‘This Is Spinal Tap’ Drummer Ric Parnell Dies at 70

Ric Parnell, the drummer famous for appearing in This Is Spinal Tap, died Sunday. He was 70 years old.

Harry Shearer, the musician’s bandmate from the 1984 mockumentary, first shared the news via Twitter, writing, “Ric Parnell, our drummer in This Is Spinal Tap, passed away today. No one ever rocked harder.”

While Parnell became well-known for playing Mick Shrimpton, the doomed drummer of the fictional hard-rock act who happens to, well, literally explode onstage during the film, he brought bona fide musicianship to the role as the drummer for prog-rock group Atomic Rooster from 1970 to 1973, followed by stints with Italian bands Tritons and Ibis, short-lived pop-rock group Stars, and Italian/British jazz fusion act Nova.



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At one point, Steve Perry purportedly offered Parnell a spot in the lineup of Journey, but he turned down the opportunity to focus on working with his own studio band, Zoo Drive.

Prior to his big break in This Is Spinal Tap, he was also credited on Toni Basil’s 1981 debut album Word of Mouth. Though the LP peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 upon its release, Parcell’s work behind the drum kit included the famous, cheerleader-ready boom-clap drumbeat of the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Mickey.”

After the release of This Is Spinal Tap, the late drummer continued to perform with the rest of Spinal Tap — Michael McKean (as frontman David St. Hubbins), Shearer (as bassist Derek Smalls) and director Christopher Guest (as lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel) — continuing on as Mick’s much more alive brother “Ric Shrimpton.”

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He played on the group’s 1984 self-titled debut as well as their 1992 sophomore effort Break Like the Wind. His other credits included 1985’s 3 Ships by Jon Anderson of Yes.

Read Shearer’s announcement of Parnell’s death below.