Norman Harris on renting his guitars for Spinal Tap: “I didn’t know that it would become a cult movie”

Remember the legendary Marshall amp that goes to eleven?

Nigel and his Les Paul from This Is Spinal Tap

Image: This Is Spinal Tap

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Famed guitar dealer and Norman’s Rare Guitars proprietor Norman Harris has opened up about renting his gear for the iconic rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

Speaking to guitar star and aficionado Joe Bonamassa in the latest episode of Live from Nerdville, Harris shares how the collaboration came to be, saying “Chris Guest [who plays Nigel Tufnel], who is a buddy of mine, originally, he was an acoustic player. And it was mainly Martins, mandolins, Gibson acoustics and things like that.

“Then all of a sudden, he said, ‘We’re gonna be doing this movie and it’s kind of a spoof, about this rock band, and we want to get some really cool instruments and since I know you have a bunch of cool stuff, what can we do?'”

“I tried to outfit them with some really cool stuff,” Harris says, pointing in particular to the scene where the protagonist shows off his gear. “There was a sunburst Les Paul, of course. And they said, ‘This guitar sustains so much we can go out and have a bite come back and it’s still going.’

“And they had the Marshall amp where they dialled up to 11. They say to Chris, what does that mean? I mean, it’s louder because of course if 10 is 10, 11 is gonna be louder so that’s one of the gags that they kind of made famous back in the day.”

He adds, “The thing with that Seafoam Green Bass VI, the gag was ‘This thing’s so clean.’ He goes, ‘Don’t even look at it, don’t point at it. Don’t do anything, this thing is so clean, don’t do anything to it.'”

And while Harris did eventually attend Spinal Tap’s premiere in London, he admits that he didn’t expect the film to achieve the massive following it still enjoys today.

“At the time, I didn’t know that it would become a cult movie. In fact, I have a friend of mine from London, named Chris who I took to the premiere of the movie. And his reaction – he’s sitting right next to me and you know, there’s spoofing on the Brits and all that. And Chris looked over, he said, ‘People in London are never going to approve of this.’ You just never know, a lot of stuff just happens and then years go by, and then people are still kind of digging it for whatever reason.”

Norman’s Rare Guitars has outfitted other movies with musical equipment in the past, too. Recently, Norman Harris revealed that he warned Back to the Future producers about the historical accuracy of the movie’s Gibson ES-345, who responded saying they had “artistic liberty”.

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