Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs

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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).


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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Queen – Songbook

One thing that constantly surprises me is how different young people’s attitude to music is now, compared to how it was when I was younger (we’re talking late 70s/early 80s here). In my day (!) it was all about the latest thing – what was new, what was “in”, was what mattered. And music that was even 3 or 4 years old was considered ancient, passe, past it. Anything that was more than 10 years old we wouldn’t have given the time of day.


I contrast that attitude with what I see from young people now, and whilst new music is still important, it’s mixed into a melting pot of music from across the generations. That is, I’m sure, something driven by an internet and streaming environment where (almost) every music ever made is available in a few clicks. Overall I think that’s a good thing, although it can make it challenging for new bands and artists to break through, and for them to have the long-lasting presence and careers that artists of old might have had.

I mentioned all this in the context of this post because the subject of this post – Queen – is one band that I’m particularly conscious has been embraced in this way. That is in no small part due to the success of the film Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie that seems to have become something of a phenomenon, despite – or maybe because of – a decidedly mixed critical reception. But the rehabilitation of Queen goes back much further than that, probably to the Live Aid appearance that plays such a pivotal role in the film. Not to mention *that* scene in Wayne’s World – something that even got a sly reference in Bohemian Rhapsody. Whatever you think of their music, it has become timeless, a part of our culture, and something that feels like it’s going to be around for a long time to come.

A Queen evening has been something that has been both discussed and requested for a while for our run of ukulele album/themed nights. And to be honest it’s something I’ve put off. Not because I don’t like the songs (although I wouldn’t really call myself a fan, and my awareness really starts and ends with the singles). But because I wasn’t sure that we could do the songs justice. A few passing glances at the songs led me to think that we would really struggle to find enough songs that were half-way playable. But recently I thought I’d have another look, and give it a bit more effort, and … here  we are.

It is fair to say that the selection of songs here was – to a certain extent – pre-determined. There are a whole bunch of other songs that I’d include if playability weren’t such an issue (Now I’m Here and Somebody To Love being a couple of examples). But what has fallen out has been what I think is a good cross-section of songs that – totally coincidentally (I certainly didn’t plan it!) – cover the full range of the band’s career, touch every album apart from their first and last. Now I’m not going to pretend that all of these are straightforward – Queen songs have a habit of going off in odd keys (that make transposing into “easier” keys pointless), and having various timing issues. So some of these do take a bit of attention and working at. But I do think they work, something that I’m going to be putting to the test when we will be listening to and playing most of these at a Queen evening in December (click on the poster below for more details)!

Anyway, here is the Queen songbook, which includes the following songs:

  • Another One Bites The Dust
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Don’t Stop Me Now
  • Flash
  • Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
  • I Want It All
  • I Want To Break Free
  • Killer Queen
  • A Kind Of Magic
  • Radio Ga Ga
  • Seven Seas Of Rhye
  • These Are The Days Of Our Lives
  • Under Pressure
  • We Are The Champions
  • We Will Rock You
  • You’re My Best Friend

I’ve tried to strike a balance between being faithful to the originals, and keeping them relatively playable. So there are some simplifications, and I’ve also included some “optional” chords which can be skipped with minimal impact. I *had* to include Bohemian Rhapsody, and that (particularly the middle section) I’m still not sure about – but hey, even Queen didn’t play that bit live, so don’t feel too bad about struggling with that. And Flash was a bit of fun – I really don’t know if that would work at all! But all in all, I think this is a playable selection of well-loved songs that will be a bit challenging but will add something different to your ukulele repertoire. Enjoy!



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Sweet Baby James / How Sweet It Is – James Taylor

james-taylorWhilst we’re on that early 70s singer songwriter vibe with the recent Carole King post, it seemed an opportune time to get a couple of James Taylor songs out there as well.

<How Sweet It Is> <Sweet Baby James>

The paths of King and Taylor have been linked ones throughout their careers, in large part because of those songs and recordings of the early 70s. Playing regularly at The Troubadour club in West Hollywood, Taylor played guitar on King’s Tapestry, and King returned the compliment by playing on Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, his breakout album. Taylor’s first US number one single was a cover of King’s You’ve Got A Friend from Tapestry. IN 2010 the pair reunited for a tour together, using the same band they had used back in The Troubadour in 1970.

Taylor is renowned as an incredibly talented guitarist, not necessarily in a flashy way, but dazzling in the sounds that he coaxes from his acoustic guitars. Sweet Baby James is taken from the sophomore album of the same name, and is a song that Taylor has cited personally as one of his best. Set in a 3/4 waltz time, the apparent simplicity of the lilting lullaby-like tune deceptively hides a more complex structure and rhyming pattern that, whilst feeling totally natural, can take a little work when trying to play it. How Sweet It Is is a cover of a Motown song by the legendary writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, originally recorded by Marvin Gaye. Taylor’s version, from his 1975 album Gorilla, took a more relaxed, soft-rock feel to that song, and was a huge hit.

So two song sheets. Sweet Baby James, as previously mentioned, is a quite straightforward 3/4 time song, although you do need to watch the timing of lyrics and chords throughout the verses. How Sweet It Is is a little more complex chord wise. There’s a few little run downs in there that add flavour to the song, but you can make a very passable version of the song without these (I’ve shown these optional chords as subscript in the song sheet – the E11 can be replaced with a straightforward E). The song does need to swing, though!


<How Sweet It Is> <Sweet Baby James>

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Lyin’ Eyes – Eagles

lyineyes(It’s been a bit quiet here lately, hasn’t it? Sorry about that, but holidays, festivals and other things have been getting in the way of things.Hopefully normal, semi-regular will be resumed as soon as possible)

Eagles were never a band that were high on my sightlines. Having been persuaded early on by the orthodoxies of punk / post-punk / new wave, they were a band that seemed to be everything that those scenes were kicking against. Even when, much later on, I started getting into country music, Eagles still felt too slick, too corporate, too watered down to be interesting. But over time I must have mellowed. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t go as far as considering myself a fan, I’ve grown to really enjoy some of the songs. There’s some great songwriting going on, that general country/rock vibe is something I’m a sucker for, and those harmonies help seal the deal.


Lyin’ Eyes is a classic example. More country than rock (although it’s Grammy nomination was in the pop song category), it does one of the things I particularly like about many country music songs – it tells a story. Not a happy one, and not one that resolves itself in any satisfactory way. But it’s a story that takes you on a journey, one that’s undoubtedly human and which you can identify with, even if you haven’t been in the self-same situation. The song was a huge hit in the US, but only a relatively minor one in the UK, where the band never really established themselves as a singles band.

So here’s the song sheet. It’s quite straightforward, with a relatively simple rhythm and pattern, and a relatively straightfoward set of chords. Apart from that G9! It definitely sounds better with it, but if you struggle with it then you can get away with a G7. Enjoy!


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Love Is The Drug – Roxy Music / Bryan Ferry Orchestra


<song sheet>

I came to Roxy Music the wrong way round. My first conscious exposure was via. the Summer of ’79 singles (Angel Eyes, Dance Away), and the first recording I owned was the Flesh + Blood album (Christmas present, 1980). I worked back to Manifesto (second-hand record shop in Kingston Road, Portsmouth) and then forward to 1982’s Avalon (a truly gorgeous record).

But the early Roxy years were something I was blithely unaware of until I picked up a copy of For Your Pleasure in another Portsmouth second-hand record shop. I don’t know what I was expecting. But it wasn’t that!  From the bold statement of intent that is Do The Strand, through the totally rocking Editions of You (the guitar riff is my ring tone!) to the weird and somewhat unsettling In Every Dream Home A Heartache, this was a long way from the smooth Roxy of the early 80s. And the inside of that gatefold sleeve – who were these people? (the outside was pretty memorable as well)

That record grew on me, and remains probably my favourite of all of theirs. Subsequently I delved back into their past and discovered the even more “out there” sounds of the eponymous debut album (that must have sounded like aliens discovering rock and roll in 1972), and then followed the development of the Roxy sound from those adventurous beginnings to the cultured conclusions, and it kind of make sense.

Siren is the album that sits at the end of Roxy Phase 1, and for me sounds like the cross-roads between that early ground-breaking sound, and the later more mature work. Love Is The Drug is the opening track, and the lead-off single, and is rightly regarded as a classic. From the opening sounds of a footsteps and revving car, the song is a tight, concise construction, powered along by a classic bass line that Nile Rodgers of Chic claims was a big influence on their song “Good Times“. In fact the song itself has a loose disco feel to it that was probably instrumental in making it the world-wide hit it was (it was the band’s biggest hit in the US, who never really “got” the earliest incarnation of the band). It was probably Grace Jones who best demonstrated this in her cover version.

In 2012, Bryan Ferry surprised many by releasing “The Jazz Age“. An instrumental collection of Roxy Music songs recorded in the style of a 1920s Jazz band, some of the songs were almost unrecognisable, and some were hugely different in style and tone (Avalon being the most obvious example). Love Is The Drug was included on that album, and whilst a relatively faithful working of the original, it brings to the song a swing where the original was a strut. Better? Probably not. Good? Definitely.

So here are the chords to the song. It works for both versions – the straight-ahead original, or the swinging Jazz version. Personally, I think the ukulele suits the jazz version better, and that’s how I tend to play it. But hey! It’s a free world, and it’s your choice. Just enjoy!