Ranking high on the “how’d he do that?” roster is Mick Ralphs’ rhythm guitar part to Bad Company’s 1974 smash hit, “Can’t Get Enough.” Sure, the song only features half a dozen basic chords, but the secret lies in how Ralphs actually played them, both live and in the studio.
Instead of utilizing garden-variety voicings in standard tuning, Ralphs restrung a Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster with very light strings and retuned to a very taut open C chord—C, C, G, E, C, C, low-to-high--which imparted an open-string roar not achievable any other way. (Tip: I believe the two Cs on the bottom are tuned in unison and the first string is tuned down to C, not up.) Ex. 1 depicts the song’s clanglorious four-bar C-Bb/F-F-Bb/F-F intro. Marvel at its simplicity (and observe those rests).
The first eight bars of Ralphs’ verse rhythm figure consist of four passes of bar 2 from Ex. 1 (minus the opening tie), each of which is injected with a bar of shuffled eighth-notes that alternate between the F5 and F6 IV-chords in Ex. 2a for one beat apiece. The second half of the verse is a four-bar pre-chorus figure that utilizes the four chord shapes shown in Ex. 2b as follows: G and G6 played as shuffle eighths for one beat each during bars 1 and 2; a full measure of Bb in bar 3; two sustained beats of F followed by two accented staccato quarter-note hits on Eb in bar 4.
This transitions to the eight-bar chorus, where Ralphs employs the C5-to- C6, I-chord moves illustrated in Ex. 3a (either as written or 12 frets higher), again played as shuffle eighths for one beat each during bar 1, followed by a bar of the same rhythm applied to Ex. 2a’s F5-to-F6 IV-chords. Repeat this two-bar figure three times to cover the first six measures, and then tack on the chords in Ex. 3b for two bars as follows: Play G as a dotted-quarter-note in bar 1, play C/G on the and of beats two and three, play G again on the and of beat four and sustain it for four beats throughout bar 2 before returning to the intro
Of course, committing to this tuning for live performances of the song meant that Ralphs also had to play his half of the harmonized solo on super-taut strings, and avoid the slackened first string. (Paul Rodgers covered the other half of the harmony in standard tuning.) Not unlike Keith Richards’ open-G, this tuning can be addictive when it comes to creating powerful rhythm figures. Use it at your own risk!