Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Rubber Soul – The Beatles (Full Album)

I mentioned in the previous post about doing a full album night with Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Well here is the second classic album to get that treatment. And records don’t get much more classic than this one.

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Those arguments about what is the best Beatles’ album will doubtless run and run. For a long time it was apocryphal to consider it to be anything other than Sergeant Pepper. Then during the Britpop era Revolver seemed to pick up that baton, with occasionally The White Album pipping them both to the post. In all that time Rubber Soul has been something of an underdog, but there’s definitely a strand of opinion and an argument for this being the toppermost of the toppermost.

After all, this was the album that drove Brian Wilson to write God Only Knows, and whose existence was a massive inspiration for Pet Sounds, an album which in turn laid down the gauntlet that was taken back up by The Beatles in the aforementioned Sergeant Pepper (Wilson has been quoted as saying that Rubber Soul is better than Pet Sounds, citing it as “still the best album of all time”). And Rubber Soul is arguably the first album of the pop era that was more than just a collection of somewhat random songs – a coherent, paced collection that works as a whole, start-to-finish, experience.

Rubber Soul was effectively the last album The Beatles toured. Marked by a more sophisticated production, and a wider variety of styles, Rubber Soul was laying the ground work for the more adventurous and experimental approaches that were such a big part of the band’s later albums. Rubber Soul feels like it is on the cusp – one foot in the classic pop songs that established them, one foot striding into new and uncharted territory. Personally this era (with Revolver) is my favourite of the bands, precisely because it crystallises the best of those dynamics. And whilst other Beatles albums, being admittedly being full  of fine songs, suffer from one or two bum tracks (the Fab Four certainly weren’t flawless), Rubber Soul has no bad tracks. Not one. OK, Run For Your Life may be a little dodgy lyrically, especially in these #metoo days. But I’m prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Concise – 14 songs in 35 minutes, so much depth and variety in such a short period – and perfectly formed, here is a band at the height of their powers, yet at the same time stretching and growing. From the raw throwback that is “Drive My Car”, the folk-rock inspired-by-yet-outdoing-the-Byrds “If I Needed Someone”, the early Indian influences that come through “Norwegian Wood”, the folk stylings of “In My Life”, and the chanson leanings of “Michelle”, this is an album rich in variety yet still hanging together as a perfectly paced exemplar.

 

Full Album Songbook

Individual songsheets

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I’m Free – The Rolling Stones / The Soup Dragons

Lets be honest, this one is here because of The Soup Dragons cover, not because of The Rolling Stones original. That’s not to say that I have any kind of aversion to the sixties original, its just that it had never entered my consciousness before the Madchester-inspired cover.

<Rolling Stones songsheet> <Soup Dragons songsheet>

“I’m Free” is a relatively early Jagger/Richard composition from 1965 that first appeared as the closing track on the band’s Out Of Our Heads album, and the b-side of Get Off My Cloud. Ranked number 78 in Rolling Stone magazines top 100 Rolling Stones songs, I’m Free shuffles along with echoes of The Byrds jangley folk-rock sound.

In a similar way, The Soup Dragons 1990 cover was inspired by a popular rock sound of the day, this time the Madchester/Baggy rock/dance hybrid sound that was everywhere at the time through the music of The Stone Roses, The Charlatans, and others. This version definitely grooves more than the original version, fleshes out with liberal doses of wah-wah, takes a few liberties with the lyrics and throws in a rap courtesy of  Jamaican reggae and dancehall star Junior Reid – whether that adds or subtracts from the record depends on your preference for that sort of thing. The song gave the band their only sizeable hit, one that has become a staple of compilation albums of that period.

So here’s the songsheets. I’ve done two versions, one for The Rolling Stones version (in C), and one for The Soup Dragons version (in E). However, they’re not just the same sheet with different chords, I’ve tried to reflect the arrangements, lyrics, etc. of the two different versions. Even down to the rap in The Soup Dragons version – try it if you dare!  Enjoy!

<Rolling Stones songsheet> <Soup Dragons songsheet>


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Feeling Good – Nina Simone

ninasimoneOur band, The Flukes, has been starting to find its feet, and have been gradually evolving towards a preference for jazzy, bluesy, country type material. So when we were looking for new material to add to our repetoire, it didn’t take long before this 1960s classic came to the surface.

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Amazingly, this song was never released as a single back in the day, only surfacing in that format in 1994 off the back of a TV advert. Yet this is as well known and loved as anything from the Nina Simone catalogue. Written in 1964 by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, Simone recorded it a year later for her album. It is fair to say that it was Simone’s recording that really transformed the original and turned it into a standard that has subsequently been covered by artists as diverse as Muse, Michael Bublé and The Pussycat Dolls.

The songsheet is in the same key as the Nina Simone version. It is essentially made up of a continual loop based on G minor, with a C / D sequence thrown in during the chorus. The G minor sequence includes a G / F / Eb / D run-down on the bass – not easy to achieve on the little ukulele, but I think the chords shown here work. The Gm/D is a bit of a stretch (for me, at least) but is worth persevering with. Enjoy!

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It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Them / Bob Dylan

It'sAllOverNowBabyBlue-ThemIt’s kind of surprising that a Dylan song has turned up this far into UkeTunes. Firstly because – clearly, and without any doubt – he has written some great songs, songs that have become part of the cannon of popular music. Secondly because due to their relative simplicity many of those songs translate well to the ukulele. [Afternote : I’ve just remembered I have already posted a Dylan song on here – I Shall Be Released! But the points still stand.]

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The uncontended proof that he has authored so many classic songs is evidenced by the many, many cover versions of these songs. That trend started early in Dylan’s career with the likes of The Byrds, Joan Baez and others picking up on, and having hits with, his songs, sometimes to the extent of recording whole albums of them. And this has continued until very recently – I’d be interested to know what proportion of the people that bought it knew that Adele’s Make You Feel My Love is a cover of Dylan’s 1997 original.

But as with many Dylan songs (although certainly not all) the original is not always the best, and certainly not always the definitive version. Sometimes that view can be clouded by the version that you first know, and that may well be the case for me with this song. But I would contend that Them’s version of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue is, amongst all the myriad cover versions, the definitive, unbettered version.

Them, for those who aren’t aware, were a relatively short-lived, but over time significantly influential, band from Belfast that emerged in the mid-1960s, probably the first successful rock/pop band to emerge from Northern Ireland. And they gifted the world Van Morrison, lead singer and leader of Them. Having hits with Here Comes The Night and Baby Please Don’t Go, as well as writing and recording the original version of the classic garage anthem, Gloria, they also record covers, often of classic rhythm and blues standards, but also contemporary songs.

Them’s version of It’s All Over… is a brooding masterpiece. Introduced by a bass riff that pulses, and overlaid with an organ motif that circles throughout, these lay the foundation for a Morrison vocal that feels the song, full of power and depth, never breaking into histrionics, but on the point of breaking as the song reaches its conclusion. To my mind this fleshes out and gives additional depth that the Dylan original lacks, something that – of all the covers I’ve heard, only this Marianne Faithful version comes close to.

And so to the song sheet. Firstly, it contains two versions – one in the same key as the Them and Marianne Faithful versions (A), and one in F, a key that I can sing it in! Lyrically, I’ve kept with the Dylan original, which the Faithful version is (ahem) faithful to – Them’s version shortens, re-arranges and alters some of the lyrics. But I’ve also included the chords for the instrumental interlude from the Them version, which – I think – adds a nice break. You can strum along in a faily conventional sense as per Dylan, in a more laid-back, slightly off-beat Faithful way, or I’ve found that picking the chords in a vague approximation (you’ll have to experiment) of the organ in the Them version sounds good as well. Enjoy!

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