Monday, February 21, 2011

Greg Hawkes: Eleanor Rigby

The timing of this recording’s feature on Reading Between the Grooves has no connection to yesterday’s baritone uke feature. I had been planning on using Greg Hawkes’ ukulele cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and had promised a co-worker that I would feature it during the near future. She is a personal friend of Hawkes and had not heard this 2008 recording from his CD “Beatles Uke.”

Hawkes was the former keyboardist of The Cars and may be the shortest male rock n’ roller. He stands 5’ 2” tall which is one inch shorter than guitarist Nils Lofgren. In this video featuring four incarnations of Greg Hawkes wearing a Chairman Mao type outfit, Greg plays all four sizes of ukulele. Three of which are made by the C.F. Martin Company of Nazareth, PA. They include the soprano, tenor, and baritone models. The pineapple shaped concert model is made from an unknown (to me) manufacturer. I tried finding the brand on this one, but several companies make pineapple shaped ukes.

The difference between the various ukes is not that great and for the most part sopranos, concerts, and tenors are only differenced in size and are all tuned G C E A with the G sting an octave higher. This tuning is the infamous “My dog has fleas” tuning. This is a fourth higher than the guitar. Some variations include a tuning fifth higher than guitar for the soprano version (A D F# B) and some prefer to use a lower G string on the larger tenor uke.

The size differences are 13” for sopranos, 15” for concerts, and 17” for tenors. The much larger (19”) baritone ukulele is tune like the four high guitar strings as D G B E. The baritone uke does not employ an octave sting.

The Beatles Original

A departure from previous recordings, Eleanor Rigby features Paul McCartney on lead and harmony vocals and John Lennon and George Harrison singing harmony. Ringo Starr does not perform on the cut; however, he did provide some of the song’s lyrical content as did Beatle friend Pete Shotton.

The instrumentation is a string octet that included four violins, two violas, and two ‘cellos. The single was a double sided number one hit with “Yellow Submarine” in most countries. In the US, “Yellow Submarine” charted at #2 and “Eleanor Rigby” placed at #11.

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