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

Parnell played Mick Shrimpton in Rob Reiner’s cult-classic mockumentary

This is Spinal Tap
'This Is Spinal Tap' drummer Mick Shrimpton (Ric Parnell)

Ric Parnell, the British musician who took the role of doomed drummer Mick Shrimpton in the 1984 movie “This Is Spinal Tap,” has died, his co-star Harry Shearer confirmed. He was 70.

Parnell’s death was confirmed Sunday by Shearer, who played Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls. No cause of death was given.

Parnell played Shrimpton in the 1984 cult classic mockumentary about a heavy metal band that already had a long history of losing drummers to outrageous calamity. Shrimpton survives long enough to be featured throughout Rob Reiner’s film – though the character winds up exploding onstage during a tour of Japan.

At one point, Reiner interviews the band’s standing drummer – in the tub, with a shower cap – about sitting in Spinal Tap’s infamous hot seat.

The London-born Parnell wasn’t just some actor playing a drummer – he played in London rock bands, making on album with Horse and two more with Atomic Rooster in the 1970s, the latter of which charted hits in Great Britain in that decade.

Rock lore also has it that Parnell turned down offers to play drums with Journey and Whitesnake. And if you’ve ever heard Toni Basil’s infectious pop song “Mickey,” then you’ve heard Parnell hitting the tubs.

When post-film Spinal Tap became a working band, producing a soundtrack album and making live appearances (and subsequent reunions), Parnell stayed on – as Mick Shrimpton’s “twin brother” Ric Shrimpton.