William, It Was Really Nothing

"What 'William It Was Really Nothing' is about is... it occurred to me that within popular music if ever there were any records that discussed marriage they were always from the female's standpoint - female singers singing to women: whenever there were any songs saying 'do not marry, stay single, self-preservation, etc'. I thought it was about time there was a male voice speaking directly to another male saying that marriage was a waste of time... that, in fact, it was 'absolutely nothing'."

- Morrissey

"Some [tracks] may have been sped up. I don't know whether 'Wiliiam' was though; I didn't think so, just because it was so fast when we played it, we can't have wanted it even faster!

This is a 1962 Epiphone Coronet. Shortly after I got it I put it in 'Nashville Tuning', which means putting on an electric 12 string set (the bottom four strings are an octave higher than standard). It feels like your playing backwards because the higher strings are at the bottom. I used it to double a lot of the Rickenbacker arpeggios on Smiths records, most notably on 'William It Was Really Nothing'.

I got [a Gibson] J160 from Denmark Street when I moved to Earl's Court in 1984. I wanted one because John Lennon used one on the early Beatle's albums and I liked 'I Should've Known Better' and 'I'll Be Back'. I wrote 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want' on it and 'William It Was Really Nothing'.

'William' is quite a whimsical song really. I don't think it's broken all the rules in pop music, but to start a song with a short verse and then follow it with three choruses is quite good."

- Johnny Marr

July 1984, Jam Studios, London

Known guitars used on recording:
1962 Epiphone Coronet in nashville tuning

Composed on:
Gibson J160E

I have uploaded 2 different Guitar Pro files for this song here. They each cover different guitar parts, I think they are pretty helpful, along with the videos.

Thanks again to a contribution from Coxy, you can compare the Guitar Pro tabs to these tabs from Total Guitar. I have also uploaded the mp3 backing tracks from the Total Guitar cd here.

Here is a transcription from the Spring 2012 issue of Guitar Techniques:

Here is the complete score from the "Louder Than Bombs:Off The Record" book:

Here are the scans from the Singles tab book:

Here are the scans from the Smiths Best Complete Score:

Here are the scans from the Complete Chord Dictionary:

Here is a short shot of Johnny playing the intro chords on his Martin D-35:

And here is Johnny on his Jaguar:

Here is a great video from elylester of the rhythm part:

Ely was kind enough to post the chords he used in the comments section of youtube:

Fadd9 CM7 Em7 Am7 (3x)
Fadd9 FM7
C Em7
FM7 G6 Gsus4
AM7 A7 Am7 CM7 D6add9 (2x)

Fsus4 F Gsus4 G

Am Am(maj7)
Am Am(maj7) Am7 D9
These are the chord shapes in standard tuning. Use a capo at the second fret.

Next there's his take on the lead part:

Here's modfather1965 with a cool two part lesson and his own covers:

Here's Daniel Earwicker:

Here's TheJibs:

Here's WilliamFs11:

Here's dhowellbassist on a Ric 360 in Nashville tuning:

Here's hatescoutingforgirls:

Here's Buttslapper1:

Here's Pandaprops on a 12 string acoustic:

Here's HalfAPerson83 on a Jaguar:

Here's chiasson65 on bass:


Anonymous said...

The tab for this one was in Total Guitar magazine in the 90's. The rhythm part was played with a capo at the 7th fret (If I remember correctly). It's a right sod to play

I've definitely still got the mag somewhere on the bookshelf if you want me to scan it and post a link to it

Thom said...

Yes, that would be awesome! Just scan it and link to it or email it to me at smithsonguitar@gmail.com and I will host it here.

Anonymous said...

Tab emailed to the guvnor

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this site!!!

Anonymous said...

this Total guitar magazine tab doesn't really seem right... it doesn't sound like the electric parts on the recording are capoed at the 7th fret at all. sounds like 1 or 2 nashville tunings with a telecaster... all capoed at the usual 2nd fret.
the seventh fret stuff in this magazine is awkward and jumpy and too much falls on the lower strings so it doesn't have the right resonance and ring to it... and also i don't think there is 12 string in it at all, just nashville that doubles on top of a guitar in normal tuning.... just my humble opinion, for what it's worth.

Thom said...

Anonymous, I know that the tab may not be correct, but my goal with this site is to collect everything thats related to the song, published or amateur. The fact is, Smiths songs are rarely tabbed out, and the transcriptions are not often accurate. Even if it's not entirely correct, it may help someones understanding of the way the song is played.

About the 12 string, you might be right. He definitely used the Ric 330 and the Epiphone Coronet in nashville tuning.

fred said...

your site is wunderful
i just posted a small video for these things take time on youtube

see you

clumsiloe said...

I bought the Louder Than Bombs Tab book when it came out, and it has the 7th fret capo version in it.

I personally I've learned this version and have got it down pretty good. I agree that is probably not how it was actually played, but it does a good job of by-passing the layering of guitars that you'd need to make it suitably jangly on just one guitar. Also setting up a nashville tuned guitar is an inconvenience and a pain the bum for people with limited guitars in their arsenal.

JPierre said...

JM said on twitter : William It Was Not A Capo

Johnny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Do you have the backing tracks from the guitar techniques issue? If so, could you please upload them?

Unknown said...

What an amazing site, I'm a massive Marr fan and in the process of getting a Smiths tribute together, this resource has been just a Godsend. Huge thanks and keep up the fantastic work! Cheers, Baz

Unknown said...

Sorry i was supposed to send you the backing tracks with the scans of the tab, you still want them?