Derek Smalls, the bottom force of the fabled heavy metal band formerly known as Spinal Tap, is premiering the video for his song "Gimme Some (More) Money" ahead of his eagerly anticipated solo tour of West Coast cities this fall. The track, culled from Smalls' recent debut solo album, 'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)', features Paul Shaffer on piano and organ, Waddy Wachtel on guitar and David Crosby on backing vocals. Using a cunning mix of animation and live action, the new video illustrates the noble quest for fair remuneration (cash) pursued by every musician alive. It was premiered exclusively through People Magazine.
"I wanted this video to show all the different things musos have to do to get some (more) money, but we couldn't afford to shoot that, so they drew them instead. And it's black and white, except for me, because colors cost more, too." Says Smalls.
Derek Smalls, formerly of the band formerly known as Spinal Tap - and Lukewarm Water Live! hits the road this November. Accompanied by a panoply of special guests, it will play a whistle-stop series of concerts along the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada.
Lukewarm Water Live! will kick off at the The Wiltern in Los Angeles on November 6th, to be followed with performances at Moore Theatre, Seattle on November 9th, The Vogue Theatre Vancouver on November 11th, and finish at The Warfield Theatre San Francisco on November 14th. Each performance will feature Smalls in concert accompanied live by an all-star band as well as a full symphony orchestra and other special guests live via satellite.
The series of concerts, which will act as a precursor to a major world tour planned for 2020, will feature music from his recently released album, as well as favourites from the Spinal Tap songbook. Special A-list guests from the world of Rock will be announced in the lead up to the tour. This announcement follows a special staging of the show at The Palace in Los Angeles earlier this year which featured an array of guest talent including, Steve Vai, Steve Lukather, Dweezil Zappa, Paul Shaffer and Tenacious D (Jack Black, Kyle Gass). as well as live link-ups with Donald Fagen, Jane Lynch, The Snarky Puppy Horns and The Budapest Symphony Orchestra.
The Road of Rock is a rocky road, and no one’s life exemplifies that more thoroughly than that of Derek Albion Smalls.
Derek was born April 1, 1941, having to endure growing up as an “April Fool’s baby”. His father, Donald “Duff” Smalls, raised Derek after his mother, Dorothy, left home to join a traveling all-girls’ jazz band, The Hotten Totties.
While Derek had a quiet school career in his hometown of Nilford, on the River Null in the West Midlands, Duff carried on his work as a telephone handset sanitiser, working for the pioneering firm in the trade, Sani-Phone, until it was absorbed by the former British Telecom, primarily, according to reports at the time, for its “robust bill-collecting operation”.
At age 17, Derek enrolled in the London School of Design, primarily, as he later explained it, “because of the initials”.
Like many art-school students of the period, he was more interested in music, and soon found himself a member of the all-white Jamaican band Skaface. “I never even tried to play the guitar, because it had too many strings and they were too small. Bass felt just right,” he told Ska News.
Walking one day in 1967 through the then-tatty Soho district of London, Derek spotted a “bass player wanted” notice on one of the neighbourhood’s lamp-posts. It turns out Ronnie Pudding had just left the band Spinal Tap for a solo career when their first single, “Gimme Some Money” failed to chart.
Derek fit right in, and made a notable contribution to the band’s jump on the Flower Power bandwagon, mouthing a silent “We love you” at the end of its performance of “(Listen To) The Flower People” on the short-lived TV music show, Bob’s Your Uncle.
Tap then went on to carve a reputation as one of England’s loudest bands. Its series of mishaps—breakups and reunions, drummers perishing in bizarre ways—was chronicled in a 1984 film. “A hatchet job”, Derek calls it dismissively. “There were plenty of nights when we found our way to the stage, but of course they didn’t show you that.”
In the late 1980s, as Tap’s fortunes waned, Derek joined a Christian heavy-metal band, Lambsblood. Their best-known song, “Whole Lotta Lord”, made a respectable showing on the Christian charts. To cement his relationship with the band members, all of whom were Americans, Smalls got a Christian “fish tattoo”.
As luck would have it, Tap soon reunited for the 1992 Break Like the Wind album and toured across America. Concerned that he would have to cover up the tattoo, Derek hired an artist to fix it, and the piece now featured a devil eating the fish.
Following that tour, Tap broke up and reunited twice more, once in 2000 for an American tour that included a historic New York venue that Derek described, onstage, as “Carnegie Fuckin' Hall” and in 2009 for appearances at the Glastonbury Festival and Wembley Arena. In between, Derek cultivated a near-thriving career on camera, building upon his cameo role in the 1979 “Spaghetti Eastern” - Roma ’79. He appeared in TV commercials for the Belgian snack food Floop, and served for a time as a judge (alongside the lead singer for the Europunk band Hot Garage) on the Dutch reality-competition show RokStarz, before the show was rebooted as Tomorrow’s Hip Hop Hero. Derek stepped forward as a composer during this time; his jingle for Floop, “I’m in the Floop Group”, was a regular earworm on European television until the publisher of “The In Crowd” threatened a plagiarism lawsuit.
Derek’s fortunes have fluctuated with his romantic entanglements. His long-time girlfriend Cindy Stang went through a good share of his back royalties to launch her ill- fated tech start-up, macrame.com. Of that project, Smalls now says ruefully, “It was ahead of its time. Or behind the curve. Or both”. He’s also had his share of personal struggles, having twice sought treatment for internet addiction.
Smalls’ return to music, and composing, came courtesy of a grant from the British Fund for Ageing Rockers. As he prepares to re-enter the spotlight for the first time, Derek tips his hat to the government grantors: “At least austerity was good for something,” he says.
His latest album is a poignant and oftentimes furious contemplation on ageing that explores the passing of time and all things loud. With styles that cross the gamut of musical bases, the album possesses the edgy rawness and Rock God sensibility that was always shared by Derek and his fellow former band members, Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins and, is now all too evident in his solo work. The album also features some of the greatest talents of rock n' roll music and beyond including: Peter Frampton, Donald Fagen, Dweezil Zappa, Rick Wakeman, Richard Thompson, Steve Lukather, Joe Satriani, Waddy Wachtel, Michael League, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Paul Shaffer, Steve Vai, Larry Carlton, Judith Owen, Jane Lynch and The Hungarian Studio Orchestra. 'Smalls Change' was produced by C J Vanston.
Derek Smalls describes 'Smalls Change' as “halfway between "rage against the dying of the light" and trying to find the light.”