Things I’ve endeavoured to learn over the years – on the guitars I’ve collected in that time.
‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (arr. Kiss)
A friendly message to our friends over the pond as you vote to decide your next President. It’s ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ on a Fender Stratocaster by someone in a Gap sweater and a NY Yankees cap. How American is that?
Oh, and as one friend to another, please don’t inflict Trump on the rest of the world today.
Thanks, The UK.
‘Rest In Peace’ (Extreme)
I know, a rather preachy number from the occasionally cheesy Boston four-piece may not be to everyone’s taste but I’ve always wanted to be able play this song – ever since I watched them live in Manchester in 1992. Of all the great guitarists I’ve seen live, only Nuno Bettencourt has ever made me consider giving up the instrument due to his damn virtuosity. Having bitten the bullet (an inappropriate metaphor, given the subject matter), I bought the songbook and took it on. I found it surprisingly easy to learn, even the solo, albeit it’s very fast and soon finds out your technique if you’re not absolutely on it. I don’t spend ages doing re-takes so there are mistakes in here and bits where my fingers get caught under the strings, forcing me to improvise and hope I got away with it.
The guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul in cherry sunburst, down-tuned a semitone. I got it in 1992 and it saw me through university and ever since…
‘Romeo & Juliet’ (Dire Straits)
Mark Knopfler isn’t just an annoyingly good guitarist but an equally adept writer. He took an archaic type of guitar (the resonator, popular in the 1920s and 30s), tuned it differently, changed the key by three semitones and still wrote a classic love song on it. The swine! I was given this resonator for my 40th birthday and was therefore compelled to learn this song…
‘Imagine’ (John Lennon)
A very simple chord progression underlies one of the most potent songs of all time and, instead of a classical piano (which I can’t play), I use my classical guitar (which I can). All those years attempting to finger-pick like Mark Knopfler (see above) came in handy.
‘Happy’ (Pharrell Williams)
More simple-but-effective chording (albeit slightly more obscure chords) for this modern classic. Standard tuning with a capo on the first fret on a Squier strat I bought for £90. The wah-wah pedal on the chorus could do with a bit of oil, though…
‘Let It Be’ (The Beatles)
Lots of barre chords, where many strings are pushed down with one finger and 12 strings, offering twice the resistance, often results in dead notes – as I ably prove here. Even so, nothing sounds like those jangly sweep strums on a nice 12-string. Having said that, I’m not sure this is the nicest example you’ll ever find. It was an £80 second-hand acquisition, paid for out of my student loan, from a music store in Lancaster over twenty years ago. Last year, I tired of its rather gypsy look and re-purposed it to look like David Bowie’s famous twelvie.