Three chords and the truth
One of rock music’s most legendary quotations is by one Harlan Howard, a songwriter who wrote many hits for country singers like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles among many others.music Updated: Nov 21, 2011 15:49 IST
One of rock music’s most legendary quotations is by one Harlan Howard, a songwriter who wrote many hits for country singers like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles among many others. His quote was, ‘All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth”. And very often, qualities to great songwriting have often been paraphrased as ‘…three chords and the truth’.
In fact U2 fans will recall, on the album Rattle And Hum, when Bono does a live version of Bob Dylan’s All along the watchtower…, one of the lines he sings on it goes, “All I need is my red guitar, three chords and the truth…”, and the results are magnificent to behold. In fact ‘All along the watchtower…’ is one of the many hundreds of three-chord songs that exists out there.
Lou Reed once said, “One chord is fine, two chords is pushing it, three chords and you’re into jazz”. Hilarious, because Lou Reed himself wrote many complex compositions and still continues to do so. A lot of the early blues songs are all three-chord numbers, some of them even two. There are no rules to writing three-chord songs as long as they are good and make you move in some way or the other.
Early rock n roll, which, as we know, was a graduation from the early blues itself, also featured many three-chord variations, some of which are: Elvis Presley’s All shook up, Chuck Berry’s Johnny be goode, The Beatles’ Long tall Sally and Love me do, Little Richards Tutti frutti and many others.
But that’s not all, the three-chord phenomena has continued right up to contemporary times with artistes like the Rolling Stones (Its only rock n roll) Dire Straits (Walk of life), Alanis Morissette (Hand in my pocket), Nirvana (Territorial pissings), Michael Jackson (Black or white) and Guns N Roses (Paradise city) among many others going the three-chord way.
Such songs are the perfect way to start a guitar, music and songwriting education. And let me tell you that the mere rearranging of three basic chords like E, A and D can give rise to many songs in itself, with surprising results.
Now I will go further to say that there are some two-chord songs as well and alarmingly, even one-chord songs! But that’s for another time… I leave you now to seek out and learn to play, your own favourite three-chord songs and write your own truths… if I may say so.
Here’s what you want on your iPod, recommends Luke Kenny
Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 1 Warner
The best things about the Twilight films have been the soundtracks. While the films themselves have been sketchy pieces of work, regardless of their commercial success, it’s the soundtracks that have been the pièce de résistance of the projects. An instant springboard into international recognition, this one features indie gems The Joy Formidable, Sleeping At last, Cider Sky, The Noisettes amongst current hitmakers like Bruno Mars, Iron and Wine, and Theophilius London.
Bottomline: Spin this eternally…
The Lost Children Rating:***
I’ve been wondering where they had gone. One of the most successful metal bands of the past decade dig into their catalogue of singles and pull out all the B-sides (a concept unknown to most) and put it out on a compilation that can now be experienced in continuity. All songs with the exception of Mine… have been previously released in the past, but collected here for the first time. So tracks like, Sickened…, Monster…, Two Worlds… and 13 more are laid out here for your listening pleasure.
Bottomline: Blast this!
Sounds Of A Playground Fading - In Flames EMI
Fans of Swedish heavy metal will rejoice at the release of the band’s tenth metal opus. I find it interesting how so much intellectuality goes unheard in metal music. This is some seriously evolved stuff. Free from the shackles of traditional metal, this album takes all routes to enhance the band’s metal presence in whatever manner it creatively sees fit. From thunderous percussions, to searing synths to wailing guitar riffs, right unto even a ballad (yes!) this band has set itself up for a new chapter in its own evolution. I welcome this, I say.
Bottomline: Play this everywhere.
City Of Vultures
Rise To Remain
British metalheads make their debut with some serious universal acclaim. But as I play this in my car, I find it difficult to like. British metal till date still has an Iron Maiden hangover, and it will take some formidable effort before a new ‘new wave’ of British Heavy metal rises. Not that this is weak in any sense; Maybe it’s probably me, but I feel that the songwriting is less varied and focuses more on the guttural and distortion as opposed to the arrangements and breakdowns. But still worth a spin if you feel so inclined.
Bottomline: Try Harder boys.