Happy Birthday to us. Six years old at last. You get less for murder, or so they say. Though that’s obviously not true, not since the Criminal Justice Act 2003. It’s probably the sort of sentence you’d get if you were to assault an officer of the crown legally tasked with preserving a ship wreck.
Leaving aside the vagaries of UK sentencing policy, six years. Who can honestly say you thought we’d make it this far? From that first week sitting in the Moseley CDT where it quickly became obvious that nobody had a bloody clue what they were doing. That slow realisation that not only were we going to have to sing in front of strangers but, more than likely, we’d probably end up disturbing the meeting that was oddly double booked with us.
Through the wilderness years at the Patrick Kavanagh where we never knew if we had a room or there would be a random party. Interestingly I notice in putting up the link to Kavanagh’s that their function room is free now. They used to charge us £15 a week.
To the Prince of Wales where we finally turned into a proper group. We’ve done amazing things in the Prince of Wales. We’ve met hundreds of people. We’ve learned over 400 songs (some more competently than others). We’ve hosted sing-a-longs that have often not been far off good natured riots.
In the last three years we’ve sold thousands of ukuleles to people all over the world (every continent except Antarctica), meaning that on every corner of the earth there are people who have a vague awareness of what Moselele is even though, without exception, none of them can pronounce it.
We’ve also helped to set up other groups in different parts of the UK, which has meant we’ve had great people to share songs with.
And it’s all down to the people that keep coming back month in month out.
We’ll be celebrating on Thursday, at the Prince of Wales, by doing what we always do. Drinking beer and playing inappropriate songs on tiny guitars. We have no shame.
The 14th February is not only Valentines Day but it’s also the day that some UK famous ukulele people are coming to Birmingham. For one night only, at the Rose Villa Tavern, Mike Hind, Zoë Bestel and Feckless and Fuddle will be playing stuff.
There’s also a chance to play a bit yourself.
It occurred to us that some of you might have come across our site having got a ukulele for Christmas and be thinking about joining us at The Prince of Wales, (our next meeting is on Thursday the 7th). We often get people coming along who don’t really know what to expect, especially just after Christmas. We thought this might answer some of your questions.
This won’t be about things you might want to know about owning your first ukulele. Got a Ukulele have pretty well got that covered so if you have questions read that. This is just about coming along to your first session.
People who turn up tend to be in one of a few categories. Never having played an instrument before, having played the guitar before and pretty confident with a ukulele. It really doesn’t matter which of these apply to you. If you’ve never played a ukulele before we don’t have any expectations. Although the ukulele is relatively easy to learn to play (compared to the bassoon) it still takes time and practice. You will not pick it up in one session. What hopefully will happen is that you’ll see things you want to practice.
You might feel a bit self conscious that you’re doing it wrong. There is absolutely no chance anyone will notice. Ukuleles are quiet instruments, if you play the wrong chord it’s likely you’re the only person that will notice. Just play the chords you know and make a note of ones you might want to learn. If you don’t know the chords just strum muted strings, that gives a bit of percussion.
Forget about the strumming pattern. It doesn’t matter. Just try and strum on the beat and as you become more familiar with songs you will fill the pattern in instinctively.
We generally don’t care whether people can play or not. What we really care about is whether people will sing or not. Singing is one of the things that many people forget about in ukulele groups. In many ways it is much more important than playing the ukulele. We often say that the ukuleles get in the way of a good sing song. Even if you don’t know any of the chords you can help by reading the words out loud.
We don’t have any sort of plan. We do have six books full of songs and we just play whatever seems right. That means nobody in the room really knows how any of them go.
We don’t have the songs that most ukulele groups have. There are many groups out there and we’ve tried to concentrate on the sort of songs that we listen to. That might mean you get to play songs you’ve never heard before. That’s ok, stick with it.
We don’t avoid any chords in the songs we do. That might mean that some songs look a bit daunting. For example many many of our songs have the dreaded E chord in them. You’ll have to learn it at some point but you don’t have to know it now.
Learning a new instrument will always be a tricky thing to do but it is much easier to do with a group of people than sitting and trying at home. You won’t be able to play after your first session but if you stick with it you’ll be surprised at how quickly you will learn.
The best way to keep in contact with us, and know what we’re doing, is to keep an eye on our Facebook group. Some people don’t do Facebook, they’re also the people that don’t know if we change anything. Don’t be one of those people.
We hope this lets you know that you don’t have to feel self conscious about just starting. We all started at some point.
For some reason we completely forgot a Merry Christmas post. With the run up to Christmas being as busy as it was we had loads to do with putting out a new Christmas Book, playing lots of new songs to a room full of Santas and having the biggest Christmas Sing-a-Long we’ve ever had.
We need to say a big thank you to everyone that came to The Prince on the 22nd December to sing in Christmas. It was mayhem but a sort of organised mayhem. Thanks.
It wasn’t the busiest year for us as we had to cut down gigs after losing quite a few key singers. We did manage to hold three sing-a-longs throwing in the weird prospect of trying to find two hours of Halloween songs to sing with people.
We put out a new book of songs in February including many songs that really shouldn’t work on the Ukulele but once again we’ve managed to prove that this little instrument is better then the tired old repertoire of Formby. We’re well on the way to releasing our seventh book of songs which should be available in six weeks time.
2015 was also the year that we ended up selling more ukuleles than we ever imagined to every corner of the planet. If you ended up with a Moselele Ukulele and are wondering about coming along to join us then please do. There is a bit of a learning curve but just play the chords you know when they come round and you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to pick it up.
Actually as a general call out we’re always on the look out for people who can sing to come and join us. Generally the ukulele playing is a bit of an irrelevance but if we could get a few more singers involved we could get back to doing some gigs again.
Thanks to everyone who supported us last year and hello to all the people we hope to meet this year.
I hadn’t heard this song before and knew almost nothing about the band and their other songs. Seeing it for the first time, I was wary – just two chords and even just one chord shape shifted up a couple of frets didn’t fill me with much confidence. I enjoy the versatility of the ukulele and how a song with many chords like Space Oddity or Birdhouse In Your Soul become possible through the simplicity of just four strings. This seemed a bit too simple for my liking, too monotonous . . . too easy.
But we went through it. Once.
Once was all we needed – it was sensational. A chorus of voices herald the opening strains of the song in a lazy, unfixed timing. It sounds quite folk-y if you want it to and haven’t heard it before. Then a tap of a four-beat to get everyone on tempo, the B B A B chord sequence begins, never to rest until the end. The lyrics are desperate, frustrated, self-deprecating even . . . and they launch from the first line with an angst-ridden question, “Why can’t I get just one kiss?”. It‘s raw. Shameful. Brutally honest. The song demands aggression in its delivery until it suddenly breaks down into a muted acceptance and understanding – “I know you got problems, you’re not the only one”
Again, pressure builds and emotions flare into an instrumental until a second chance to take stock, share the experience and attempt one final ploy to grasp and reach for a leg of hope. And then, the ultimatum . . . giving you a decision to make. A final moment to take stock . . . a pause in the strumming to deliver the message . . .
. . . and the song reaches its destination by belting out the title repeatedly. It carries on over the final onslaught of the chorus. The pace is frenetic and the energy intoxicating. A final chord measure played tremolo (if you can) before a final single strum chord to cut the song off, pulling the plug to kill it off instantly.
I love it. There’s an awesome collaboration when we play this – from the opening a capella where we look around at each other to get the timing right, to the natural rhythm of the strumming pattern that kicks in, the breakdown, the muted strumming, the slow build, the crescendo and yes, alright then, the letting down of the hair and the head-banging! Its utter simplicity allows you the free reign to get drunk on the song’s intent and carry you off for the 4 minute journey it takes you.
We’ve used this song to start many a gig and to finish many a Thursday night. Not many songs fit that category.
You can play this yourself just by looking at the chords, or you can listen to us beat it like a dangerous dog via Soundcloud.
It was written in response to 3 members of the band walking out on Steve Harley in a dispute over writing songs for a 3rd album, only the drummer ‘staying put’. Harley was upset at what he thought was the ruining of a great working band (for only metal, what a bore)
Playing it with Moselele is fun, the quirky introduction and the few quite long pauses in the song are unusual in a pop song, but everyone seems to know instinctively how long the pauses are to be. (even when they are sometimes extended!) It is a song that I feel Moselele does superbly, and an audience really enjoys.
The timings and arrangements just work, some of the band singing the backing vocals without any sense of being assigned to the role, and it always finishes spot on, it is such a great song to play I always feel I could go on for a few verses more.
You can have a go at playing this yourself by looking at the chords or you can listen to us destroy it via Soundcloud
We were supposed to be at the Grand Southern Ukulele Festival this weekend but unfortunately they won’t be having stalls at their first event.
[Edit]I’ve been informed that GSUF will have stalls after all and we have one if we can get there, I’m not sure we can at this short notice.[/Edit]
Either way we’ve still got a load of ukuleles we’d bought and we’ll still sell them to you at festival prices direct to your home.
We had also got a uke put aside for the customary ukulele raffle, it seems a shame not to use it so one of you can have a Soprano Ukulele with gig bag for absolutely nothing.
All you need to do is share our post on Facebook and then we’ll be able to put your name in the draw. If you look at the number of people that read our Facebook page you’ll realise your chances of winning this are very high indeed, this isn’t the lottery.
On our shop page you’ll see we’ve knocked off quite a few quid off ukes and gig bags. Where else can you get a uke like this, delivered free, for £55? Nowhere that’s where.
But also a big apology to all the people that had got in touch about trying ukes out at GSUF, we’re sorry that won’t happen. We were looking forward to meeting you and all the other people that had previously bought ukes off us. We’ve never quite understood it but the Portsmouth and Southampton area is easily the part of the UK that buys the most Ukuleles from us.
My favourite is from one of the first LP’s I had, you could call it a gift from my brother in law but the truth is he wanted rid of it. Why, I can’t imagine. The song is track 1 one on side 1. It starts with a breakfast news bulletin on the radio announcing a car crash the night before……this is also the song that broke my Dansette through the raw power of electric guitars, the middle eight a bridge too far for the last flakes of crumbling solder on the corroded pickup…..it can be none other than Detroit Rock City. C’mon! And as the line says, it comes on strong.
That C5 chord at the start is a Proper Power Chord, octave C and doubled up G. The doubled up G rings through into the Eb chord that follows, and that drone drives the thing along. Enter Sandman starts the same way but then it just gets silly, instead of hitting the road.
Mind you, if Kiss were European and hitting 95 km/h, well that’d be different. So the arrangement is spot on, everybody gets going, body parts move in time to a simple rhythm and we get to sing in shouty voices. Perfect. One last thing, the Dansette was already done for really, the motor burned out and the turntable buckled. It’s now resting in the great record hop in the sky that some call Lifford Lane.
You can have a go at playing this yourself by looking at the chords, unfortunately you can’t listen to us having a go at it. It’s odd we play it every week but don’t have a copy of it anywhere. We’ll work on that.
The song which is guaranteed to put a smile on my face, particularly in the legendary third hour of Thursday Moselele nights, is Womanizer by Britney Spears.
I’m not ashamed. I will come straight out and say that I’m probably not a massive Britney fan. I didn’t know the song at all before it appeared in Book 5 (thanks Sarah). So as with all unknown songs it was a case of listening repeatedly until it becomes a horrific earworm, strumming along and trying to work it out.
It was awful. Really terrible.
But then. We tried it in a group. It was still awful… but it was fun. And perhaps there was a sliver of hope that maybe with persistence we could get there.
So we tried and tried and added some more beer and tried again. And now, it works. It’s significantly more robust in style than the original. It occasionally deviates Wurzels-style into a West Country Wummenizuur, which has the unfortunate effect of making Chris Downing collapse in hysterics. But it’s definitely one of the songs that makes everyone happy and that, for me, is what makes Moselele so much fun.
You can have a go at playing this yourself by looking at the chords or you can listen to us banging away at it via Soundcloud
I’ve been meaning to do this for ages but I thought it would be interesting to look at the favourite songs that people play at Moselele and why they like them. To start off, my guilty pleasure is Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf. Not because it’s a great song (epic might be more appropriate than great) but because it is a song that we worked really hard to get it to work. Before we were putting together Songbook 3 I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be the most ridiculous songs that we could try out on a ukulele.
I had a long list of rock ballads but in the back of my mind there was always Bat Out of Hell. It’s the epitome of pompous rock and at nearly ten minutes long is just an unreasonable ask for a group of people on tiny guitars. I mentioned this to one of the people at Moselele and he just went away and worked it out, we then never saw him again. Thanks Paul, wherever you may be these days.
When we first sat down and had a go at it we just couldn’t make it work. It was too close to the original and I think it’s fair to say that everyone had a very different recollection of how it went. It actually ended up sitting in Songbook 3 for nearly a year largely ignored. That always bothered me and I knew that if we could ever sort it out so we could play it at a gig then it would be one of the greatest moments of my life.
We ended up getting a small group of people together and simplifying it a bit, but also properly practising outside of our Prince of Wales sessions. Eventually we got it to work, it was one of the greatest moments of my life.
I love playing this because it’s got complicated parts that are actually quite easy once you see how they fit together. More importantly I love playing this because there’s always a moment after the first verse where everyone comes together and channels Meatloaf (Meatloaf isn’t dead).
You can listen to us having a go at it here. It’s shambolic but it’s fun. You can also download the chords and have a go yourself.
Have you got a favourite song that you love playing and want to tell people why?