Madonna • Memory song • Marble Machine • Flame Trees
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Madonna's current Rebel Heart tour features her at one point playing ukulele and singing the Edith Piaf classic La Vie en Rose. The ukulele itself was auctioned on January 10 at Sean Penn's Haitian Relief Charity fundraiser for US $300,000 after she promised to "lick" and "kiss" it before handing it over after the tour. This year's Oscar winner for Best Actor, cheapskate Leonardo di Caprio only paid $100,000 for one of U2 front man Bono's guitars at the fundraiser.
Remembering On the Road Again - in the ukulele player's key of C
(Willie Nelson's original is in A on guitar)

I like to encourage uke groups to learn to play songs without looking at the chord and lyric sheets, and this one's a current 'memory song'. The song's sentiment is great and I know it well on guitar, but have had to almost relearn it for uke. Here are the thought processes I used to memorise it...
  • In the key of, and starts with the easiest chord in the book, C.
  • The singer can't wait to be on the 'road again', so instead of the minor we have E7, unresolved and poised to start the engine of the tour bus.
  • This is followed by the wistful sounding Dm which imparts the emotional connection of a life devoted to 'playing music with my friends'
  • The sentimentality is shaken off by its relative major, F 'I can't wait to get'
  • Following is the key's trusty dominant seventh (V7) G7 for 'on the road'
  • Then back to the tonic C for 'again'.
  • The chorus is just the (IV) F and the (I) C backwards and forwards a couple of times until reaching a turning point - the unresolved sounding link between chorus and verse - (V7) G7.
Whatever song it is you'd like to remember, try making up your own story or chord prompt ideas, or use one of the techniques to boost your memory suggested in this article from the ABC's health and wellbeing news.
Wintergatan Marble Machine
8.5 million views in three days doth a YouTube hit make, and well-deserved.
This story in UK magazine Wired discusses the design, construction and operation of the machine by Martin Molin, a Swedish musician and band member. The marbles they refer to aren't the glass ones we might think of, but ball bearings. Not quite as portable as a ukulele but a lovely piece of music and the ingenuity behind it is extraordinary. The chord progression, if you'd like to play along, is mostly Em, Gmaj7, Bm, Am.
Flame Trees
Off we go into the world of pub-rock royalty Cold Chisel, even though Flame Trees is much more of a ballad. With melody by drummer Steve Prestwich who is unfortunately no longer with us, and lyrics by keyboard player Don Walker, it's a heartfelt and quintessentially Australian story of revisiting the country town where you grew up.
The melody was written mostly on bass in A, and so a few barre chords are needed for the uke. They're not hard, and it could help to glance at the suggested chord fingerings as they make the chord changes really smooth.
Being in the original key also means that whether you're male or female, your vocal range needs to extend into the upper atmosphere to be on par with His Highness Jimmy Barnes.
As an aside, Hunter Singers, a choir made up of high school students from State schools in the Newcastle area, won a silver medal in the popular music section of the 2012 World Choir Games in Cincinatti, and Flame Trees was in their repertoire.
The songsheet this week has chords bolder than the lyrics, so you may find it easier to follow than last week's layout.

Realised this week after a diplomatic prompt from a student, that the notation I had actually got around to writing for Psycho Killer and Billie Jean was all an octave too low (but the tabs are right - for a change). The second part of the Psycho Killer interlude had a repeat sign on it instead of on the outro bass riff and there were uke string names on the tabs instead of bass string names. Greatly apologise - I mostly do these things late on a Sunday night when my brain has all but vacated the premises. Now fixed!
Madonna - "La Vie En Rose" - Rebel Heart Tour - 9/19/15
Observe internationally popular and famous multi-millionaire performer Madonna, doing her very best thumb strumming (after at least two minutes of talking before starting the song).
Not sure our glamorous friend played all the chords she could have. Check out the Dr Uke version in the same key (No. 773)
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