Chris Isaak's Wicked Game | fingerstyle guitar
Photo by Shifaaz Shamoon | Unsplash

Wicked Game

Free download of this performance on SoundCloud.

For my money, the two greatest unrequited love songs are: U2’s With or Without You, and Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. The former can prompt one to hold a lighter in the air and bellow “…and you give yourself a-way-a”.

The latter makes (me) daydream of the Mulholland Highway; sweeping through the Santa Monica mountains at dusk in a 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi. Then I pullover at a some canyon overlook — where my wife and I slow dance in the car’s low-beams.¬†The evening continues from there, but that’s just about all I can divulge on a personal guitar blog.

I’ve never been to California, nor driven a 1972 CSi, but Wicked Game gets me California Dreamin’ real quick. FYI that car was most famously featured¬†in the A-List whodunit, Knives Out.

Wicked Game was never intended to be an unrequited love song. Chris Isaak wrote the song while pondering an impending mistake. He received a phone call from a woman acquaintance late one evening. She asked to come over to his place. He knew this lady was trouble but, against his (and most men’s) better judgment, he accepted her self-invitation.

Viewing the song through that lens adds another dimension. For one to enter into that physical contact, is to launch into a carnival of crazy and complexity.

Although released in 1989, Wicked Game found its popularity on the soundtrack for, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990) starring Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern. My 12-year-old self remembers the black and white MTV video vividly; supermodel Helena Christensen topless, but concealed on a volcanic black-sand beach in Hawaii. Those were socially conservative times. It’s mind blowing that this video was played on MTV and VH1 25 times a day.

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Gear used

For this arrangement, I used my Cordoba C7 guitar. Although, you can play piece this on just about anything: steel string acoustic, electric guitar. It all sounds good! You can find a current list of my gear here.

How to play Wicked Game | fingerstyle guitar

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The guitar tab for this arrangement is beautifully written across 4 pages. I recommend this piece for intermediate players and up. Enjoy, the guitar tab is available below:

This entire song is essentially three chords over and over again. Bm, A, and E. In a few cases, I wrote the chord shape above the tablature, but it’s plain to see what shape is intended. My order of play looks like this in accordance with the guitar tab:

Intro 1, Intro 2 (2x), Verse 1, Chorus (2x), Post Chorus 1 (2x)

Verse 2, Chorus 2 (2x)

Intro 1, Intro 2 (2x)

End (page #4).

Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game | fingerstyle guitar

This piece is played in standard tuning: E A D G B E. However, you’ll see that I’m using a capo on the second fret. My C7 is permanently tuned down with heavy guage strings. Capoing at the 2nd fret brings me to standard tuning. I only used this guitar because it’s deeper sounding.

Written by:

Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, short-film composer, creator of modern content for guitar.