REO Speedwagon’s Real-Life ‘Spinal Tap’ Puppet Show Moment
The scene in 1984's This Is Spinal Tap where the fictional band shares a bill with a puppet show is one of its most memorable moments. But for REO Speedwagon, it was something that would pretty much play out for them a few years later.
"It must have been 1989 after [late guitarist] Gary Richrath and I parted ways and the band was at kind of a low point," Kevin Cronin told Entertainment Weekly. "We did a tour of Mexico. We pull up to the last gig of the tour, and there on the marquee, in English, it says, 'REO Speedwagon plus ventriloquist act.' We go into the venue, and not only were we sharing the bill, but we were sharing the dressing room with the ventriloquist act. … We're all sitting there going, 'God, this is bullshit. What are we doing here?' I swear to you, all of a sudden from behind one of our road cases pops the ventriloquist’s dummy. He goes [in a Spanish accent], 'This is bullshit. This is bullshit.'"
At least REO Speedwagon got top billing. In This Is Spinal Tap, the band is listed below the puppet show on the sign (though the group did get the bigger dressing room). Without guitarist Nigel Tufnel, who'd recently left the band mid-gig, the remaining members use the opportunity to reinvent themselves as a free-form jazz group, a move that doesn't go over well with the small crowd.
Watch the Puppet Show Scene From 'This Is Spinal Tap'
REO Speedwagon recently appeared in an episode of Netflix's acclaimed series Ozark, playing "Time for Me to Fly" as a drug cartel kidnaps Marty (Jason Bateman) - a character the veteran rockers are working with to launder money. The band's cameo pushed "Time for Me to Fly" and three more of its songs - "Take It on the Run," "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Keep on Loving You" - onto Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart and the 1988 The Hits best-of is to No. 49 on the Top Rock Albums chart.
Cronin noted that the rediscovery of his group's catalog represents "the power of television. Hearing 'Time for Me to Fly' in that show, there may well be people who heard that song for the first time and went, 'Oh, that's cool. I kind of want to hear some more about that.' To a lesser extent perhaps, [it’s like] when Journey’s 'Don’t Stop Believin’' got played on The Sopranos’ final episode and that just breathed new life into that song."
The frontman added that "when we play 'Time for Me to Fly' in concert, it's always one of those songs that gets a big response. It's one of my favorite moments, because when I play those opening guitar chords, everybody in the place stands, everybody's got their lighters or cellphones up. I remember where I was when I wrote that song. It was not a high point of my life. I was in a tough position. When you write a song, you have no idea the journey that song may or may not take you on. 'Time for Me to Fly' has taken me on an amazing musical journey that started when I wrote it in 1970. Here it is, 50 years later, and it's still out there appealing to people - bringing up emotions, making people smile. It's been a pretty amazing journey. And the journey continues."
Watch REO Speedwagon Play 'Time for Me to Fly' on 'Ozark'