One of my students recently wanted to learn the hard rock song Cult of Personality by Living Colour. This is a great tune with a rocking riff and catchy chorus. While these parts are slightly fiddly to play they aren’t impossible to master. However the solos are something else! Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid is known for his “out” jazzy playing and his tendency to shred a million notes a second making it very challenging to learn his solos note for note.
To get around this I decided to create new solos for the tune that were more playable while following the spirit of Vernon Reid with high energy and fast phrases. Both solos here are over the main G Mixolydian (G A B C D E F) riff which means that G Mixolydian, G minor pentatonic and the G blues scale will all work well here.
The first solo in the Cult of Personality is only 4 bars long. In the original version this is made up of has 32nd notes and some wild whammy bar moves around the 15th positon on the guitar neck vaguely based on the G minor pentatonic scale.
In my version I decided to make it simpler by sticking the G blues scale. However I moved it up the neck from position 1 to create a crescendo at position 15. The first 2 bars play a lick that is moved 3 times up the neck ending with 2 bends on fret 18 of the B string.
In bar 3 I stole (or borrowed?) a fast triplet 16th note lick from Jimmy Page that sounds cool but is easy to play. This ends with another bend on fret 18 but this time on the E string.
The solo ends with a triplet 8th note lick playing down 2 octaves of the G blues scale.
Cult of Personality Solo 1 | Download
The second longer solo takes up 9 bars of the tune. In the original Vernon Reid really goes to town with the 32nd note shredding. To make it more manageable I substituted these fast notes with 16th note triplets which are still quite quick while allowing more obvious patterns to be played.
But before the triplets the solo kicks off with an often used lick by players from Chuck Berry and beyond with guitarists such as Joe Satriani and Kirk Hammet of Metallica using it frequently (ala Enter Sandman).
The next 2 bars use a 6 note double triplet hammer-on/pull-off pattern based around the box shape of the G minor pentatonic scale on the E and B strings. To develop speed keep your fingers close to the fretboard for an economical motion. This section ends with a bend to give the fast rhythm a break before the next set of 16th note triplets.
The next bunch of 16th note triplets move step wise down the G minor pentatonic scale then back up with chromatic notes filling in the holes played as hammer-ons.
Following some more bends there are some 16th notes paraphrasing the original solo but played one octave higher.
In the next 3 bars the solo finally moves out of the 15th position sliding down the G string with the notes of the G Mixolydian and G minor pentatonic scales mixed together. The same notes are used to move back up the G string with triplet 16th note hammer-ons in the style of Ritchie Blackmore ending on 2 high C notes.
The solo ends with jazzy phrase emphasising the 9th note (A) in the style of Vernon Reid.
Cult of Personality Solo 2 | Download
When practicing these solos work on them in parts slowly speeding them up until you can play each section well before piecing them together. Good luck and have fun with this created solo for Cult of Personality.