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Eleven, Eleven, Eleven

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In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, there was an ancient race of people called the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing. But their legacy remains hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge, where the demons dwell. It lingers on and on and on like the sustained vibrato of a Les Paul guitar, thanks almost entirely to three visionary musicians: Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls of the groundbreaking heavy metal band Spinal Tap.

Well, only Tufnel and St. Hubbins are visionaries, really. But Smalls has had his moments in the sky, having taken acid 76 times. He's the lukewarm water bridging the gap between Nigel's fire and David's ice. Together these three brothers in rock have played music together for half a century, first as the Originals, then as the New Originals, and finally as Spinal Tap. They know better than anybody working in the industry today that in this topsy-turvy world of heavy metal, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful.

Spinal Tap's sophisticated music treads water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry. The band has been known to make grown men cry (Tom Waits, for instance) with songs like "Lick My Love Pump," the first part of a musical trilogy in D-minor, the saddest of all keys.

Rob Reiner's fake documentary This Is Spinal Tap didn't make much of a splash when it was released in 1984, with Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer starring as St. Hubbins, Tufnel, and Smalls. It found its audience on video and has become a kind of anti-scripture for musicians and one of the most quoted films of all time. Fans can check it out on the big screen at the Orpheum this week, providing that it, like the band's original Memphis appearance, isn't canceled due to a lack of advertising funds. (Tip: It won't be.)

"This is Spinal Tap" at the Orpheum Theatre, Friday, May 25th, at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $7. www.orpheum-memphis.com/

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