May 28, 2022
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Ric Parnell, a actual drummer finest identified for taking part in in a faux band, the one chronicled in Rob Reiner’s fabled 1984 mockumentary, “This Is Spinal Faucet,” died on Could 1 in Missoula, Mont., the place he had lived for some twenty years. He was 70.

His companion, McKenzie Sweeney, confirmed the loss of life. She mentioned a blood clot in his lungs led to organ failure.

Mr. Parnell had been in a number of bands, together with the British prog-rock outfit Atomic Rooster, when he auditioned for “This Is Spinal Faucet,” a deadpan sendup of rock clichés, and bought the position of the drummer, Mick Shrimpton. The central band members, although, weren’t primarily musicians, although that they had musical potential; they have been comedian actors — Michael McKean, Christopher Visitor and Harry Shearer. Mr. Reiner performed the position of Marty DiBergi, a documentarian recording what seems to be a disastrous tour by Spinal Faucet, a heavy metallic band that’s previous its prime and poorly managed.

Mr. McKean mentioned Mr. Parnell match in seamlessly.

“He seemed good, all hair and cheekbones, however he additionally bought the joke and knew to play the truth with out remark,” he mentioned by electronic mail. “And he was a nice drummer in the custom of his hero, John Bonham” — the drummer for Led Zeppelin.

“Onstage,” Mr. McKean added, “he was one of the best type of monster; offstage, a very good, very humorous man.”

Mr. Parnell had solely a few traces in the film, however he was pivotal to one in all its funniest gags: Drummers for the band had a behavior of dying in weird and unsightly methods. In a single scene, he lounges in a bathtub whereas Marty DiBergi asks him if he’s bothered by that historical past.

“It did type of freak me out a bit, however it might probably’t all the time occur,” Mick says, and Marty agrees, telling him, “The legislation of averages says you’ll survive.”

The legislation of averages, alas, was unsuitable — close to the top of the movie, Mick spontaneously combusts onstage. When the movie developed such a cult following that the faux band went on tour in the early Nineteen Nineties, taking part in precise reveals, that necessitated a tweaking of Mr. Parnell’s persona — he was now Rick Shrimpton, the dual brother of the deceased Mick.

Life virtually imitated artwork in mid-1992, when Mr. Parnell fell down some stairs whereas hurrying to a sound examine because the band was rehearsing in Los Angeles. He injured an ankle.

“Regardless of the percentages of assembly with loss of life by remaining with Spinal Faucet,” a publicist for the band mentioned at the time, “he’s trying ahead to persevering with the tour.”

That “Return of Spinal Faucet” tour ultimately took the group to the Royal Albert Corridor in London, a pinch-me second for the British-born Mr. Parnell as he waited to go on alongside Mr. Shearer.

“I keep in mind throughout ‘The Return of Spinal Faucet’ standing backstage with Harry and listening to the Albert Corridor crowd simply chanting, ‘Faucet!’ ‘Faucet!’ ‘Faucet!’ ‘Faucet!,’” Mr. Parnell informed The Missoula Impartial in 2006. “I turned to Harry and I mentioned, ‘Come on, now. We’re a joke! Don’t they know that?’ It was simply superb how fairly large all of it turned.”

About twenty years in the past, Mr. Parnell settled into a a lot quieter type of life in Missoula, the place for a time he had a radio present known as “Spontaneous Combustion” on KDTR-FM, on which he informed tales and indulged his eclectic musical tastes. For one present he performed solely artists who have been alumni of Antelope Valley Excessive College in California, amongst them Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

“I get to play what I would like, do no matter I would like — all so long as I don’t swear,” he informed The Impartial. “That’s the one arduous half.”

Richard John Parnell was born on Aug. 13, 1951, in London to Jack and Monique (Bonneau) Parnell. His father was a composer, conductor and drummer, and he mentioned that drumming got here naturally from a younger age.

“I bought it from my dad,” he informed The Missoulian in 2007. “I might sit down at the drum equipment and play a beat immediately.”

Classes, he mentioned, weren’t his factor; he discovered by taking part in in teams.

“Over time, I’ve constructed up a method,” he informed the newspaper. “I get drummers saying, ‘How did you try this?’ I say, ‘I do not know. I’m simply hitting.’ I wouldn’t know a paradiddle from a flam-doodlehead.”

His father, who labored as musical director or in different capacities on quite a few tv reveals, typically added to his training by taking him to the set. He recalled sitting at the ft of Jimi Hendrix when he performed on the singer Dusty Springfield’s British TV collection in 1968.

Mr. Parnell’s personal profession was beginning about the identical time. He recalled touring with Engelbert Humperdinck as a teenager. He joined Atomic Rooster in 1970, after which got here a stint with an Italian group, Ibis. In 1977 he moved to the USA with a band known as Nova, which settled in Boulder, Colo.

He performed quite a few studio classes over time and may be heard on information by Beck, Toni Basil and others. For a time he toured with the R&B saxophonist Joe Houston. They might cease yearly for a few reveals in Missoula earlier than heading into Canada to tour there. However, as Mr. Parnell typically informed the story, one 12 months the group didn’t have the best paperwork to cross the border and needed to prolong its keep in Missoula.

“I principally bought caught right here after which didn’t wish to depart,” he informed The Impartial. “I’d all the time favored this place — it’s like Boulder in the Seventies, once I first got here to the states. I turned a Missoulian immediately.”

Mr. Parnell was married and divorced 4 occasions. Along with Ms. Sweeney, he’s survived by two brothers, Will and Marc, and two stepsisters, Emma Parnell and Sarah Currie.

Over the past twenty years he might typically be discovered taking part in with one group or one other at native spots in Missoula. In 2004, a author for The Missoulian requested if he, as an completed musician, ever bought bored with being acknowledged just for his joke band.

“No, not likely,” he mentioned. “Actually it’s fairly good to be a a part of such a legendary factor.”

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