Beginning of the Beginning
Born in Squatney east London, Nigel Tufnel was given his first guitar, a “Rhythm King”, at the age of six. The beginning of the start of the beginning of rock and roll history began to begin when Nigel jammed with his next door neighbour David St. Hubbins in a toolshed in Hubbin’s father’s garden.
Amid the mystery and chemistry of garden implements their first song “(Cry) All the way home” took shape and of course, after forming the legendary Thamesmen, the rest is history.
At the Crossorads in the Toolshed
Tufnel has always been quick to acknowledge the debt he owes to the past masters of the blues tradition. Pioneers like the deaf guitar genius Big Little Daddy Coleman, as well as black-onion-country style picker Honkin’ Bubba Fulton – both clearly an influence on Tufnel’s unique approach to scaling the fretboard.
Tufnel is Dog
The Thamesmen were a big hit on the scene and at the vanguard of the “Thames Delta” bands. It wasn’t long before a rash of graffiti appeared all over the walls of south London’s underground stations – “Tufnel is God” – it was only halted when the dyslexic vandal was caught and apprehended by the Croydon police.
After an appeal from Tufnel, who donated for auction one of his unique and rare spandex guitar picks, the protagonist was let off and asked to do 15 hours of community service and take spelling lessons.
Often Imitated – Never Bettered
By the end of the 1970’s it was clear that Tufnel was in a league of his own and many guitarists – even the remarkable Vim Fuego – had tried to imitate his flamboyant style. Tufnel’s inimitable silent sustain has yet to be equalled and Marshall amplification produce a special line of amplifier heads that uniquely “go to eleven”. Together with St. Hubbins on rhythm guitar the duo have been acknowledged in the footnotes of the invenerable Encyclopaedia Metallica.
“We left school and started playing Tube station skiffle. It was like the filings feel about a magnet. We were the filings, Spinal Tap became the magnet”.
Tufnel’s closest rival was probably south London’s Jeff Beck. Where Clapton had copied Jimi Hendrix’ hairstyle in an attempt to capture some of the Purple Hazed genius’ mojo, Beck had opted for Tufnel’s proto-mullet-shag. Of course, when it came to guitar Tufnel held all the sixes and Beck the aces. Beck was prone to inferior bouts of invention, melody and exceptional timing.
At the end of the 1970’s Tufnel and Hubbins formed the legendary heavy rock group Spinal Tap and the rest is history. At the height of the peak of their ascent to the apex of the rock music pinnacle Spinal Tap were as huge as the models of Stone Henge they used on stage .
Despite the mysterious and strange death of a succession of drummers, one of them in a “bizarre gardening accident”, and the usual supergroup problems Spinal Tap produced many notable recordings such as “Shark Sandwich” and “Smell the Glove”.
Their acknowledged classics are “This is Spinal Tap” and the genre destroying glam-metal-country-neo-classical -crossover-colossus “Break Like the Wind”.
Tufnel’s Equipment and Sound
Nigel enjoys collecting guitars – one of his more unique guitars is a Sea Foam Green 6 string Fender Bass VI. Nigel keeps this Fender guitar in mint condition, with the price tag still attached – it is so sacrosanct that it is not allowed to be played, touched, looked at, pointed at, or even talked about. He usually plays a 1959 Gibon Les Paul with a carved flame maple top.
Replicating Tufnel’s sound and tone is particularly difficult, but there are two essential parts to the Tufnel matrix – meteroic technique and melodic judgement, specially built Marshall amplifiers and rare guitars (at times a special yellow hot rod guitar with 8 pickups) and an inimitable and mystically infinite silent sustain technique.