Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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UkeTunes Songbooks – Edition 2 is here!!!

songbookIt’s what the ukulele world hasn’t been waiting for! Its just over a year now since I first compiled and published the UkeTunes songbook. And judging by the number of downloads it looks like something that some people have appreciated. So I thought I’d give them an update to incorporate all of the songs that I’ve put on this site since then. And here it is.

As well as sweeping up all of the songs published on this site to date, I’ve also taken the opportunity to incorporate a number of other songs that I’d worked on but never got round to uploading onto the site (I’ll get round to publishing them as single sheets somewhen soon).

So there’s 37 new songs in total, pushing the main songbook to over 110 songs. Continuing the eclectic nature of the site, those new songs range from 1920s blues, smatterings of country, 1990s britpop and dance to One Direction. With the usual healthy smattering of the best of the 80s for good measure.

Not content with one songbook, though, I’ve compiled this into three books:

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As before, please feel free to onward share and use as you wish.

For reference, the full set of new songs is as follows (links are to individual song sheets for each song):

 

 

 

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He’s On The Phone – Saint Etienne

phoneBy the 1990s I’d started to lose track of contemporary pop music. Much of the dance scene that dominated the charts didn’t really interest me, and my focus was veering towards more country, folk and singer-songwriter sounds. As a result Saint Etienne passed me by.

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Which was a shame really. Because here was a band who combined a classic pop sensibility with a very british outlook, and blended that with facets of the contemporary dance sound. And in the process created a quite special and unique vibe that gave dance music genuine songs with a knowing, melodic twist. Over the years the more overt dance sounds became less prominent as their sound matured, but that mindset still pervaded their work. Songs took on my grown-up themes (although they also recorded a set of children’s songs as well!), reaching – to my mind – a peak in the truly extraordinary Teenage Winter.

He’s On The Phone was the bands biggest hit. The song was a reworking of a “Week-end à Rome”, a previous collaboration with French singer Etienne Daho. Introduced by a simple descending piano riff, the song powers along on a pulsating dance beat and tells the story of a hotel-based liaison between a young academic girl and a married man.

So not obvious material for a ukulele cover, clearly. But I think this works quite well. There’s a few unusual chords in there, and the Bsus4 to Bm transition may be a bit tricky to start with. But generally this shouldn’t be too tricky to pick up. I’ve also included the tab for that piano riff as well, which happens at the beginning of the song and then appears at various stages throughout. Give it a go. And enjoy!

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Missing – Everything But The Girl

By the early 90’s Everything But The Girl had been going for 10 years. Whilst they were still having success, they seemed to have plateaued, a loyal fan base, but unlikely to break out beyond that.

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1994’s Amplified Heart continued the trend of tasteful acoustic songs with a folk and jazz influence. But buried within it was this low-tempo song based around a subtle laid-back groove. Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn (the duo/couple that essentially *were* Everything But The Girl) had always though of the song as a dance-oriented track, and gave the it to American DJ Todd Terry to remix for use in nightclubs. The result was revelatory.

Giving the song a strong New York house direction, Missing was transformed with a sparse, beat-driven sound that contrasted with the mournful, lonesome vocals of Thorn (who, if you’re at all interested, has what I would consider to be one of the most beautifully textured voices in pop). And the world agreed – Missing became a huge global hit, one of *the* defining songs of the decade. The band were so taken with this new direction (alongside Tracey’s involvement with the Massive Attack track “Protection”) that they executed a radical career reinvention, embracing a more electronic sound, picking up on the emerging drum-and-bass sounds and ushering in a newly successful period for the band, something that Ben Watt then took further when the band entered an indefinite hiatus in his role as dance music producer and DJ.

As with many dance tracks, the song has a very simple structure based around a simple repeating chord structure. So nothing difficult in terms of chords here – the only challenge is getting the rhythm right in a way that keeps the song moving forward. Follow the acoustic version or the dance version – the choice is yours. Enjoy!

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Whistle Down The Wind – Nick Heyward

WhistleDownTheWindNick Heyward is one of those classic instances of a songwriter who the public won’t let grow up.

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First shooting to prominence in the early 1980s with his band Haircut 100, Heyward took some of the hip sounds of the time (the jangly guitars of Orange Juice, the white-boy funk that was everywhere at the time), added a melodic pop sensibility, and cleaned up with some classic singles (Favourite Shirts, Love Plus One, Fantastic Day, Nobody’s Fool). The band didn’t last long though, and only recorded one album together (Pelican West). Heyward subsequently launched a solo career, kicking off with this classic pop song, a song that had originally been slated as a Haircut 100 single. Whilst his first album, North of  a Miracle, did quite well, Heyward soon fell off the pop radar (something probably not helped by having acquired a devoted but fickle young female fan base with Haircut 100). Albums struggled to be heard, and have been sporadic over the years. His last was in 2006, but it looks like there may be new material later this year. However don’t take that as any signifier of a lack of quality. Heyward is a dedicated and focussed songwriter, working in a classic british pop vein, and his lack of success or visibility says more about the fickle state of pop than it does about his talents.

Whistle Down The Wind takes its title from a 1961 British film that starred Hayley Mills, Bernard Lee and Alan Bates in a touching story of three young children finding a fugitive in a barn, mistaking him for Jesus Christ, unbeknown that he is wanted on suspicion of murder. The song only tangentially touches on these themes, and is a slightly more mellow sound than the Haircut 100 sounds that preceded it. I’ve only recently discovered the album this is from, North of  a Miracle, but it is a superb collection of classic pop sounds that is vastly underrated.

So here is the songsheet. Nothing too complicated, although a few unusual chords are thrown in there. But they do give the song its colour. Enjoy!

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Lightning Bolt – Jake Bugg

LightningBoltIf his first album, and this song in particular, are anything to go by, Jake Bugg has (a) an old head on young shoulders, and (b) was born 50 years too late.

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Not that his sound is out of place. In fact, for me this song and that first album were a huge breath of air, a sound that – through its rawness, simplicity and back-to-basics approach – cut through so much machine-driven modern music. Obviously it’s not a radically new sound, it’s not going to win any awards for originality. But those qualities are highly over-rated in my book. What you get instead is the sound of young man (he was only 18 when this was released) reflecting on his own life growing up on a council estate in Nottingham, with an acoustic-based sound that takes in rock and roll, skiffle, folk and country influences, not a million miles from a young Bob Dylan at times.

Lightning Bolt is a classic example of that sound. A raw skiffle sound – strummed acoustic guitars, straight down-the-line drums and a cutting electric guitar solo – this will blow the cobwebs away.

All of which seems to make for a perfect ukulele strumming song. And it does (in my opinion at any rate). There’s only three chords here, and nothing tricky. I’ve transposed it up a semi-tone to F which (a) I find easier to sing, and (b) I think is easier to play. Try the Bb and C as barre chords, and it works really well. Note that I haven’t tried to fit all the chords in with the lyrics – I don’t think it helps and just clutters up the sheet. Just get that rhythym going, and it will all fall into place. Enjoy!

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P.S. If you want to have a listen to us playing this, here’a recording that The Flukes made of this last year.

 


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Happy Hour – The Housemartins

HappyHourThese days The Housemartins seem to be considered more as the prelude and launch pad for the careers of Paul Heaton (via. The Beautiful South) and Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim).

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But when they emerged in the mid-1980s, the self-styled “fourth best band in Hull” were a breath of fresh-air. Not exactly original in their music (their is undoubtedly a debt to the likes of The Smiths, Aztec Camera and the contemporary “jangle” indie pop sound) they nevertheless delivered a sound and an attitude that cut through some of the po-faced posturing of the time (they also had a love of acapella singing, something that often came out on b-sides). And whilst they were certainly very politically aware, something that would often spill into their songs, they were also no afraid to send themselves up.

Happy Hour was their breakthrough single. As was fairly typical of the band, the bouncy sound of the song was something of a contrast to the lyrical content of the song, which addressed the hypocrisy and sexism of young British males, particularly what was perceived to be the office culture of the time. The song peaked high in the charts (number 3), only bettered for them by their Christmas-time accapella version of Caravan Of Love.

So here’s the songsheet. I’ve kept this in the same key as the original. Whilst that means its not the most straightforward chords, I don’t think there is anything too tricky in here that justifies transposing it. Essentially it’s the same chord sequence all the way through – make sure you give it a bouncy, choppy rhythm all the way through.

Enjoy!

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Sunshine Superman – Donovan

SunshineSupermanDonovan emerged from the 1960s folk scene with a sound that was influenced by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, but most noticably by Bob Dylan. That Dylan influence has proved something of an millstone around his neck, something amplified by the reactions of Dylan himself when he toured the UK in 1965, famously captured in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary film “Don’t Look Back”.

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By 1966, however, Donovan was starting to move away from the limitations of the folk scene, and began immersing himself in the emerging counter-cultural hippie scene. Picking up particularly on the psychedelic sounds emerging from the US West Coast (bands such as Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane), but also on jazz, blues and eastern sounds, Sunshine Superman – the start of a collaboration with successful produced Mickie Most – proved to be a huge breakthrough for Donovan, topping the US charts, and becoming a massive hit almost everywhere else.

The song sheet is a fairly faithful adaptation of the original. I’ve included tab for both the intro riff, the riff that occurs during the verses, plus an approximation of a solo. At some point I’ll get around to recording the latter to give some indication of what its meant to sound like. Enjoy!

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