Monday, 1 December 2014

My Frst Public Performance Playing The Uke.

Did I mention in the last post that the ukulele group I have just joined is giving a christmas concert in a couple of weeks time - and we only practice every other week. So after 4 meetings the whole group will be performing in public. It is a very mixed ability group, so the better players will hopefully carry the rest of us through the ordeal.

I have been busy, of course, practising the songs on our playlist. I find that one way of quickly identifying where the major problems are is to record and listen to my own playing. However some of the videos, etc, are worth sharing. At least I hope that some of my friends will think so. So in the name of friendship I am doing just that.

The concert will be based on Christmas songs released through the past few decades, however I am learning a few other songs to give myself the occasional break. The biggest problem in learning to play songs which are to be performed by the group is pitching the song so that everybody can join in. On many of the songs, my vocal range is such that I have issues with the keys in which I am playing those songs. For instance, in the first example, I am singing far too low to be able to do a good job of the vocal. Won't matter in the group setting (there are two dozen of us) but on my own it sounds, very strained.

This means that the other songs allow me to sing in my own key, as in the following:-

If you haven't seen any of my self-recorded videos yet, then let me explain that I make a feature of wearing different hats.

Quite honestly I am looking forward to the concert. I think I shall be enjoying it and it will be a chance to meet more of the group members, since the few meetings I have attended so far have been quite hurried things with little time to get around the large membership and chat to many of the other strummers. 

Let you know how it goes later.

BTW, if you are in the South Birmingham / Solihull area, the group meets on a wednesday twice each month. Room for more Strummers. We meet in the Rover Group social club and the only cost is membership of the club, a nominal annual charge.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My Ukulele; My New Best Friend.

I have been playing guitar, on and off, for over 50 years. Some of you may have noticed that I have a thing about Hank Marvin and The Shadows. However I have never really settled down to learning how to play it seriously. I have learnt a few tunes from The Shads repetoire and two years ago I actually played live to backing tracks, in front of an audience at a Shadows Fan Club Meeting. Since then I have hardly done anything with my guitars (yes of course I have more than one!).

I have mostly used it as an accompaniment to my voice, often singing my own songs; but never in public. A few parties, perhaps but only after imbibing a little dutch courage. I did collaborate in my middle-age with song-writers but very little ever came of  these projects.

All in all, a failure to rise to the occasion as a musician.

Then a couple of years ago, I saw Joe Brown in concert and was captivated by songs he performed with a ukulele, especially See You In my Dreams which he performed when closing the Concert For George. A memorial concert for George Harrison. It gave me an itch, and the itch festered until I saw some very cheap ukuleles advertised at Lidl, of all places. I nearly bought one but it was near Christmas and I was told not to bother (well of course, I guessed why). I was overwhelmed however when I opened a present from my son who had bought me an expensive Stagg instrument. I didn't expect it but he has never been one to hold off spending money to buy the right thing, whatever it was.

It did take me a while to feel happy with the new instrument, for a number of reasons, but this month I joined a ukulele group. Basically, the objective of the group is to have a few pints, and enjoy ourselves singing/strumming to the songs we enjoyed in our youth. I have really taken time over the past couple of weeks to get to know my uke. I have restrung it with better strings, played far more songs in more and more difficult keys, and I am getting to feel really comfortable with it. I have even considered adding another uke to give me more flexibility.

I have really enjoyed the group evenings and in talking to the guy who started it, it is possible that it could be taken quite far if things go well. I am excited at the prospects we discussed.

Finally, an example from The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain of what can be achieved with this instrument.


Hope to have more information on this new musical direction in the near future. And, well, my new best friend is happy too, I think.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hank Marvin Playing Brian May's Version of The Shadows Hit FBI

What? Is that what it seems, you betcha!

I have just found this video on You Tube by accident and the title spells it out exactly. It is performed live in Hank's UK tour of 1997. he was joined on that tour by son Ben, Mark Griffiths and Warren Bennet.

You may know of the 1996 album TWANG, which was a tribute to The Shadows by a number of the foremost axemen from the world of rock. I wrote about this album in my own tribute to Hank Marvin which is now on HubPages.  One of the tracks was Brian May playing his version of FBI which of course was made into a hit by The Shadows.

In the video,Hank explains that he is going to play FBI as played by Brian May, playing The Shadows Hit. It's not really that complicated, just take your time if you are having trouble, LOL. So here it is, and what a fantastic pair Hank and Ben make on this number.

I have been away for a while due to unavoidable circumstances but I hope that I shall be posting regularly again if infrequently for a little while until things are rally on an even keel.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

I have just discovered Gypsy Fire, have you?

Another show at Solihull library Theatre. This time to see a band, GYPSY FIRE which I had not heard of. I was intrigued by the poster and on the spot bought tickets.

A real shame that the auditorium was so empty, if you have not yet had a chance to see / hear this band do yourself a favour and make sure to go and find out what I am talking about if they are appearing close to you.

I did not really know what to expect but I could not believe my ears. A journey thru styles and time the announcement said; and wow, it kicked off like an atomic bomb.

The show was in four parts. the first was classical favourites - explosive and driving, I was stamping my feet and working hard to keep up with the beat. The second was swing jazz. Again, a stunning performance of old favourites with lots of improvisation. The speed and delivery of the pieces were astounding. Part 3 was from music the movies, this slowed the whole thing down but again stunning. Part four was original music written by the band making use of the various sources we had heard from so far.

I was so taken with their music that in the interval, rather than heading for the bar, I made for their mechandising sound and bought a double CD based on the show. And just to prove it:-

I can't give you examples of the music from this but some examples can be found on their web-site. They do have one You Tube video available and of course here it is:

I am looking forward to seeing these four wonderful musicians again soon, maybe the CD will have to do for a while but I reckon I will be looking for more.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Furies and Davy Arthur - When you were sweet sixteen

And now for something different ...

One of my favourite songs, one which in my own far from acceptable way I have recorded and posted to You Tube. I will not desspoil this great version by including my own here but you can hear it, if only out of interest on the original post here.

Anyway, I bring up this song and the artists because tonight I am going to see the Furies in concert. I very much hope to hear this song live and am certain that it will not have lost any of its charm.

Here is another by the Furies, a very fitting tribute in this the 100th anniversary year of the start of the 1st World War.


And one last song, When I grow too old to dream

Friday, 18 April 2014

A new companion site to this blog

I have for sometime been considering if a blog is the right way to proceed with what I had intended for this aspect of my on-line writing.

In the beginning, it was to be about my songwriting and songs, perhaps with a nod towards my other interests in music. As it turns out it has become more of a reminiscence of the groups I loved when I was growing up, especially The Shadows of course.

As it has become clear that I now think in terms of poetry and other forms of creative writing rather than lyric/songwriting, I think the time is right to think about a static web-site to cover the early part of my life and my musical interests. This will not I think change dramatically in the near future, so it seems more appropriate than a blog. I have today published such a website, which will allow me to develop this blog as a way of remembering the sixties music which I remember with more than a little fondness.

You can see the new web-site now. Although it will expand a little as I record more of my older material (and perhaps even new material) or change as I make better recordings than I have available at present, It will stay essentially as a record of where I am now.

As for the songwriting, there are two articles on Squidoo which contain the essential information that I have to offer. There are many more song-writing blogs which can be accessed which are kept up to date in a way which I now find difficult. The two articles are:-

I hope you will find these article useful sources of information.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Do You Remember The Searchers?

!963 saw The Searchers burst on to the UK pop scene with their first single, "Sweets For My Sweet". By the end of 1964 I had more albums by them than by The Beatles, a group some of you may remember hailed from Liverpool, UK. Which by coincidence was also the home town of The Searchers. They also played in Hamburg and gave the Beatles a run for their money.

Hear that first single on a live TV show from 1963

You can read more about this great group on their official web site, the line-up, like alll groups has changed from the original but the John Mcnally (lead guitar and vocals) is still showing how its done. If you want an unbiased run down of their history then you can always use the Wikipedia article on the band which contains largely the same information but perhaps more clearly displayed.

Another more modern version of one of their 1964 hits, When You Walk In The Room, it always was a favourite of mine:


Unfortunately, the sound tends to fade irregularly thru' the video but the music is there. From either of these videos you can of course  find many others on You tube.

I still feel the sixties was the most innovative decade for pop music, what do you think?