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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World Shut Your Mouth – Julian Cope

Another gig inspired song, although this one didn’t actually get played on the night.

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I’ve been a long-time fan of Julian Cope, stretching right back to when The Teardrop Explodes Reward blasted out of the Top of the Pops studio (no, I wasn’t cool enough to be a pre-fame fan). The Teardrops imploded an album later in a haze of drug-fuelled paranoia, an event that set in train a wild and varied career that I’ve written about a number of times on this blog.

But somewhere in the late 1980s, Julian Cope the leather-clad rock star emerged blinking into the light, and for a fleeting moment it looked like mainstream success was beckoning, something that the resolutely lof-fi, whimiscal and surreal nature of the previous two albums had made look all but impossible. But this was Julian Cope we are talking about here, and those ambitions were resolutely dashed as Cope’s future headed off into even more arcane and defiantly un-commercial avenues, a direction from which he has never returned. But for those who like there pop stars unpredictable but errudite, wayward but smart, Julian has carved out a niche for himself that would have made his very own cult heroes proud.

World Shut Your Mouth comes not from the album of the same name (how boring and predictable would that be!) but from the messiah-like St Julian, the point at which his commercial star briefly shined. It’s one of those songs whose presence seems to have grown since its day (it only peaked at 19 in the UK singles chart), and is – if anything – the song that the vaguely interested general public know Mr Cope by.

World Shut Your Mouth is a top-class shouty anthem. It’s not subtle, and so is great for thrashing and singing at the top of your lungs. Its simple and straightforward (I’ve transposed it down from the original B to A to make it easier to play), and clearly needs to be played loud. Enjoy!


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The Great Dominions – The Teardrop Explodes

WilderIt’s been a little while since there’s been some Julian Cope magic on here, so it’s about time that was rectified.

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As with a previous post, this one takes us back to their second (and final) album, 1981’s Wilder. Their first album, the previous year’s Kilimanjaro, had a classic post-punk, 60s-garage-band-inspired, psychedelic-influenced scratchy sound, but was also strong on melody, tunes, and threw in a bit of brass to give it a real kick. Wilder, on the other hand, was an altogether more colourful, eclectic, experimental collection, and clearly one where the drug influences (Cope and the band were on a real long rock-and-roll bender by this time) shine through. From the sunshine-pop of Passionate Friend (all ba-ba-bas and horns) to the clipped funkiness of The Culture Bunker and the psychedelic wanderings of Like Leila Khaled Said, this is a more varied and rambling album than its predecessor, and one which – from my perspective – is all the richer because of that.

The Great Dominions is one of a clutch of slower songs on the album (Tiny Children and …and the fighting takes over being the others) that – in my mind – turn this into a classic. I haven’t a clue what it’s all about – I’m not really sure that Julian had much of an idea either, given the amount of drugs he was consuming at the time (“I’m still stuck in this pickle jar on a paper carpet” anyone?!) – but for all that it is a beautiful and touching hymn that suggests a yearning for lost innocence.

I couldn’t find any chords anywhere for this lovely song, so I’m hoping that what I’ve transcribed works OK. Personally I think it transfers well to the ukulele, but then I would. Nothing tricksy here – it’s just a continuing D / C / G chord loop – and the tune is almost nursery-rhyme like in its simplicity and innocence. Enjoy!

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Head Hang Low – Julian Cope

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Second-up in the Julian Cope double-bill is this gorgeous song from his 1984 debut solo album World Shut Your Mouth. The Teardrop Explodes disintegrated during the recording of a third-album that would eventually see the light of day many years later as “Everybody Wants To Shag … The Teardrop Explodes“. Julian retreated close to his childhood home of Tamworth, and the resulting solo album feels like a retreat from the madness of latter-day Teardrop’s into a cocoon-like world that probably only made sense in Julian’s head. Now perceived as a bona fide acid-casualty eccentric, Julian’s music was so out-of-step with the mood of the time that this album (and it’s follow-up a few months later, Fried, whose tortise-shell wearing cover didn’t do anything to assuage the public’s perception of him as lost and wasted) were largely ignored. But for me this is a real high-point of his back-catalogue.

Taking a resolutely low-fi approach to recording (I remember him in an interview at the time saying how the cost of recording the whole album had been less than half that of label-mates Tears For Fears current single The Way You Are) the album is chock-full of wonderful songs and vivid imagery. Elegant Chaos is a particular favourite (“People I see / Just remind me of mooing like a cow on the grass / And that’s not to say / That there’s anything wrong with being a cow anyway”!).

But the song I’m highlighting here is a particularly poignant one called Head Hang Low. Opening with a beautiful oboe line from Kate St John (later to be part of Dream Academy, famous for Life In A Northern Town) the instrumenation on song consistst of that oboe line, a reptative drum machine and a cheap Casio keyboard rhythm. Hardly promising fayre, and yet this is a hauntingly beautiful song of loss and confusion.

As with Tiny Children, there is a simplicity to this song which lends itself well to the humble ukulele. Nothing complicated, just a few basic chords with a simple strumming pattern (I use the same d-du-udu pattern 2 as on Tiny Children) this lovely lullaby is a joy to sing. Enjoy!

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Tiny Children – The Teardrop Explodes

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So here’s the first in a double-bill of Julian Cope ballads (lucky you!).

Julian is largely remembered, if he is remembered at all, in the guise of the leather flying jacketed (oh, how I wanted one of those jacket!) star of The Teardrop Explodes, performing Reward on Top Of The Pops. Something of a staple of early-80s compilations, the blast of sheer energy that song exudes has never waned, and has rightly become something of an alternative classic.

But one of the reasons (other than the obvious one of copious amounts of drugs) that the Teardrops didn’t become top 40 mainstays was that Julain was never really one for the obvious. In fact he was really one for the downright weird, strange and eccentric. Those eccentricities became more obvious in his solo career (more of which in the next post). But they were certainly there below the commercial underbelly of his early ’80s hits. One of the b-sides of Tiny Children was a 9 minute live version of their debut single, Sleeping Gas, which demonstrates perfectly how off-the-wall Cope could go.

That eccentricity didn’t just manifest itself in weird psychedelic wig-outs. Another consistent trend has been for simple, naive, nursery-rhyme-like songs that provide a space for breath amongst the surrounding weirdness. These songs didn’t usually crop-up as singles, but Tiny Children was the one exception (unsurprisingly it didn’t really bother the shiny-pop absorbed charts of the summer of 1982). Consisting of nothing but Julian’s little-boy voice set against a single-finger synth riff, this is a truly haunting and beautiful song. A song I have loved since I first heard it as part of the band’s desperately under-rated second album, Wilder.

So sing this on a ukulele? Well yes, actually. I think it works rather wonderfully. Not an obvious choice, I’ll grant you. And not one that all your friends are likely to instantly respond to in nostalgic recognition. But it works, all the same. In some ways similar to the blissed-out, trance-like vibe of  the last post (Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio), I find this best sung to a gentle repetitve strum pattern of d-du-udu (see pattern 2 here). Enjoy!

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