For those that don’t know me, I play Ukulele. I also love The Beatles.
When I heard Greg Hawkes, the keyboardist from The Cars made an album doing covers of Beatles songs on *only* the ukulele, I had to have it.
It is nothing short of brilliant. A million years ahead of how well I’ll ever play, Greg Hawkes multitracks the entire song and plays ukuleles for all the parts. Normally the Beatles are two guitars, a bass guitar, and drums. Occasionally strings are added (Elanor Rigby), sitar (Strawberry Fields), flute (Fool on the Hill), and the whole orchestra riffs in at the end of Piggies.
Hawkes does it all. It’s really phenomenal. My understanding of ukulele is still pretty basic — I strum to match the song’s chord progression. Sometimes it’s enough that a melody can be heard but usually it’s just accompaniment. This album is melody, harmony, rhythm section, all of it. It’s uncanny how much it sounds like the original. There are little instrumental flourishes that correspond to everything in the original. It’s a total recast of the songs done on the no-longer-humble ukulele.
I like to think I’m riding a little bit of this ukulele resurgence. It’s definitely getting more mainstream recognition through artists like Hawkes, and Jake Shimabukuro (seriously, check that guy out), but also a lot of artists just include the instrument in for fun — Eddie Vedder apparently sneaks one on stage with Pearl Jam, Amanda Palmer does a sweet version of Creep, Jack Johnson’s been seen with them, Paul McCartney played a uke version of Something in the tribute concert for the late George Harrison who used to carry two ukuleles in case he bumped into someone so they could play together.
Some of the first songs I learned on ukulele were Beatles songs. At the wedding Julie and I went to in Norway we played and sang “Two of Us” for our friends Cordelia and Jørgen. Doing Beatles songs on ukulele apparently runs in my family. My Dad can definitely shred it.
Listening to this album makes me smile at how cool this instrument is and reminds me that I need to play more and post something that I’ve played soon.