Real-Life ‘Spinal Tap’: W.A.S.P. Frontman Recalls Cliff Burton Getting Lost on the Way to Stage for Metallica Show

Life imitates art. Or is it the other way around? Either way, it’s always mind-boggling how the legendary parody mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap” can sometimes get things right. And if you’ve been in a rock band, there’s been at least one instance of a Spinal Tap-esque moment in there. To W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless, however, the film is just too real.

While appearing on a recent addition of the Talkin’ Rock show, Blackie looked back on the days when he appeared in the film’s commercial back in the day.

W.A.S.P.-Blackie Lawless 'This Is Spinal Tap' (Heavy Metal Memories) 1984

After remembering the commercial, the musician also recalled his first reaction to the film while watching it in a theater with manager Rod Smallwood. He recalled (transcript by Ultimate Guitar):

“2000 people literally falling out of their chairs laughing. And Rod [Smallwood, W.A.S.P. manager] and I are sitting there stiff as a board, like condemned men going for the last walk. You know, it was not funny to me at all. Even to this day: I’ll watch it once every four or five years, and it’s still – I’m a little looser about it now than I was – but so much of the stuff that’s in that movie is factual.”

And he had proof of how factual the film was. Back in the day, W.A.S.P. toured around the US with Metallica and he recalled an incident from that tour that was almost identical to one of the famous Spinal Tap scenes. He said:

“On our first tour of America, it was us, Metallica, and Armored Saint. We got to a gig in Indianapolis one afternoon, it was late. And because we’d had a long drive the night before, nobody got sound checks. And it was an old VFW hall that we were playing. And the dressing rooms were in the basement. And it was like a maze down there. We were alternating with Metallica one night, they’d close. Next night, we’d close and we’d flip-flop like that.

Metallica - Live at Day On The Green, Oakland, CA, USA (1985) [Pro-Shot]

“Well, this happened to be one of the nights we were closing. So I’m downstairs and bathroom and I’m shaving. I hear Metallica’s intro tape start to roll. And the door comes flying open. I’m shaving, I’m looking in the mirror. And I got the razor to my throat. I looked behind me.

“There’s Cliff standing there with his bass on. And he doesn’t know how to get to the stage. And he’s telling me, ‘Blackie, Blackie, how do I get on stage, how do I get on stage?’ And I hadn’t been up there yet. So I didn’t know myself because like I said, we got there late. Nobody got sound checks, no nothing.

“So I didn’t know where I was. And I was busting his chops. And I say, ‘Cliff, I don’t know;’ I’m looking at him in the mirror. He goes, ‘Aaah, screw you Blackie,’ he runs. And finally, about two minutes later, I hear the bass come in after the band had already started… And so needless to say, I’m having flashbacks of the movie right there.”

Spinal Tap - Hello Cleveland/Lost Backstage

Photo: HeavyMezza89 (Blackie (WASP))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.