Fun Songs from the 80’s

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If you can identify these artists from the 80’s,  you were a true teen of the 80’s!

I admit it, I am biased. I started high school in the fall of 1979, and graduated in the spring of 1984 (Grade 13). I loved high school – that probably makes me weird! – and especially the music. I have fond memories of playing some vinyl at every get together with friends, and playing it loud! And then 4 years of University after that rounded out my entire decade of listening to 80’s music.

Fondest memories: Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, U2 became popular at my Uni during 1985, The Smiths, Motley Crüe, a couple Aerosmith songs, Tears for Fears, R.E.M., the Eurythmics, Poison, Metallica, a Flock, Culture Club, the Police, INXS – Holy cow, I think I just saw my whole life flash before my eyes!!

Related imageThe most influential artist ON ME during this decade of my youth was Madonna. The picture on the left is a promo shot for the movie Desperately Seeking Susan. I had a couple of albums but later I started compiling entire CD’s of her stuff and I would listen to every song, over and over and over. Here’s a true story directly related to her influence: I had a 45 of her singles Lucky Star and Border Line. I had just put the needle on the vinyl and was about halfway through Lucky Star when my mother came charging up the stairs, into my room and ripped it right off the turn-table. She snapped it right in half, LOL! Mom, if you’re reading this, it back-fired on you because that made me like Madonna even more! Long live Madonna!

Other Madonna songs with that similar “fun bop” to them are Into the Groove and Like a Virgin from 1984, and Open Your Heart from 1986. Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody from 1987 also has the “fun bop” sound that I associate with the 80’s according to my memories. Movies like Flashdance and Footloose epitomized the music of this decade.

So without going too far into “big hair” band discussion, I am just going to provide as many songs as I can from the previous list, and hope that ukulele enthusiasts will enjoy my representation of the music of the 80’s as much as I do 🙂

Queen/Freddy Mercury: Crazy Little Thing Called Love

The Police: Every-Breath-You-Take-by-The-Police

George Michael: Faith

Kenny Loggins: Footloose

Cyndy Lauper: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Eurythmics: HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAINSweet Dreams

Foreigner: I Want To Know What Love Is

Culture Club/Boy George: Karma Chameleon (Word)

The Cure: Lovesong by the Cure

Madonna: MATERIAL GIRLLike A Prayer (Word)

Billy Joel: The Longest Time

Men Without Hats: The Safety Dance (PDF)

Michael Jackson: The Way You Make Me Feel (Key of G)(PDF)

Katrina and the Waves: Walking On Sunshine (G)

Bon Jovi: YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME by Bon Jovi

Hits of the 80’s, Part 2: Canadian

Okay, okay. I already wrote enthusiastically about this, in a previous article in June. The problem is, I have this…. condition. Called…. “Sometimers”. And, even with the very best intentions, this….. ailment gets the best of me occasionally. Technically speaking, the True Colors Sunglasses at Night post was actually Part 1 making Part 1: Country Part 2.

Clear as mud?

To enjoy what I already wrote, go here: Related image

And, coming up! Hits of the 80’s, Part 3: Fun Pop, will actually be the third, and final, chapter in this examination of the genre. (I’m just doing this because I have a ukulele theme night coming up August 7th, OK?)


Hits of the 80’s, Part 1: Country

Image result for 80'sI know the music of the 80’s has a reputation as being quirky, fun even, but to truly represent the musical hits of the 80’s I wanted to look at Country Hits of the era as well as Canadian, Pop and British or European, in as far as what made it onto the radio waves here in North America.

Part One is COUNTRY.

Here is one of our karaoke favorites and was a big hit on the Country Hits chart in 1982 and won Willie Nelson a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

Always On My Mind  Image result for Willie Nelson

The Oakridge Boys had a massive hit with this light-hearted and fun song called Elvira, still within the country music genre in 1981.


Neither one of these songs was actually written in the 80’s. Elvira was written in 1965 and Always on My Mind was written in 1972 by Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson. But who made it famous? These guys. Willie Nelson’s version actually won him a Grammy Award, and Elvira put the Oakridge Boys on the country music map.

Image result for Grandpa tell me bout the good old days

The 80’s was a great decade for a mother and daughter singing duo who called themselves, quite simply, The Judds. Their country hits were Mama He’s Crazy in 1984, Have Mercy in 1985 and Grandpa (Tell Me Bout the Good Old Days) in 1985.

Grandpa Tell Me Bout the Good Old Days

Other personal country favourites from this decade are Fishing in the Dark, 1987 by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as I Told You So by Randy Travis, 1988.

Stay tuned for Hits of the 80’s, Part 2: Canadian.  🙂 


Truly Madly Deeply

Image result for Savage GardenI’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasy…

Dreamy Australian band, Savage Garden invaded our Canadian air-waves in the late 1990’s and this song became one of the most-requested wedding songs.

Although we can’t reproduce the deep bass beat (unless we have someone who plays the U-bass…) we can still convey the romantic feel of this song.

In 1997 “Truly Madly Deeply” was the No. 1 hit, until January 1988 when Celine Dion’s song from the movie Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On”, bumped it down to No. 2, where it remained for 10 weeks until it returned to No. 1 again for the rest of the year.

Over the last 5 years or so Jeff and I have been to about 10 weddings and at 3 of those, “Truly Madly Deeply” was the Bride and Groom’s song. Nice, ay?


True Colors Sunglasses at Night

Related imageTwo iconic songs of the 80’s: True Colors and Sunglasses at Night.

Corey Hart, the underdog crooner of the 80’s, a Canadian from Montreal no less. (However, it worked for Celine Dion, did it not? LOL) I wasn’t too fond of The Boy in the Box (my hubby loves that song) but I could really party to Sunglasses at Night.

As I have told my kids and hubby numerous times: we sang this song in the hallways of my high school going between classes and my Grade 12 started a daily movement to wear sunglasses in classes, to the point where the Vice-Principal had to enforce a strict no-sunglasses rule. Yeah! That was us! We did that! VHSS Class of 84! GOD what a fun year! (We also used to sing Wasn’t That a Party between classes as loud as we could, but this is beside the point…..)

Enter Corey Hart, great looking clean-cut guy, great hair, big kissable lips, I mean, what a heart-throb! The picture of him in his brown leather jacket was taped onto every girl’s closet door, I’m sure. Sunglasses at Night came out in 1983/84 along with his other platinum hit, Never Surrender, but the real romance started when he released Can’t Help Falling in Love in 1986. I was in second year of Uni and girls were swooning over this song all night long.

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Lately, she’s been looking a little more like this, with the pink hair. Promoting her True Colours Fund which can be found at her website, cyndilauper dot com
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This look is how I remember her: wild looking a little bit off the cuff.

When Cyndi Lauper’s debut album She’s So Unusual hit the stores in 1983, we couldn’t get enough of it: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Time After Time, She Bop, All Through the Night, to name a few of the good ones. Set in the midst of the new-age techno sound, we bopped and ‘lauped’ to  all. True Colors in 1986 became a national anthem of sorts.

(Hopefully the vid is there for Sunglasses. I haven’t had much luck with the one for Octopus’s Garden showing up.)

Here are my ukulele arrangements of these two songs:



Cat’s Jam Songs

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Ahhhh, jammin’ at the Legion – what a terrifying thought!!! No way, no how, right?!

WRONG! You too can rule at the Legion jam session. Just don’t let them push you around. These here people are seasoned professional jammers, don’t kid yourself for one second. And how do we “little ukulele players” fit in with that?

Bring your chord wheel, your ukulele chord charts and your Chords in Keys charts, and lay them out. Practice your strumming techniques. Pray that there will be a stand-up bass play to help the group keep time, and bring a friend. The friend is there to sit right beside you and fetch you a drink or two (whether non-alcoholic or not is up to you).

It can be daunting. We are used to playing in a big group where every instrument is some variation of a ukulele from soprano to U-bass. That is the landscape we are used to looking at. When you sit in on a jam session you may feel out of place. You will be surrounded by – this is a given – guitar players for sure, and then a smattering of fiddle players, and then a range of instruments from one or two banjo’s to a mandolin, dulcimer or harpsichord. You just never know and it usually varies from week to week.

Also, I need to interject here, there is a VERY big difference between sitting in on the local informal jam session “down the pub” or “down the Legion”, and the organized jam session of an art, such as Hamilton Irish Arts. You can’t join in on that one,  but you are welcome to listen as a patron of the bar. Typically, speaking in general, you have to be invited. I believe you can approach the hosts of the event and introduce your instrument but generally unless you can prove yourself to be proficient in that art, you won’t be allowed to participate as a player.

At the informal pub jam, there is usually a leader of the group, or you may recognize him or her as “the host”. So that person usually makes an effort to introduce themselves and ask your name so that they can introduce you to the group. If the group has a large number of males and only one or two females, and you are a female, they generally are glad to see you and will make more of an effort to keep you because your singing voice helps even out the sound of the group. This jam takes place for two reasons: wanting to play with others, and the deal made with the establishment to bring in patrons, therefore 50% of what they are doing is to entertain the patrons who are gathered around to listen. Sometimes the patrons want to sing with. That is also comforting because the louder everyone around you is, the less they can hear you if you make mistakes, so you feel better about the situation.

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The leader or host, usually keeps the song selection going by keeping the participants selecting songs. This is what I call “karaoke style” where each player is asked what song they want to do, in the same order no matter if new players join in half-way through or whatever. Sometimes the player selects a song that they want someone else in the group to lead, sometimes the player passes, sometimes the player stands up and performs a song alone. In which case we politely listen. The key here is to go with the flow.

Depending on the leader or host, he or she might be accommodating the players by making the key of each song known, and in some cases the leader will call it to the group. There isn’t usually a lot of discussion beforehand because this is not a teaching situation. Either you know the song and are able to join in or you don’t. If the leader feels like calling out the chords, he or she will but it is not their job. They don’t have to so you should not rely on that happening with consistency. Sometimes all you’re told is the key, ie. “Jambalaya in C”. Sometimes they all just launch into a song and it’s up to you to figure out the key. If there are other uke players in the group, you can figure out the chords by looking off them. If not, you might be able to pick up what the left-hand formation of chords like C and G look like on a guitar player and figure it out from there.

If you are at least told which key, then if you have your chord finder before you or a Chords in Keys chart, then you can make your way through the song by listening to when they change chords and try to establish the pattern of chords. Is it C then F then back to C, twice? And keep a pen and paper handy to jot that down if you need to.

Another calling situation would be if the leader tells you the key the song is in, followed by letters. This refers to the circle of fifths and is a notation of the specific chords of the key. So for example if they say, “Key of C, one four five” that means, the first, fourth and fifth chords in the key of C. How do we figure that out? In this example, the first chord is C. Then we use counting. If C is the first chord, then D is the second one, and so on. In this example the chords being used will be C, F and G, and some variation such as C7, Fm and G7, etc. For the key of G, G chord would the first chord, then by counting, the fourth chord would be C and the fifth one would be D. Even better, just keep the Chords in Keys chart in front of you so you can figure it out quicker. As time goes by you will get faster at this.

Chords in Keys chart This is my rendition, it’s not perfect but you will get the idea. 🙂

It is a good experience for any of us to at least try. I feel that I am now so much better at “listening”  to chord changes and have developed a better ability to “play by ear”. It has helped me when developing my own song arrangements. And I have a better understanding of songs that are good for group performing and which keys are actually better for group singing. There are many songs that I redid just because I needed a better key for my personal singing range, but that did not mean that that key was any good for the group to sing. Because of this idea you might now appreciate why a song is available from large uke groups online, in a certain key. When you start to sing it, try to imagine hearing a range of other voices. That’s why we bring them to group.

Below are the jam songs I usually hear down the Legion, plus a few of my own:

Abilene C         DIRTY OLD TOWN C          From a Jack to a King      Pick Me Up On Your Way Down     The Gambler       The Yellow Rose of Texas      We’re Here For a Good Time       You Never call me by My Name

Other suggestions are: Jambalaya, King of the Road, Eagles songs, Could I Have this Dance, Wagon Wheel, I Walk the Line and others by Johnny Cash, Singin’ the Blues, You Are My Sunshine, gospels like I Saw the Light, and Irish songs like I’ll Tell Me Ma and The Black Velvet Band.


Back in the Ukulele Again!

So we all set up at the Harvest Crossing retirement plaza and who should saunter in, but the man himself, Peter McAvoy!

I know! I could hardly believe it myself! Here are the pictures to prove it:

Fb group 1Fb group 2

We were just that much happier to play Irish songs when our friend was well enough to be able to join us. We had been practicing for 4 weeks and one of our goals was to get the residents singing along with us, which we were able to do. We felt very proud of our efforts when Karen Rohrer, the facility activity co-ordinator, complimented us afterwards. Thank you, Harvest Crossing ~ see you next year!

20 Irish Songs pdf

Related imageHi, here is a pdf doc that contains 20 songs that the T’Ukes have been playing since 2 years ago, plus a few new ones. We have a little gig coming up at the Harvest Crossing in Tillsonburg on Saturday, March 10 at 1:30 so we need to get ready for that.

ALSO: Our friend, Peter McAvoy, had a little heart surgery last week, so the group wants to play Wasn’t That a Party for him when he comes back. I hear he’s doing really well, and a good friend of his family even texted me a pic of him in the hospital holding two thumbs up. I’ll be he can’t wait to get out of there!

At any rate, please enjoy the pdf doc, it’s free to all.


Cat Krestel Porritt

Irish Song Book 2018