It Goes To 11... And Beyond...
It’s 11/11/11, and like so many other quasi-journalists, I’ve found it irresistible to think about the classic film Spinal Tap today. I was never part of that rock scene, but the earnest wrongheadedness of what constantly happens to the band is something we can all identify with. It’s still a comedy staple decades later with innumerable quotable moments, but is any part of the film more "celebrated" than Nigel Tuffnel’s amp that goes to 11?
Shortly after the movie came out, I saw other rockers chasing the dream by scrawling “11” onto their amp’s volume controls too, but it didn’t stop there. This “goes to 11” thing has been a meme for such a long time, it’s easy to gloss over mainstream appearances of the gag. Here are a few examples off the top of my head: the amazing MeeBlip synthesizer’s volume goes up to 11, the BBC’s online video player goes to 11, Guitar Hero’s sound effects settings top off at 11, in Doctor Who we see the sonic screwdriver used to crank a church organ “up to 11”… Though the best might be from the early 90’s. Marshall released an amp featuring a photo of Nigel pointing to the volume knob saying “now it goes to 20!”
You don’t have to be a musician to join in the fun. There’s a special release of the movie on Blu-Ray in the UK that includes a mini replica Marshall amplifier stack. You can use it with your iPod, and yes… the volume does go there. If you haven’t seen the film in a while, it’s still awesome. I’ve got a DVD release of the film that includes more than an hour of improvised material that didn’t make it into the movie. It’s fun if you’re a fan, but it’s also easy to see why the material was left on the cutting room floor.
The many artists in the film have gone on to make more mockumentary style films, but I haven’t liked any of them a fraction as much as Spinal Tap. I think that Tap really was a singular comedy moment whith everyone's talent was cranked up to just the right level. It remains one of the few comedy movies that I love watching again and again – turned up to 11 of course.