Real Chords #1: The Kinks, "Do You Remember Walter"

After cursing and shaking my head one too many times at online chord charts, I bring you an occasional series called Real Chords. If I may say so, those of you who'd like to learn some classic songs on the guitar will spare yourselves much hardship and frustration by heeding the advice herein.

Before I start, I want to note that underpinning the whole enterprise is my version of Occam's razor as applied to songwriting: for 95% of rock songs, the most correct way to play it is the simplest. Many of the writers whose work I'll discuss here are songwriters first and foremost, not virtuoso instrumentalists. If part of a band, they're likely rhythm guitarists. A few might be bassists or keyboard players. Given that they want to make the song work, especially onstage, and they're the ones singing it, they are unlikely to favour finger-twisting, intricate arrangements.

With that out of the way, our first instalment features "Do You Remember Walter," a magnificent tune from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968). My initial search for chord charts turned up two: first, Cassette Theory's eloquent description of Ray Davies' use of key changes, which I confess sailed over my head; and second, several transcription attempts by fans on the Kinda Kinks website. Now, don't get me wrong: these yeoman efforts can be useful in pointing one in the right direction, and oftentimes they're spot-on as is. In both cases here, though, were you to follow these charts you'd be heading towards difficulty and away from simplicity, and you'd be playing several wrong chords to boot.

One clue that you're being led astray is the presence in a chart of chords like Ab, Eb and Bb. Especially on a steel-string acoustic guitar, only masochists or virtuosos would choose to play these chords open. There's also a clever turnaround in the chorus that, at least according to my ears, all these folks have missed. Why? Because unless you capo it—or you're Django Reinhardt—it's unplayable.

And therein lies our solution. No, not practising for a hundred years to become the next Django Reinhardt, though if you want to, be my guest; you've more patience and discipline than I ever will. Try playing the song at Capo 3 and presto: those gnarly Ab, Eb and Bb chords are now F, C and G. (In fairness, the last poster on the Kinda Kinks site arrived at the same conclusion, though I still think he got the turnaround wrong.)

Here are the real chords for "Do You Remember Walter," written by Ray Davies:

Capo 3
  • Intro: A
  • Verse: A C G D G
  • Chorus: C B E C/G Am7 Cmaj9/B* B E F C E D A
  • Outro: A A7 A A7 to fade
* Fingering, low to high: x20010

Notes: I've transcribed this song as I believe The Kinks actually play it. In my own version, I add a little colour by inserting an Amaj7 in the first line of the verse before changing to the C. I'll do a little Asus lick off the A so I'm not just blandly strumming one chord over several bars. Also in the verse, I like to stick an Am in after the D, then switch back to D before going to G. In the second half of the chorus, I sometimes play a straight G instead of the C/G. I encourage you to fiddle around and add your stamp to it as well. In addition, if singing this proves to be an uncomfortable stretch (the range is either too low or, in my case, too high), just move the capo up or down till you find a key that fits your natural singing voice. Simple, right?

Leave a comment

Add comment

Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
All pages and contents © 2017-2019 Vern Nicholson.