The cult classic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap has been entertaining music fans for decades. But did you know that several moments from the film, including the Stonehenge scene have connections to real life events and the band Black Sabbath? Here’s everything you need to know about the infamous Spinal Tap Stonehenge scene from the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap.
The Spinal Tap Stonehenge Scene
This Is Spinal Tap has so many brilliant and hysterical moments, but the Stonehenge scene one is one of my favorites. While sitting in a diner, Spinal Tap band members David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), plan the stage theatrics for their new song titled “Stonehenge”. One of the props that they want created is a large stone piece similar to the giant stones at the real Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Nigel draws the exact shape of the stone prop that they want on a napkin.
The Spinal Tap Stonehenge Drawing
In addition to the shape of the Stonehenge prop, Nigel also writes down the dimensions, 18″ by 18″ on the napkin. The band’s manager then gives the now famous Spinal Tap Stonehenge napkin to an artist to create the prop. What neither the manager or the band realize is that the dimensions in the drawing are in inches instead of feet. Unfortunately, Spinal Tap is known more for their loud amps that go to 11 than their intellect.
The end result is a hysterical moment where a tiny 18″ inch Stonehenge prop is lowered on to stage during a live show. Of course the manager didn’t inform the band of the mixup beforehand. So the band sees the miniature Stonehenge prop for the first time while they are in the middle of their show. And if that wasn’t funny enough, the manager hired two little people in costumes to dance around the Stonehenge prop. One of them accidentally trips on the Stonehenge prop, coming dangerously close to crushing it.
Black Sabbath Accidentally Ordered The Wrong Sized Stonehenge Stage Prop
As silly and ridiculous as the Spinal Tap Stonehenge scene might seem, it actually happened in real life to the band Black Sabbath, but in reverse.
One of the songs on Black Sabbath’s 1983 album Born Again is a short instrumental titled “Stonehenge”. The band had some stage props created for several of their songs including “Stonehenge” for the Born Again tour. By this time in the band’s history, both Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio had parted ways with Black Sabbath.
Instead of mistaking inches for feet like Spinal Tap and getting a tiny prop, Black Sabbath mixed up feet and meters. In a 1995 interview, bassist Geezer Butler credits the measurement mistake to Black Sabbath’s manager at the time, Don Arden (aka Sharon Osbourne’s dad). Just like in the film This Is Spinal Tap, Arden accidentally wrote down the wrong measurements and ordered a 15 meter instead of 15 feet tall Stonehenge prop. At 3.2 feet per meter, the end result was a 50 foot tall Stonehenge that was too big to do anything with. The oversized prop forced the band to cancel several shows in Canada which resulted in them delaying their North American tour. They eventually had to abandon the Stonehenge prop. It was too large to easily transport or get inside most of the venues on the tour. The last time Geezer Butler remembers seeing it was on a dock in New York City.
The Similarities Between Both The Spinal Tap And Black Sabbath Stonehenge Prop Mistakes
Black Sabbath’s North American tour for Born Again began in October 1983. The film This Is Spinal Tap wasn’t released until March 1984, 6 month’s after Black Sabbath’s tour start and Stonehenge prop issues. So obviously the idea for the Spinal Tap Stonehenge scene was inspired by Black Sabbath right? Not necessarily.
Spinal Tap: The Final Tour
Before director Rob Reiner could get budget approval for the film This Is Spinal Tap, he had to create a 20-minute sample called Spinal Tap: The Final Tour for the studio executives to review. Footage for Spinal Tap: The Final Tour was recorded in 1980 and 1981 and includes the infamous Stonehenge scene. This predates Black Sabbath’s 1983 tour and release of their album Born Again containing the song Stonehenge. Not only had Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest put together the Stonehenge scene for Spinal Tap: The Final Tour, but they also wrote and performed a full Stonehenge song.
Was The Infamous Spinal Tap Stonehenge Scene Inspired By Black Sabbath?
Many of the scenes in This Is Spinal Tap are based on real life situations that hard rock bands experienced in the 1970s and early 80s. But incredibly, the similarities between the movie This Is Spinal Tap and Black Sabbath both having songs about Stonehenge and poorly designed Stonehenge props was a complete coincidence. It’s neither a case of life imitating art or art imitating life. If anything, it’s a case of both musicians and comedy writers in a Stonehenge heavy metal state of mind at the same time.