Learn 10 Easy-to-Play Strummers from the 1970s | VIDEO - GuitarPlayer.com

Learn 10 Easy-to-Play Strummers from the 1970s | VIDEO

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PHOTOS: Michael Putland (Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton),

Michael Ochs Archives (Lindsey Buckingham) | Getty Images

“Go Your Own Way”—Fleetwood Mac
Rumours (1977)

Kicked off by Mick Fleetwood’s driving drum pattern, “Go Your Own Way” is one of the many songs from Rumours that deals with the breakups occurring among the band’s partners at this time in their history. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham wrote the song. An early mix released to radio caused alarm when the deejay said he was unable to find the beat due to both Fleetwood’s drumming and the late entrance of Buckingham’s acoustic guitar part.

“As soon as I came up with the acoustic part, the whole song came to life for me,” Buckingham said, “because it acted as a foil for the vocals and a rhythmic counterpoint… So when it comes in, you don't have a reference point for where the ‘one’ is, or where the beat is at all. It's only after the first chorus comes in that you can realize where you are—and that's what that deejay was confused about.”

VERSE:

| F | F | F | Csus4 C |

| Bb | Bb | Bb | F |

CHORUS:

| Dm | Bb | C | C | (repeat)

[BREAK]

“What Is Life”—George Harrison
All Things Must Pass (1970)

One of the many standout tracks on Harrison’s epic triple-disc release, All Things Must Pass, “What Is Life” could be construed as written for a woman but is almost certainly addressed to God, given the spiritual theme of Harrison’s work at this time. The song was originally released as the flipside of “My Sweet Lord,” which was the U.K.’s best-selling single of 1971. The track features backing from Eric Clapton and the entire Delaney & Bonnie Friends band, with wall-of-sound production courtesy of Phil Spector.

Harrison had originally intended “What Is Life” for Billy Preston, his friend and Apple recording artist, but wisely kept it for himself. It’s one of his best-known and celebrated works.

INTRO AND CHORUS:

| E B | A A B |

| E B | A A B |

| E B | A A B |

| E B | A | D | B |

VERSE:

| E | | B | | C# | F#m | G | D |

| E | | B | | C# | F#m | G | D |

[BREAK]

“Maggie May”—Rod Stewart
Every Picture Tells a Story (1971)

Stewart wrote this song from his own experience of being a young man involved with an older woman. “‘Maggie May’ was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival,” he told Q magazine.

The song was recorded in just two takes with his Faces bandmates Ronnie Wood on electric guitar, 12-string and bass, and organist Ian McLagan. (The video shown below, from Top of the Pops, features the Faces miming as Stewart sings his vocals live, with Ray Jackson, who played mandolin on the recording, sitting in.)

Note that the guitar is capoed on the second fret, but it can easily be played without one using familiar “cowboy” chords in the first three frets. Just mentally shift the chord names up a whole step (e.g. D, Em, G, etc.) and strum away.

Capo 2nd Fret

INTRO:

| C | Dm | F | C |

| C | Dm | F | C Am |

VERSE:

| G | F | C | C | (two times)

| F | C | F | G |

| Dm | Em | Dm | Dm (second and third verse: | Gsus4 G | ) |

| Dm | G | Dm | G | Dm | G (second, third and fourth verses: | G F |) |

| C | C |

SOLO:

| Dm | G | C | F |

| Dm | F | C | C |

ENDING:

| C | Dm | F | C |

[BREAK]

“Bell Bottom Blues”—Derek & the Dominos
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

Eric Clapton wrote this tune about his unrequited love for Patti Boyd, then married to his friend George Harrison. The song was recorded before Duane Allman joined the sessions, so Clapton plays all of the guitars on the recording. (Interestingly, drummer Jim Gordon plays a tabla on the track—a nod to Harrison’s interest in Indian music perhaps?)

VERSE:

| C | E7 | Am | Am/G | F | G | F | G |

| C | E7 | Am | Am/G | F | G |

BRIDGE:

| A | E/G# | F#m | D E | (two times)

CHORUS:

| A | Amaj7 | A7 | D | E | (two times)

| F G | G |

[BREAK]

“Alison”—Elvis Costello
My Aim Is True (1977)

Elvis Costello’s first hit, “Alison” was styled after “Ghetto Child” by the Spinners, a Motown soul group. The song remains a staple of Costello’s concerts—though he continues to refuse to identify Alison, noting, "Much could be undone by saying more.”

There are lots of chords in this one, especially in the chorus, where you’ll find a couple used as passing chords. The F#m in the chorus occurs for just one beat leading into the G#m. Likewise, the B following the C#m is just a quick step on the way back down to the A.

INTRO:

| Bsus B | G#m A C#m B |

| F#m G#m | G#m B |

VERSE:

| A | E | A | G#m C#m B |

| A | G#m C#m | D |Bsus B |

| A | G#m C#m B | A | G#m C#m B |

| A | G#m C#m | D | Bsus B |

CHORUS:

| A | E | A B F#m | G#m C#m B |

| A | E | A B | E |

OUTRO

| D | B | E | A |

[BREAK]

“September Gurls”—Big Star
Radio City (1974)

This Alex Chilton–penned power-pop classic remains a favorite of many fans, despite having never been a hit. The chiming chords and bright sound belie the song’s bittersweet sentiment. (Trivia note: Katy Perry spelled her 2010 hit “California Gurls” in tribute to Chilton and Big Star.)

VERSE:

| E | B | A | F#m |

CHORUS:

| E | B | A |

[BREAK]

“Locomotive Breath”—Jethro Tull
Aqualung (1971)

The staple of classic rock radio was recorded entirely from overdubs, with most of the parts recorded separately. Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson had difficulty conveying what he wanted to his bandmates, so he took charge, performing his normal flute and vocal roles as well as playing bass drum, hi-hat, acoustic guitar and some electric guitar parts with assistance from guitarist Martin Barre. The song’s rhythm is meant to mimic the shuffling of a locomotive, so keep that in mind when strumming this one.

VERSES:
| Em | Em G D |

| Em | Em G D |

| Em | Em G D |

| B | |

| Em | Em G D |

| Em | Em G D |

| G | A | B | |

[BREAK]

“Baby I Love Your Way”—Peter Frampton
Frampton (1975)

When Frampton plays this song, he uses barre chords, starting with a G barred at the 10th fret and working his way down the neck with each successive chord before jumping up the neck to barre the F at the eighth fret. But you can also play these chords closer to the nut and the song will sound just fine.

You can play the Cmaj7/D like this:

E | --7-- |
B | --5-- |
G | --5-- |
D | --5-- |
A | --5-- |
E | --x-- |

INTRO:

| G | Bm | Em | Em D | C | Bm | Am | Cmaj7/D

VERSE:

| G | D/F# | Em | Em D | C | F7 |

| G | D/F# | Em | Em D | C | F7 |
| Bm | E7 | Am | D7 |
CHORUS:

| G | D | Am | C | (three times)

BRIDGE TO VERSE:

| G | D/F# | Em | Em D | C | Bm | Am | Cmaj7/D |

[BREAK]

“Cruel to be Kind”—Nick Lowe
Labour of Lust (1979)

Perhaps best known for his production work on many of Elvis Costello’s early albums, Lowe has also written a number of great songs of his own, including Costello’s 1979 hit “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding.” “Cruel to be Kind” originally appeared on Lowe’s 1978 album, Jesus of Cool. He then remade it with his bandmates in Rockpile (guitarists Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams) and scored a hit with this more polished version.

The video for the song, shown below, features his then-wife, Carlene Carter, daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash.

You can play the Fmaj7/G like this:

E | --0-- |
B | --1-- |
G | --2-- |
D | --3-- |
A | --x-- |
E | --3-- |

INTRO:

| C | G/B | F/A | G |

| C | G/B | F/A | G | G |

VERSE:

| C | Em | F | G |

| C | Em | F Em | Dm |

| F | Em | F | G |

CHORUS:

| F G | Em Am |

| F G | Em Am |

| F G | Em Am |

| Fmaj7/G | Fmaj7/G | G |

BRIDGE (After Second Chorus):

| C | C | A7 | A7 |

SOLO: (same as chorus)

[BREAK]

“Stuck in the Middle With You”—Stealer’s Wheel
Stealer’s Wheel (1970)

Written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan, this was Stealer’s Wheel’s sole hit. It was recorded at the Beatles’ Apple Studio and produced by the hit-making team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The song was reportedly inspired by a real instance in which the record company and Leiber and Stoller were conducting business across Rafferty and Egan at a restaurant table. Rafferty sings the song in a great impression of Bob Dylan, while Egan provides harmony. Rafferty would go on to enjoy fame as a solo artist with his massive 1978 hit “Baker Street.”

VERSE:

| D | D | D | D |

| G | G | D | D |

| A | C G |

| D | D |

MIDDLE EIGHT:

| G7 | G7 |

| D | D |

| G7 | G7 |

| D | D | Am | Am |

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