When I was a young man in university, I thought I was an alright guitar player. My friend Pat, who was learning to play guitar at the time, came back from one of our work stints having added Radiohead‘s Street Spirit to his repertoire. I would be damned if I could have some young upstart thinking he was actually better than me, of course. Naturally, I got him to show me how to play it.
Being a new guitar player, Pat played Street Spirit with a pick / plectrum, and with all down-picks. As we say in the sciences: an elegant solution, this was not.
Eat My Dust
Having just been introduced to fingerpicking via the immortal Kansas hit Dust In The Wind, I preferred the efficiency of movement to be found by eliminating the pick and going with my delightful, if somewhat callused, fingers (Figure 1).
Harsh Studio Realities
A year or two later, I found myself in my brand new studio working on one of my very first studio song projects. It’s shocking how the guitar music we write in our bedrooms or basements sounds like crap once added to a track with drums other bells and whistles. I found myself sorely wanting for additional instrumentation on an otherwise simple verse Amaj7 – Cm7 chord change (Figure 2).
What would you have done?
Enter the Spirit. Of Streets.
I don’t really know why, but I decided to adapt Street Spirit to my chord progression (Figure 3). I gave the two guitar tracks (which were in the same register) some space by panning them away from centre, and voila, aural satisfaction was born.
And this is what I look like when playing the above:
Is there a moral to this story? Why yes, of course, and it is this:
Bo Diddley is awesome, and adapting concepts like the Bo Diddley Beat is a great way to enliven your tired old pendulum strumming garbage.