I was teaching a beginner guitar student this week using Yousician and the open string mnemonic came up: Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie. Having grown up in China and only recently been immersed in an English-speaking country, she was unfamiliar with ‘dynamite’. I turned to the best example I could think of in the moment, the Roadrunner!
Maybe it’s because I’ve been looking through my dad’s old diaries that my mum gave me, but I’m in a sentimental mood. I just finished listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest Revisionist History podcast episode, too. It’s one of my very favourite podcasts, thoroughly researched (as you’d expect) and always interesting and touching.
Jen and I went away with Mum this weekend. I was driving and I usually prefer spoken word rather than music to keep me alert. We listened to four episodes of Revisionist History on the trip and this one I’ve just listened to, ‘Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis’, continues the theme of memory. In it, Gladwell explores an idea that’s very close to my heart and experience — how difficult it can be to perform songs that have a great personal connection.
There’s a moment near the end of the episode when he’s talking to songwriter Kaci Bolls (thanks to a reader for correcting my spelling!). She’s singing a song she wrote about her mother and gets choked up as she tries to recall and perform it. Gladwell doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable feeling, in fact that’s his whole thesis, and just as the other person in the interview pulls up out of the discomfort, Gladwell interrupts, ” wait, Kaci, could you play that song?”
I really admire that, because I know how very much she wants to sing that song in that moment even though it’s hard. And not in an arrogant way (people often think performers are just looking for a chance to show off), but she wants to sing it despite knowing she doesn’t know it that well. It’s an act of connection with the subject of the song, her mother.
I recently sang a song of mine, ‘Make It Home’, at a gig with David Rooney. It has lots of little references to my memories of home as a child and never fails to bring a lump to my throat. But I still love it and I want to sing it. I was encouraged by Gladwell’s empathetic conclusion that “a lesser person would’ve sung it perfectly.”
I was going through some old passwords and sites I’ve subscribed to over the years and found this profile on a site called broadjam. It’s about ten years since I last updated it, and it’s a real snapshot of my life back then.
There’s a mixed bag of songs and some guitar instrumentals, too.
I used to play clarinet in a marching band when I was growing up in Northern Ireland. We’d have these ring-bound books that clipped onto our instruments using special attachments so we could play while marching along. We played a lot of tunes by the great American composer John Philip Sousa (Monty Python fans will be familiar with ‘The Liberty Bell’, which was used as the signature music to the cult British sketch show).
Jen and I saw ‘The Post’ last week, so maybe that’s why this particular tune jumped out at me when I was idly searching for a tune to work on. The film stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and retells the proud history of the newspaper’s stand against Nixon’s administration.
Sousa was asked to write a march in 1889 for The Washington Post’s essay contest awards ceremony (read all about it in this article by Post writer John Kelly) and he came up with this piece, which apparently was great for dancing the two-step.
I hope you enjoy my ukulele arrangement! It uses a style of playing called campanella that has been a bit of a revelation to me in my approach to the instrument. If you want to find out more, seek out Jonathan Lewis’s YouTube channel and his website jons-ukulele.com.
Being snowed in these past few days, thanks to Storm Emma, has meant I got it finished. Check out my video — the tabs are here, too, if you’re interested.
ukulele tabs PDF
My ukulele arrangement of John Philip Sousa's march, 'The Washington Post'.