Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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It’s Christmas! Again.

After last year’s posting of a bunch of Christmas classics (in my head, anyway – I don’t think the world has caught up yet), it seemed about time to turn this into a tradition (if that’s what doing it twice is) and offer up another bunch of obscure-yet-great Christmas tunes.

<Christmas In Paradise>  <Just Like Christmas>  <You Trashed My Christmas>

 

Exhibit Five. Christmas In Paradise, by Mary Gauthier. An American folk singer-songwriter, Gauthier’s songs often take the perspective of the ne’er do wells, poor and downtrodden of society, and none more so than this song reflecting the experience of the homeless in Florida at Christmas time. With a big heart for those who haven’t been so fortunate, this is a seasonal reminder that it’s not always a time of tinsel and good cheer. Best played finger-picked.

<Christmas In Paraside>

Exhibit Six. Just Like Christmas, by Low. Not exactly what you’d expect from a slowcore band, two-thirds of whom are Mormons. This song, from 1999’s mini album “Christmas” is a sleigh-bell-tastic Christmas classic that regularly makes those alternative Christmas song lists. The album, a bone-fide triumph, is way, way slower, darker and bleaker than this lead song might suggest, although no worse for that. But this track deserves to be up there alongside your Maria’s, your Wham’s and your Slade’s as a Christmas perennial.

<Just Like Christmas>

Exhibit Seven. You Trashed My Christmas, by The Primitives. The Christmas break-up is a recurrent theme in Christmas pop songs. And here’s a great record from the makers of Crash that combines that with a fuzz-laden, over-before-its-begun indie tune that should be being played everywhere for the duration of the Christmas season. How this tune has bypassed the public consciousness I cannot fathom, but here I am doing my bit to big it up.

<You Trashed My Christmas>

And for good measure, here’s the links to last year’s Christmas toons:


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1981

<songbook>

Well it’s been nearly two years since I did the 1979 songbook, and so it seemed about time to bring things bank up-to-date … with a 1981 equivalent. As mentioned previously, this is kind-of my era, and so I’m not one to be particularly balanced in an assessment of the musical qualities of the year.

As with last time, this is *my* selection, and takes a somewhat biased view on the musical output of the year. So sorry, but you won’t find any Shakin’ Stevens here. Nor will you find any Bucks Fizz, Joe Dolce, Julio Igelsias, Stars on 45 or The Birdie Song (all of whom were in the top 20 selling singles of the year). But what you will find is a selection that showcases some of the wide variety of music that was being made and – in most cases – being lapped up by the British music-buying public.

1981 was the year in which the New Romantics, and electronic music more generally, established itself in the charts. I’ve covered those genres off in more depth here, but included in this book are the likes of Soft Cell (whose cover of Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love was everywhere), The Human League (who came from also-ran has-beens following the earlier split in the band to be triumphant pop conquerors with their classic album Dare, and the omnipresent Christmas Number 1, Don’t You Want Me), the studio-based Visage, OMD (with their songs of dead French saints – x2), the upcoming scream-sensation that was/is Duran Duran, and Basildon’s finest, Depeche Mode. With their strong emphasis on visuals and style, these new artists were truly of the video age, a fortuitous timing that – with the launch of MTV in the US in this year – saw their music being eagerly gobbled up by young Americans, leading to the second “British invasion” which really got under way the following year.

The US were not to be outdone, though. And whilst classic American rock bands have often had a hard-time making a lasting presence in the UK (at least from a singles perspective) the year did see the likes of REO Speedwagon and Journey have some success. But even then, the more “new wave” artists from stateside, such as The Go-Go’s and Kim Carnes (a kind of new wave / classic rock hybrid) had success, alongside the reinvigorated rock-and-roll stylings of Stray Cats.

But these were somewhat of an exception. British Pop was in rude health, as evidenced in more classic ways by the fresh face of Kim Wilde, the songwriting powerhouse that was Kirsty MacColl, and the singles-juggernaut that was Madness. But there were some particularly skewed versions of pop appearing during the year. Most significantly (and if it was anybody’s year, it was probably his) Adam and his Ants took a bizarre amalgam of tribal drumming, punk attitudes, twangy guitars, and almost-pantomime dressing up, married with a constantly evolving but somehow consistent visual style, and won Britain’s playground over big style. This even gave an opportunity for posh punk has-been Eddie Tudorpole to have a hit with the medieval-themed Swords of a Thousand Men.

The graduates of the punk and new wave scenes were still around, albeit in matured ways. The Police were still massive, The Stranglers had a big hit with the relatively laid-back and un-punk Golden Brown (odd time signatures included), XTC continued to plough their own furrow, The Undertones started to grow up, and both Squeeze and Elvis Costello took an unexpected country by-road. In addition the vibrant and varied post-punk scene started to go overground, with the likes of The Teardrop Explodes, Altered Images, Toyah and Scritti Politti establishing themselves.

But the old guard wasn’t to be outdone. Phil Collins took time out from Genesis to begin a parallel (and hugely successful) solo career, Dire Straits were further laying claim to their position as grown-up rock superstars, 10cc’s Godley and Creme broke away with their own brand of quirky pop, and even The Who returned from a few years away as if nothing much had changed (although clearly it had). And not to forget Olivia Newton-John having another gym-based makeover.

Anyway, here’s the book. I’m sure you’ll disagree with the selection of what is or should have been in the book. I’m in no way claiming this to be a definitive record of the year. But it is *my* selection. And I love every song here.

<songbook>

Also, see below for a list of the songs included in the book, along with links to individual song sheets:


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The Who Songbook

Ever fancied the chance to practice your Pete Townshend windmill actions on your uke? Well here are 16 golden opportunities to have a go with.

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At first glance, I guess The Who aren’t the obvious choice for ukulele. All that male aggression, testosterone, riffing and power chords isn’t going to translate well to a tiny pseudo acoustic guitar. Certainly if you take your uke-ing seriously you could end up looking very foolish with this one. But the genesis of this book was the post I made over a year ago of Won’t Get Fooled Again, prompted by a superb video performance with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. And so if a song like that – a true classic that is everything an overblown, overamped, and yes, probably over-sexed, rock band and song should be – can translate to the humble ukulele, then why shouldn’t the rest of their oeuvre.

And so began a journey into The Who’s back-catalogue. To be honest, I didn’t dig too far – everything in this book should be relatively well known to anybody (myself included) with little more than a passing awareness of the repertoire that Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon contributed to the rock cannon over the last 50 years. From their first single (I Can’t Explain), through a golden run of 1960s classics (My Generation, I Can See For Miles, Pinball Wizard), on into the 1970s rock gods (Won’t Get Fooled Again, Baba O’Reily, Who Are You) and even into the 1980s (You Better You Bet), these are songs that have become ingrained into the consciousness of generations of rock fans.

And now they can become ukulele classics as well! Well, maybe not, but you can certainly have a lot of fun with these. I’ve tried to keep these as close to the originals as I can, although some of the extended instrumental sections I’ve cut down a bit. Obviously, if you’re a virtuoso and can manage the solos then extended them and give them a go – they’ll probably add something to these.

One thing that struck me working through these sheets was how well-structured – and sometimes quite complex – these songs are. I’ve definitely got a new-found admiration for the songwriting of the band – Pete Townshend, in particular.

Anyway, here’s the book.

<songbook>

Also, see below for a list of the songs included in the book, along with links to individual song sheets:

 


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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.

<Bouncing Babies>
<I Can’t Get “Bouncing Babies” By The Teardrop Explodes>

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!

<Bouncing Babies>
<I Can’t Get “Bouncing Babies” By The Teardrop Explodes>


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Bad Decisions – The Strokes

The Strokes passed me by back in the day. I think I was probably going down a country/roots avenue at the time, and so indie rock was not really on my radar.

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So I’m not really qualified to say whether this new song is a return to previous glories, or whether it is a desperate last fling. Not that it really matters, to be honest.

Bad Decisions is the second single from the bands new (released only two days ago, as I write!) album The New Abnormal. I’ve been playing this a lot recently, and it’s a cracker. Owning more than a little to Generation X / Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself, the band acknowledged this in the writing credits, where Idol and fellow Gen-X (and Sigue Sigue Sputnik) member Tony James cited as co-writers.

It’s a fairly straightforward, head-down indie rock tune. Simple chords, standard structure. I’ve also tabbed out the main riff for you to have a go at as well. Enjoy!