Magazine – Shot By Both Sides

I’ve taken my time getting around to this band, but they, and a short discussion on Facebook, are what motivated me to start writing this blog.

This completely passed me by when it was released. I’m not surprised. It was a lot more sophisticated than most of the things I was enjoying at the time. I first heard and liked it when I was at sixth form.

We used to have a common room and there was often crappy music in there. There was a clique of “heavy rock” (denim, long hair, pachouli oil) types who controlled the music in the common room. I remember they were fond of sewing the names of their favourite bands (Jethro Tull, Saxon, Free, …) on the back of their denim jackets. I was more about writing the names in black pen on the cover of my folder.

Perhaps that said something about our relative attention spans. I’d quite often fall in love with a band and lose interest in them within six months when the new shiny thing came along. I suppose the Jethro Tull fans were sure that they’d still love them even when their jacket corroded and fell apart as a consequence of the continual onslaught of pachouli oil and stale cider.

Anyway, I used to ignore the common room. I couldn’t imagine anything much worse than listening to the crap they had on in there. One day things were different. I don’t know why. As I walked past I could hear something playing that I actually liked. To this day, I don’t know why this was on, or even who put it on. I lingered by the door for a few minutes before entering just to make sure it wasn’t a short interlude before more awful Saxon (or whatever). No, I was good. The song continued and as I listened I liked it more and more.

(Side note: Someone played Talking Heads – Remain In Light that day and I loved that as well, but that’s not material for this blog.)

I found out who the band were and as soon as I could started buying up the back catalogue.

Shot By Both Sides

(I’m talking about a rhythm and lead part below. That’s just to provide a distinction if you’ve got two guitarists in your band. In “Real Life”, John McGeogh played both parts and that’s a reasonable thing to do.)

The Rhythm parts are fairly straightforward. You want to get a fairly driven, heavy sound. Listen to the song to pick up the rhythms. The intro plays the same part as the chorus:

C#5 -> Ab5 -> F#5 -> C#5

I play fifths, that sounds heaviest. Playing full chords, doesn’t sound right, but if you really wanted to, make sure to play Abm, since it’s minor in the key of F#. I play the C# on the fourth fret and other chords relative to that.

The lead guitar wants to be really brittle, and a fair amount of distortion. I play the little riff starting at the C# on the fourth string and work across the fretboard to finish on the B string, but you can play it anywhere that sounds good to you. The riff progression is:

C# Eb E F# Ab Bb B C C# Eb E F# Ab (Big bend on the Ab to get the distorted wail)

Listen to the song to get the timing right.

(Thanks to John Levon for pointing out that it’s the same riff in “Lipstick” by The Buzzcocks.)

The verse is:

C#5 -> B5

Again I play fifths, same position as before.

There’s a little riff from the lead guitar in there. I think that’s playing

C# Eb E C#

At the end of the chorus, both guitars shift to F#5. One of them (probably the rhythm) is playing with a lot of flange on, so turn on your flanger here.

For the guitar solo, there’s a key change (to Eb). The Rhythm guitar plays

Eb5 -> Bb5 -> Ab5 -> Eb5 (twice)

Whilst the lead guitar plays a solo:

First time through the chord sequence is a fancy rock and roll based solo. I can’t tab that here. Cobble something together in E Major Pentatonic and it will probably do the job. Or follow the chords and do some extensions. Second time through he’s playing something like this (commas indicate rests.)

Eb F F# F F# F, Eb D Eb D Eb D, Eb F F# F F# Ab Bb

(You have to listen to the solo to get the phrasing right.)

At the end he plays a long section just on F#5. Use the flanger again here on rhythm, play low down the neck and do a lot of palm muting. On lead, play further up the neck and increase emphasis gradually until the final chorus starts.

The song ends with a little section

B5 -> C#5

repeat this 4 times.

The Cure – Primary

I first became aware of The Cure when I was about 16 or 17. A dangerous age. I wasn’t a particularly diligent student and found myself spending more and more time listening to, and buying, music.

Historical aside for any younger readers: In the olden days (pre 2,000 AD say), when people wanted to listen to music, they had to buy it. On the plus side, you could see a band play without having to re-mortgage your house! :)

My music buying strategy had evolved away from listening to tips from friends, a technique which had served me well for many years, to a sophisticated melange of reading various music magazines (NME, Sounds, Melody Maker) and scouring the racks at HMV, Virgin, looking for album covers which were interesting. As you can imagine this occasionally lead to some poor decisions, for instance the purchase of ‘A Farewell To Kings’ by ‘Rush’, but on the whole it was surprisingly effective.

I’d seen various Cure albums and was particularly curious about the ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ album. I’d seen it on several trips and wondered what kind of band would choose to put mundane household appliances on their covers. However, my experimental tendencies weren’t quite pronounced enough to buy an album just because it had a picture of an old fridge on the front.

In the end, I cracked and made the pilgrimage to Manchester to buy the album. Here I encountered another old fashioned problem. They had sold out. Not a problem you come across much these days. The only album they had in stock was ‘Seventeen Seconds’. I bought this and loved it to pieces. It has some great songs on it and I immediately became a Cure convert. Of course, this entry isn’t about any of the songs on that album, so I’ll only note that after buying this I then had to wait around for ages for the next release by The Cure, which was the single ‘Primary’.

I was really intrigued by this song. I had no idea what the hell he was singing about, but the guitar arrangements were really curious. I remember seeing them on TOTP at around this time and they were playing two bass guitars. That was odd. Anyone know why?

Primary

The bass and the guitar are really close in this song and it’s not always easy to separate them. The four strums at the start on the guitar are really muffled, but it’s probably something like:

Bb5 -> A5 -> G#5 -> G5

The bass starts playing in eighths.

E -> A -> E -> D

On the D it may follow the guitar and play the little D -> C# -> D part. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t hurt to do it or just keep playing D. If you do it, the rhythm changes a little bit to triplets for the first D and C# and then two final Ds in the bar.

There’s more going on in this song than you would think. I think I’ll watch a few live videos and see if I can pick apart the different guitar parts. More later…

 

Echo and the Bunnymen – Going Up

My school closed its sixth form shortly before I would have started there. I, along with all my peers, left school and switched to the local technology college to do our ‘A’ levels. It was an exciting time. It felt a little bit like what it might have felt like to leave school and go up to university. The college was further away from home than my school and I had to catch a bus to get there.

The great thing, I realised, was that going to college was an open invitation to re-invent yourself and make some new friends. For a while, I’d been getting bored with the restrictive orthodoxies  of punk and the reductive opinions of my friends. I looked forward to discovering some new ideas.

I travelled to Manchester to do some record shopping with my 16th birthday money. It would have been just before I started at college. I found myself in the HMV shop holding an album called ‘Crocodiles’. I had picked it up on the strength of the band’s name, a desire to find something new and the amazing photograph on the cover. I couldn’t wait to get home and listen to it.

I put the album on the turntable, lay back on the bed and closed my eyes.

The first track on side one was ‘Going Up’ and it starts with a strange kind of soundscape. Digital poppings/pingings around a shimmering, barely felt, sustained guitar drone. Mystical, almost. Gradually the band fade in and the song starts. What’s he singing about? I don’t know. It sounds prophetic, questioning, but vaguely hopeful. I like that feeling and the lyrics are speaking to me: “Let’s get the hell out of here…” Just how I felt about Wigan*…

*I don’t mean to be rude about Wigan. I’m fairly sure that a lot of 16 year olds want to get the hell out of <X>, however great <X> is. I like to think that I’ve been a good ambassador for Wigan in the years since. :)

Going Up

This is really a song in three sections. I’m going to skip over the soundscape intro and say “make some suitably atmospheric sounds”. The band come in and the main element is the little bass riff. I’m trying to reproduce it on my guitar and it sounds something like a lot of Ds and Es followed by a little gap and then the noticeable part G -> F#. Keep repeating this until the guitar enters on A.

This is the main part of the song and it is characterised by big ringing chords. It’s really simple. Listen to the song and the changes you need are:

A -> E

A -> G

Finally, just before the final section:

E -> G -> E (this is the “Going up….. Going down….” part.)

The final section of the song is characterised  by some very atmospheric vocals and odd sounds. The bass riff is:

E E E E E->F#->B-> E (listen for timing)

There’s more than one guitar playing here, so listen to the song to pick out the different parts. The main part is simply

E->F#->B

Starting at Fret 14 on the D string. This repeats every now and then in time with the bass.

The other guitar is hitting notes (and probably playing an extended version of the first guitar’s part) every now and then, like so:

E->F#->B->F#

(Last F# is fret 19 on the B string)

and every now and then plays

E->F#->B->Bb

(which is the little downbeat riff)

Listen to the song to work out where to fit those two different parts in.

Felt – Primitive Painters

This band are a little bit “not one of these” for this blog. I had originally intended to set my sights on a period roughly between 1978  - 1982. In the end I decided that Felt were just too good and too much of an influence on me to ignore them. They made me feel like I was 14 again and you can’t ignore music like that.

Of course, Felt were releasing records by 1979, but I didn’t discover them until much later. In fact, I was a student at university before I heard of them and I have to confess that it happened incidentally. I was a fan of The Cocteau Twins and this was the first song I heard by Felt. It features additional vocals by Liz Frazer and is produced by Robin Guthrie.

You could spend a long time writing about Felt. In many ways they represent everything great about indie music from the ’80s. I won’t waste time doing that, you can just look it up on the internet.

By the time I encountered Felt they had released several albums and were regularly producing high quality records which, to my untutored ears, were (and still are) completely mesmerising. This song begins in a fairly Cocteau-like fashion, but it’s soon apparent that we are in for something a little different. The guitar shimmers and sparkles over the gliding, soaring keyboard and the introduction extends in an unhurried fashion. Lawrence, the vocalist, doesn’t start singing until we are 1:15 into the song. That’s an introduction which is longer than a lot of the songs that The Fall write…

The intricate and layered guitar parts weave in and out of the keyboard, interspersed by the insistent bass guitar rhythm. You hit the guitar solo at 3:40 and it is utterly and completely beautiful. Controlled, tasteful, intricate, well-paced, and just everything a guitar solo should be. It’s perfect. I wish it could have continued forever.

Primitive Painters

I laugh at my puny powers of guitar playing. I thought it would be hard to figure out some of the other songs on this blog. I’ve literally got no chance of figuring out anything that Maurice Deebank played. Ah well, I’ll give it my best shot.

The main song structure follows a repetition of E -> A -> D -> E major chords There may be some Esus4 thrown in there occasionally. There is a slightly different section at about 2:00 when the sequence becomes

A -> D (4x), E -> A -> D -> A -> E -> D

before returning to the main sequence.

Let’s not worry about the chords though, since we aren’t playing keyboard.

The main part you can hear at the start of the song are harmonics on the E and B strings. You could just play them at fret 12 on the two strings, but I think he’s actually playing them at 5th fret E, 7th fret E, 12th fret E, 12th fret B to get the feeling of motion

Ok, that’s enough to get this started. I’ll try and figure out what the 12 string is doing in the background next…

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Christine

This wasn’t the first song I heard by The Banshees. I’m not sure, but I expect that distinction goes to “Hong Kong Garden”.  It was a pretty successful single, but, for whatever reason, just didn’t make as much impact on me as it should. I liked the song, I think I just couldn’t find time in my busy/hectic teenage schedule to like another band!

Some years went by after HKG and I continued liking the band but just didn’t like them enough to pay more attention to them. That changed one day when I was hanging out with some friend at Jonesy’s house (Ian Jones) and he played us a stack of different Banshees tracks. I loved most of them, but my favourite by a country mile was “Christine”.

The insistent bass and the chiming, ringing arpeggios on the guitar weaved a complex spell with the whispered vocals. The little melody on the synthesiser. The drumming was fantastic. So many textures, little inserted pops on the cymbals… It almost has too much for one song.

Christine

You really want your guitar to ring out on this song. Use chorus and reverb to get the right effect. It should be shimmering.

This might well be one of those songs that would be easier to play if you re-tuned your guitar up a tone (The clue is that we start playing on Eb). Anyway, I’ll assume that we are playing it in standard tuning whenever I discuss fret positions.

The songs starts with a single ringing Eb chord. I like to play it as a bar C shape. Bar on the third fret.  Strike quickly and emphasise the lighter strings to get the right effect. The bass joins in playing bars of Eb and D. The guitar continues striking the Eb chord. It’s a slower, less percussive strike, more of an arpeggiated feel. This continues through every verse in the song.

I’m not really sure what the guitar’s doing in the chorus yet. But I think the bass is moving from D -> F -> D -> B -> C -> D.

 

 

Ultravox – I Can’t Stay Long

(I’ll just clarify one thing first, I’m talking about any of the incarnations of the band in which John Foxx sang. I’ve nothing against Midge Ure, I just didn’t care for other versions of the band.)

There used to be a pattern for finding most of the bands and music that I liked. It inevitably went something along the lines of:

A friend, who’s taste I trust, likes some of the same things I already like. He/She tells me about X. I listen to something by X. I either like it, in which case I buy it, or I don’t.

Ultravox!/Ultravox didn’t fit that pattern. I can’t remember why I spontaneously decided to buy an album by them. I remember when I bought it, it would have been in Autumn 1979. Perhaps I’d started to be influenced by the music press I’d started to read? Who knows. They also had another distinction for me. They were, as far as I can recall, the first band that I liked who didn’t exist anymore when I started to listen to them. The band had split earlier in the year when John Foxx (the lead singer) and Robin Simon (the guitarist) had both quit.

They weren’t really either a Punk or a New Wave band and so I think it’s fairly safe to say that by the time I discovered them, my musical taste was expanding in many different directions. I can’t remember which of their albums I bought first, but I think it was “Systems of Romance”.

The album is musically accomplished. That’s an understatement, especially when compared to most of the things I like. It was radically different to anything I’d ever bought before. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was more or less the first “krautrock” influenced (produced by Connie Plank) album that I ever owned. I chose “I Can’t Stay Long”, because the drum sound is so distinctively “krautrock”.

Ultravox share another personal distinction for me. I have never met another person who prefers the John Foxx fronted version to the Midge Ure incarnation. Actually, I don’t think I know anyone who even likes them at all! Odd. I think they are a really exciting band and I would have expected someone would like them.

I Can’t Stay Long

Let’s face it. There’s no way I’m going to work this out! I’ll come back and have a go one day soon…

XTC – Life Begins At The Hop

XTC are a definite “marmite” band. Not in my opinion, I love them and so should everyone. There do seem to be a lot of people who really don’t like XTC though…

I first heard about them when I was chatting with a friend at school about different colours of vinyl which you could buy. It was a big thing for a while in the late 70s; although you could tell things had gone too far when The Dickies released “Banana Splits” on yellow vinyl. People were competing to get it on black vinyl because it was cooler! :)

Anyway, XTC had released “Life Begins At The Hop” on clear vinyl. This had a special attraction. It was one thing to have a single in a different colour, but imagine how cool it would be to have a single that you could see through as it was playing!

Anyway, it turned out that a friend of a friend, David Bolton (I think, the details are a bit hazy) had a copy and was happy to let us listen to it. I’d have to say that I liked it, but I wasn’t blown away. It seemed a bit too complicated to me (see some of my other listening choices at this age and you’ll probably understand why…), but I did like the chorus. I could tell there was something going on that was “good”, but I just wasn’t a sophisticated enough listener to appreciate it.

That was the beginning of my relationship with XTC. As time went by I heard more songs and liked them, I bought albums (all of them eventually) and they were one of my favourite bands for many, many years. I still don’t get why they weren’t more popular or respected. I suppose it just shows that you don’t always get the respect you deserve.

Life Begins At The Hop

This is a more sophisticated song than any I’ve tried to annotate so far. I’ve decided to just do parts as I figure them out and add them in over time. I’m sure there’ll be lots missing for a long time, but here we go…

The main recurring phrase in the song is based around a D and a C chord. Let’s call this the main Dave Gregory part. In the intro it’s just D, but changes between D and C in the verse. You have to listen to the song to get the rhythm, but it’s picking out a pattern on the first three notes of the D and C major scales (D, E, F#) and (C, D, E) respectively. I play this on the fifth and third fret, and once you get your head around the phrasing it’s pretty simple.

Andy Partridge is throwing in some sharp stabbing chords occasionally. You have to listen to the record to get these right. They are D chords and they sound right to me as A shape chords on the fifth fret.

That should get you through the verses.

There’s a pre-chorus which is the part: “Tell me what do you say”. The chords change here and become:

G- > D -> G -> A

The chords for the chorus are:

D -> A -> G -> A

When the chorus is being sung: “Life Begins At The Hop”, just at the end of that phrase you’ll hear 7 or 8 off the beat stabbing G chords. I play those as E shaped chords at the third fret. I think that’s Dave Gregory playing them.

I think Dave Gregory plays the little riff at the end of this section and I’m really struggling to pick this out, but it’s four pairs of notes which I think are plucked from the G major scale. My best guess just now is:

F# -> G, D -> E, C -> D, B -> C

(that may very well be wrong, but it sounds ok…)

Make sure to hit the overdrive for that little riff part.

Joy Division – Disorder

I was slightly older than when I had discovered “The Fall” or “The Buzzcocks“. You can tell I was more mature because this track is an album track, not a single!

Life was pretty difficult when I got this album. My parents were separating and I was living in a temporary bedroom in a rented house. I spent most of my time out of the house and the little time I did spend there was in my bedroom, listening to some fairly gloomy albums.  I felt very dislocated and isolated and this album (Unknown Pleasures) was perfect for that time.

I acquired it by swapping my old “Jam” albums to Steven Chisnall. I regretted this almost immediately and regretted it even more when he wouldn’t sell them back to me. Never, ever swap albums! It will not end well. I was very pleased at the time though.

I walked home with my new acquisition, studying the sleeve in the fading light and speculating about what kind of sounds it would contain. I loved the little image on the cover. It looked like a mountain range. I also loved the fact that there was very little information about the band on the cover. It just gave me more scope to imagine the contents.

I put on the first side and was immediately grabbed by the artificial sounding drums and insistent, pulsing bass line. As soon as the guitar and the swooping/swishing synthesizers joined in, I could tell that I was going to enjoy things.

I was surprised by the lyrics though. It was almost like Ian Curtis was speaking to me: “I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand”. I’d been listening to a lot of music throughout most of my teenage years, but that was the first time I really felt like they meant something personal to me. It was a revelation.

Disorder

A lot of Joy Division’s songs are led melodically by the bass guitar. This is no exception.

Eb -> G -> Bb -> G

(I’m not going to say any more about the bass part, I’m a guitarist not a bassist…)

After a while the guitar joins in playing alternating Bb and F and then alternating F and F (octaves). I play these on the D string (fret 8) and G string (fret 10) and A string (fret 8).

The next guitar part is the soloish part between verses.

It starts on Bb and moves to C. I play it on the D string. Frets 8 and 10. Listen to the song to get the rhythm of the riff. There’s a tiny bend on the C occasionally. Then slide up to play notes D, Eb and F at frets (12, 13 and 15). Again listen to the song to get the rhythm right.

At the end of the song, the guitar starts to become heavier and is playing full chords. There are only two chords Bc -> C which it continually switches between. To get the feel right for the song, I play them higher up the fret board on the trebly strings (DGB) using a partial “D” shape chord. I also just play the power chords (Bb5 and C5). Root your chord shapes at the 8th fret and 10th fret on the D string and mute the other strings.

The Fall – Bingo Master’s Breakout

Hearing this for the first time, like most things when you are a teenager, is a voyage of discovery. In retrospect, somewhat similar to how I first heardThe Buzzcocks.

A friend, Carl Hampson, told me about this new band he’d heard that were great. I was somewhat sceptical, since he was a self-declared “Northern Soul” fan.  He was a good mate, so I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. (It probably sounds odd to consider having to give someone the benefit of the doubt just to listen to their vinyl… It sounds odd to me now, but it seemed fairly normal when I was 14. Back then, listening to the wrong kind of music was a fairly serious thought crime.)

A longish bus journey to Atherton (where “Hammy” lived) ensued and I was eager to listen to this band by the time I got there. Of course, listening to a single was only part of the full program of activities: we had to go hang out around the shopping centre, explain to a sceptical truancy office why we weren’t at school (Atherton had different holidays to the place where our school was situated) and generally waste time as teenage boys like to.

Eventually, after a full afternoon of teenage mis-behaviour, we dug out Carl’s copy of “Bingo Master’s Breakout”.

It’s funny, I can still remember listening to the measured, mesmerising, hypnotic drum beat. MES intoning “Coloured Balls In Front Of His Eyes”… I was hooked. They sounded completely mental. You could tell that this was something “different”. The music sounded off-kilter, the lead guitar drifting in and out of “correct” (out of key, as I now know, but didn’t at that time). I also, liked the fact that MES sang in his natural voice. It sounded very familiar to me and I liked that.

Thus started a long, and somewhat fragmented relationship with “The Fall”. I won’t bother documenting that, since it probably would sound a lot like any of those books you can buy about what other people think about the Fall. I’ll just say that almost 35 years later, I can still listen to a Fall album and discover something new. There aren’t many bands you can say that about.

There seems to be lots written about The Fall on the internet nowadays.

Bingo Master’s Breakout

Hmm, where to begin. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not completely clear on what’s going on with this track. I’ll put in as many bits as I can and see what it looks like. Maybe I’ll get some helpful comments?

The intro has the bass playing a G in time with the drums. After a while the guitar joins in and I think he’s also playing a G note very high on the neck. It sounds about right on fret 15 of your E string. In fact all of this song is going to be played high on your neck, don’t bother thinking about anything below fret 12.

The chorus bit (“Bingo Master’s Breakout…”) is fairly straightforward: C -> D. Play it using a “D” shape on your GB and E strings.

There are two guitar bits, but you can get most of the sounds with a single guitar. The bit you can’t do is the the dischordant bit, because the guitars are doing different things to create that effect. This next section is describing how you can get something like it as a single guitarist.

The main verse part is the tricky bit. It’s based around a G and a little run with an dischordant slidey bit. Play an E shape G on fret 15 and to get the little run, use your little finger on frets 18, 17 and 15. To get something like the dischordant sounding bit, I think you need your little finger on fret 19, but anything sounding a bit odd near there will be good. Near the end of the verse it changes to D and then enters the chorus bit (C -> D).

Play it with a lot of treble, so that your teeth are aching! :)

 

The Buzzcocks – Boredom

I used to sit in classes at school humming this to myself and staring out of the windows. I suppose I should have been listening a little more closely to proceedings, but hey I was bored!

I’m not sure what your school was like, but mine was heavily balkanised. There were kids who liked “Heavy Rock”, “Soul”, “Punk”, “Mod”, etc… I was in the group of kids who were nominally “Punk” although we could kind of tell we weren’t “Proper Punks”. Our houses were generally clean and well maintained and we didn’t get free school dinners.

I’d been listening to some fairly standard punk stuff (X-Ray Specs, The Stranglers, The Sex Pistols, …) and I liked it but there was something a bit wrong for me. It was hard to say why, it wasn’t like I disliked these bands, but it still felt not quite right. I was searching for a different sound.

That’s when I heard about this band called “The Buzzcocks”. They intrigued me. I hadn’t heard any of their songs, but their name spoke to me. It sounded fast and exciting. They were a local band, from nearby Leigh.

I heard that a friend of mine, Mike Mills (not the REM drummer, but a local lad), had got hold of a copy of an E.P. they had made called “Spiral Scratch”. The name was cool, exciting. I had to hear it. Mike was very reluctant because he didn’t actually own the record, it belonged to his older brother and he was terrified of damaging it. I think he told me it was worth £50, an unbelievable sum of money to a 14 year old boy. He’d somehow got hold of an original pressing, I think because a friend or relative was working at the studio where it was recorded.

Anyway I was very persistent and finally got him to play it for me one afternoon. I remember the cover was very plain. The overall impression was how white it was and how unusual Howard Devoto looked. We played side 1 first and I was immediately entranced. The riffs were huge, the speed was exciting. The lyrics were opaque to me, I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but as I jumped around the room I didn’t care much.

Here it was, a different kind of music. It was kind of punk, but it seemed smarter, clever more engaging. It was the right music for me. It still is.

Boredom

There are three main rhythm parts to this song.

Intro/Verse

E -> G -> A -> G -> B (The G’s are just staccato strums to emphasise the changes)

Pre-Chorus

C -> B

Chorus

F -> Eb -> Bb

The Lead part is the most effective two note riff ever:

E -> B

That’s it.

I found this interesting link on YouTube which has Pete talking about the recording of Spiral Scratch. If I had more money than sense I could even buy a guitar like his! :)