“This Is Spinal Tap” turns 35 on March 2. That’s one more year, innit?
Director Rob Reiner‘s 1984 mockumentary highlighting the loudest band in the world — Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) — has seen decades of love and been enshrined in the Library of Congress historic film registry since 2003.
But what gives “Tap” that extra push over the cliff is its most famous scene, where Tufnel explains to documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi (played by Reiner) why the knobs on his Marshall amp go to 11 as opposed to keeping the amp with a 10 setting.
“Well, it’s one louder, innit? It’s not 10,” says Tufnel. “These go to 11.”
After that screen exchange, fans took going to 11 to, well, an 11. Here are 11 ways how.
1. Even Nigel was surprised: Tesla’s Model S sound system goes to 11
Elon Musk is a fan of “Spinal Tap” and made sure his high-end electric car manufacturer Tesla’s world-class sound system (and fan) go to an extreme 11 setting in the Model S. Guest found this out firsthand while test-driving a Tesla (so Nigel) with wife Jamie Lee Curtis.
“I said to the guy, ‘The volume control goes to 11?’ ” Curtis told USA TODAY in 2015. “So, Chris is sitting in the car and the guy doesn’t know it’s Chris. And I looked over to Chris and I was like, ‘Really? That’s crazy.’ ”
Guest bought one. Musk confirmed the feature, tweeting that it makes the Model S “louder than loud.”
2. 11/11 is Nigel Tufnel day. Just ask the internet
Nov. 11 (11/11) has been deemed “Nigel Tufnel Day” in recognition of “its maximum elevenness.” Fan sites have urged the world to celebrate loudness in their own way (like watching “Spinal Tap”). The celebration peaked, naturally, on Nov. 11, 2011 (11/11/11). There’s also a less loud movement for Nigel’s day to be honored on Feb. 11 (as in “these go 2/11”).
3. The call-out for band members to reunite hits the note
The Tribeca Film Festival featured a familiar call-out when announcing that all three band members and director Reiner would reunite for a “Spinal Tap” screening and concert in March. The stars “will turn it up to eleven again with a one-night-only anniversary celebration 35 years in the making,” the festival announced.
4. Deadpool paid his respects
“Deadpool 2” featured Josh Brolin’s massive plasma gun going to an 11 for max destruction. During Celine Dion’s music video “Ashes” for the superhero flick, Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool interrupts to ask her to tone it down. “You’re at, like, an 11. We need to get you down to a 5, 5½ tops. Just phone it in.”
5. Christopher Guest went to 11 (fingers) in ‘The Princess Bride’
Guest went from Nigel to true darkness playing dastardly Count Rugen in the 1987 classic comedy “The Princess Bride” with Reiner directing. Rugen was “The Six-Fingered Man” due to the extra digit on his right hand. That brings his finger total to 11.
6. Alexa will obey your demand to rock out
Amazon’s Alexa understands, “Alexa, go to volume 11” should the need for noise arise. It’s just a little tricky getting it to hear, “Alexa, go back to normal volume” once the noise starts.
7. The band took their boisterous legal language to the max
The “Spinal Tap” filmmakers got back together in 2017 to sue Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music, for $400 million, claiming they were denied rightful proceeds for the film’s profits. “I’m hoping this lawsuit goes to 11,” Reiner said in a statement at the time. In 2018, they agreed to have a mediator resolve the case, the legal equivalent of going to four.
8. Amplifiers go to 11 and beyond
After Nigel showed off his Marshall amp onscreen, Guitar Center featured the Marshall JCM900 amplifier with two distortion knobs: one that went from 0 to 10, and another that went from 11 to 20. That’s nine more.
Guest’s Nigel endorsed the amp, naturally, on a poster. Also available, the $1,300 Friedman-Runt 20 amp that goes to 11 on each knob.
Contrary to internet reports, Eddie Van Halen did not crank up his amps to 11 after “Spinal Tap.” His wife and publicist, Janie Van Halen, consulted the rock oracle and tells USA TODAY that Eddie modified his amps to 14 in the 1970s.
But Eddie paid “Tap” respect, telling Guitar Player magazine in 2016, “I’ve spent my whole life pushing things to 11.”
9. ‘Up to eleven’ is in the dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term “up to eleven” officially as “to reach or surpass the maximum level or limit.” The word source is, of course, “Spinal Tap.”
10. IMDb.com pays movie-dork respect
On the primary “This Is Spinal Tap” IMDb.com page, the movie’s rating is listed out of 11 stars, instead of the usual 10. It’s the only film bestowed the 11 honor.
11. Let’s face it, ‘these go to 11’ is everywhere
The term, or variations of “these go to 11,” is everywhere, with its own Wikipedia page, T-shirts and coffee mugs. Just in February, “these go to 11” was used in the media for everything from explaining a contentious North Carolina school construction debate to illustrating indexing annuity and life insurance contracts on InsuranceNewsNet.com. That’s rock and roll.
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