Level: Int/Adv Tuning: Open G
“You Can’t Do That” is an early rocker written by John Lennon. I first heard it sometime back in 1964 on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. I still remember this song standing out as having a darker, edgier colour than a lot of their other early songs. Harrison’s ”Don’t Bother Me” stood out in a similar way for me.
Per usual, my one man band arrangement of it is an exercise in reducing a four piece band with drums and vocals down to an instrumental arrangement for one guitar.
In addition to compressing the usual guitar, drums and bass, the very prominent cow bell had to be dealt with. As a matter of fact, I sometimes wonder if this wasn’t the original “We need more cowbell!” song. Fear not. This arrangement contains not a single cowbell clank, proving that, yes, you can do that.
It is credited as the first song they recorded featuring Harrison’s new Rickenbacker 360 Deluxe 12 string. This 12-string was used sparsely on a relatively small number of songs, and yet it provided an iconic and influential sound in their early catalogue, also being featured on songs like ”A Hard Day’s Night“ and “Ticket to Ride”. In my arrangement I try emulate the 12-string’s call to arms in the song’s introduction on my 6-string guitar.
This arrangement is played in the key of G in Open G tuning. I was trying to maintain some of the driving momentum of the original – but without drums … or the cowbell. In the end I settled for the thumb thumping out a steady, eighth note bass line on the root of each chord with the harmonized melody line over top. The open G tuning gave me access to several open strings for the bass notes, giving some freedom in the voicing and fingering of the melody and harmony lines. It also simplified accessing some octave fingerings on the ”12-string“ introduction as well as reinforcing a couple of bass lines with octaves.
As I mentioned, this song was featured on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. For those keeping score, in Canada The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally was their third album. If you were in the UK you would have heard “You Can’t Do That” on A Hard Day’s Night; in the US you would have heard it on The Beatles’ Second Album (that’s the album’s title, not a description) . The US and Canadian releases shared a similar album cover, but featured a different mix of songs. So it was with the early Beatles releases — different countries : different albums ; different mixes of songs. But that is a story for another day when grampa lights up his pipe and gathers the kiddies around the fireplace to reminisce.
Some forty five years ago I got caught up in the ragtime music revival of the early 70s. A combination of the success of Joshua Rifkin’s Nonesuch recordings of Scott Joplin’s works, the soundtrack of the movie The Sting – which turned The Entertainer in a major hit record, and probably the fact that Joplin’s music was moving into the Public Domain making it cheap to publish, all came together to contribute to resurrect the popularity of this musical style.
This revival generated a lot interest amongst fingerstyle guitarists in arranging the piano rags for guitar – or as Stefan Grossman liked to say, “playing them on the six string piano”.
As a young guitarist I jumped whole heartedly on this bandwagon and transcribed copious numbers of the piano rags for the guitar. Maple Leaf Rag was amongst these. I originally arranged the first two of the piece’s four themes back around 1973.
It took some forty years for me to get around to finally arranging the last two themes and then another four years to get around to recording it. Well, you know what they say about a fine wine.
The Slippery Slope is an original composition that celebrates a slippin’ and a slidin’ on the strings. It first appeared on the album The Voice in the Grain and has since been featured in Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine, as one of the selections in the Fingerstyle Repertoire Requirement for the Wilson Centre Guitar Competition (2017), and on the Mel Bay DVD Masters of Fingerstyle Guitar (now out of print).
A transcription/video lesson bundle is now available through the Acoustic Tonic Music Store.
This is one of my favourite songs for the Christmas season. The title says it all, although the original lyrics were a bit more ambiguous.
Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas was written for the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. Garland balked at singing the original lyrics because she felt they were too sad for the scene the song appears in. Hugh Martin, the lyricist, reluctantly rewrote some of the lines to make it more hopeful sounding. In subsequent years a couple of more tweeks were made as the song evolved into the version we’re familiar with today.
Here’s an interesting article that traces the evolution of the lyrics. Its interesting to see in recent years a number of artists rediscovering and recording the original lyrics. Perhaps this a sign of today’s pervading cynicism.
Regardless of the version of the lyrics you prefer, the melody always wraps me in a warm, cozy blanket of nostalgia when I hear it. So I chose to arrange it beginning with a slow, meditative tone. The change up to a jazz waltz feel at the bridge felt like a nice contrast and leads into a upbeat final verse before finally returning to a reflective mood for the ending.
If you find my arrangement a bit too laid back and need more of a kick in your eggnog, you might want to check out Twisted Sister’s version.
For the guitarists, a half hour video lesson and transcription of this arrangement is available.
I am teaming up with classical guitarist Brad Mahon to present an evening of music and stories for and about the guitar. We’re calling it Nylon and Steel – Exploring the Acoustic Guitar and will be doing two shows in Regina on June 13 and 14.
Performing on two similar, yet distinct, forms of the guitar (nylon string and steel string guitars), Brad and I will blend our contrasting musical backgrounds to explore the diverse range of music associated with this instrument.
Brad Mahon is a formally trained classical guitarist and the current Head of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at the University of Regina. He has been described as “an outstanding classical guitarist” (20th Century Guitar magazine, New York). I can vouch for that and add, “and a heck of a nice guy, to boot” (Bob Evans, Regina). Brad will be drawing material for the evening from a varied classical guitar repertoire.
I am … well, you know who I am … and as you may suspect, I’ll be coming at the evening from a somewhat more informal school of folk, country and blues music.
Bach to Beatles, Klassical to Kentucky, Around the World and a whole lot more. Musical chocolate and peanut butter. Come on out and have a taste.
This will all take place at two shows in Regina at Sawchyn Guitars on June 13 and 14. If you’ve been there before, you will know Sawchyn Guitars provides an intimate venue perfect for this sort of concert. If you didn’t know that, this is the perfect chance to come and find out for yourself!
But intimate also means seating is limited, so get your tickets early to avoid being afflicted with the dreaded Disappointment.
June 13 and 14
Sawchyn Guitars (2132 Dewdney Ave., Regina)
7:30 pm (doors open at 7)
Tickets: $20 – available at Sawchyn Guitars (306-522-6348)