The Story of Anvil
film about an aging rock band on the road has been getting compared left and
right to the classic 80s satirical mock-documentary This is Spinal Tap.
It details the trials and tribulations of Anvil – an aging heavy metal band
which never quite caught on, but is still holding on over twenty years after
their very brief heyday. Anvil shows the soul-crushing
ridiculousness of life on the road. The film’s comically redundant title
just seems so stupid that it weirdly becomes kind of clever. The footage
features band fights, getting lost on the way to shows, old friends
determined to rock, sound knobs that go to 11, nearly empty gigs,
Stonehenge, even a triumphant comeback gig in Japan. The drummer of Anvil
is even named Robb Reiner – not to be confused with Rob Reiner, the director
of Spinal Tap.
However, with all these things in common, there is one huge thing that
separates Anvil! – The Story of Anvil from This is Spinal Tap.
Anvil is all
Coming out of Canada in the early 80s, Anvil was a pioneering force in the
hair metal brigades. Early in their career, the film shows, they did a rock
festival in Japan with three other then mostly unknown bands – The
Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. Within five years, all of those bands
were multi-platinum, but Anvil – despite releasing four respected albums on
a major label and later many indie releases – was pretty much forgotten.
Well, not forgotten, I suppose. The opening of Anvil! shows a bunch
of musicians who came in their wake – including Slash from Guns ’N’ Roses,
Lars Ulrich from Metallica and Lemmy from Motorhead (who actually predated
the band) praising the band as a terrific musical force and a huge
influence. Of course, some of these testimonials could be a little
backhanded, like when Anthrax leader Scott Ian suggests that Anvil inspired
them because they felt if their band couldn’t do better than Anvil, they
didn’t deserve to be musicians. (In fairness, I didn’t get the feeling that
Ian recognized how dismissive his quote was when he was making it…)
other person who remembered Anvil was former journalist-turned-screenwriter
Sacha Gervasi, who is best known for writing the script to Stephen
Spielberg’s comedy The Terminal with Tom Hanks and Catherine
Zeta-Jones. An early fan of Anvil – he also was a roadie for them in the
early 80s glory days – Gervasi put his own money into this film, his
directorial debut, in which he hoped to restore Anvil’s reputation as well
as get their music out there.
Gervasi has tapped into a fascinating story – a story that is as uplifting
as it is often humorous. However, just because there are some real laughs
in Anvil!, don’t think that the film is mocking the group. Anvil!
is ridiculous in all the ways that rock and roll music can be ridiculous,
but mostly it is the story of two men who hold onto their dream long after
other people – and perhaps even common sense – tell them to give it up.
holding on to that dogged determination to be stars the two major cogs of
Anvil – lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner have done no
one harm but themselves. Even that is debatable – had they given up their
dreams, yes they may have made a little more money and better lives for
themselves, but at the same time they would not have experienced many
fascinating things. As Lips suggests after a disastrous European tour which
ranged from major halls to tiny bars, everything went wrong, but it could
have been even worse if there had not been a tour for everything to fall
Therefore Anvil! – The Story of Anvil is really about the physical
need of some people to make art. While I personally have to admit I am not
a huge fan of their music, I respect the hell out of Lips. Here is a man
who takes a job that he can’t stand – driving a truck delivering food to
Toronto school cafeterias – just to pay the bills, but performs his music
for the sheer love of it.
may say that Lips is delusional to think he can still make it as a rock star
now that he is in his 50s, but that’s really not the point. Their music
gives Anvil drive and purpose and passion. Stardom may be a pie-in-the-sky
dream, but who is anyone to begrudge the man taking his best shot?
world always needs more dreamers – and I am glad to have been introduced to
these two unsung rock heroes.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: April 25, 2009.