That Time Mick Fleetwood Auditioned For Spinal Tap
One of the running jokes in the 1984 spoof documentary movie This is Spinal Tap focuses on the band’s inability to keep a steady drummer, with most of them dying in unusual circumstances.
Fast forward to 1992, and Spinal Tap – frontman David St. Hubbins (played by Michael McKean), guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) – decided to hold auditions in Los Angeles for a new percussionist as they prepared to release the new album Break Like the Wind. The advertisement read: “Drummer died, need new one. Must have no immediate family.”
Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood was happy to join in with the publicity stunt. McKean, in character as St. Hubbins, reportedly quipped: “Mick is a bit wobbled at the knees about working with the Tap, as well he should be, as we were an early influence on Fleetwood Mac. They used to support us in the clubs all the time.”
Fleetwood arrived for the audition in an asbestos suit, in a nod to two previous incumbents who had suffered a fiery death: Peter “James” Bond spontaneously combusted during a jazz show, while Mick Shrimpton simply exploded on stage. “It's all a risk. Life's a risk. But Tap's a risk, for sure," Fleetwood was quoted as saying: "I'm trusting that things will be okay.”
News coverage of the time shows Fleetwood playing a large white drumkit with more than a dozen cymbals, unidentifiable in his silver costume. He later unveiled himself by removing a breathing mask. You can watch the moment below:
Despite Spinal Tap’s confirmed spoof status, the band always performed live. This often placed them alongside more serious artists, as Guest later pointed out. During their careers in character, they encountered a number of big names including Paul Stanley of Kiss, John Densmore of the Doors and others.
“My favorite beyond that was when we did the Break Like the Wind tour, and we did drummer auditions as a promotional stunt,” Shearer told Billboard. “We held one in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, capacity 93,000.” McKean added that “there were maybe 30 people in the building.”
Among the others who made brief appearances at these auditions were Dallas Taylor of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame, the Bangles’ Debbi Peterson, Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s, the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz and even Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction.
Fleetwood’s stint with Spinal Tap lasted a good bit longer. He went on to perform on a VH1 show and later made guest appearances on tour.
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