The Road of Rock is a rocky road, and no one’s life exemplifies that more thoroughly than that of Derek Albion Smalls who celebrates his 75th birthday with a hoped-to-be triumphant return to at least one of the echelons of the rock firmament. Walking one day in 1967 through the then-tatty Soho district of London, Derek spotted a "bass player wanted" notice on one of the neighborhood'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.
Spinal 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." Smalls’ return to music, his new album, and composing, came courtesy of a grant from the British Fund for Ageing Rockers.