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Real Chords #6: Teenage Fanclub, "Shock and Awe" 

I've always loved this band, and I suspect most power-pop aficionados would agree that they don't get much better than Teenage Fanclub, once famously called "the best band in the world" by Kurt Cobain. Over the course of their first four albums the proto-grunge impulses melted away, leaving only the luscious, catchy tunes we power-poppers know and love.

In recent times, their records have consisted of four songs each from talented songwriters Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love, with each bringing unique melodic gifts to the proceedings. Sadly, Love has left the band and for me, their carrying on without him is like Paul, George and Ringo continuing as The Beatles without John. It's that big a loss. Yes, Blake's and McGinley's songs are usually good and occasionally great. But in my estimation, since Grand Prix Gerard Love's contributions have been uniformly stellar, the highlights of nearly every Teenage Fanclub album from that point on.

"Shock and Awe" is from 2010's Shadows, an album that for Gerry marked a minor slump—only two of his songs made my "greatest hits" playlist instead of the customary three or four. As always, it floors me what he's able to do with just a few chords and an achingly beautiful melody. Online transcriptions for this were in the ballpark, but yet again, the infamous fear-of-capo led the transcribers astray. I'll say it once more: most rock musicians, especially those I look up to, are songwriters first and virtuosos second, if at all. This means they're in search of the easiest and most natural way to play what they've written. So yes, you could attempt this without a capo and end up with F, Am/F and Gm9 in the verse and a gnarly A# in the choruses. (We'll overlook the fact that the Gm9 is really Gm7 and Am/F, a truly hideous chord, should really be a C/E. Oh, and in the key of F, the fourth is called Bb, not A#.) Capoing at the third fret not only makes the song easier to play but lends itself to some tasty rhythm licks, unavailable in the open position unless you're Andrés Segovia.

Here, then, are the real chords to "Shock and Awe," written by the magnificent and greatly missed Gerard Love:

Capo 3

  • Intro and verse: D A Asus4 A Em7* Em E7sus4 Em
  • Chorus: F#m G Em G D

* Fingering, low to high: 022033. There are other ways to play Em7, but this fingering enables you to play the rhythm guitar lick exactly as Teenage Fanclub does.

Notes: The intro/verse chords given here are the advanced version, containing all the rhythm licks that they do. If you want to simplify, you can easily get by with D A Em7. The instrumental bit in the middle is a variation on the intro/verse chords. I haven't worked it out because as a solo performer, I'll be ditching that part and heading straight to the intro. For what it's worth, during that bit they seem to hang out on the Em7 for long stretches. The G in the chorus sounds better to me with no third in it, which really makes it a G5: fingering 3x033. I play G like this 95% of the time anyway, but it's a matter of personal preference.

In closing, let me point you to a great resource that's helped me figure out the names of the wacky chords I play. JGuitar's chord namer lets you punch in the fingering you're using, then tells you what the chord is called. The reverse—where you know the chord's name but have no idea how to finger it—is their chord calculator, which threatens to give you "every mathematically possible fingering" for the chord you specify. Of course, you know to try the easiest ones first, right? Or as they warn, "Be careful when adjusting the advanced options as they may result in chords that are very difficult to play." And we folk/rock rhythm guitarists want none of those, thanks very much.

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.