Skill Centre: It Bites
It Bites Play "Calling All The Heroes." | It Bites
Guitarist Frank Dunnery shows you the chords to 'Calling All The Heroes'.
"WELL, THE SONG started from a drumbox, with a hi-hat doing that 123, 123, 123 rhythm. We just started jamming around, and the first thing I played on the keyboard was the riff from the second half of the verse."
OK, so Frank Dunnery of It Bites is meant to be the guitar player, but it seems none of the band are particularly fussy about whose instruments they play. Which is how we can now present this combined guitar and keyboard Skill Centre, as demonstrated by our Frank on a little Yamaha, and a Tokai Strat found lying around his manager's flat.
"Calling All The Heroes" was recorded at RAK Studios in three days, and mixed at Oddysey in another three. Frank's guitar for the session was a Schecter going through a Marshall, a combination later replaced by a Squier and a Seymour Duncan Convertible, which is a modular amp, rather than one with a soft top.
"There's also slight harmonizer on some of the guitar, just to fill it out, add depth."
The song starts with an A major power chord, which Frank plays at the second fret.
"I use just the A D and G strings, so you just get the root, the fifth and another root. If you add the E and B, it sounds too full."
The keyboard riff over the intro power chords is a two finger job using the following pairs of notes over a sustained A bass:
E/C#; B/D; A/C#; B/D;
E/C#; D/F#; E/C#
The next noise you hear is a sampled chord crescendo — the guitar plays a repeated note on the open D string, and the keys play C major with a D bass.
Into the verse, which starts in G: "The keyboard tune that comes in straight away uses these chords — Fmaj Fmaj7 Em7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 Dm7 Em7, in simple inversions," Frank indicates. The guitar riff that follows is played under most of the verse and the chorus.
"I played it with my right hand damping the strings at the bridge, using a plectrum for fast picking the two strings at a time. Listen to the record for the rhythm, which goes sort of dum dum dada dum dum, dum dum dada dadadadadada. It's basically two shapes moved up and down the neck." (See Figs.)
That guitar part continues under the vocal, while the keys play sustained Fmaj7 and C chords over a G bass.
"There are different keyboard chords under the second bit of the singing, which go G Gmaj7 Bflat C, then G Gmaj7 Bflat F E Aflat.
"I joined in on those last four chords on the guitar, playing them as power chords (see Figs). They lead into the 'High on a mountain but searching for gold' bit."
Which is where those Amaj power chords from the intro come back in, leading into the chorus proper, with another Cmaj/D bass crescendo, like the beginning.
The chorus proper, with its 'Calling all the heroes, they're shooting up the town boys' refrain, features the same Fmaj7 keyboard progression as the intro, and the same picky guitar part as the verse, but it ends with the chords F C and G (see Fig.), and a short guitar riff in G (see Fig.).
"Both parts of the second verse are just the same as the first, playing-wise, and the only difference about the chorus is that it goes into the solo with an extra guitar riff that goes A# (bent up a bit) A G on the bottom E string."
The violin is actually an Emulator sample played by keyboardist John Beck, and that peculiar back-to-front bar three quarters of the way through was the drummer's idea.
"But you should hear the live version," Frank exclaimed, "it's a lot more clever than that. We're a live band really. We're a lot more technical."
I didn't meet the rest of the band, but I can vouch for Frank's expertise on the guitar — he does a fine line in Allan Holdsworth-style fast work.
"Playing jazz? My style is really just pulling together lots of bits and pieces of ideas. The really fast stuff, if you keep the scales all in tune, sound like Eddie Van Halen; if you knock them slightly out of tune — sharpen occasional notes by a semitone — you sound like Allan Holdsworth."
Back to the song: the solo section ends with another chorus, sung almost accapella. Then there's a gap. Interesting gap, that — somehow feels the wrong length...
"The gap: yeah — you're right, the click was played 8, and I came in on 7½ or 6 or something. So it was rushing the beat, making the end push along."
After the gap, there's another chorus, and another, and so on to the fade. And that's it. It's a catchy song, with an imaginative production, and a complicated arrangement. Listen closely to the original, and you'll hear how much thought has gone into the construction of the song out of a collection of relatively straightforward parts. Great pop isn't always simple — or is it?
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