1984 : Marshall goes to Hollywood



A shot of the film Spinal Tap

Marshall enthusiasts Spinal Tap prepare to turn things up to eleven.

In 1984, Marshall broke Hollywood by way of the cult rockumentary ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. A hilarious satire of the music industry, the film examines the rise and demise of “one of England’s loudest bands” through virtue of their own dimwittedness, misfortune and megalomania.

That band was the titular ‘Spinal Tap’ – a fictional heavy metal trio comprising David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer). The film resonated with critics, audiences and rock artists alike, with many mistakenly believing the spoof to be a factual account of real-world activities.

"These go to eleven." Nigel Tufnel

The most famous gag centres on Tufnel as he boasts over the features of his custom Marshall amp, offering up an idiom that would become so well-quoted that it entered the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2002. “These go to eleven”, Tufnel tells the director proudly, gesturing to his Marshall stack’s numbered volume control knobs. That’s a whole unit louder than your average guitar amplifier, he claims.

Marshall Law interview with Spinal Tap
The famous spinal tap guitar
Close up of the panel of the spinal tap 1959 amp in spinal going up to 11

Spinal Tap turning things up to 11. Nigel Tufnel’s Marshall Amp guitar.

The joke was a testament, said Shearer in a 2012 interview, to how the “mighty Marshall” had become an “iconic piece of equipment” for all rock fans by 1984. The film’s widespread appeal also proved that Marshall was more than just a connoisseur’s choice. It was a globally-recognisable cultural entity, too. Accordingly, a year after the film’s release, Jim Marshall was invited to add his handprints to the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame. You can find them there today, alongside those of fellow pioneers Robert Moog, Les Paul, and Stevie Wonder.

Jim Marshall places his handprints on the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame.

Jim Marshall places his handprints on the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame.


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