Spinal Tap A to Zed

Goes to 11Eleven (11): Nigel’s key to keeping Tap among England’s loudest bands. In "This is Spinal Tap," he pointed out to director Marty DiBergi that the settings on Tap’s Marshall amps could extend beyond the standard 10 mark. Nigel: "You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You’re on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder." DiBergi: "Why don’t you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?" Nigel (after taking a moment to let this sink in): "These go to 11." In 1990, Marshall released its JCM900 amp, with the knobs going to 20 (GW2), although Nigel says the company later gave him a special model that goes to infinity (complete with the infinity symbol—an eight on its side—and a dial that keeps spinning around as if it were broken). (EW) The company also makes faceplates for all of its amp models that go to 11. In a 1984 interview, Nigel revealed that his Gibson guitar pickups were modified to go to 11, as well—meaning that with both his amp and guitar turned all the way up, he could hit 22. (GP) A T-shirt that reads "Goes to 11" is now a collector’s item because it sold so poorly immediately after DiBergi’s film was released. Finally, a posting to the Internet group alt.fan.spinal-tap by Ray Abbitt shed some light on the history of powered amps: "Early Fender Champs (a small, low-powered amp, probably intended for practice) had no controls except for a volume control that went to 11. And from about 5 on up, they didn’t get any louder—just more distorted. A number of artists use them for recording and some (including Neil Young) use them for live performances. Most of us who are lucky enough to own one (mine was built in 1953 or 1954) turn them up to 11 cause they sound so damn good." Nigel's now famous phrase have even been recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary.

"It's one louder."

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