Licks Make Me Happy


steve150I had a song stuck in my head for 27 days. Sure, other songs come in and out at certain times of the day, but inevitably the song returns. I’ll tell you the name of the song as long as you promise to not get mad when it gets stuck in your head too. Ok, here’s the deal: if you don’t want it stuck in your head, stop reading now.

I knew you’d come walking on the dark side with me…

Ok, the song is: Do the Bearcat by David Wilcox.

Dum. Da dum. Dum Dum Dum dicka dum dum. (Repeat)

What is it about songs like this that bore their way into your cranium and stay there like a houseguest that doesn’t want to leave even though as soon as he does you’re sure to score with the chick who told her ride to leave her behind at the party even though you hadn’t even kissed yet and there’s Martin, sitting on the couch watching TV and complaining that there’s nothing on anymore even though there are all kinds of channels…blah blah blah MARTIN WHY DON’T YOU JUST LEAVE SO THAT I CAN GET MY FREAK ON????

Sorry, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, the curse of the intrepid song that bounces around your head like Martin the jerk. What gives a song that kind of stickiness? For me, as well as for a bunch of us like-minded guitar folks, it’s all about the lick.

Whether it’s Do the Bearcat, Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, or those iconic notes at the beginning of Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N Roses, the lick is what we ultimately all remember, and it’s the lick that keeps swirling around in our heads.

(That means two things.)

But where do all of these magical riffs and licks come from?

Well I can tell you one thing, don’t try to google “magical licks”, because the answers are quite graphic and will distract you for 7 or 8 hours.

The answer came to me one day as I was in Costco.

My favourite part of Costco is the section with the books.

My least favourite is every other part of Costco.

Yes, you can get a good deal if you fancy purchasing a gallon of mustard or a trough of horseradish, but overall it will cost you a lot to shop there. I mean come on, the company name is CostCo. Literally, it means the Company that Costs. Hey, don’t get me wrong, no one appreciates a 256-pack of toilet paper more than I do, but since I’m not planning on having a poop party soon, I think I’ll pass.

On second thought…a poop party may be the perfect surprise for my wife for our anniversary. Thanks Costco!

OK, back to the story, I was walking down the book aisle when I spotted a little hardcover called 100 Killer Licks & Chops for Rock Guitar. It’s by Phil Capone (may or may not be related to Al, but just in case I’ll be extra-respectful), and is a great reference to the history of rock licks, who played them and how to play them. It also comes with a neat little CD, so you can play the riffs along with some pro backing tracks. It was $9.98, so I bought it. That was the only thing that I bought. My wife was with me, so together with my purchase our total was 1,509.98. (She LOVES mustard!)

After unloading the car, I went downstairs with my new book. I grabbed my favourite guitar, and started learning new licks. It’s really fun! It’s also amazing how a lick that seems really easy to play when you look at the tab or listen to it can be really tricky if you’re not used to picking the strings in that order. What a great way to stretch your playing.

And the thing that I really liked about it is that it’s not just the typical “How to Play Stairway to Heaven” type of instructions. It takes riffs from people like Scotty Moore (Elvis’ guitarist) to Leslie West to Robin Trower to name a few. These are guitarists that many of us wouldn’t think to study because they may not have been the most famous frontmen type of guitarists, but their styles are incorporated into today’s music.

So I encourage you to learn new riffs and licks from the past – either with the Capone book or on your own. Next thing you know, you’ll be playing – then writing – songs that have really catchy licks.

Like “Do the Bearcat”.

Dum. Da dum. Dum Dum Dum dicka dum dum.

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