My trip to Norman’s Rare Guitars

I’ve wanted to go to Norman’s Rare Guitars for a long time — mostly because Nigel Tufnel wears their shirt in This Is Spinal Tap.

“We’ve got armadillos in our trousers.”

Norman’s is also where they got/rented/borrowed all the guitars for Nigel’s guitar room scenes — including the infamous Fender Bass VI that “can’t be played…never.” After talking about going there “someday” for a long time, Kat finally kidnapped me and took me there as a surprise. I didn’t expect to buy anything but the shirt, but in the words of Marty DiBergi, “I got more — a lot more.” 

Kat pulled it off!

As soon as you walk in the store, you’ll find the shirt Nigel wears for sale — and a Stonehenge stage prop signed by the band!

The back wall with rare Gibsons & Gretches, plus used Fenders

Fenders, Gibsons, and Rics (including a rare Light Show for $20K)

I tend to browse at guitar stores with my hands behind my back, as if to say “I’m not touching anything and therefore not breaking anything” — even though when I do pick up instruments, I treat them gingerly, with more respect than most people do.

I actually found the twin of my guitar — a 1979 Les Paul Custom, same year and finish, gold hardware, speed knobs, truly identical. Price tag says $3595! (I paid less — click on the photo to go to my guitar’s story.)

Ultimately I wandered into the starter guitar area — the cheap beginner instruments — and this weird silent bass caught my eye. Silent guitars are basically planks of wood with a piezo pickup in the bridge and a low-power acoustic-guitar preamp built in, so you can plug in a set of headphones or go out to an amplifier. This weird bass had all the hallmarks of a terrible instrument — an unknown brand, no serial number, no model name, no case, and an incongruous heavy metal look with demonic horns and lightning bolt inlays amidst slabs of rosewood and maple. The price said $199.

What the I don’t even

“Maestro” on the headstock is literally the only marking anywhere on the instrument.

I picked it up and it felt fine — but Kat’s face lit up. Now, she’s the bassist, so if she shows interest, I hand it over, but she still trusts me to tell her whether it’s a good guitar or not. I said “This thing is so weird that we’re only going to find once. I have no way to track down another one like it online, and we will never find it again.”

Kat said, “I am drawn to it, and I’d like to practice with it. And I want this on our wall, so when people say ‘What the fuck is that?’ we can say ‘That’s $200 well spent.'”

So we got it.

The happy new adoptive parents

I poked around online once I got home and found a few variations on the bass, mostly on German music websites, but none of them say Maestro and none have lightning bolt inlays. It’s got to be some Chinese or Korean guitar factory that offers this as a standard model, and will change the configuration, headstock, and brand to each manufacturer’s specifications. The wings look like they will simply come off with four screws, so I am tempted to have some custom wings made so we could swap them in and out with different shapes. Kat’s happy with the default ones and likes the fact that she can grab the upper horn like a handle.

Oh, and I not only got the Nigel shirt but I also got the shirt seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Oh yeah, I remember that!

Turns out I never needed to leave the house. If you want either of these Norman’s Rare Guitar shirts, you can find them here and here.

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