There are numerous classic rock songs whose intro riffs I’ve always heard “backward,” and I figure some of you might be in the same boat.
In this lesson, I’ll decode one the rock’s trickiest “Where’s one?” intro figures: the intro from Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
We’re using the three C#m, B, and A barre-chord shapes in Ex. 1a (tuned down one half-step for total authenticity) to play the song’s opening 12-string-acoustic rhythm figure, which I still struggle to hear correctly. Why? Because those three opening chords trick the ears into hearing the third one (C#m) as the downbeat (da-da Cha- cha-cha-cha), as shown in Ex. 1b.
In truth, the whole deal starts one eighth-note sooner on the and of beat three, exactly as depicted in Ex. 1c (da-dada Cha-cha-cha). This also puts the intro’s atmospheric vibra-slap hit, which falls on the and of beat three in the displaced Ex. 1b version, in its proper beat-three slot.
Play Ex. 1c as notated, and you’ll be in perfect sync with both the rhythm section and Hendrix’s opening four-bar solo.
But if you’re still hearing Ex. 1b’s displaced rhythm, the befuddlement will continue through the solo. That’s how I heard the solo for decades (and, if I don’t concentrate, still do), with every note played an eighth-note late. The amazing thing is, it still works, but that’s the genius of Jimi!