Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Rent – Pet Shop Boys

More synthpop. More 80s. I know, i know, this phase will pass. But not just yet!

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“Rent” is a single culled from the Pet Shop Boys second album, Actually, a less successful (but still top 10) follow-up to the massive hits It’s A Sin, and the Dusty Springfield duet, What Have I Done To Deserve This?

Rent is a mid-tempo, melancholic song that focuses on a financially one-sided relationship, where a kept man is in hock to another. Commonly perceived as depicting the lot of a rent boy, Neil Tennant has been quoted as saying that it was originally conceived as being about a kept woman.

It’s a simple and straightforward song, spoken word for the first half of the first verse, and generally veering towards the understated. Enjoy!

 


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When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring) – Deacon Blue

Sorry, it’s been a bit quiet here lately, hasn’t it?! No excuses really, just life getting in the way. But here’s a couple of songs to make up for it.

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First up, a band that definitely have fallen on the wrong side of the “cool” divide, but who – for me – have consistently produced quality songs. Deacon Blue emerged in the mid-80s, taking their name from a Steely Dan song, adopting a sound that was a kind of pop / rock / soul hybrid that saw them bracketed with similar bands of the era such as Prefab Sprout and The Christians. Their debut album, Raintown, from which this song was taken, was steeped in the city of its birth (Glasgow), reflected in the albums title, its cover art, and many of the themes of the songs.

The song itself was a relatively minor hit, as were all the singles taken from the album – it wasn’t until the follow up, When The World Knows Your Name, that the band really broke through. Elements of 80s production creep through into the song (those snares!) but this is – in my books – a powerful and emotional example of Deacon Blue at their best.

So nothing particularly tricky here in the songsheet. It’s in the same key as the original, so you can play along(!). Note the C and D chords are best played as barre chords, both because they sounds better (to my ears), but also because it makes that nice little run in the chorus (C / Cm / Eb / D) nice and easy. Enjoy!


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Never Can Say Goodbye – The Communards / Gloria Gaynor

communardsSorry, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Things going on I’m afraid (nothing significant, just general life stuff) which meant I haven’t got round to putting much up on here. But I do have a batch of stuff that I will post over the next few weeks, and here is the first.

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Depending on your generation, this is either a disco classic from the 1970s (Gloria Gaynor) or a classic hi-nrg cover from the 1980s (The Communards). Or possibly even a Jacksons classic from the early 1970s (I didn’t know anything about that one until I started looking into this). For me it’s the 1980s version that is the most evocative, although I do like the Gloria Gaynor one for it’s subtlety (The Communards version is *not* a subtle record!).

The Communards had already had a huge hit with a cover of a disco classic (Don’t Leave Me This Way) in 1986, and followed it the following year with this. Some might call it a cynical attempt to re-capture the success of the following year, and there is probably some justification for that (subsequent original songs had not really set the charts alight). But I don’t think you can fail to respond to the enthusiasm and clear love of the song that Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles (now the Rev. Richard Coles) brought to this recording. I particularly love the totally camp enthusiasm that Cole shows in the video (see 1:12) and Sommerville is obviously immensely enjoying himself (see 3:25).

And so to the songsheet. There’s a few unusual chords in there (although you could probably skip the Db if you struggle with it) but they do add something to the song. The rhythm is relatively straightforward and consistent throughout, although I have add a couple of counts where the timing might get a little tricky. Sing and play with enthusiasm an you can’t go far wrong.

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Just Like Heaven – The Cure

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I’m conscious that there’s been a lot of 80s stuff on here lately. And here comes another one. I guess it’s no surprise given it’s the era when I was growing up, and that is an age at which music seems to have such a significant impact. The music you love at at that time lives with you forever, and it’s often hard to be objective about it. It becomes part of who you are, somehow written through you and in you.

Just Like Heaven is an 80s song, from a band who were undoubtedly most prolific and creative during that period. My first awareness of The Cure was when their song Charlotte Sometimes (still a favourite) appeared on the early 80’s compilation album Modern Dance. I can’t say it turned me into a huge fan, but there was a run of singles through the 80s that was very impressive – songs like The Lovecats, Inbetween Days and Close To Me were all great singles, and there was a real sense of creativity and variety that came through what The Cure did, despite their being tarred with the “Goth” badge. Recently I’ve been digging back into some of the music of the early -80s that I missed, some of the post-punk music of the time, and along with bands like Magazine, Josef K and the B-52s, I’ve discovered that I *did* miss something with The Cure – albums like Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Disintegration are records I really love.

Just Like Heaven is from the band’s 1987 album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which is probably at the poppier and more accessible end of the spectrum of the bands music (those terms are relative – this isn’t Bros or One Direction!). Apparently it is considered by the band’s singer and main songwriter Robert Smith to be one of the bands strongest songs. I don’t think anybody would much argue with that. It’s a simple and effective pop song, albeit one with a slightly opaque lyric which, according to Smith, is about “hyperventilating—kissing and fainting to the floor”.

The Cure songs seem to translate well to the ukulele. The ukulele group of which I am a part, Southampton Ukulele Jam, regularly perform a version of Inbetween Days (listen here), and sometimes have a bash at Friday I’m In Love. Just Like Heaven scores quite a few hits on YouTube for ukulele covers, of which I think this has to be the best. Although I think this one captures something of Robert Smith’s performance.

The song sheet is a relatively straightforward one. I’ve added in a transcription of the two solo sequences in the song as well, the first over the intro and the first instrumental break, the second combining guitar and keyboard solos over the second instrumental breaks. Enjoy!

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True Faith – New Order

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It seems I’ve been doing this little blog for just over a year now. The very first song I posted was a slightly obscure New Order b-side (1963) and I promised at the time that I’d publish the slightly better known a-side at some point as well. So, it’s been a little while coming, but here it is.

True Faith is probably New Order at their pop-iest, and certainly was something of a commercial peak for the band. Produced by Stephen Hague, at the time on a roll with the early success of Pet Shop Boys, the song is a further move towards dance-oriented songs. From the opening clatter of electronic drums the recording is a full on, wall-of-sound type production, which contrasts with the slightly fragile vocals of Bernard Sumner. But if anything the song is best remembered for the surreal video that accompanied it.

The songsheet is quite straightforward. The key is getting a good steady strumming pattern behind it. I prefer something which mirrors the rhythm of the original, which is a little difficult to describe (something like ddddu-ud-dudu) but is best worked out playing along to the origianl (the song sheet is in the same key). Enjoy!

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The Jesus And Mary Chain – Just Like Honey / Some Candy Talking / April Skies

aprilskiessomecandytalkingjustlikehoney <Just Like Honey>  <Some Candy Talking>  <April Skies>

Three for the price of one today! East Kilbride’s finest exploded onto a music scene that was in need of a rock band with attitude, with an element of danger and controversy.  Early gigs were short and often descended into violence and mayhem, whilst the songs were drenched in feedback and distortion. But here’s the thing – when you strip the songs back, when you take out all that noise, all that fuzz, that distortion, at their heart these are really great, really simple songs.

Listen hard, and alongside the more obvious Velvet Underground influences, there’s a stack of classic 60s references all the way through – Beach Boys (check out the chorus of Cherry Came Too), Shangri-Las, and the classics of Phil Spector (Ronettes, etc.). If the proof of a good song is that it works just as well with just an acoustic guitar, even our beloved four-string uke, then these are certainly good songs. My first exposure to Jesus and Mary Chain was via. the Some Candy Talking EP, which contained a whole bonus 7″ with acoustic versions, and I loved those almost as much as the effect-laden originals.

So here are three songs from the bands first flush of success in the mid-1980s that fulfil the promise of great songs.

Just Like Honey was the lead track (and later a single) from the bands debut album, Psychocandy. It’s a sweet confection that is atypical of that noise-drenched album, but is a gorgeous song that achieved later prominence through its inclusion in the wonderful Sofia Coppola film Lost In Translation.

Some Candy Talking was a single released between the first two albums, and was their first real hit. As I said previously this was my first real exposure to the band and has remained a favourite to this day.

April Skies was the lead single from the bands second album (and my personal favourite) Darklands. The feedback had largely been jetisoned highlighting a collection of melodic songs that made JAMC stand out from their contemporaries.

So here are the song sheets for each of these songs. Simple structure, simple chords, there’s not much really to say expect have a go. I’ve had a go at transcribing the guitar solos on each of these which you might want to have a go at as well. I can’t vouch for their total accuracy, partly as all the distortion makes it hard to actually work out what is being played. If they don’t work for you, just adapt them. Enjoy!

<Just Like Honey>  <Some Candy Talking>  <April Skies>

(n.b. Just Like Honey and Some Candy Talking are in the same key as the originals, April Skies has been transposed a little just to make it a bit easier – for me! – to sing and play)

And just to prove that these songs work on the uke, take a listen to this lovely version of Just Like Honey.


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1963 – New Order

1963

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So here’s my first post!

In 1987 New Order released the single “True Faith“. It was a huge hit, memorable in many ways including the very striking cover image. But turn the record over (yes, remember those big slabs of 12” vinyl) and you’ll find an equally wonderful song hidden away.  That’s not an unusual facet of New Order’s 1980s material (“Lonesome Tonight“, the b-side of “Thieves Like Us” is another great example), but 1963 has always remained a favourite of mine.

So when I was pulling together the chords for True Faith (that will be a later post) I was reminded of that, and then came across this wonderful ukulele cover on YouTube (original New Order version is here).

What the song is about is anybody’s guess, although Wikipedia quotes the band’s lyricist Bernard Sumner as saying that it was;

“a tongue-in-cheek account of the song’s lyrics that relate it to the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Sumner theorises that Kennedy arranged for Lee Harvey Oswald to shoot his wife so that “J.F. could do one with M. Monroe”. Monroe commits suicide when Oswald hits the wrong target (in reality, Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, over a year before the assassination took place) and Oswald is later shot by his boss for “doing such a bad job and causing his hit-man business to go bust”

and producer Stephen Hague describing it as

“the only song about domestic violence that you can dance to”

Chords for this were hard to come by, but with the help of a number of sources, and this video in particular, I managed to pull together something which seemed to work. Click on the icon below. Enjoy!

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