Thursday 2 October 2014

Get Plucky!

Christmas comes early. A new book by Will Grove-White: Get Plucky with the Ukulele (A Quick and Easy Guide to All Things Uke) arrives in the post from the publishers, Octopus Books.

It's beautifully designed and printed, like an Hawaiian shirt made of paper and ink. and it's also beautifully written. It is by turns a cultural history, personal memoir, scrapbook and photo-album, an omnium gatherum of all things ukulele, as well as the best introduction I've ever read to playing the noble little instrument. It's enough to make me dig up the canary-yellow Uke that's been gathering dust for a decade since an abortive attempt by myself to master at least one musical instrument before I die.

(When it comes to music I'm horribly like Max Wall's lugubrious maestro Professor Wallofsky who, asked by a stooge whether he could play the clarinet, would reply: "Play it? Play it? I can't even unwrap it!")

To mark the publication here are three of my favourite moments in ukulele history:

Stan and Ollie perform Honolulu Baby on their own adjacent doorsteps (in Sons of the Desert (1933)).

Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters perpetrate a charmingly ragged version of Tonight You Belong to Me in Carl Reiner's movie The Jerk (1979). Stay to the end for the trumpet solo.

Finally Will Grove-White himself and the magnificently talented Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform a barnstorming version of David Bowie's Life on Mars which takes off into all kinds of weird contrapunctuality (if that's the word). Clever, funny, rich and strange - you'll love this, I'm certain. And I note that more than a million good people have watched this.

You can find out more about Will and his music here: And think about getting this book as a gift for the least musical person in your life.

You want more? Do say yes, you minx. Here's the Ukes doing a sublimely gorgeous version of that much-loved standard Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus. Vocals by Hester Goodman. Lovely, this.

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