Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs

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Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush


Very excited about yesterday’s news that Kate Bush is going to perform live (I don’t think you can call a 15-night residency a “tour”) for the first time in 35 years. Having only toured once, back in 1979, this is huge news, and something that many people (most?) thought they’d never see. And in the world of 24-news, pre-announcements of pre-announcements, the fact that this came totally out of the blue, not an inkling anywhere, taking everybody by surprise, is wonderful. The anticipation is at fever pitch already, goodness knows what it’s going to be like by August (and David Hepworth hasn’t written a good little piece about that here).

Bush has always been something of an enigma, drawing an intense and loyal following since she so dramatically burst onto the pop scene in 1978 with the totally unique Wuthering Heights. But her withdrawal from live performance, the uncompromising and unusual nature and subject of her songs, her perfectionist tendancies and the increasing gap between releasese (12 years betwen The Red Shoes and it’s follow-up, Aerial) have all contributed to the sense of mystery and intensity, sometimes obsessive, that surrounds her. Oh, being a little (to put it mildly!) easy on the eye might have helped her too!

Running Up That Hill was the lead single from her commercial peak, the Hounds of Love. I first remember hearing / seeing this performed on the Wogan Show (see clip). The song was a real return to commercial form for Kate after her previous album, The Dreaming, which was led by the totally bonkers Sat In Your Lap (I remember hearing that on Radio 1’s Roundtable review programme and the whole panel being speechless!). Although it can hardly be said that this is a straightforward pop song. Underpinned throughout by a martial drum sound, overlaid with Fairlight-sourced synth sounds, it is a song that builds and builds and builds, hypnotic, drawing you into its world through sheer persistance. After Wuthering Heights, it’s probably her most well-known track, and has resulted in a number of successful cover versions from the likes of Placebo.

So an obvious choice for ukulele then! Well maybe not, but it was the rhythms of the song that drew me to it, and I thought that maybe it might work. I think it does, although it takes a little work to get the rhythms right. I’ve taken the song down a semitone from the original, partly to make the chords easier, and partly to make it easier for me to sing! (if you want the original key as sheet music try here or here). I’ve also included some tab for the main riff (originally played on synth) that goes over the introduction and between the chorus and the verses (indicated on the sheet!). That riffs ends up being a bit high because it goes below bottom-end of the uke’s range, but it still sounds nice.




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Tell That Girl To Shut Up – Holly & The Italians / Transvision Vamp


There’s something about the best of the songs from the punk / new wave / post-punk / power-pop explosion of the late-70s and early-80s that lend themselves well to the ukulele. I’ve already posted songs by the like of Blondie and Rezillos, and here’s another in that ilk.

I was listening to a random shuffle of punk, post-punk and new wave songs yesterday, when this song popped up and grabbed my attention. More well known, if it’s known at all, for the cover version by Transvision Vamp, the original version of this song came from a short-lived band called Holly & The Italians, fronted by Holly Beth Vincent. Originally from the US, they relocated to UK and garnered a certain amount of critical success in the early 1980s, although none of that every translated into any kind of commercial success. Tell That Girl To Shut Up is the one song that seems to have outlasted (and maybe overshadowed) their career. It’s the somewhat bitter retort of a young woman who has been spurned by her lover for the attractions of another, and the physical violence she wishes to inflict on the new woman as a result. Maybe not totally PC as a result, it’s still a great song, with a real blast of energy.

So here’s the song sheet. I hunted high-and-low online trying to find any kind of chords for this, and failed miserably. So using the wonderful Chordify as a starting point, I’ve managed to work up something that seems to work. As you would expect there’s nothing very complicated here, no tricky chords, weird timings, etc. It’s just a straight up rock/pop song that deserves to be sung with passion and energy. Enjoy!


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Glen Campbell – Any Trouble / Wish You Were Here

ghostonthecanvas<Any Trouble> <Wish You Were Here>

There appears to have been something of a Glen Campbell love-fest going on on this site. One of my earliest posts was Rhinestone Cowboy, and more recently I posted on Jimmy Webb’s gorgeous song Wichita Lineman. Neither songs are Campbell originals, and whilst he is a strong songwriter in his own right, it’s more for his choice and treatment of the songs of others that he is reverred. However to the wider public at large, if Campbell means anything it is as a cheesy 70s throwback. Their loss!

The two songs I’m highlighting here come from Campbell’s 61st (61st!) album Ghost on the Canvas. Effectively his last studio recording following his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease (2013’s See You There was culled from the same sessions as this recording, and is largely re-recordings of previous songs) the album is a strongly cohesive collection of stunning songs that honestly reflect the position he finds himself in – looking back over a successful and eventful career, rueing some of the personal cost that went with it (his personal life has been eventful, to say the least), contemplating themes of mortality and finality. But the songs rarely do this in a downcast way, but instead are largely shot through with strength and positivity which, given the circumstances, is amazing. The album is often compared to Johnny Cash’s final American Recordings series, and much as I love those albums, Cambpell’s probably has a more positive vibe than some of the later of Cash’s albums.

But this isn’t a solo effort. The album is a collaboration with producer and friend Julian Raymond, many of the songs are co-writes between Campbell and Raymond – Raymond used conversations he had with Campbell about his life as source material for many of the songs. Additionally a number of songs from contemporary songwriters, such as Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan and Teddy Thompson were added to the music, along with a selection of brief musical interludes between tracks (from Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.) that are reminiscent of the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds.

And so to the two songs here. Any Trouble is a song written by Paul Westerberg, best known as the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter in The Replacements. The song wasn’t written specifically for Campbell, but with it’s theme’s of looking back and thinking about those who will be left behind when he’s gone, it fits the mood of the album perfectly.

Wish You Were Here is a song from the pen of Jimmy Webb. Originally called “Postcard from Paris”, it was first recorded by John Denver in 1990, and appeared on Webb’s solo album Suspending Disbelief in 1993. Campbell’s version changes the song significanly, particularly in terms of the melody, and therefore justifies the re-titling.

Unfortunately Campbell’s record company, Warner Music, have been assiduous in keeping the studio recordings from YouTube. So the two links here to versions of the songs aren’t the actual album versions. You can probably find them on Spotify or the like, so go and track them (and the whole album) down – you won’t regret it.

And finally(!) here are the song sheets. They’re just the chords, and despite a few unusual chords in there they are not too tricky once you get the hang of them. The chorus of Wish You Were Here is a little tricky to sing on your own and fit it all in without overdubbing, but give it  a go. A big thank you to my son for lending his vastly superior musical knowledge to getting the chords for Wish You Were Here worked out. Enjoy!

<Any Trouble> <Wish You Were Here>

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Venus – Bananarama / Shocking Blue


There hasn’t been enough Dutch bubblegum-inspired 80s disco on this site of late, so here’s one to break that drought.

Venus was a song written by Robbie van Leeuwen, guitarist, sitarist and lead song-writer with the 60s/70s Dutch band Shocking Blue (another song of van Leeuwen / Shocking Blue, Love Buzz, was later covered by Nirvana on their Bleach album). The song was a huge global hit around 1970, reaching number 1 in 5 countries including the USA – the first dutch song to do so. Their are claims that the song was more-than-a-little inspired by “The Banjo Song” from US folk-group The Big 3, which included a pre-Mamas and Papas Cass Elliot. That is something that has never been pursued by The Big 3, but you can judged for yourself by taking a listen here. There’s certainly more than a little similarity!

Despite the huge success of the original version of the song, it now seems more associated in most people’s minds with the Bananarama cover version from 1986. Venus was their first collaboration with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman team, and it’s huge world-wide success (number one in eight countries, including the US) led to a long and fruitful relationship between the band and the production team.

And so here’s the song sheet. It’s a simple song, based around a recurring chord sequence. For opening little flourish (the B7sus4) listen to the intro to the Bananarama version to get the rhythm. I’ve also thrown in the little riff that fills the gap between the verse and the chorus – the riff itself is quite straightforward, although fitting it in and keeping going is sometimes a little tricky. Enjoy!