounds like a joke.

CONAN: Yes, it does.

Mr. GUEST: Yeah, it really does. Wow. Well, we thank him for that. We were the only bus, I think, that was touring in, you know, in 2000 that had no copy of "This Is Spinal Tap" onboard.

CONAN: Right.

Mr. GUEST: Because we've seen it. We've been there.

CONAN: Jeff(ph) with us. Another caller from Cleveland.

Mr. GUEST: All right.

JEFF (Caller): I own "Spinal Tap" and it was packaged inconceivably with "Sid and Nancy," a far less entertaining film.


Mr. McKEAN: What do you mean packaged with?

Mr. SHEARER: You mean it was bundled with them?

Mr. GUEST: Bundled, yeah.

JEFF: Bundled, yes. And my friends come over and see my DVD collection and say to me, why in the world do you own "Sid and Nancy?"

(Soundbite of laughter)

JEFF: And I'm just wondering how you three gentlemen suggest I justify "Sid and Nancy" in my DVD collection.

Mr. McKEAN: Wow.

Mr. GUEST: My answer is that it's not that bad a movie and that Gary Oldman is very good and Chloe Webb is very, very good. So, you know…

JEFF: Well, it pales in comparison to "Spinal Tap."

Mr. GUEST: Well, it's not as funny. It was a shipping error.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: It was originally supposed to be "Spinal Tap" with "Ben-Hur," was the original packaging.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, it would've been both comedies, then.

Mr. GUEST: That's right. There you go.

Mr. SHEARER: Sid would've been Ben and Nancy would've been Hur.

Mr. GUEST: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Jeff, thanks very much.

Mr. GUEST: Loved Sid, hated Hur.

JEFF: Thank you.

CONAN: And let's see, we get one last caller in. This is Steve from Myrtle Beach.

Mr. SHEARER: Myrtle Beach.

STEVE (Caller): Fellows, I think our family is the biggest fans that you have. I think we have more copies of your movies than anyone else.

Mr. GUEST: Cool.

Mr. SHEARER: All right.

Mr. McKEAN: Thank you.

STEVE: We were really wondering whether you consider the tour a now-tro or a retro tour.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEVE: And the disc of this tour, do you think it'll be able to have a hole in it because some albums are really hard to get centered?

Mr. GUEST: Yeah. We know exactly what you're saying. Yeah, yeah. Well, it's actually fu-tro because we haven't started yet. It'll become now-tro when we open…

Mr. SHEARER: When we're doing it, yeah.

Mr. GUEST: …in Vancouver and right now it's still just a couple of weeks into the future.

CONAN: And the first stop is Vancouver, B.C.?

Mr. McKEAN: That's true.

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah, we're warming up on the Canadians.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUEST: And then we're trickling down because that works so well in the economy. We're trickling down to Portland, Seattle and then back home in Oakland.

Mr. SHEARER: Oakland and L.A.

Mr. GUEST: And L.A., and Anaheim, and Bob's your uncle and then points east.

CONAN: And how are you arranging the show? Is it all - if you've arranged it yet - are you doing a Spinal Tap half and a Folksmen's half?

Mr. McKEAN: No, that's the whole idea.

Mr. GUEST: No, it's intermingled, I think. And we're - it's still in the process of working out how that flows. We have a bunch of songs to do, and we're looking at what flows from one thing into the other (unintelligible), I guess.

Mr. SHEARER: And we're also, you know, it's not just music. We'll be showing some seldom, if not, ever seen videos and telling some amusing stories about the life making these movies and people we've run into in the course of making these movies. So it's an entire evening.

Mr. GUEST: An entire evening.

Mr. McKEAN: It's an intimate evening.

Mr. SHEARER: It's a farrago.

Mr. GUEST: It's really an evening for our fans and people who are smart enough to have, you know, kind of showed up at the right place.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Three consecutive monologues. Anyway, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, thank you all so much for your time today. Good luck on tour.

Mr. McKEAN: Thank you.

Mr. GUEST: Thank you very much.

Mr. SHEARER: Thank you.

CONAN: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer joined us from NPR West in Culver City, California.

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