Sin City

by Gram Parsons • Lesson #272 • Dec 16, 2019

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hi friends! Here’s a guitar lesson showing you how to play “Sin City” by Gram Parsons / The Flying Burrito Brothers (1969). I’ll explain the capo situation, teach you the chords, the progressions, the strumming, and even show a few ways to play the intro (tabs included).

Up until this week, I’d never heard this song. It came on via some playlist of suggested songs while driving, and immediately stuck its teeth into me. After listening to a few versions, I found that the Beck & Emmylou Harris version (from a Gram Parsons tribute) was actually the most helpful while learning the song – probably because it had the best audio quality, while also being relatively minimal with its solo acoustic guitar. Whether you want to play that version, a different Gram Parsons version, or the original Flying Burrito Brothers version, you should be set with my lesson here.

Lesson timestamps:

  • 0:00 Lesson overview
  • 1:37 Capo notes
  • 3:01 Chords used
  • 4:00 Rhythm & strumming
  • 8:40 Verse & chorus progressions
  • 12:51 Intro riff (3 versions)
  • 19:37 Farewell

Play-along cover (#273)

Here’s a play-through cover of the entire song, with chords and lyrics shown as I play it.

Lyrics w/ chords

* Capo 1st fret to play with Flying Burrito Brothers (see more capo notes below)

INTRO
    E ––––––0–|–0h2–2–––––––|–3–––2–––0–––|–––––––––0–––|–2–––––––––––||
    B ––––3–––|–3–––3–––––––|–2–––2–––2–––|–3–––––––0–––|–3–––––––––––||
    G ––2–––––|–2–––2–––––––|–0–––––––––––|–0–––––––0–––|–2–––––––––––||
    D ––––––––|–0–––––––––––|–2–––––––––––|–0–––––––0–––|–0–––––––––––||
    A ––––––––|–––––––––––––|–0–––––––––––|–x–––––––x–––|–––––––––––––||
    E ––––––––|–––––––––––––|–––––––––––––|–3–––––––3–––|–––––––––––––||
        + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +
                D             A7            G             D
VERSE
             D                      A7             D         G
    This old town... is filled with sin... it'll swallow you in
       D                                 A7
    If you've got... some money----- to burn
            D               A7                D                 G
    Take it home... right away... you've got three years--- to pay
        D            A7          D    D7
    But Satan... is waiting his turn

CHORUS
                 G                  A7                 D
        This old earthquake's gonna leave--- me in the poor house
           G                 D             A7
        It seems like this whole town's insane
               G              A7        D           G
        On the thirty-first floor... a gold plated door
               D              A7              D
        Won't keep out... the Lord's burning rain

          D         A7            D             G
    The scientists say... it will all wash--- away
        D                        A7
    But we don't... believe any more
                 D              A7                D           G
    'Cause we've got... our recruits... and our green mohair suits
         D                 A7           D
    So please show... your I.D. at the door

                 G                  A7                 D
        This old earthquake's gonna leave--- me in the poor house
           G                 D             A7
        It seems like this whole town's insane
               G              A7        D           G
        On the thirty-first floor... a gold plated door
               D              A7              D
        Won't keep out... the Lord's burning rain

    [ instrumental verse ]

        D              A7                 D            G
    A friend... came around... tried to clean up this town
          D                        A7
    His ideas... made some people mad
             D              A7             D              G
    But he trusted... his crowd... so he spoke right out loud
         D                A7               D
    And they lost... the best friend they had

        [ chorus ]

ENDING
                   G              A7        D           G
            On the thirty-first floor... a gold plated door
                   D              A7              D
            Won't keep out... the Lord's burning rain

Capo notes

Using the chords in this lesson, you can play along with notable versions of this song by using a capo as follows:

  • Capo 1st fret = Flying Burrito Brothers album version
  • Capo 1st fret = Beck & Emmylou tribute album version
  • No capo = Gram & Emmylou “Complete Reprise Sessions”
  • No capo = Flying Burrito Brothers & Gene Clark “Live Radio” version

Chord progressions

Intro:

1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
D           A7          G           D

Verse:

1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
D           A7          D           G
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
D           D           A7          A7
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
D           A7          D           G
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
D           A7          D           D7

Chorus:

1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
G           A7          D           D
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
G           D           A7          A7
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
G           A7          D           G
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
D           A7          D           D

Intro tabs

My arrangement for the intro:

––––––0–|–0h2–2–––––––|–3–––2–––0–––|–––––––––0–––|–2–––––––––––||
––––3–––|–3–––3–––––––|–2–––2–––2–––|–3–––––––0–––|–3–––––––––––||
––2–––––|–2–––2–––––––|–0–––––––––––|–0–––––––0–––|–2–––––––––––||
––––––––|–0–––––––––––|–2–––––––––––|–0–––––––0–––|–0–––––––––––||
––––––––|–––––––––––––|–0–––––––––––|–x–––––––x–––|–––––––––––––||
––––––––|–––––––––––––|–––––––––––––|–3–––––––3–––|–––––––––––––||
  + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +   1 + 2 + 3 +
          D             A7            G             D

Longer intro tab (inspired by the “Rebel Machine” cover on YouTube):

––––––2–––2–––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––3–––3–––––––2–––2–––––––––––––––––––2–––2–––––––2–––2––––
––––––3–––3–––––––3–––2–––––––3–––––––––––0–––0–––––––3–––3–––––––––––––––––––3–––3–––––––3–––3––––
––––––2–––2–––––––2–––2–––––––2–––––––––––0–––0–––––––2–––2–––––––––––––––––––2–––2–––––––2–––2––––
––0–––––––––––––––2–––2–––0–––––––––––––––0–––0–––0–––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––0––––––––––––
––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––2–––4––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–2–3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
  1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
  D           A           D           G           D           A           D           D/A

Beck & Emmylou Harris tribute album intro tab:

––––––3–––3–––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––3–––1–0–––––2–––2–––––––––––––––––––2–––2–––––––2–––2––––
––––––0–––0–––––––3–––2–––––––3–––––––––––0–––0–0–––––3–––3–––––––––––––––––––3–––3–––––––3–––3––––
––––––0–––0–––––––2–––2–––––––2–––––––––––0–––0–0–––––2–––2–––––––––––––––––––2–––2–––––––2–––2––––
––––––0–––0–––––––2–––2–––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––
––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––2–––4–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––
––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–2–3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
  1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 +
  G           A           D           G           D           A           D           D/A

Recordings of this song

Flying Burrito Brothers original album version:

Beck & Emmylou Harris tribute version:

Gram & Emmylou “Complete Reprise Sessions” – nice stripped down duet, one acoustic guitar:

Cover of this song by “Young America” - best I’ve seen on YouTube!

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