Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Black Man Ray – China Crisis

It’s 1985, and having gained a reputation as a slightly wimpy synthpop band via. a couple of hits (Christian and Wishful Thinking), China Crisis hook up with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker to produce their next album, Flaunt The Imperfection.

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The result is an career high for the band, combining the bands trademark wistful melodies with a sophisticated Dan-esque production that could have come across as a little cold and aloof, but thankfully ends up as a warm cloak that soaks a quality song with a crystal-clear sheen. And in so doing manages to avoid the worst excesses of 80s production.

Black Man Ray was the albums lead single, and a classy choice it was too. Giving the band their third top 20 hit, I can’t really be sure what the song is actually about, other than references in the songs title and the single cover to Man Ray, an American visual artist who spent most of his career in France, and who was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements.

So the basic structure and chords for the song are reasonably straightforward, and there’s nothing too challenging here rhythmically either. I’ve tabbed out the little synth riff in the intro (that also re-appears at the end of the first chorus), and also the picking pattern that accompanies the songs fade-out as well as the end of the second chorus. This is a lovely song, so enjoy!

 


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WARNING : Videos! Of me! Doing songs!

So this is a bit of an experiment, and to be honest one I’m not wholly comfortable with, but there was no point avoiding the inevitable.

I had a request today to post recordings of some songs, on the premise that it might be a bit tricky for some people to pick up some of the songs without any guidance. I do get that, and so below are a couple of attempts to do that.

The first thing to say is that I’m not making any great claims to the quality of the videos. For one, they’re just recorded using the webcam on my laptop. But more significantly, it’s *me* singing, and that definitely is not my forte. So treat these as a very rough guide to how *I* think the songs *could* be played. Obviously they’re not sacred texts, and so you can do what you want with the songs. But hopefully these will be taken in the spirit that they are delivered – a rough approximation to be used as a guide.

So the song? Well the first one was a request / challenge, based on a comment that “I couldn’t imagine how you could do it”! It’s Abba’s “The Way Old Friends Do”, and this is how I imagine doing it.

The second song was not the second one that requested (that was Robert Palmer’s Big Log) – that might take a bit more practice, and might need me to drag my friend Sarah in to do it, as that was who we originally did the song for. No, the second is one that I felt a little more comfortable doing, and it is U2’s Beautiful Day. The main riff all the way through is a little tricky timing wise, so hopefully this gives some sense of what it could possibly sound like.

Thanks to Perry for the original prompt. If it’s not too disastrous, I might do a few more. Requests?!


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UkeTunes – now on Facebook

I’ve finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for this here little site. The primary aim is to have somewhere people can follow and see when there are new posts on this site. I’m not planning to duplicate anything or have any additional content on those pages – it’s just a way to post notifications of updates and links to this site.

So if you’re interested in being updated on any new content on here, then do drop by, say hello, and like the page. There’s not much there at the moment, but it will grow. And I promise not to spam you!

You can find the page here.

Ian


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Since Yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade

Remembered as a one-hit wonder, Strawberry Switchblade emerged from the Glasgow’s post-punk scene in the early 1980s and left us with this slice of glorious pop-goth.

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Taken under the wing of managers David Balfe and Bill Drummond, who both had Teardrop Explodes connections (Drummond later going on to huge success with The KLF), and releasing their first single on the label of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Will Sargent, Strawberry Switchblade (essentially a duo of┬áJill Bryson and Rose McDowall) took their time to become overnight successes, and when it came were almost as famous for their costumes (all ribbons and polka-dots) as their songs. To be honest they probably suffered from being neither Goth enough nor poppy enough, but their one album is a great mix of those extremes (the name Strawberry Switchblade was designed to reflect the juxtaposition of sweetness and darkness), although may be a bit too much on the catchy, sweet side for some. Since Yesterday was a huge, deserved hit, and one that takes you right back to the mid-80s.

There’s nothing too much to say about the song sheet. It’s a simple 4 chord song, basic structure, and lots of la la las, just something to strum and sing. Enjoy!


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UkeTunes Songbooks – Edition 3

I thought it was probably about time that I updated the songbooks to include all the new songs that I’ve posted on here over the last 18 months or so. And here they are. These songbooks are by far the most downloaded things on this site, and hopefully that means they get used as well. Please feel free to onward share as well as use yourself

As with the last update, I’ve taken the opportunity to include a whole batch of songs that I’d worked on that never made onto this site as individual blog posts. So by my reckoning there are 39 new songs in here since the last edition, making a total of 152 songs in the new book. Eclectic as ever, that includes some synth classics, pop-punk by way of the 60s, a fair smattering of contemporary country-and-folk tinged songs, disco, and even a few contemporary pop hits. But more importantly just good songs (in my opinion, at least!).

These are now compiled into three books:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For reference, here’s the list of all the new songs that are included in the books (those that haven’t previously published on the site are shown with a (*):

 


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Autobahn – Kraftwerk

So I think this must be something of an apogee for synthpop arranged for ukulele!

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I hadn’t intended doing this one, in fact I was just tidying up all the recent songs for inclusion in the next edition of the songbooks (coming soon). But then this popped up on my shuffle on my ipod, and it just seemed to be crying out for doing. So here it is.

Autobahn is one of those songs that can genuinely be called seminal. Can be seen as a genuine game-changer. A song that was like nothing else that had ever gone before it. Kraftwerk themselves had recorded a few albums before this one, but with Autobahn they toned down some of their more experimental side and conceived a song that was truly groundbreaking. Emulating the rhythmic, hypnotic sounds of a car journey on Germany’s autobahns, the album version clocked in at 22 minutes, a subtly and constantly evolving electronic soundscape. The first Kraftwerk song to feature lyrics, the “fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn” phrase is clearly a homage to the Beach Boys “Fun, Fun, Fun”, so much so that it is often mis-heard as “fun, fun, fun on the Autobahn”.

Fortunately (for these purposes) the song was cut down to a more manageable 3-and-a-half-minutes single version, and that is what I’ve based this songsheet on.

So yes, the songsheet. Well, clearly this isn’t your usual sing-along ukulele song, is it. Firstly, the arrangement is primarily based on the single version, as per the YouTube link above. I’ve tabbed out the main synth lines that run throughout the song, and indicated (hopefully clearly) where the various bits fit in. None of them are too tricky, but if you struggle you can play along, as the song sheet is in the same key as the original. So probably best played with two – one for the strumming, one picking the synth lines. At some point I’ll try and get around to recording a version so you can hear what it sounds like. Enjoy!


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Joan Of Arc – OMD

So here we are going full circle in the series of recent posts, back to some synthpop, back to the 80s, and back to OMD.

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OMD (or Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, or Orchestral Manoeuvres as the sleeve for this song described them) had always straddled the line between experimentation and commerciality. Sometimes they went further in one direction than the other, but they are arguably at their best we they manage to hold those two tendancies in tension. As an album, 1981’s Architecture and Morality could be seen as a career highlight in achieving that, birthing three hit singles, hit still with enough elements of outright weirdness and oddity to make it interesting.

Two of those three singles focussed on the French heroine Joan of Arc (nicknamed Maid of Orleans, the title of the second such song). Having been in receipt of many religious visions in her early years, Joan was famed for her role in influencing the outcome of battles with the English in the 15th Century. She was ultimately handed over for trial and burnt at the stake at the age of 19, but it was not until the early 19th century that she was declared a national symbol, and not until the early 20th century that she was made a saint.

So it’s just a simple three-chord song, chorus-less but with a bridge-like interlude before the final verse. The original is unaccompanied (just a drum machine) at the beginning, but I’ve chorded it. Works both strummed or picked. Enjoy!