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Tuning Up: Let It Ride (or “What NAMM Can Teach Us About TB”)

A double-entendre-laced love letter to road trips and gear shows.

PG is known the world over for taking guitar dweebs to NAMM—or at least the closest most players are ever gonna get to seeing the latest tone toys in person. This summer is no different: To serve up your fix from the most recent show, our staffers hit Nashville’s Music City Center from July 18–20 to get the scoop on new guitars, amps, and effects, and crank out a bunch of demo videos essentially in real time.

The staffers from our Marion, Iowa, headquarters made a road trip out of it. You can’t really get anywhere with a straight-shot flight out of our airport, and the drive took about as long as it’d take to queue up at various airports, track down shitty/ridiculously priced food, and tap in and out of airplane mode—plus we had a bunch of gear to haul there and back.

We split driving shifts and Bluetooth turns, diverting ourselves with a hodgepodge of music that probably tested everyone’s patience and sanity at various points. To kill time, we also took advantage of the, er, “sights” along the way—snapshot-able road signs … vehicles with kick-ass custom paint jobs.

It’s like each cheesy blues lead or AC/DC-meets-EVH-meets-Gatton rip-off is a desperate, subconscious plea for an appointment at the nearest insecurity clinic.

During my return-trip shift at the wheel, I was suddenly struck by one of the tunes randomly streaming out of my phone and through the speakers of our rental car (a shockingly lo-tech 2019 Dodge Caravan). The song’s been in my life for decades now, but for some reason it hit home with newfound pith.

The track? Adam Ant’s 1982 hit “Goody Two Shoes.”

Having just spent three days in a convention center filled with 6-string wankers—and I mean that in the nicest way possible (more on that later)—I was struck by several things I’d never really considered about the song before. For starters, longtime Ant songwriting partner/guitarist Marco Pirroni actually lets a couple of measures of thundering toms go by before launching into the song’s catchy opening riff. This alone is significant when you’ve just come from a place where every person within arm’s reach of a guitar can’t seem to let a breath, let alone a measure, pass between screaming licks. It’s like each cheesy blues lead or AC/DC-meets-EVH-meets-Gatton rip-off is a desperate, subconscious plea for an appointment at the nearest insecurity clinic. With all due respect to the many wonderful players there, the place is possibly the least musically inspiring room on earth.

But let’s get back to “Goody Two Shoes.” Another cool thing about the riff is that it’s proudly no-frills. On the Friend or Foe album version, it sounds like it’s played on a rather thin-toned acoustic, but maybe it was a bare-bones take from the DeArmond-stocked Gretsch White Falcon that Pirroni dons in the video for the U.K. single. Either way, the notes and the way they’re delivered prioritize punch and thematic simplicity, without a hint of care for vibrato, “good tone,” or other guitar-guy histrionics and bullshit.

But it’s more than that. Despite its almost embarrassing simplicity, the “Goody Two Shoes” riff just breathes. Pirroni or Ant or whoever wrote the part consciously bids the unadorned notes to put a bounce in the song. In essence, the song was lodged in millions of minds due to a fearless commitment to just letting the part ride. Correction: They weren’t afraid to let the silence ride—because there’s no sustain whatsoever making any of those notes sing.

Now, before any of y’all go off screamin’ “Git a rope!” like the Pace picante sauce commercial of yore, let me own up to a tinge of hypocrisy in my own words here. As a reverb junkie who cranks his amp’s onboard springs to the max and often slathers another ’verb pedal on top, I could certainly stand to let the silence ride myself. Secondly, all this crap I’m saying here isn’t so much about this song, as it is the epiphany born of an exhausting workweek. (I do love the song, but there are plenty of other tunes that could’ve driven the point home.) Thirdly, I get that a gear-show like NAMM is sort of a weird hybrid between a lab, a sales floor, and an effing circus, where players and gear designers alike try to impress in a blaring environment that doesn’t exactly reward nuance. It’s like a petri dish of musical and egotistical bacteria, some of which is perhaps healthy, and much of which is sonic tuberculosis. But hell, none of us created that atmosphere … or did we all have a hand in it?

With the heartbreak open
So much you can’t hide
Put on a little makeup, makeup
Make sure they get your good side, good side

Look out or they’ll tell you
You’re a “superstar”
Two weeks and you’re an all-time legend

Subtle innuendos follow
There must be something inside