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Songs: A Million Ukeleles

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Aware of student safety he left three prefects in charge
Of the bonfire of recorders which he'd lit in the school yard
He strode into the staff room to applause
They knew today's the day that he had finally been and bought
Fifteen ukeleles for the school, fifteen untried music teaching tools
Fifteen chances he could get the sack, fifteen ukeleles and a match
The children, they all loved it 'cause it's easy and it's fun
The other teachers opened their doors so that they could sing along
The parents made a fuss at the PTA
Until the classicist Headmaster found himself begrudged to say
We need thirty ukeleles urgently, thirty ukeleles to fulfil forecasted needs
If it carries on like this we'll end up cancelling PE, bring me thirty ukeleles ASAP
Schools in the same authority were soon following their lead
Music shops ran out of stocks as it spread through families
But their appeal was by no means unanimous
There were a lot of strong letters in the local press
From concerned music buffs
Saying Ban these ukeleles right away
They're not a proper instrument, they're too easy to play
They're too portable, affordable, open to anyone - ban these ukeleles,
They look like fun

Well of course nobody listened to this miserable elite
Before too long the sound of strumming rang through every street
And though I woke to find it was a dream
It could become reality, the only thing we need

Is a single ukelele to begin
To see why ukelele players wear such silly grins
Then a hundred then a thousand until suddenly we find
We've got a million ukeleles and a million smiles

Oh a million ukeleles play in time
A million ukeleles from Isle Of Wight to Isle Of Skye
We need a million signatures, a million letters to MPS
Saying a million ukeleles - we'd like them, please

Published by Wipe Out Music Publishing

OK, this is going to take in several TIME PERIODS as the song was a long time in the producing - here's what I said back in April 2007, when I'd finished writing it:
blockquote> My first thoughts about this song came WAY back on August 11th 2005, when on my way into work one day... well, I let Hibbett 2005 explain, as writ on the BLOG for that day:
On the way into work this morning i was thinking about ARTS FUNDING. Okay, i was ACTUALLY imagining doing a BIG INTERVIEW and having "Things'll Be Different" brought up, and then being asked exactly WHAT would i do... er... and then outlining my REASONABLE PLAN to become ENNOBLED (temporarily, until i get round to democratising the House Of Lords, as stated in THE SONG obviously) and become Arts Minister, abolish ARTS FUNDING and introduce HIBBETT TICKETS (this isn't the time or place for that one...). This is why i have got into SODUKU on long journeys, it keeps the BRANE busy. ANYWAY, abolition of Arts Funding is favoured by ME because to GET any you have to fill in loads of forms and, crucially, know the KEY WORDS involved to GET any, so that the actual CA$H would, i would suggest, be MUCH more likely to go to The Middle Classes who know how the system WORKS. Hey! Call me crazy, but I've SEEN the Local Paper stories about "Local Band Gets Arts Council Help" and they always seem SUSPICIOUSLY well kempt and ALREADY in possession of EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT.

But then I thought "HANG ON! But then HOW DO we get THE KIDS into the beautiful and health-giving world of music?" I considered my own MUSIC schooling, which PUT ME OFF the very IDEA for several years, because it was so BORING and HORRID. Learning to play "Yellow Bird" on the xylophone for weeks at a time did NOT inspire me to go out and ROCK, and playing scales on the RECORDER didn't either. It sometimes seems to me that Schools, and indeed THE MUSIC ESTABLISHMENT, actively try and DETER most people from getting involved in music. Just look at the ridiculous arcane terminology that's STILL used (Muslim Preachers may well be persuaded to preach in English, but I doubt they'll ever get Music Teachers to do it), and don't get me STARTED on the LUNACIES of having different instruments playing in different "keys". PAH! Small babies DANCE in the womb, but we are excluded from music from an early age by an establishment that OBSCURES itself in language, BORES us with awful sounding instruments that can't play anything interesting, and then anybody who isn't deterred YET is forced to either play INCREDIBLY DULL yet DIFFICULT pieces of music on an INSANELY EXPENSIVE piece of FURNITURE (i.e. Piano), or a VIOLIN, with a guarantee it will sound HORRIBLE for at least the first couple of years of playing it.

Is it any wonder, i say, IS IT ANY WONDER, that SO MANY people say "Oh, i'm not musical, i can't sing"? We can ALL sing, there's only about 12 people in the COUNTRY who are Actually Really Medically TONE DEAF, the rest of us are PERFECTLY able to sing, but have been PERSUADED that we can't, and made to feel BAD about it. OR! OR! "Trained" to sing in that horrible KARAOKE style - goodness me, the British Voice is a multi-faceted, many accented thing of DELIGHT and INNOCENT BEAUTY, but everywhere we go it is DERIDED and DROWNED out by people EMOTING in a variety of unreal accents heard off the radio or BELLOWING in a tortured "classical" facsimile of the long dead. All children EVERYWHERE can sing, and they do so in their own UNIQUE ways and voices. My friends, let us sing AS THE CHILDREN DO, in our OWN ways. It's GRATE!

AHEM. RANT over... temporarily. So yes, this led me to think "But what would you do about it Hibbett? What would you replace Recorders, Xylophones, Pianos and Violins with? What IS there that's easy and FUN to play, that you can play recognisable and ACTUALLY PLEASANT TO HEAR songs with almost instantly, that can also be used to write NEW songs or versions of songs in the charts, that can lead on to OTHER instruments if need be, that is PORTABLE by children, and that is WELL within everybody's price range?"

All together now: THE UKELELE!

Imagine it! A whole generation of children introduced to the delights of The Ukelele! CLASSROOMS all belting out THE TUNES OF TODAY, then going out into the playground and playing their OWN songs, or songs off the telly. THE KIDS, they LOVE the music - look at RINGTONES for heaven's sake - and this way they could make their OWN. The money NOT spent on subsidising Posh Kids In A Recording Studio, or Daring Musical Theatre, or OPERA for heaven's sake, could buy A MILLION UKELELES, to be PRESSED into the EAGER young hands of a new generation of MUSICALLY ENABLED YOUTH! (NB not Musical Youth, necessarily). The pleasure and the beauty of the REGIONAL SINGING ACCENT could be CELEBRATED and ENCOURAGED - goodness me, i grew up on several summer holidays worth of GEORGE FORMBY films on BBC2 at my various Nans' houses, they are RIPE for enjoyment by kids. George Formby as CORE to a new history curriculum! "Emperor Of Lancashire" on the GEOGRAPHY SYLLABUS!

All right, maybe not the latter, but i think you see my point. As I thought of all this i thought also "Hey! SONG IDEA!" and the CHORUS came STRIDING into my brain, also VAGUE STRUCTURE and also THE EXCITING CHORUS BEFORE THE END: "I heard a million ukeleles, strumming still. I heard a Million Ukeleles... COMING OVER THE HILL!" HUGE drum fill, into A MILLION people PLAYING UKELELES and MARCHING towards us! I actually became deeply MOVED at the idea, i am not ashamed to admit it.

I also felt i was CHANNELLING Chris T-T (i would say "I felt Chris T-T in me, but that gets worrying close to SINGER SONGWRITER SLASH FICTION: "Just then i caught the eye of Winston Echo..."), as it does bear similarities to his GRATE SONG "Giraffes", in a sort of Inspirational Metaphor kind of way, so we shall have to SEE how it PANS OUT as an actual song, but still - STICK IT IN THE MANIFESTO, i think it's a WINNER!
YEAH! Testify, Me From Two Years Ago! At the time I was full of ENTHUSIASM to go and write a song about it, very much featuring a bit at the end where someone dies, and hears "A million ukeleles strumming still, a million ukeleles... COMING OVER THE HILL" which never made it into the final version as ... er... i couldn't get it to work. Anyway, rather than write a song about it I wrote a FANZINE ARTICLE instead, and then never got around to writing the song itself.

FLASH FORWARD 19 Months and I received an email from Mr D Haldane alerting me to an article in The Telegraph covering much the same ground. EGAD! It was time for me to SPRING into action and WRITE the song at last, before THE RIGHT took over!

And THUS that is what I did... although rather gradually. The chorus was pretty easy to work out, not least because I'd been singing it to myself for nearly two years, but the structure of the song was a bit more difficult. As with SO MANY of my songs, to start with it sounded a bit MEAN and SARCASTIC, just SLAGGING OFF some people I don't really like, and it wasn't until i got the idea for the "He strode into the staffroom..." bit that I thought "AHA! I shall do it as a STORY!"

In then took a few weeks of INCREMENTAL ACTION, writing pretty much a verse a weekend, to get it sorted out, helped in a MYSTIC WAY by the purchase of a Nice New Guitar (bought for the Frets On My Neck, not me!) to make it an DELIGHT to play. For some reason this led to the WORDS being a bit more FITTED than usual i.e. they tend to follow the same SYLLABULAR STRUCTURE throughout, rather than me speeding up or slowing down to fit different bits in. It may not seem like that to Outside Ears, but it does to me anyway!

I quite like the way it ends POLITELY too - SO many times I have been on MARCHES or seen posters saying "We want it NOW!" or "Fuck the government! YEAH" and so forth, and i don't think that's a) nice b) helpful. Surely saying "Please" would be of help in these circumstances?

If we do record this with The Vlads and release it I plan to feature Ukeleles (i've learnt to play it on mine!) and BANJO, and also to include in the CD Booklet not only the CHORDS on ukelele, but also a guide to UKELELE tuning, to encourage other people to go out and buy one. If you've read this far and are considering it, I'd URGENTLY advise you to go and buy one, they really are GRATE!
SPOOKY! For LO! here back in the present day i DID feature ukeleles and BANJO, and DID put a guide to ukelele playing in the booklet - I'd completely forgotten that I'd thought of it here!

The banjo was played by the MARVELLOUS Mr Phil Wilson, along with MANDOLIN. My main memory of mixing it together was putting the lead banjo part in and thinking "Eh? But this doesn't fit AT ALL?!?" and PANICKING... then putting the rythmn banjo and two similar mandolin parts in and realising it all slotted together PERFECTLY. I just think he does a fantastic job on it, especially at the very end, which was so nice i faded it out and then used it again for the ending of the whole album.

Apart from Phil's ACE SESSION WORK my other favourite part of the recording is the sound of a match being lit, right over to the far right of the stereo picture after the first verse. I recorded that with ACTUAL MATCHES in our back garden, and felt like GEORGE MARTIN for doing so! Oh, and the bit where I sing "It looks like fun" is pretty much my FAVOURITE bit of singing by me... EVER!

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