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Reefer Madness The Musical – Detailed Notes on the Guitar Book

Music/Book: Dan Studney
Lyrics/Book: Kevin Murphy
Year: 1998 (original LA production), 2001 (Off Broadway), 2005 (TV film)

In this article I take a detailed look (a deep toke, perhaps?) at the guitar book for Reefer Madness, the hilarious, gleefully over-the-top 1998 rock musical based on the cult 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda movie, which these days is itself regarded as a comedy classic.

I provide a general overview of the guitar book, and briefly describe the key guitar sounds I used, to provide context for the detailed song-by-song review which follows, and comprises the bulk of the article. In a separate article (Playing Reefer Madness The Musical – Electric Guitar), I look at the history of the show, the development of its score, describe my experiences playing it, and provide details of the equipment I used.

Reefer Madness is emphatically a hard rock musical. The guitar book is all electric, and you have a fair amount of latitude to interpret the music, within the confines of the song structures and the specific rhythm patterns written out. In these detailed notes, I describe some of the choices I made, together with tips on how to play some of the less obvious passages, and details of any departures I made from the book. I also provide full details of the guitar sounds I used in each number.

This isn’t intended to be a “manual” for playing the musical; other guitarists will choose to interpret the book in their own way. However, I hope these notes will provide some pointers and inspiration for anyone preparing to play the show, and help reduce preparation time. The notes assume that the reader has a copy of the book available to refer to; without the book, much of the material will be difficult to understand.

“Tell Your Children - Reefer Madness”

“Tell Your Children – Reefer Madness”.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

GENERAL NOTES ON THE GUITAR BOOK
The music of Reefer Madness was modified several times over the six years of its development from small Los Angeles show, to Off-Broadway flop to TV Movie and finally to the licensed stage version available today. Despite this, the orchestration is remarkably consistent in style, with only “Mary Jane / Mary Lane” standing out as a little different, being the only song that started life with the TV Movie orchestration.

There is a concentration of big dance numbers in Act 1, while Act 2 is shorter, more plot-driven, and has many songs which are more like “scenes set to music”. Act 1 has more variety of musical styles, whereas Act 2 has a lot of over-the-top action, rocks much harder, and allows you to dig in, play out and have a lot of fun.

The book makes extensive use of power chords and slash rhythm notation (rather than just slash marks), so the rhythms are well defined. You just have to choose appropriate voicings. I provide transcribed excerpts in the notes below to illustrate the choices I made, where there is vagueness or if I departed from the score significantly.

The guitar book is printed in a font that has the appearance of being hand-written, even though it isn’t. Once you get used to it, it’s quite easy to read.

Errors
The Guitar book for Reefer Madness has several errors, many of which are inconsistencies between band parts and the Piano-Vocal score. I provide a complete list of all errors that I am aware of here.

Page Turns
The Guitar book has a lot of bad page turns. Seven of the thirty page turns in the 60-page book cannot be made without stopping playing (about 25%). The bad page turns are: p.1-2 / p.5-6 / p.11-12 / p.13-14 / p.19-20 / p.35-36 / p.55-56.

By reformatting the book, I was able to eliminate all of the bad page turns, except for p.11-12. This is how I did it:

  • Make p.1 a fold-out page, attached to the left of p.2.
  • Add a blank page between #4 and #5, so that #5 falls on p.6-7, eliminating a bad page turn.
  • Place both #6 and #7 on page 8.
  • On p.13, create a page break at m.168 of #9, and reformat the rest of the number (m.169-258) to cover p.14-15, eliminating a bad page turn.
  • Place both #10 and #11 on p.16.
  • On p.19, create a page break at m.57 of #13, reformatting m.58-129 to fill the following 2 pages, eliminating a bad page turn.
  • On p.21, create a page break at m.129 of #13.
  • On p.22, place m.130-151 of #13 and #14.
  • Place #15 on p.23.
  • Place #16 on p.24-25. From this point forward, most numbers are 2 page numbers higher than their original locations.
  • Place #19, #20 and #21 all on p.29 (guitar is tacet for all of these numbers).
  • Place #22 on p.30, and insert a blank page as p.31.
  • Insert a blank page as p.37, after #24. #25 will now fall on p.38-39, eliminating a bad page turn.
  • Place #26 on p.40-41, and add #27 to the bottom of p.41.
  • Reformat #40 as follows: m.1-39 on p.56 / m.39-64 on p.57 / m.65-82 on p.58 / m.83-113 on p.59 / m.114-165 on p.60.
“Listen To Jesus, Jimmy”

“Listen To Jesus, Jimmy”. Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

PICKUP SETTINGS, BASIC SOUNDS AND PICK SELECTION
Before getting into the details of the score, it’s necessary to provide some basic information about equipment and sounds. I cover these topics in more detail in my companion article, Playing Reefer Madness The Musical – Electric Guitar.

Guitar pickup settings
Pickup settings given in the notes below are for a “fat Strat”-style guitar (a Strat with a humbucker in the bridge position), and are as follows:

  • Position 1: neck pickup – single coil
  • Position 2: neck and middle pickups – single coil
  • Position 3: middle pickup – single coil.
  • Position 4: middle and bridge pickups (bridge pickup in single coil mode).
  • Position 5 (HB): bridge pickup in humbucker mode.
  • Position 5 (CT): bridge pickup in coil-tapped (single coil) mode.

If you are using a different type of guitar, you can use this information as a guideline to determine settings that will produce the sounds you’re looking for. Bear in mind that the bridge humbucker on a fat Strat is often a little brighter-sounding than that of a Gibson-style guitar.

Basic sounds
I had four basic sounds for the show, with additional effects added as and when necessary. I identify all effects used in each number in the detailed notes below.

  • Clean sounds: I used a few different clean tones, to suit the styles of the songs. The most common clean tone, for songs such as “Down At The Ol’ Five and Dime”, used the middle and bridge pickups with the bridge coil tapped. I used the middle pickup for “The Orgy” which has a lot of “disco-wah”, as it suited the wah pedal better.
  • Distortion: a fairly bright and gritty tone, this was the most commonly used distortion in the show. I used a Boss DS-1, modified by AnalogMan, mostly with the bridge pickup in coil tap mode, although I occasionally used humbucker mode.
  • Light Overdrive: I used an Ibanez TS-9 DX Tube Screamer (modified by AnalogMan) to get a light, warm-sounding overdrive, using the bridge pickup in single coil mode. I used this mainly on “The Stuff” where I wanted a bluesy feel to the sound.
  • Heavy Overdrive: I used a Fulltone OCD and the bridge pickup in humbucker mode to get this tone. It was used mainly for “Murder” and was as distorted as the main Distortion tone, but with a thicker, more “roaring” tone.

Pick selection
I used red 0.87mm Herdim picks throughout the show, except for the lighter, more rhythmic dance numbers, where I used yellow Herdim 0.63mm picks. In the detailed notes I identify those numbers where I used the thinner pick.

The Brownie Song

The Brownie Song. Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

SONG-BY-SONG DETAILED REVIEW
These notes describe in detail my approach to performing the Guitar book. As noted above, the book gives you quite a lot of freedom to interpret the music, so these notes should be regarded as food for thought and suggestions, rather than a manual. I cover every number in the book, except those where Guitar is tacet.

#1: Reefer Madness
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion throughout
This big opening number starts with “The Lecturer” preaching luridly about the evils of marijuana, and grows into a manic ensemble number by the end. It has a feeling of tension which grows throughout the song and ends with a frenzied rock-out of ascending power chords, as the Lecturer’s vocals becomes increasingly unhinged. It’s important to keep building the tension steadily, and not just rock out from the beginning.

Tips/adjustments:

  • Power chords: where the number has specific 3-note power chord voicings written out (e.g. C-G-C for C5). I mostly played just the lower 2 notes to avoid too many distorted overtones.
  • Chord voicings generally: most of the number should be played with power chords, ignoring more complex voicings. If you see Gsus4 or Cm, play G5 and C5 respectively. There are a few exceptions, as noted below. This applies to much of the book.
  • Building tension: I played the first 2 verses fairly evenly. I increased the attack slightly for the march section starting at rehearsal mark F (m.66). At rehearsal mark H (m.83) I played slightly more aggressively again, but still holding back slightly. At rehearsal mark I (m.99) I really let loose and rocked out for the last chorus and the final section of ascending power chords starting at rehearsal mark J (m.105).
  • m.20-22: I usually add a pick slide at the end of m.20, right after the Lecturer says “It’s”, then hit the power chords at m.21 big and melodramatically, fading the volume down towards the cut off at the end of m.22. You can hear the pick slide on the Original LA Cast Recording.
  • m.27-37 and m.66-76: these two sections have a military march feel. It’s important to cut off each eighth-note to articulate the rests, but this isn’t staccato playing. Play each note to its full length then cut it off crisply (kind of tenuto/staccato).
  • m.54-56 and m.93-95: I played the Am7(b5) as a power chord voiced A-Eb.
  • m.84: I played Fm6/C as a power chord voiced C-Ab.
  • m.83-98: the score calls for muted power chords, but I only muted very slightly. Play out fully and unmuted at m.90 and m.98.
  • m.105 onwards: ignore all minor chords and play power chords with no 3rds. Rock out!!

#5: Romeo And Juliet
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean throughout, with chorus m.33-39
This is meant to be a twee 60’s pop number. The note at the top of the score says “Corny rock à la Herman’s Hermit’s”, and if you listen to a few Herman’s Hermits numbers you’ll get the idea (“Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” gets pretty close to the vibe of “Romeo & Juliet”). The Hollies’ “Jennifer Eccles” is an even closer match. For a musical theatre reference, this number is like the “Summer Nights” of Reefer Madness.

I played this number almost as written except as noted below. No power chords this time, all chord voicings should be as written. For a purer 60’s sound I should have used the bridge pickup, but I liked the slightly more modern sound of the distinctive bridge plus middle pickup combination.

I generally used full barre chord fingerings between the 3rd and 7th frets, focused more on the top four strings (D-G-B-E).

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.23-28: for the 3rd verse (after the key change) I departed from the score, switching to a slightly busier rhythm, to add some variety to the part.
  • m.33-39: I added a light chorus effect for the middle section – it suited the long, whole note chords.
Reefer Madness – Jimmy Harper & Mary Lane

Reefer Madness – Jimmy Harper & Mary Lane.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#6: Reefer Den
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion + reverb
This is the first appearance of the “Reefer Sting”. See notes on #7: “Reefer Sting” below. The guitar is tacet until the last two measures, which is the Reefer Sting.

#7: Reefer Sting
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion + reverb
The Reefer Sting is a short two-measure power-chord riff used throughout the show to punctuate the ends of scenes or dramatic moments. It also appears in #6, #15, #22, #26, #27 and #34. It’s a brief reprise of the riff from the chorus of #1: “Reefer Madness”, and is just C5, Ab5, C5, Ab5 power chords.

For each appearance of the Sting, I added a hall-type reverb to the Distortion to get a big, spacious, doom-laden sound. At the end I added a little subtle whammy bar, then faded slowly out with the volume pedal.

#8: The Stuff
Pickup: Position 5 (HB) – m.1-2, Position 5 (CT) – m.3 onwards
Sounds: Light Overdrive throughout; hall reverb added for m.1-2
This is a lovely little song, a bluesy ballad with an air of mournful regret, as Mae reflects on her addiction. The guitar has a brief solo in the 2-measure vamp at the top of the number, which usually gets played twice. My solo is reproduced below. I used my bridge humbucker for this solo, with a fairly prominent hall reverb to add a little ambience. For the rest of the song I switched to bridge pickup in single coil mode. I provide a transcription with full details of how I played this number here.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.11-13 and m.26-29: roll each chord slightly.
  • m.28-29: it’s good to start building volume and intensity a little here.
  • m.30: the measure has a note “WITH RISING TENSION”, but it’s hard to build tension when the measure is just a whole note! I played eighth-notes throughout this measure and the following (m.31), gradually building the volume through both measures. I also played power chords, with no 3rds.
  • m.36: I played the Fadd2 chord at the first fret (xxFGCF voicing), very quietly and slightly rolled.

08-The-Stuff-excerpt

#9: Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean throughout except for solos. Solos: Distortion + delay – m.181-192 and m.205-216
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This is the first really big dance number in the show, a series of swings and salsas interspersed with short scenes of dialog, all underscored by the swing. The guitar part is mostly slash notation, with the rhythms spelt out for the swing sections but only slash marks for the salsa. Even with the spelt out rhythms you have a fair amount of freedom to comp on the swing sections. For the main swing sections I played medium-high voicings (C and F at 8th fret and G at 10th fret and so on).

The two guitar solos are in the salsa section of the song, so I went for a Carlos Santana-ish sound and style for these. The first (m.181-192) is written out; the second (m.205-216) is just slash marks, allowing you to improvise. Both solos are over the same chord progression, so I used the first solo as a template for the second, developing a more freeform version, which I have transcribed below.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.1: the time signature is missing from the score. It should be 4/4.
  • m.28: I played the G7 at the 6th fret on the top three strings (D-F-B) with a little bit of whammy vibrato. I did the same at m.56 and m.126.
  • Bad page turn from p.11 to p.12. There’s no way around this one. Turn as fast as you can.
  • m.95-110: this is an underscore section. Play a more sparse rhythm as shown.
  • m.127-138: another underscore section. Play a more sparse rhythm as shown.
  • m.139-154: keep this section light and bouncy. I played all the Bdim7 chords at the 6th fret on the top three strings (D-F-B), like a G7, and added some whammy vibrato. I also modified the rhythm slightly. I provide a transcription of how I played this section below (m.237-234 are the same).
  • m.169-180: this is the first salsa section. You have some freedom to choose your rhythm and voicings in these sections. I have transcribed what I played below. I used similar rhythms and voicings for all other salsa sections.

09-Five-and-Dime-excerpt-1

09-Five-and-Dime-excerpt-2

09-Five-and-Dime-excerpt-3

#10: Five And Dime Playoff
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This is a brief reprise of the main swing section of the previous number. I played it in the same way. See notes on #9: “Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime”, above.

Jimmy Takes A Hit…

Jimmy Takes A Hit…  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#12: Jimmy Takes A Hit
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Heavy Overdrive + parametric EQ + compressor throughout
This short, loud hard rock number is the point where Jimmy Harper smokes his first reefer. For the guitar the key challenge is to be able to induce controlled, sustained feedback, at a volume that works in (usually) a small theatre. I used my “Heavy Overdrive” sound, to get a warmer, “heavily overdriven amplifier”-type sound, rather than the brighter Distortion I used for most numbers in the show. I added a compressor before the overdrive pedal, to help with sustain, and a Parametric EQ pedal after the overdrive, to “tune” the feedback. This involved boosting the midrange, then sweeping the center of the boosted frequencies until it worked best for the feedback pitch I was looking for. In the 2019 production we shifted the key of the song from Db up to D, because it worked better for the guitar feedback. Once you have the feedback going, you can ride the volume pedal, backing off a little if it looks like getting out of control. The Original LA Cast Recording version of this number is closest to what you have to play.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.3-4: use the volume pedal to fade in the feedback. The note is written as Db, but your feedback may come in at a different pitch; it doesn’t really matter. Apply a little whammy bar vibrato as you fade in.
  • m.5-8: hit a big Db power chord at the downbeat of m.5, then hold it for 4 measures, allowing the feedback to take over. I added a little whammy vibrato for m.7-8. At the end of 4 measures you hit the power chord at the downbeat of m.9 and repeat the process. This goes on until m.20.
  • m.21-40: the rest of the song is a repeated 2-measure rhythm pattern using a Db power chord. The score indicates that the chords should be muted, but this makes no sense. Instead I played the chords fully, and picked crisply, not allowing each note to ring beyond it’s stated duration, so that the rhythm pattern was articulated clearly. I also added a brief modulation to A/Db at the end of every 4th time through the pattern (i.e. at m.28 and m.36), as shown below, because it sounded great!

12-Jimmy-Takes-A-Hit-excerpt

#13: The Orgy
Pickup: Position 3
Sounds: Clean + wah throughout, except m.58-75: Clean, no wah
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This is another big dance number. Jimmy has taken his first puff of marijuana and the swing of “Five and Dime” is exchanged for jungle drums and disco. The guitar plays funky rhythm and rhythmic melody patterns with wah for most of the song. I used the middle pickup for this number, as the sound suited the wah best, and departed slightly from the parts written in the book:

Verses: all of the verses use repeating melodic patterns with wah, with only three chords (Gm, Bbm7 and Db7). I adjusted the patterns to match more closely the LA Cast Recording, and cycled the wah (open-closed-open) every quarter-note. The excerpt below show the patterns I played for each chord and the cycling of the wah pedal.

Choruses: the choruses are just muted 1/16-note strumming with wah (a classic disco cliché). I omitted the 1/8-note rests written at beats 1 and 3 of each measure to give a continuous 1/16-note pattern, and cycled the wah every 2 beats, as shown below.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.8-11: roll the Gm chords slowly and cycle the wah quickly and randomly. I played a 3rd fret voicing. The LA Cast Recording uses a high voicing, but any voicing will do.
  • m.56-57: wah off and a quick page turn in this 2-measure rest.
  • m.58-74: this is a clean funk rhythm, with a hint of Prince about it.
  • m.75: wah on, in preparation for m.76.
  • m.148-151: cycle the wah quickly in time with the picked notes, so that it is closed (toe down) as you pick every note, effectively tapping out the rhythm with your foot, as shown below. Use high voicings for the Gm and F chords in m.151 (10th fret).

13-The-Orgy-excerpts

#14: Orgy Playoff
Pickup: Position 3
Sounds: Clean + wah throughout
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This is a reprise of m.148-151, at the end of #13. See notes on #13: “The Orgy” above.

The Orgy

The Orgy.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#15: “That Was Your Tongue!”
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion + reverb
This is another “Reefer Sting”. See notes on #7: “Reefer Sting” above.

#16: Lonely Pew
Pickup: Position 5 (CT) – m.1-24, Position 4 – m.44 onwards
Sounds: Distortion – m.1-24, Clean + reverb – m.44 onwards.
This short number has two very distinct sections. After a church organ intro, the first section is an aggressive march with distorted guitar playing mostly power chords. The second is a sentimental ballad with picked arpeggios. I used my standard Distortion sound for the first section, with the bridge pickup in single coil mode. For the ballad section I switched to pickup position 4 and a Clean sound, adding reverb to give the feel of being in a small church, and finger-picked. The arpeggios for the ballad are notated only as slash marks. I provide a complete transcription of how I played the song here. This song was added near the end of the Los Angeles run, so doesn’t appear on the LA Cast Recording, but there is a good version on the TV movie soundtrack.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.1-24: I played 2-note power chords throughout the march section, as they sound crisper than 3-note chords (fewer overtones).
  • m.58-59: these two measures are a guitar solo (with vocal) and it’s slightly colla voce. I rolled the chords and changed the final G chord to G6(b9), a much more satisfying chords, which is what is heard on the soundtrack.

#17: Listen To Jesus, Jimmy
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean throughout
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
Another big dance number. This time, Jesus appears (with a scantily-clad heavenly chorus) to implore Jimmy to give up his drug habit. The number has an “Elvis in Vegas” cabaret feel. The rhythms are written out in detail using slash notation and should be followed reasonably closely. I used mostly full barre voicings in the middle of the neck, as shown in the excerpt below.

The rehearsal marks in this number do not match those in the Piano-Conductor score. See my complete list of errors in the guitar book for full details.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.18-21: the Db/Eb and Eb/Db chords are unusual. It’s OK to ignore the root notes and just play Eb and Db chords because the bass has the root notes, but I used voicings that included the root notes as shown in the excerpt below. These chords also occur at m.55-58.
  • m.22-23: the score has two whole-note Eb chords. I modified this, playing half-notes, quarter-notes then eight-notes, as shown in the example below. I did the same for m.59-60.
  • m.34-39: this section has only slash marks, rather than full rhythm notation. I played a funky comp rhythm, using full barre voicings at the 7th and 6th frets for EMaj7 and Eb respectively. I did the same for m.71-76.
  • m.89-93: for the end of the song I used higher full barre voicings (7th to 9th frets) for the F#m7, Bm7, E, F and A chords.

17-Listen-to-Jesus-Jimmy-excerpt

#18: Jesus Playoff
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This is a reprise of the last five measures (m.89-93) of the previous number. I played this as written using full barre voicings at the 7th to 9th frets. See notes on #17: “Listen To Jesus, Jimmy” above.

#22: Joyride
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion throughout
This is the first appearance of a darker, hard rock version of the salsa theme from #9: “Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime”. It crops up several times during the rest of the show, as events spiral increasingly out of control. This number is all underscore, so it’s important to not to rock out too loudly (save that for #34: “Murder!”). I played this number as written, using obvious power chord voicings.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.2-5: mute the notes as indicated, then switch to unmuted chords from m.6 onwards.
  • m.12-13: I voiced the F and Gb power chords at the 8th and 9th frets respectively.
  • m.24-25: I voiced the power chords between the 8th and 11th frets.
  • m.26-27: the number ends with another Reefer Sting, which I voiced at the 3rd and 4th frets.
Mary Jane / Mary Lane

Mary Jane / Mary Lane.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#23: Mary Jane / Mary Lane
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: there are several sound changes in this number. See notes below for details.
Mary Jane / Mary Lane (“Mary Jane”) was written for the TV movie adaptation, then retroactively added to the stage musical during the final round of revisions. Whereas all of the other music in the show started from a small band orchestration, Mary Jane started with a full orchestral arrangement and had to be slimmed back down to suit the 5-piece band of the stage version. The number has a distinct 1970s LA studio production feel to it; the original TV movie version reminds me of Boz Scaggs’ album “Silk Degrees”, and the guitar recalls The Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady”.

Much of the guitar part in the original arrangement was high-register fuzzed noodling behind the horns and strings. In the reduced arrangement, the noodling is gone, and the guitar mostly plays sections of the string and horn parts, rather than a rhythm part. Surprisingly, given that the band is so small, the guitar and reed parts often play in unison. The guitar part corresponds to the original movie orchestration as follows:

m.3-13: horns / m.14-18: strings / m.19-32: horns / m.33: guitar (dive bomb) / m.46-54: guitar / m.60-63: strings / m.93-106: guitar / m.109-122: strings / m.123-132: guitar / m.133-141: strings / m.150-189: strings

This “cut and paste” approach results in a guitar part that feels disjointed and clunky, with several effects pedal changes. I think a rhythm part for the guitar might have worked better, leaving the reed book to cover the horn and string melodies. Another notable difference between this number and the rest of the book is that it has no slash notation at all. Every note is written out (presumably lifted straight from the original movie orchestrations). I played the part exactly as written, except for the adjustments noted below.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.3-18: Clean sound. Play as written, and note the muted notes in m.15-16.
  • m.22-33: Distortion + delay. I made the delay fairly prominent to give a slightly spacey feel to the solo. I played the notes as written, just adding a in a few slides and string bends for expressiveness. At m.32-33 I played the long Bb note an octave higher than written, just continuing the note from m.31. For the “dive bomb” at m.33 I picked a hard Bb an octave lower then slowly leaned on the whammy bar for a gradual but significant drop in pitch.
  • m.40-106: Distortion (no delay). Play as written. m.93-98 are funky disco octaves.
  • m.109-122: Clean + chorus. Here you are emulating the original string part. Play as written.
  • m.123-189: Distortion. Play as written. You could do a quick change back to Clean + chorus for m.133-136, but it isn’t really worth it.

#24: Act One Finale
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean – m.1-27, Distortion – m.33-67
This reprise of “Romeo & Juliet” closes out Act 1 and sets the stage for Act 2. It’s more a scene with music than a song, and the twee 60’s pop of the original number is replaced by up-tempo rock riffing. I played the number as written.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.47-58: I played the chords using voicings between 3rd and 5th frets.
  • m.59-63: I played only the root notes of the chords (C, Bb, A, Ab).
“Jimmy, where are you?”

“Jimmy, where are you?”.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#25: Jimmy On The Lam
Pickup: Position 5 (CT)
Sounds: Distortion throughout, except Clean + delay for the occasional descending glissandos as indicated in the score
After all the scene-setting and big dance numbers in Act 1, Act 2 focuses much more on driving the plot to a conclusion, and many numbers, including “Jimmy On The Lam”, are scenes set to music, rather than straightforward songs. The tempo of this number is fast, and depending on your Music Director, it might be very fast, which can make it tricky to play. I played the number as written.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.1-8: all distorted power chords, with no 3rd notes, as indicated.
  • m.19: this is the first of several descending quarter-note glissandos throughout the number, which are supposed to sound “spooky”. I used a Clean tone, with a delay to add the required spookiness.
  • m.25-33: this riff is repeated several times throughout the number. The guitar plays in unison with the bass, so this needs to be crisp and tight. The score shows this section as “muted”, but I only muted the strings very slightly.
  • m.81-82: the score shows the chords as muted, but I played them unmuted.
  • m.92-94: the score shows the chords as muted, but I played them unmuted.

#26: Brownie Song
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean throughout, except Distortion – m.16-19 and m.41-46, as indicated in the score
Jimmy eats some spiked brownie and gets hooked on weed again. This brief, bright number is very funny, and played fast. I played the number as written, using chord voicings between the 4th and 6th frets.

#27: “Real Gold…”
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion + reverb
This is another “Reefer Sting”. See notes on #7: “Reefer Sting” above.

#28: Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime (Reprise)
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean – m.1-15, Clean + delay + reverb – m.16-39
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This number starts as a straight reprise of “Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime”, then mutates into a slower, “sinister” bluesy variation. I went for a kind of Chris Isaak tone, with some echo and reverb, and liberal use of slow whammy bar vibrato, to get a woozy sound . The score provides only slash rhythm notation, so I provide a transcription below of how I played this section, with detailed chord voicings. I played the rhythms as written throughout.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.2-14: I used high chord voicings, as per the original number (8th-10th frets).

28-Five-And-Dime-Reprise-excerpt

#29: Little Mary Sunshine
Pickup: Position 4 – m.1-60, Position 5 (CT) – m.75-94
Sounds: Clean – m.1-60, Distortion – m.75-81, Light Overdrive – m.85-94
Ralph tempts Mary with a reefer. This starts as a swing pop number, then turns into a rocking slow burlesque swing as Mary turns the tables on Ralph in the second half. This is a lot of fun to play (and a lot of fun for the audience to watch, apparently). I played the song as written.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.19-38: I played clean, crisp low chord voicings (1st-2nd frets), moving up to a 4th fret E at m.37 and a 5th fret Am at m.38 to finish the verse.
  • m.49-60: play muted notes, as indicated in the score.
  • m.61-74: I switched to pickup Position 5 (CT) and my Distortion sound, ready for the lead line at m.75.
  • m.75-81: I played the lead line as written. In m.76 and m.80 I bent the string up from A to get the Bb note. This section is meant to sound very sexy and sleazy.
  • m.81: I used whammy bar vibrato on the whole note F#, and held it over into the next measure.
  • m.83-84: I switched from Distortion to Light Overdrive for the final section of the song.
  • m.85-94: the song closes out with a little bluesy rock section. I played this exactly as written.

#30: Jimmy Attacks Ralph
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Distortion throughout
A reprise of the “Reefer Madness” theme, but faster and more aggressive. I played the number as written.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.1-16: This section is all power chords (no 3rds), as indicated. The score indicates muted chords but I played open, crisp chords instead, not letting them ring. This seemed to suit the feel of the number better. At m.16 I gradually opened up and let the guitar roar through the Reefer Madness refrains starting at m.17.
  • m.17-22: you can really rock out here, but ease back on the volume pedal a little as this is underscore.
  • m.23-31: the “Reefer march” closes out the number. Accelerate at m.29-30, then cut abruptly on the downbeat of m.31.
Little Mary Sunshine

Little Mary Sunshine.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#32: Mary’s Death
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Heavy Overdrive + delay + reverb
A short reprise of “Romeo & Juliet” as Mary dies, the guitar has just 4 notes (an echo of the “Reefer Madness” theme) at the end of the number. I used my Heavy Overdrive tone to get a thick, heavy feel, adding delay and reverb to make it sound ghostly.

#33: Mae’s Moment Of Truth
Pickup: Position 5 (CT)
Sounds: Distortion
This short number underscores the scene where Jimmy is arrested. I played this as written.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.1-6: this is underscore. Play muted chords as indicated.
  • m.7-8: gradually unmute and increase volume, as indicated.
  • m.9-14: play loud and dramatically. m.11-13 may be dictated as they follow actions on the stage.

#34: Murder
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Heavy Overdrive throughout
This is absolutely the most fun number in the whole show to play. Although it is a song of sorts, it’s more of an extended underscore to a lot of crazy, frenetic action on stage. It’s bursting with energy, and a chance to really rock out for the band. Audience, cast and band always really enjoy this scene (things get pretty wild on stage). I chose to use my Heavy Overdrive sound for this number, to get a thick, roaring overdrive, rather than the brighter distortion I used for most of the show.

Errors: there is a significant discrepancy between the band parts (which are consistent with each other) and the Piano-Vocal score, from m.1 to m.16:

  • After the 2-measure rest at m.1-2, the piano vocal score has two additional measures which are missing from the band parts. In these two measures, the guitar plays Cm arpeggios, the same as m.17 in the guitar score.
  • m.15-16 as shown in the band parts do not exist in the Piano-Vocal score.
  • From m.17 onwards, the band parts and Piano-Vocal score are consistent with each other.

Tips/adjustments:

  • Underscore: the Music Director is likely to call for reduced volume at several points for dialog underscore. I used the volume pedal to reduce level, while maintaining intensity of playing.
  • Muted power chords: I ignored all directions in the score to play muted power chords, instead playing an open, crisp rhythm. I provide an example of the typical rhythm and voicings I played below.

34-Murder-excerpt

  • m.3-14: I used low voicings for the power chords.
  • m.19-20: I used an E,Bb voicing for the Edim7 power chord (see below).
  • m.25-36: I used the obvious power chord voicings in this section; the E chords should be at the 7th fret (see excerpt above).
  • m.35-36: some of the chord names (B and C) are located above the wrong notes. The excerpt above has the chord names I the correct positions.
  • m.41-44: for the Am6 voicing I used an A,F#,C voicing at the 4th fret (see below).
  • m.45-56: I used low voicings for most of this section, moving up to the 7th to 9th frets for m.55-56.
  • m.57-72: I used low voicings for most of this section, moving up to the 7th to 8th frets for m.71-72.
  • m.99-102: I used low voicings in this section.
  • m.117-128: I played this section an octave higher than written, as indicated.
  • m.154-171: I played obvious voicings in this section; the F chords should be at the 8th fret, and the G at m.163-164 at the 10th fret.
  • m.171: treat yourself to a huge glissando off the final F power chord: it suits the material and you’ve earned it!

34-Murder-chord-diagrams

#35: The Stuff (Reprise)
Pickup: Position 5 (CT) – m.11-13, Position 5 (HB) – m.15-40
Sounds: Light Overdrive – m.11-13, Heavy Overdrive – m.15-40
This is a heavy and dramatic reprise of #8: “The Stuff”. Mae decides she’s had enough of Jack and murders him (there’s a lot of this in Act 2!). The number starts lightly, like the original version of the song, then gets very heavy at m.15. I started with the Light Overdrive sound, then switched to Heavy Overdrive, to get a thick, heavy distortion.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.15-22: the rhythm should be played as written, with the rests clearly articulated, as the guitar is playing in unison with the bass.
  • m.23-26: the solo should be played more or less as written, although you do have a little freedom to embellish. In terms of feel, there’s a Jimi Hendrix vibe to this moment.
  • m.30-32: although single root notes are written out for this section, I played mostly power chords, adding the fifth above the notes written.
  • m.33: I departed from the score, playing high D and D# double string bends for dramatic effect, then swooped down for low power chords in m.34-35 to finish the number.
Murder – the Reefer Zombies attack

Murder – the Reefer Zombies attack.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

#36: The Stuff (Reprise) Playoff
Pickup: Position 5 (HB)
Sounds: Heavy Overdrive
This is a continuation of the hard rock “The Stuff” from the previous number. The playoff cue is “Mae holds Jack’s bloody heart aloft and exits”, which always makes me laugh. You can dig in and play power chords, or go for a big solo throughout this number, depending on the direction you get from the Music Director and/or your own preference.

There is an error in the score at m.3. The measure should have an accented eighth-note on the downbeat, followed by rests for the remainder of the measure (the same as m.29 of #35: “The Stuff (Reprise)). For further details see my list of errors in the Reefer Madness guitar book.

#38: Listen To Jesus, Jimmy (Reprise)
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean
Pick: lighter pick used (yellow Herdim 0.63mm)
This is a reprise of #17: “Listen To Jesus, Jimmy”, and should be played with a similar “Elvis in Vegas” cabaret feel. The rhythms are written out in detail using slash notation and should be followed reasonably closely. I used mostly full barre voicings in the middle of the neck, as shown in the excerpt below.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.19-24: this section has only slash marks, rather than full rhythm notation. I played a funky comp rhythm, using full barre voicings at the 7th and 6th frets for EMaj7 and Eb respectively.
  • m.27-28: I played high voicings of A9 and Ab9 at the end of the number as shown below, with a fast tremolo on the fermata, as written. There appears to be an error in these two measures. In the Piano Vocal score, the A9 chord starts on beat 2 of m.27, whereas in the Guitar score it starts on beat 3½ as shown below. This is probably not a huge problem, as the end of this number is usually dictated by the conductor, and the durations of the notes as shown are correct – they are just in the wrong place!

38-Jesus-reprise-excerpt

#40: The Truth
Pickup: Position 4 – m.1-97, Position 5 (CT) – m.105-165
Sounds: Clean – m.1-97, Distortion – m.105-165
Picks: fingers m.1-97 (banjo-style picking), red Herdim 0.87mm pick m.105-165
The show’s finale number is a completely new song. The first two-thirds alternate ballad verses with fast, folky choruses. For the final third, the number shifts to a triumphal march. The guitar is tacet in the ballad sections (verses), and plays fast 16th-note picking throughout the choruses, shifting to distorted power chords for the march section. The power chords are straightforward, but the picking is more tricky.

The score calls for “Ad lib banjo-style picking” with a “Fast Revivalist feel”. Pickup position 4 with a Clean sound was as close as I could get to a banjo sound on an electric guitar. If you were inclined to do so it would be possible to actually play a banjo in this section. There would be sufficient time to switch to the electric guitar for the march section.

For the ad lib picking, the required style is a simple 3-finger banjo-like pattern. It’s very difficult to maintain anything banjo-like at the required speed while using a pick, so I used fingers throughout this section. You could play the simple chord shapes written into the book, but I played something pretty close to the notes as written. The part repeats the same sequence a total of six times. I provide a transcription of how I played one sequence below.

The Truth

“The Truth”.  Photo courtesy of SecondStory Repertory / © 2019 Michael Brunk, nwlens.com

Tips/adjustments:

  • See transcription below for details of the banjo-style choruses.
  • m.105-113: I played this section exactly as written. Watch out for the B(b5) and F#(b5) chords in m.108-109.
  • m.118-135: I played the march section as written. Keep the chords crisp and articulate the rests clearly.
  • m.136-157: I played power chords in exactly the rhythms shown in the score.
  • m.150: I voiced the F5 power chord at the 8th fret.
  • m.154-157: I voiced C5 and F5 at 8th fret, Gb5 at 9th fret and Ab5 at 11th fret.
  • m.159-164: there is an error in the score. The score shows 3 measures of whole-note Bb5 chords followed by 3 measures of rest. It should be 4 measures of Bb5 followed by 2 measures of rest.

40-The-Truth-excerpt

#41: Curtain Call (“Little Mary Sunshine”)
Pickup: Position 5 (CT)
Sounds: Distortion – m.1-25, Light Overdrive – m.29-38
This is a reprise of the blues/burlesque half of #29: “Little Mary Sunshine”. See the notes on #29 above. Since this is the curtain call, it’s usually played a little faster. I played this as written.

Tips/adjustments:

  • m.18: rhythmic, swung rock ‘n’ roll comping as indicated in the score. I played power chords throughout, with no 3rds in the chords.
  • m.19-25: I played this solo as written, adding whammy vibrato on the long F notes in m.19, m.23 and m.25. I held the whole note F in m.25 for two measures (i.e. through m.26), with vibrato all the way. For the Bb notes in m.20 and m.24, I bent the string up from A.

#42: Exit Music (“Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime”)
Pickup: Position 4
Sounds: Clean
This is a reprise of the main swing section of #9: “Down At The Ol’ Five And Dime”. See notes on #9 above. Everybody gets a solo in m.1-12 – the Guitar solo is the third time through. Comp the rhythm during the other instruments’ solos. After that, play the rhythm to the end as written, with the usual high voicings.

LINKS – OTHER ARTICLES ON THIS SITE
Playing Reefer Madness The Musical – Electric Guitar
List of errors in the Reefer Madness Guitar Book

LINKS – EXTERNAL
Reefer Madness (Musical) Wikipedia page
Original movie – original black & white version and 2004 restored version with artificial color
Reefer Madness The Musical – official website
Original 1999 LA Cast Recording & 2005 Movie Musical Cast Recording – YouTube Playlist and Ghostlight Records page
Licensing Information (Concord)
SecondStory Repertory

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