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February 2009

Anarchy in the UK


Anarchy in the UK remains one of my favorite songs by The Sex Pistols.  It's a pretty easy to play using basic barre chords (G, F, E, D, C.)  and has a couple of nice manageable solos. 

The riff was by original bass player Glen Matlock, beefed up by Steve Jones and lyrics by Johnny Rotten.  Here's how the Pistols described the song coming into being in the liner notes to the 2003 Box Set.

Glen: I had this idea for a sort of 'theme tune' and had been knocking ideas about at home, but nothing concrete. We'd had yet another ruck about who and who wasn't pulling their weight. Steve was short of ideas and snapped at me, “You're so f**king clever, what have you got!?” Well, not a lot, but he'd well and truly put me on the spot, so with this vague fanfare idea in mind, I jammily came up with the whole chord sequence, there and then. John came up with these amazing lyrics half an hour later, the rest, history. The only thing that bugged me about this was the dreadful 'Antichrist' / 'Anarcheeest' rhyme...

Steve: Glen came up with a clever riff. Ditto John's lyrics. I turned up the guitar and thrashed away. Paul somehow held it all together, a classic.

John: I kept really quiet that evening. I had written the words down while they were in the corner arguing. I used to have terrible trouble rehearsing because I was so f**king shy about it. I always wanted to be brilliant, excellent, loved and adored right from the start. When I finally finished the words, Glen was absolutely furious. He thought it was appalling and a silly idea for a song. I proved him right.

Paul: It was Glen's riff originally, and Steve beefed it up. Glen felt a little precious about it being his song. He was upset about John’s terrain being thrown over the top. John and Glen had such different ideas, and Steve and I were in the middle. But I thought the tension was working. 'Anarchy' was the classic example of everything working perfectly.

The main riff is pretty straight forward.  It's an A shape barre chord at the 10th fret, then the 8th, the 7th, the 5th, the 3rd frets.  Here's the Chorus as shown in Tab notation in GuitarPro format from TabScout.  (Click on the graphic to enlarge.)  Although the Pistols had a reputation for playing fast, in fact most of their songs are at a modest speed, this one around 131 beats per minute.


And here's most of the first solo. You can click on the graphic to make it full size.   Remember, Steve Jones couldn't read music, so it's less complicated than it looks. It's basically three fingers on 12, 13, 14th frets on the strings (high) E, B and G, sliding down two frets, then repeat four times and then close it out with some power chords.  If you're using GuitarPro, slow it down until you get the hang of it.


Classic_albums And if you want a completely authentic version, here's a video of Steve Jones from the Classic Albums Series on the making of "Never Mind the Bollocks" where he illustrates his guitar playing on several songs. (Skip ahead to 2:45 to get to "Anarchy.")   It's a great DVD and well worth it just to see Steve showcase his guitar chops on many of the Pistols finest songs.


  • Tabs: Fretplay (Text),  TabScout (GuitarPro) 
  • Amazon: Never Mind the Bollocks DVD, Never Mind the Bollocks CD, Classic Albums
  • Cook & Jones: Official Web Site

  • FretBase Community for Guitar Players


    FretBase is a new site that is rapidly becoming a nice resource for guitar players.  The idea is to make it a destination with information about guitars, guitar players and songs.  Many people are contributing information to the site and there's also an excellent blog by the founders Brian and Dave that includes many reviews and news articles.

    Here's a few that I found interesting:

    This could become a great resource and is worth checking out and contributing to.  All they need now is a cool logo! 

    Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight


    Yes, that's the actual name of the song. It's not from the Department of Redundancy Department, but it might as well could have been.  Rather, it's from the movie "This is Spinal Tap."  For fans of the film, this is a key song which is played early in the movie and again in a climactic scene where Nigel Tufnel rejoins Spinal Tap on stage in the final gig of their ill-fated US tour.

    It's a fun song to play on guitar as a series of power chords: G5, A5, E5, C5, F5 or in tab notation:


    And here's a clip of Spinal Tap performing the song from the movie.  On the Ultimate-Guitar tab site you can find several versions of the basic riffs as well as the solo as text file tabs and in Guitar-Pro format.  Just be sure to turn the volume up to 11.

    Parker + Line 6 = Very Cool!


    My contacts over at US Music Corp let me know about a very cool new Parker Guitar being shown around at the NAMM musical instruments expo this week: the Parker Adrian Belew Signature Fly.  Belew established himself as one of the most influential prog-rock guitarplayers with his early work in King Crimson and as a session player for Frank Zappa, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Nine-Inch-Nails and others.

    Belew_parker Parker Guitars, with their innovative design and components  have long been favored by prog-rock and jazz players.  With the addition of Line 6's Variax electronics, the Adrian Belew Signature Model enables you to chose between 25 modeled guitar sounds encompassing a wide range of classic electric guitar sounds as well as a range of acoustic sounds, including, 12 string, banjo, dobor and sitar. 

    The Signature model includes Sperzel locking tuners, a DiMarzio bridge pickup and a Sustainiac Stealth Pro neck pickup with infinite feedback sustain.  All of that in a classic Parker Fly guitar with its lightweight one piece body, carbon-glass-epoxy composite fretboard and stainless steel frets.

    Pricing and availability has not been announced.  It's a totally custom guitar, but I hope it's not so expensive you have to be in King Crimson to afford it.  And it would be cool to see other guitar manufacturers licensing Line 6's excellent electronics.   Parker's also announced a new Fly Mojo MIDI featuring the Roland GK-GT3 pickup kit that provides on-board MIDI compatibility for use with the Roland V-Guitar system or any BOSS GK Effect pedal. 

    A Gem of a Site for Ibanez


    For fans of Ibanez / JEM guitars, JemSite is nice little site with everything you need to know about these unique guitars favored by Steve Vai and others.  As Steve Vai noted in an interview from Guitar Player magazine quoted in the article "Origins of the JEM"

    "The JEM guitars - I don't know what I did without them all these years [laughs]. The guitars that I use are exactly like the ones right off the shelf. That was the concept behind doing the deal with Ibanez. I wanted a guitar that was suited to me, that had all my little ideas and idiosyncrasies, such as having 24-frets and having it dug out so the Floyd Rose is recessed into the body. I wanted to be able to pull up on the bar, and not have it go out of tune when you rest your wrist on the tremolo. I wanted to have the volume pots in a certain place and be able to reach high up with the cutaway." (GP - 5/88)

    There are articles, forums and a well-written community blog.  Even if you're not a hardcore Ibanez player, there are articles that will be of general interest.  Here are a few items I found interesting:

    If you're interested in Ibanez/JEM guitars, be sure to check it out.

    Gibson Dark Fire Software Glitch?


    Looks like Gibson has announced that their much lauded Dark Fire super duper automatically tuning robo-guitar is delayed.  While the message indicates that they want to ship the guitars with the digital RIP interface box (a terrible name --makes me think of Rest In Peace!)  if you read between the lines, it sounds like there's some software issues holding things up.

    Unfortunately, Dark Fire just wasn’t ready ― almost, just barely, but not quite.

    Dark Fire has to be flawless. Period. Because there are so many software and hardware components and because we’d set the bar so high, we didn’t anticipate the amount of time it would take to go from “it works” to “it’s perfect.” And for you, our valued and respected customers, it must be perfect. Anything less, and it would not be a Gibson.

    Every computer has software and most software needs to be updated at some point or another ― the same is true for Dark Fire, which has a computer inside. Included with the guitar is firmware that allows us to constantly upgrade and improve the usability of the instrument...

    In fact, we’ve already made significant improvements that will require a firmware update upon receipt of your RIP package. Once the RIP software is installed on your computer, you can run the RIP console, which will automatically check both the RIP and the guitar.

    My guess is they've found some problems that have to be fixed in software and the problem is severe enough that they don't want to leave it to be done (or ignored) by the dealers and end users.   If anyone has more information on this, let me know.

    It's not the first time that software has been found to have bugs or that a project has been delayed.  That's one of the growing problems with an increasingly computerized world of music.  Peavey, Fender, Line6 and many other companies have routinely needed to issue embedded software (also called firmware) updates to amps, guitars and pedals that do digital modeling. 

    Still, if you're spending upwards of 3 grand on a guitar, it's good that Gibson is keeping the quality bar high.  Better to have a delay to get things right than to ruin the experience (and reputation) of what looks to be a pretty cool guitar. 

    Here's a walkthrough of the Dark Fire from that I learned about on FretBase.

    Why You Shouldn't Buy A New Guitar in 2009


    If you're like me, every few weeks or months you start thinking about a new guitar.  You research the announcements about Gibson's latest Darkfire or Fender's 50th anniversary Jazzmaster guitar and you think "I gotta have that."  Hours are spent trolling the guitar shops, reading magazine reviews, looking for good deals online.  If you've got more guitars than decent pairs of shoes, you've got what Walter Becker calls Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.  It's all good, except for one thing: it takes time away from playing.

    So my firm recommendation is: assuming you've already got one decent guitar, don't buy a new guitar in 2009.  Don't think about it.  Don't read about it.  Don't research it.  Nothing.  Nada.  Instead, put your time, money and effort into things that will truly improve your playing: like learning new songs, styles, techniques or scales. 

    Last year, I managed to play guitar 360 days of the year.  Between family, work, exercise and travel, that didn't leave a whole lot of spare time.  Admittedly, I had a bit of a binge buying several cheap guitars in the last year to stow at my relatives houses to get more practice time. (And I'll be updating some of these reviews with videos in the coming months.)  Nonetheless, my advice is focus your time on where you're going to get the most benefit: practicing.

    (Unless that Nigel Tufnel Ernie Ball "Mr Horsepower" guitar goes on sale.  Then all bets are off...)


    Yngwie Malmsteem & Nigel Tufnel

    Yngwie Malmsteem is one of the uber-shredders of the guitar world, up there with Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap.  Not your cup of tea?  Well, it's a pretty, ah, specialized area with an audience that is becoming "more selective," if you know what I mean.  This parody showcases Yngwie's special talents quite well...

    And as a bonus, here's Nigel's classic guitar solo where he outdoes Jimmy Page's use of the violin bow from the funniest rock and roll movie ever, " This Is Spinal Tap."

    As Spinal Tap's David St Hubbins says, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." 

    Rockin' the New Year with Auld Lang Syn


    Just in time for your big New Year's eve gig, "Auld Lang Syn" was written by Scottish poet Robert "Rockin'" Burns for the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally."  It's been characterized as one of the most famous songs that no one knows the words to.  But if you're wailing away on a guitar solo, you can be forgiven for not singing along. 

                 Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
                 And never brought to mind ?
                 Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
                 And days o' lang syne ?

    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    For auld lang syne,
    We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
    For auld lang syne.

    I've picked three versions that are fairly easy to learn.  The first, by Justin Sandercoe from JustinGuitar, is a traditional folk arrangement for acoustic guitar.  It uses the open chords C, G, F, Am and a fairly simple pick / strum pattern.  He's broken the lesson down into 4 parts and there's also a PDF of the arrangement.

    Alternatively, the Barenaked Ladies have a version for piano that you can strum to using the open chords G, Em, Am, D and B.  If you can get some folks to sing harmonies, it doesn't sound too bad either.

    Finally if you're running out of time, here's an even easier way to play the melody using the Tab notation below from FretPlay.  Add some slide on the B and E strings, some vibrato and a bit of distortion, and it'll sound quite nice all by itself.  You can also do basic strum accompaniment on guitar or piano using the chords F, C7, Bb, A, Dm, Gm7. 

    Happy New Year!