Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Lawnchairs – Our Daughters Wedding

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I’ve been clearing the garden today. It has got horribly overgrown, so I’ve been uprooting weeds, brambles and other horrors. Not my idea of fun, but it’s quite satisfying seeing a somewhat clearer and tidier garden at the end of the day.

Anyway, to while away the time and motivate me I was listing to a compilation album called “The Mix Tapes: Alternative Music From The Late 70s And 80s“. It does what it says on the tin, and I guess this was really my era – the formative years of my musical journey, and as such music that has stayed with me and special to me ever since. One of the tracks that popped up was this somewhat neglected little gem from American synthpop trio Our Daughters Wedding.
This song takes me straight back to the summer of 1981. It was what was called a radio hit – i.e. played to death over the airwaves, but largely ignored by the great British record playing public. But it’s ubiquity at the time did enough to earn me a nickname of “Lawnchairs” due to my predilection for a rather fetching short-sleeved shirt in broad green and blue vertical stripes, interspersed with thin white stripes. Yes, in hindsight it did look something like a deckchair, but I loved it. As I did this record.

It’s one of those extremely basic synthpop songs that proliferated in the early 80s – in many ways similar to early songs by the likes of Depeche Mode and Orchestral Maoeuvres In The Dark (whose Messages has an introduction uncannily similar to this). I guess you an think of these as the synthpop equivalents of those early punk singles – spirit and attitude was everything, electronic equivalents of the two-chord thrash. Our Daughters Wedding never really made it – this was the peak of their success, and it didn’t get any higher than #49 in the UK singles chart – and if only for this song they are fondly remembered, if the number of appearances of this song on alternative 80s compilation albums is anything to go by.

So a suitable song for ukulele?! Well maybe not the most obvious of choices, I’ll grant you. But yes, I think it actually works quite well. It’s hugely straightforward, at least in terms of largely just being two chords all the way through. And the simple and straightforward nature of the song makes it something that seems to work well with four strings and a few bits of wood (and whilst it’s an acoustic guitar rather than a uke, here’s some kind of proof). [Note that the song sheet contains the song in two keys – the original, plus a version in E which I personally find it a lot easier to sing] Enjoy!

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Get The Message – Electronic

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Electronic was a short-lived collaboration between New Order’s Bernard Sumner and ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. The supergroup status was augmented on their first album (from which this song is taken) by the appearance of Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant who sang on a couple of songs. Whilst I think it would be fair to say that, in general, the whole was less than the sum of the parts (and the weight of expectation around this at the time was *huge*), it’s also clear that there emerged from the collaboration some real gems. Debut single Getting Away With It (which also included Tennant) was certainly one, and this, the lead single from their debut album, is another.

Definitely coming closer to the New Order end of the spectrum than The Smiths end, the music for Get The Message was actually written by Marr. But for me this song is definitely more than its parts – that rich, strummed guitar, the pulsating bass-line, the clean synth lines topped off with a great vocal from Sumner who, whilst definitely limited in terms of vocal skills, gives the song just what it needs.

So a ukulele version?! Well, to be honest I can’t find any trace of this, or anything else by Electronic ever making its way to the ukulele. No suprise there. So all the more reason to include it here. I guess it was the strumming pattern that drew me to it, and certainly what I enjoy most when playing it. The song sheet is reasonably faithful to the original, which means that there are some quite lengthly instrumental sections, so feel free to abridge those if you feel so inclined. Enjoy!

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