Classic Chords #24 Chic Good Times

My band (C5) are busy rehearsing for upcoming pub gigs and a couple of parties. We often jam on the CHIC song Good Times just because it’s a classic to funk out to. But, a couple of weeks ago we made the decision to arrange it properly and add it to the band’s repertoire. Of course, being an uberfan of Nile Rodgers I wanted to get it just right. I thought I thought I had the four chords he uses…been jamming on them for years.


Except it was not so simple.

All the online chords charts and tutorials online have something akin to that progression although they seem to jump from the Em7/E7sus4 to an Asus4 (I had that as a much jazzier and more fitting Dmaj7) and then an A13. In fact, attempting to get closer and closer to the harmonies Nile is playing you can hear that the Em7 and the E7sus4 are correct, as is the A13, but that bridging harmony is off by a note or two. Turns out he’s using an Em11 to get him from the main riff to the resolved chord on the fourth beat (and adding a few grace notes in between). Nile spells it out in detail in the video below, from 6’30”.

In addition, as is well known to CHIC aficionados but not necessarily to some funk guitarists who strum across the width of the fretboard with each stroke or use the three high strings only, Nile rarely does that, he grabs triads with his pick and bounces from the higher notes in chunks to the bass notes, chunking and chopping in sixteenths with lots of left-hand muting and plenty of percussive gaps. It sounds like funk, but it’s jazz, man, jazz…

So, the chord chart should look really like the one you see above. If you’ve not been playing it like that, you’ve not been playing it right. Basically, cycles around all four chords in the choruses, but lays back a lot and shuttles between the Em and the A for the verses.

And, here’s a quick burst on my Tele, demo’d in my home studio:

This song has an almost 40-year history and was one of the first to be sampled and sampled and sampled again from Rapper’s Delight and on and on. No the wonder he calls his guitar The Hitmaker.

Here’s Nile explain how he plays Good Times and a whole bunch of other songs

If you enjoyed this Classic Chord, check out the series, which includes the proper chords for Tom Sawyer by Rush, The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, Times Like These from Foo Fighters and many more.

Second mix of my demo, this time with a MIDI track of Nard’s bassline

Rutland Osprey Project

A vast drinking water reservoir in the English county of Rutland, about half way between Peterborough and the home of the pork pie, Melton Mowbray, is home to the first Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) to breed in England for 150 years. A translocation programme means that these raptors are now breeding at Rutland Water having been settled there, migrated (naturally) to Africa (Senegal, the tracking devices show) and then returned in the spring.

In paying the birds a visit, we made the mistake of heading to the Wildlife Trust’s Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Egleton, near Oakham, paying our money (to a worthy cause, of course) to get on to the reserve only to be told that the nest site was way over the other side, a three-mile walk in fact. Well, we made the best of the visit and took in a short walk on the Reserve and could just about see the female on her nest from one of the hides, but she was far too far away and I was disappointed to not get a good shot even with a 600mm zoom.

Other visitors we spoke to during our walk though mentioned having “fallen for that” entry fee trick before (there is public access and public footpaths aplenty around the reservoir). They suggested heading back out on to the main road in the car and parking up near the railway viaduct at Manton. We did so and could see the male perched not far from the nest on a dead tree branch protruding from the water. He was still some distance away, so not a great shot, but half the distance at which I had attempted to photograph the nest from the Reserve itself. The female could be seen occasionally bobbing and turning her head on the nearby nest.

The project has a live webcam over the nest, so you can get a good close-up view of the birds, which at the time of writing are brooding three eggs, I believe. The female is called Maya and the male has the name 33. I just browsed to the webcam and saw the 33 arrived to relieve Maya from brooding duties, presumably so she could get some food and exercise, here’s a screen grab from the webcam

Acrobatic poseur – The Nuthatch

Looking something akin to a small, tree-surfing kingfisher or a tiny woodpecker, the acrobatic Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) will scoot up and down the bark head first, in a manner unlike any other bird. Certainly it doesn’t creep endlessly upwards like the Treecreeper.

The Nuthatch will pluck small insects and grubs from the bark of trees for food, but will also find seeds and kernels and wedge them in a crevice smashing them open with its beak, hence the hatching of nuts from whence its name originates. It has a variety of calls from a pew, pew, pew to a pwee pwee, by way of a ka-ka-ka.

You will see them on garden bird feeders and often hanging around the visitor centres of nature reserves, anywhere with an abundance of insect life, decent craggy-barked trees, and a seed supply.

Northumberlandia sculpture

Some of you will know that Northumberland was famously a coal-mining region. My paternal grandfather, whose story I capture in my song “Coaldust and Seaspray” was a miner, just sayin’.

There were countless collieries and undersea mines as well as also open-cast mines. Surface mining near Cramlington was accompanied by art in the form of what is claimed to be the largest landform sculpture of the female form – Northumberlandia (the “Lady of the North” or “Slag Alice” to some).

Northumberlandia was designed by American landscape architect Charles Jencks and was made from 1.5 million tonnes of earth from neighbouring Shotton Surface Mine on the Blagdon Estate owned by fellow science writer Matt Ridley. NB Most science writers don’t own estates other than the vehicular type and any that they live on tend to be (ex) council. Anyway…

Shotton has operated on Blagdon almost continuously since 1943. The sculpture meanwhile is 34 metres high and 400 metres long, and set in 19 hectares of public park. Landscaping was undertaken in part by Cambridge Direct Tree Seeding (CDTS).

The neighbouring Shotton mine was granted government permissions to start mining in 2007 (despite opposition from the local council). It is still active, although it should have ceased operations in 2016. It provides 8% of UK coal output amounting to several million tonnes of coal.

A Wildlife Trust representative at the Northumberlandia site told me that the company had been granted an extension but it would definitely close in 2018. The mine is continuously back-filled and ultimately will be landscaped and trees planted to make a much larger public park and nature reserve.

The Cuckoos Return

UPDATE: Report of cuckoo in Cottenham, at Fen Drayton, and at Paxton Pits last day or two.

Cuckoos tracked by the BTO have returned to Old Blighty, a couple of days later than last year.

Mrs Sciencebase and I have seen several of the UK’s regular summer visitors during the last couple of weeks (Blackcaps, Martins [Sand and House], Swallow, Willow Warbler etc) but we have not heard nor seen any Cuckoos this year yet.

Listen out for this brood parasite with its unmistakeable call. We saw and photographed two males in May 2017. The mostly grey-coloured bird looks a bit hawkish but a lot smaller than most raptors. Also comes in a rufous coloured variety (caught sight of a rufous cuckoo on the North Norfolk coast in the summer of 2017.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Druridge Pools and Creswell

Druridge Bay is a pristine stretch of golden sand in Northumberland nestled between the settlements of Cresswell at its south end and Amble to the north. Commonly, there are plenty of seabirds around, various gulls, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Cormorants and more. Among the dunes, you will see and hear Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Skylark and more. But, head ever so slightly inland across the dunes and the main road and you will reach a watery wildlife reserve that was once an open-cast mine where there is now an abundance of waterfowl: Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Shoveler, Mallard, Avocet, and many others. On our visit (14th April 2018), there was also Ruff, Pintail, Red-breasted Merganser, and various others.

Hunting Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Red-breasted Merganser (f) splashing about (Mergus serrator)

Red-breasted Merganser pair

Ruff preening (Calidris pugnax)

Crowd of Curlew (Numenius arquata)

Black-tailed Godwit take fright and flight (Limosa limosa)

Bedraggled female Linnet (Carduelis cannabina); male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) behind

Skylark showing his crest well near Cresswell (Alauda arvensis)

Druridge Bay Northumberland

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I went with friends and their family to a free music festival at Druridge Bay in Northumberland. The event was organised as a protest against plans to build a nuclear power station at this site. 40+ years later, there is still just miles and miles of golden sands, dunlin and dunes, and crashing waves and over the road behind the shore a glorious nature reserve full of Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Merganser, Pintail, Ruff, and countless other birds.

Druridge Defences

Barbed Comment

Beach caster

Give my love to the waves


Coming unstuck with Redpolls

Having already come unstuck in identifying a Redpoll that alighted on our nijer seed feeder within minutes of my hanging the feeder in our beech tree, I’ve now found another issue with this type of bird. It’s not necessarily well known that the Lesser Redpoll and the Common (Mealy) Redpoll and the Hoary Redpoll are the species and there are also sub-species and hybrids that are genetically the same as each other, so referring to one as a specific type is a taxonomic faux pas these days based on the DNA. Anyway, I wrote a brief blog about Redpolls in February 2018 and have since seen Redpolls in flocks on several reserves, but none have shown again in our garden.

Redpoll Goldpoll

Most recently, I was photographing the nuthatches, tits, and finches on feeders in the kitchen garden of friends’ smallholding, when what looked like a pair of Redpolls arrived. Except, they didn’t have the familiar red cap. They looked like Redpolls but with a golden cap. My first thought was that they were perhaps juvenile Redpolls or some kind of genetic mutation.

Redpoll Goldpoll

One contact thought, at first glance, that they were Snow Buntings. But, another Jim Welford on the British Facebook Birders group, suggested that red is not a natural colouration in Redpolls and that they can convert carotenoids in their diet to a pigment, but if they lack the appropriate carotenoids or are ill when their moult is underway, the red colouration will be absent or another colour will show. It also seems to be something that can happen with Linnets (Carduelis cannabina) which are also famously flushed red on their breast. Welford pointed me to a useful book by Tim Birkhead, The Red Canary, which apparently discusses the colouration issue.

Birder Andy Warr had this to say about the so-called Goldpoll some time ago:

First-winters and female Lesser, Mealy and Arctic Redpolls generally show a crimson cap, with varying degrees of brightness, though it is not uncommon for some to show orange, copper, yellow, even brownish caps, or any combination of the aforementioned.

Warr adds that a gold cap is quite regularly seen in first-winter birds and adult females.

Seaton Sluice, Northumberland

Having visited the bus stop opposite St Bartholomew’s Church in Long Benton near Newcastle to see the last remaining Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus), we headed for the coast and dove straight into a heavy sea fret in what might one day be known as “Vera Land”, Seaton Sluice just north of Whitley Bay, Northumberland. Actually, I think they only filmed a bit of one episode here, maybe it could be George Gently Land instead.