Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Two Bouncing Babies

Obscurity knocks! I’m pretty sure that I’m only doing this post for my own personal satisfaction. This post isn’t going to get me lots of hits on the blog, but any regular reader will recognise that’s not really my motivation here.

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A little while back I posted a song sheet for The Freshies forgotten classic “I’m In Love With The Girl On The Virgin Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk“. I was reminded of that song again yesterday, which itself reminded me of one of The Freshies other songs that I really loved – the only slightly shorter titled “I Can’t Get Bouncing Babies By The Teardrop Explodes”. Anybody who has browsed these pages will have noticed that I am a big fan of The Teardrops (and later solo material by Julian Cope), and so I thought it would be a good idea to bring both of those songs to these pages.

Bouncing Babies was an early single from The Teardrop Explodes, released on legendary Liverpool record label Zoo. A song that mines a rich vein of garage band psychedelia (there’s a great write-up about it here), it’s release on an independent label meant that – in pre-internet days – tracking down a copy of the record was an adventure in itself. In this respect, the record became a totemic instance of the wider record collector obsession with finding obscure independent records, something enshrined in The Freshies song that explicitly references it.

(In an even more self-referential twist, The Freshies record has inspired it’s own tribute from a chap called Mark Cottrell, who has written and recorded “I Can’t Get ‘I Can’t Get “Bouncing Babies” By The Teardrop Explodes’ By The Freshies“)!

And so here’s two song sheets for you. Bouncing Babies is a simple song – circling between an A/F first section and an E/G second section. The Freshies song is a little more complex, but is straightforward chords. I’ve followed the end section / outro as per the record, but it might stretch out a bit too long for you, so feel free to shorten if you want to.

Enjoy!

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<I Can’t Get “Bouncing Babies” By The Teardrop Explodes>


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Dancing In The City – Marshall Hain / Love Is In The Air – John Paul Young

Two songs for the price of one today, two songs that are – in my mind, at least – always linked together. And two songs that will probably always be considered one-hit wonders.

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Marshall Hain were a duo, comprised of Julian Marshall (keyboards) and Kit Hain (vocals and bass). Dancing In The City was there only hit – something of a world-wide smash – but after their first album tanked, they quite and went their separate ways. Kit recorded a couple of solo albums before concentrating on song writing, where she had some success with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Chaka Khan and Cher, before more recently turning her attentions to writing. Julian continued in the music industry, and found further success as a member of Flying Lizards, who had a hit with their vert unique take on Barrett Strong’s Money.

John Paul Young was born in Scotland but raised in Australia, where he had a fair degree of success in the mid-to-late 1970s, regularly releasing albums through to the mid-80s. But it is fair to say that he only really garnered international success with this song. But what a song! Whilst definitely picking up a strong disco influence that positions it at a certain point in time, it is a timeless classic, revived in 1992 with a new mix as part of the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom. Most recently Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly has recorded and released a fantastic version of the song.

So why these two songs together? Well it was prompted by a recent Facebook conversation with a couple of friends, and that prompted me to look at why that was. It would appear that – in the UK at least – both tracks were in the charts at about the same time during 1978. Love Is In The Air entering on 29th April and hanging around for 13 weeks, and Dancing In The City on 3rd June and leaving 15 weeks. So I suspect that they were being played at the same time on Radio 1, and probably co-existing on a C90 tape of Top 40 songs that I recorded from the radio on Sunday evenings.

So two song sheets today. Of the two, Dancing In The City is the more straightforward, just four standard chords. Love Is In The Air throws in a few more unusual chords (the odd diminished and major 7) but none of them are tricky. Give them a go, and enjoy two classics from a more innocent time!

<Dancing In The City>   <Love Is In The Air>

 


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Billy Bragg Songbook

In certain quarters, Billy Bragg must surely have obtained that most highly coveted status of National Treasure. But it’s probably fair to say that Bragg’s political activism and agitation will always mean that title is one that will never be fully bestowed. And that’s just the way Stephen William Bragg would want it.

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Over a career spanning nearly 40 years, Bragg has certainly forged his own unique path. Following failed attempts in a punk/pub rock band in the late 70s, followed by a fleeting period in the British Army, Bragg started playing solo concerts and busking with just his electric guitar for accompaniment, eventually securing a contract that saw the release of his debut solo mini-LP, Life’s A Riot with Spy vs. Spy (pay no more than £2.99!). With support from John Peel, and something of a music press favourite, Bragg emerged on to the public stage as a breath of fresh air – in a music scene that was becoming increasingly electronic and over-produced, the simplicity of Bragg’s format, and the direct nature of his songs, cut through. Musically harking back to punk, lyrically reflecting the reality of early 80’s Britain, the Bard of Barking caught the spirit of the times for a particular section of the country.

Political activism, of a decidedly left-wing nature, has always been a part of Bragg’s music from the beginning. And that has spilled over into various other initiatives, including the Red Wedge movement of the mid-80s and involvement in multiple campaigns and causes. That is a full-on part of the Bragg package. But what is often overlooked is that whilst Bragg’s songs do indeed reflect his political world-view, there are just as many – if not more – which reflect on the personal. Not just relationship songs (although those are there for certain) but songs that cover the wide spectrum of human experience. It is probably the combination of these two perspectives – the political and the personal – combined with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, which makes Bragg the interesting and much-loved character that he is.

As his career has developed, so have the avenues that Bragg has chosen to pursue. Musically he has branched out by recording a series of records with Wilco where they put unused lyrics of Woody Guthrie to new tunes and arrangements, performing with The Imagined Village (a constantly morphing folk music project), and an album of train-themed songs with Joe Henry that were recorded in various locations on a train journey across America. And he has recently been prevalent as an author, with both a musical (Skiffle) and political focus.

But it is for the music that you are here, right? And so here is a Billy Bragg ukulele song book. 30 songs spanning his career. Similar to the Johnny Cash songs, Bragg songs are – by and large – not complicated beasts. And obviously by-and-large they have been written for – and certainly performed in – a stripped down, solo context. So I think these songs translate well to a ukulele context, and are (mostly) designed to be sung loud and proud.

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Also, see below for a list of the songs included in the book, along with links to individual song sheets:


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The Johnny Cash Songbook

The words “legendary” and “iconic” tend to get thrown around very liberally when it comes to musicians. But in a small number of cases, the terms are warranted. And Johnny Cash is one of those artists.

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Over a career that spanned 50 years, Johnny Cash built up a body of work that will last for the ages. From the rip-roaring early singles that he recorded for the legendary Sun records, through the live albums that he recorded in prisons in the 1960s, all the way through to the “American Recording” albums that he did with Rick Rubin towards the end of his life which rejuvenated both his career and his reputation, Johnny Cash casts a monumental shadow over not just country music, but popular music in general.

The country artist that non-country fans love, the proud standard-bearer of the disposseed and underclasses, Johnny Cash was certainly not flawless (listen to The Chicken In Black for evidence of that!). And yet he was a man and an artist of true integrity and humility who bestrode country music like the colossus he was. Born and raised in the dirt-poor recession-torn Arkansas of the 1930s, like his close friend Dolly Parton he knew real poverty and deprivation, and never forgot those roots throughout a hugely successful career.

Both a songwriter in his own right, and a proud interpreter of others songs, Cash certainly had his own style (that Boom-Chicka-Boom rhythm that his early recordings in particular). The self-declared Man in Black, even his sartorial style was a statement of solidarity with the poor and hungry, the “prisoner who has long paid for his crime”, something that he explained in the song of the same name. And he was also a man of deep faith, something that is often over-looked by those who are uncomfortable with such things, but something which is key to understanding the complex person that was Johnny Cash.

And so here is a collection of ukulele song sheets for 28 classic Johnny Cash songs. By-and-large Cash songs are not complicated beasts – there is a small number of chords, regular rhythms (mostly – Ghost Riders In The Sky and Ring Of Fire might be a little challenging on that front) and standard structures – so these should be good for beginners and experienced players alike. The songs are mostly in the original keys, but a few I have transposed for ease of playing – Cash often played with a Capo on the first fret, so no shame there. Enjoy!

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List of songs included in the book (with links to individual song sheets):


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Bad Decisions – The Strokes

The Strokes passed me by back in the day. I think I was probably going down a country/roots avenue at the time, and so indie rock was not really on my radar.

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So I’m not really qualified to say whether this new song is a return to previous glories, or whether it is a desperate last fling. Not that it really matters, to be honest.

Bad Decisions is the second single from the bands new (released only two days ago, as I write!) album The New Abnormal. I’ve been playing this a lot recently, and it’s a cracker. Owning more than a little to Generation X / Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself, the band acknowledged this in the writing credits, where Idol and fellow Gen-X (and Sigue Sigue Sputnik) member Tony James cited as co-writers.

It’s a fairly straightforward, head-down indie rock tune. Simple chords, standard structure. I’ve also tabbed out the main riff for you to have a go at as well. Enjoy!