Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Missing – Everything But The Girl

By the early 90’s Everything But The Girl had been going for 10 years. Whilst they were still having success, they seemed to have plateaued, a loyal fan base, but unlikely to break out beyond that.

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1994’s Amplified Heart continued the trend of tasteful acoustic songs with a folk and jazz influence. But buried within it was this low-tempo song based around a subtle laid-back groove. Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn (the duo/couple that essentially *were* Everything But The Girl) had always though of the song as a dance-oriented track, and gave the it to American DJ Todd Terry to remix for use in nightclubs. The result was revelatory.

Giving the song a strong New York house direction, Missing was transformed with a sparse, beat-driven sound that contrasted with the mournful, lonesome vocals of Thorn (who, if you’re at all interested, has what I would consider to be one of the most beautifully textured voices in pop). And the world agreed – Missing became a huge global hit, one of *the* defining songs of the decade. The band were so taken with this new direction (alongside Tracey’s involvement with the Massive Attack track “Protection”) that they executed a radical career reinvention, embracing a more electronic sound, picking up on the emerging drum-and-bass sounds and ushering in a newly successful period for the band, something that Ben Watt then took further when the band entered an indefinite hiatus in his role as dance music producer and DJ.

As with many dance tracks, the song has a very simple structure based around a simple repeating chord structure. So nothing difficult in terms of chords here – the only challenge is getting the rhythm right in a way that keeps the song moving forward. Follow the acoustic version or the dance version – the choice is yours. Enjoy!

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Star – Oasis

definitelymaybeIf I’m out in the car by myself for a drive, I like to dig out a CD and crank the volume up. A couple of days ago I had that opportunity, and was in the mood for a bit of noise and attitude. Having a quick scan through my CDs I noticed a copy of Oasis’ debut album Definitely Maybe, and thought that would certainly fit the bill. So as I pulled away the open bars of this opening track filled the car with a wall of noise, and we were off.

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Definitely Maybe was, alongside Blur’s Parklife, the defining starting gun for Britpop. Although arguably a somewhat backward-looking phenomena, being heavily influenced by british guitar pop of the 60s and 70s, for a while it was a breath of fresh air that usurped the early 90s grunge sound, although – as these things always do – it eventually petered out amongst repetition, diminishing returns, and cheap third-rate imitations of itself.

However, Definitely Maybe can rightly be held up as a classic, and certainly blows the cobwebs away. A blend of the attitude and noise of punk bands with the melodic intents of 60s guitar bands, the album drives forward on an enormous wall of guitar sound, great dumb songs (don’t go looking for too much meaning in here) mostly from the pen of Noel Gallagher, and the rock and roll attitude of vocalist brother Liam. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star sets the tone from the off, and the album retains a remarkable consistency all the through to closing acoustic number “Married with Children”, taking in classics such as “Live Forever” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol” along the way.

Clearly a ukulele version is never going to achieve the sound of the original. But the basic song underneath all of that is a good one, and so I believe it works well (see here for an example of how it might). It’s relatively straightforward – essentially one verse and chorus, repeated! I’ve raised the key by half-a-tone to make it easire to play, and I think that works OK. Play with attitude, and enjoy!

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