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!

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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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Updated ABBA Songbook

Our album / theme nights have been impacted by the strange circumstances we find ourselves in, and I’m really not sure when we’ll be doing another one. But I’m optimistic that we will, and trying to use the free time to build up a backlog of possibilities (hence the recent Synthpop and New Romantic songbook).

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But I was thinking about what would be a good “goodbye to Coronavirus and all your restrictions” session. Doing an album of dystopian sci-fi (Ziggy Stardust, I’m thinking of you!) doesn’t feel like the kind of celebratory feel-good session that you’d want. But THIS does!

We did an Abba night a couple of years ago, and it was such fun. But there were a load of songs that we didn’t get round to, and so there is definitely mileage in a part 2, a “More Abba” session. But I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit and update the songbook to add a few more songs – kind of “deep cuts”, particularly ones that – for many people – they will only have become aware of as a result of the Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again movie.

And so here it – an updated and extended version of the original songbook, with 7 new songs. The additions are:

  • Andante, Andante
  • Angel Eyes
  • I’ve Been Waiting For You
  • Our Last Summer
  • The Way Old Friends Do
  • When I Kissed The Teacher
  • Why Did It Have To Be Me?

And obviously all the other more well known songs are there as well. Enjoy!

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The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars – David Bowie

In the diverse and unique career that was David Bowie, there are an astonishing number of albums that truly deserve the title “classic”. Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, Station to Station, Low, Scary Monster. All are rightly held up as both ground-breaking and exemplary (the two don’t always go hand-in-hand). But if there was one record that can be held up as the archetypal David Bowie album, it has to be this one.

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The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (hereafter referred to as just plain Ziggy Stardust) was the album the truly launched Bowie into the stratosphere. A loose concept album whose theme was largely pieced together after many of the songs had been recorded, it follows the career arc of an androgynous, bi-sexual, alien rock star. Bowie, always fascinated by theatre and playing a part, immersed himself into the role, and over time it became impossible for the audience, or for Bowie himself, to separate the actor from the character. Eventually this led Bowie, little more than a year from the release of the album, to announce, live from the stage at Hammersmith Odeon, and to the evident shock of the audience, that this was “the last show that we’ll ever do”. In retrospect, this was interpreted as signifying the retirement of the Ziggy persona rather than Bowie himself. But the year spent as Ziggy took its toll on Bowie, it “wouldn’t leave [him] alone for years”, and arguably contributed to the downward spiral that Bowie’s personal life took in the subsequent years, something only stemmed by his move to Berlin in 1977.

The songs on Ziggy Stardust were recorded with the band that, in the same way that Bowie became Ziggy, became the Spiders from Mars, namely Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, and Woody Woodmansey in drums. In many ways a more conventional rock album than Bowie’s material that both preceded (Hunky Dory) and followed (Aladdin Sane) it, Ziggy was full-on Glam rock, but in a way that both took it to an extreme of “high-heeled boots, multicoloured dresses, extravagant makeup and outrageous sexuality”, yet also avoided the cartoon-ish elements that often came associated with that genre. The music also contained elements that made it both a template and inspiration for the sounds of punk that followed later in the decade.

Astonishingly for such a classic and influential album, Ziggy Stardust didn’t set the commercial world alight. Yes, it was a success, but the album only peaked at number 5 in the charts (number 75 in the US, where Bowie’s biggest success was to come later in the decade), and Starman was the only truly successful single from the album (written, apparently, when the record label – RCA – complained that there weren’t any single-worthy songs on the album), yet even that only peaked in the UK singles chart at number 10. But Ziggy went on to sell 1.5m copies in the UK, making it the biggest selling album of Bowie’s career in the UK, selling 1.5m copies here, 1m in the US, and 7.5m in total worldwide.

And so here is the ukulele song book, with every song from the album. All songs are in the original keys, and mostly they are quite playable. I think that the more straight-ahead rock nature of the songs, and their relatively simplicity, makes this a more do-able affair than something like Hunky Dory, great though that album is. Which is why we’re going to be doing this at one of our future “play the album” nights – everybody welcome, details here!

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