The best one-chord song of all time?
When we talk about songwriting, a lot of the time we are talking about great chord changes. What chords go in what key, what chord sequences break the rules in clever ways, and how we can write songs that suit certain genres.
But then there are some songs that have very few chords – and there are a lot of Youtube videos on great 2-chord songs. But what about a great 1-chord song? …. only one chord!
This song is from the 1970 album Cosmos Music Factory by CCR -- "Run Through the Jungle" (download the guitar tab below).
This has to be one of the strangest album covers in my collection. I’m not sure I understand it. But the music is great! I’m told that this the room they used to practice in. That John Fogerty would make the rest of the band spend hours there each day, practicing the songs. It seems clear that John Fogerty was the leading figure in this band.
One of the best of these songs on the album is Run Through the Jungle. Just one chord – a Dm chord! I’ve heard this song so many times and for some reason I hadn’t noticed that it has only one chord. I saw John Fogerty play live last year here in Vancouver. It was a fantastic concert – and he did indeed play this song at the show.
Recently a guitar student asked me to teach him the song and after transcribing the intro for him, I listened through more of the song, waiting for a chord change. And then I realized, there are no chord changes – just one awesome riff.
It’s in DROP D… D minor pentatonic in open. That’s an usual place to play D minor pentatonic but it works surprisingly well in open positing. You’ve got open D , then F G A C D.
Somehow, with all the variations on this riff that happen throughout the song, and of John Fogerty’s amazing singing, the song never gets boring. His voice always sounds like it’s about to break. He’s an incredible singer. But listen to his pronunciation, is it “heard” or “hoid”? I think he does the same thing on “Hoid it through the Grapevine.” To my ear, he also sings “Proud Mary keep on boinin’.”
The harmonica solo is killer and again it’s just over that same Dm style riff.
A lot people say this song was about the Viet Nam war. But apparently in 2016 Fogerty said “I remember reading around that time that there was one gun for every man, woman and child in America, which I found staggering. So somewhere in the song, I think I said, '200 million guns are loaded.' Not that anyone else has the answer, but I did not have the answer to the question; I just had the question. I just thought it was disturbing that it was such a jungle for our citizens just to walk around in our own country at least having to be aware that there are so many private guns owned by some responsible and maybe many irresponsible people.”
So it’s not really a political statement. He doesn’t mention gun control, it’s just more of an observation, as he says he doesn’t have an answer.
John’s brother was the rhythm guitar player, Tom Fogerty. And it’s said that this was his favorite CCR song: "My all-time favorite Creedence tune was 'Run Through the Jungle'. . . . It's like a little movie in itself with all the sound effects. It never changes key, but it holds your interest the whole time. It's like a musician's dream."
“Never changes key” is an odd way of saying that. It never changes chords!
Fogerty sometimes tells this next story at his concerts, about how he sued after releasing a much later song, “The Old Man Down the Road,” sounded too much like “Run Through the Jungle.” I guess the record company owned the rights to the song. As I heard Fogerty put it, “I was sued by the record company for sounding too much like myself!” The judge found that a songwriter cannot plagiarize himself.
Download the guitar tab
You can download the tab from the link below.