Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Them / Bob Dylan

It'sAllOverNowBabyBlue-ThemIt’s kind of surprising that a Dylan song has turned up this far into UkeTunes. Firstly because – clearly, and without any doubt – he has written some great songs, songs that have become part of the cannon of popular music. Secondly because due to their relative simplicity many of those songs translate well to the ukulele. [Afternote : I’ve just remembered I have already posted a Dylan song on here – I Shall Be Released! But the points still stand.]

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The uncontended proof that he has authored so many classic songs is evidenced by the many, many cover versions of these songs. That trend started early in Dylan’s career with the likes of The Byrds, Joan Baez and others picking up on, and having hits with, his songs, sometimes to the extent of recording whole albums of them. And this has continued until very recently – I’d be interested to know what proportion of the people that bought it knew that Adele’s Make You Feel My Love is a cover of Dylan’s 1997 original.

But as with many Dylan songs (although certainly not all) the original is not always the best, and certainly not always the definitive version. Sometimes that view can be clouded by the version that you first know, and that may well be the case for me with this song. But I would contend that Them’s version of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue is, amongst all the myriad cover versions, the definitive, unbettered version.

Them, for those who aren’t aware, were a relatively short-lived, but over time significantly influential, band from Belfast that emerged in the mid-1960s, probably the first successful rock/pop band to emerge from Northern Ireland. And they gifted the world Van Morrison, lead singer and leader of Them. Having hits with Here Comes The Night and Baby Please Don’t Go, as well as writing and recording the original version of the classic garage anthem, Gloria, they also record covers, often of classic rhythm and blues standards, but also contemporary songs.

Them’s version of It’s All Over… is a brooding masterpiece. Introduced by a bass riff that pulses, and overlaid with an organ motif that circles throughout, these lay the foundation for a Morrison vocal that feels the song, full of power and depth, never breaking into histrionics, but on the point of breaking as the song reaches its conclusion. To my mind this fleshes out and gives additional depth that the Dylan original lacks, something that – of all the covers I’ve heard, only this Marianne Faithful version comes close to.

And so to the song sheet. Firstly, it contains two versions – one in the same key as the Them and Marianne Faithful versions (A), and one in F, a key that I can sing it in! Lyrically, I’ve kept with the Dylan original, which the Faithful version is (ahem) faithful to – Them’s version shortens, re-arranges and alters some of the lyrics. But I’ve also included the chords for the instrumental interlude from the Them version, which – I think – adds a nice break. You can strum along in a faily conventional sense as per Dylan, in a more laid-back, slightly off-beat Faithful way, or I’ve found that picking the chords in a vague approximation (you’ll have to experiment) of the organ in the Them version sounds good as well. Enjoy!

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Bright Side Of The Road – Van Morrison

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To the average punter in the street the name Van Morrison, if it means anything, means Brown Eyed Girl. For some reason (possibly because he has never earned any royalties for it) that song seems to have permeated the consciousness of the compilation-buying public at large to an extraordinary degree (see these last.fm playcount stats as an example). Whilst it is a great song, it seems a shame that one song kind-of hides for many people the far richer, ground-breaker and soulful sounds that Van has made throughout the rest of his career.

Born Gorge Ivan Morrison, Van’s music has always been grounded against a backdrop of jazz, gospel, blues, and folk, always imbued with a deep celtic spirituality that taps into his Northern Irish roots. Originally coming to prominence as part of the R&B band Them in the mid-1960s (seen here performing the classic Gloria) his solo career has – sometimes unfairly – always been measured against the high-water mark that was the follow-up to Brown Eyed Girl – the “mystical song cycle” that is the Astral Weeks album, an album regularly cited in top-album-ever polls. Following that up with the more accessible Moondance, Van produced a fine stream of recordings throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. Whilst notoriously inconsistent in concert, and harsh on under-performing band members, the live albums that he has produced (particularly 1973’s It’s Too Late To Stop Now) show a man fully in control of his art, stretching and improvising, rising and falling, tight and loose at the same time.

Whilst some of my favourites are the stretch-out, blissed out tracks such as Summertime In England, Bright Side Of The Road holds a special place in my heart. It was the first track on the first Van Morrison album I ever bought (1979’s Into The Music, second-hand from Ross Records in Portsmouth). Full of sunny, bouncy optimism, this is a song that can’t help but put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Driven along by Van’s harmonica introduction and interludes, on a foundation of light and airy piano, punctured by a brass section that includes Pee Wee Ellis from James Brown’s 1960s band, interlaced with some lovely violin lines, and topped off with the lovely contrast of Van’s growling lead vocal and the gorgeous tones of Katie Kissoon’s backing vocals.

Trying to get all that into a ukulele version is probably unlikely, but here is the song sheet anyway! It’s pretty straightforward, and follows the recording in terms of verses, instrumentals, etc. Play with a bounce, and play with a smile. Enjoy!

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