England’s Finest

by Kieran Healy on June 29, 2010

No, not that lot, obviously. (I hope Rooney put a downpayment on that caravan.) But even I have started to feel just very slightly bad about the recriminations and self-hatred engulfing English football writers at present. So here, as evidence of the sort of thing England is really quite good at, is The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

One more:



John S. Wilkins 06.29.10 at 2:26 am

Ah, folk music!


Maurice Meilleur 06.29.10 at 2:32 am

This is vastly better than the original.


Guest 06.29.10 at 2:36 am

that teenage dirtbag rendition is so awesome i can barely stand to watch it.


Maurice Meilleur 06.29.10 at 2:37 am

By which I mean to praise the cover of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. And, on reflection, also the partial cover of ‘Hotel California’ in the second clip.


Kieran Healy 06.29.10 at 2:43 am

@John, they do folk as well.


Kieran Healy 06.29.10 at 2:44 am

@3: Yes.


vivian 06.29.10 at 2:58 am

that second clip is just perfect, thank you for the gift!


john c. halasz 06.29.10 at 4:32 am

Greek and Appalachian string bands are infinitely superior… Oh, but you meant that uniquely British talent for self-deprecation, as a last resort?


stostosto 06.29.10 at 10:25 am

Wonderful advice for Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard et al.: Stick to your ukuleles!


Harry 06.29.10 at 10:30 am

John — you made the same complaint last time!


Adam Roberts 06.29.10 at 11:01 am

For reasons I’m not sure I can articulate clearly, the ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ cover strikes me as twee, where the ‘Pinball Wizard’ cover works beautifully.


NomadUK 06.29.10 at 11:52 am

Were England henceforth to give naught else to the world, this would suffice.


kid bitzer 06.29.10 at 1:41 pm

yeah, i’m sorry, but this still does not top their version of the theme song from “shaft”.

i’m not sure anything tops that.


kid bitzer 06.29.10 at 1:49 pm


kid bitzer 06.29.10 at 1:59 pm

i also note that the o.p. says that england is “quite good” at ukelele.

since he’s an irishman, it’s possible that kieran was not using “quite good” in the english sense of “significantly short of excellent; notably deficient in some unstated respect.”

on the other hand, since he’s an irishman, it’s not likely.


JM 06.29.10 at 2:46 pm

Oh, how she rocks,
in kit and tube socks …

Uh, that’s not the lyric.

What will England find to redeem herself now?


Walt 06.29.10 at 3:01 pm

Now I want to buy a ukelele.

In case anyone hasn’t seen it — I like the guy who covers Europe’s “The Final Countdown” using a combination a ukelele, a kazoo, and a little kid’s toy piano, here.


Western Dave 06.29.10 at 3:52 pm

So much better than the pachabel cannon rant.


Daragh McDowell 06.29.10 at 5:48 pm

Saw them with my girlfriend a few months back and they were fantastic! Particularly recommend their version of Life on Mars:


belle le triste 06.29.10 at 6:09 pm

Just to bring sanity back to this, the cover of Teenage Dirtbag is in no sense better than the original.


Darius Jedburgh 06.29.10 at 7:48 pm

Too bad there’s no world cup of whimsy


Phil 06.29.10 at 10:33 pm

I did like “Shaft”*, but everything I’ve seen since (including these three clips) just makes me think they’re a one-joke act who had nothing to fill a whole set with but filled it anyway. I wouldn’t bracket them with Four Poofs and a Piano, but I’m tempted.

*Who’s the folk song collector who collected all the folk songs?
That’s right, it was Cecil Sharp…


Kieran Healy 06.29.10 at 11:57 pm

they’re a one-joke act who had nothing to fill a whole set with

A lot like Led Zeppelin then.


Maurice Meilleur 06.30.10 at 2:07 am

Belle, de gustibus non est disputandum, but I will say this anyway: I looked up the Wheatus video just to refresh my memory and reassure myself that my judgment was an informed one, and that I didn’t want to punch the Orchestra’s singer in the head after the first chorus the way I did Wheatus’s was an early and clear sign that I was right.

I admit this is not how I’d like my students to resolve intellectual questions, but foolish consistency and hobgoblins, etc. etc.


jacob 06.30.10 at 3:06 am

Could someone who understands music better than I please explain to me what’s going on in the second of Kieran’s clip and in the Pachabel’s Canon rant that Western Dave links to at comment 18? Is it just that all the songs are in the same key? Is it chord progression? Is it something more than that? I can tell it’s funny, and I can half-understand it, but I feel like there’s a joke I sort of get and that but that I”m standing out the outside of.

I spent far too much of my morning watching various clips of these people (thanks a lot, Kieran) and I’d say my favorite is the Pinball Wizard. I don’t what it says about me or them that they’re not actually playing their ukuleles in that one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvdpjZYLumw


Bruce Amiata 06.30.10 at 5:32 am

My fave: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLgJ7pk0X-s

(The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly).


NomadUK 06.30.10 at 8:06 am

Just so, Maurice@24.


ECW 06.30.10 at 4:57 pm

What a wonderful idea. I can’t wait for the Germans and Brazilians to take up ukulele orchestration so I can see what this sounds like done at its most creative.


john c. halasz 07.01.10 at 2:18 am

Y’all lymie’s just too snobby and sofisticated to reckon how to play bad music badly to highfalutin effect:

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