The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, who play everything from punk anthems to military marches, have
been around for almost 20 years but still attract new fans to their cult re-workings of classics.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain was founded in 1985
George Formby would be turning in his grave.
Until now, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain have avoided tackling songs by the cheeky 1940s Lancastrian
film star - still associated with the instrument -
because it was just too obvious.
Most people who have picked up a ukulele in the last
60 years have done so in homage to Formby - but the
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain preferred to pay
their own unique tributes to the Sex Pistols, Gloria
Gaynor and Prince.
Now, they have finally given in to their
instrument's historical connections and added one of
Formby's best-known anthems, Leaning On A Lamppost, to
But when they do it, it becomes Lenin On A Lamppost
and is sung in a Russian Cossack style. Why? Because
it sounds great and is hilarious.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, founded in
1985, are four men in tuxedoes and two smartly-dressed women, all armed with ukuleles, except for one bass guitarist.
George Formby's 1940s films are still associated with the instrument
Their instruments could be mistaken for toy guitars
and have not been fashionable since Formby was at the
height of his popularity.
All six sing, banter with
each other and the crowd in between songs - and produce something very unusual.
They are part novelty band and part musical guerrillas, with a mission is to make
music less serious.
"We are always ready to perceive pomposity where it
exists, and it's very hard to be pompous when you're
playing the ukulele," leader George Hinchcliffe told
BBC News Online.
"We're perfectly comfortable about going on stage with
these peculiar little instruments, and if people find
it amusing, we don't mind.
"But actually, quite a
large part of it, we take fairly seriously. It kind of punctures all the pomposity and self-regard. It's hard to be a prima donna with a ukulele."
At a recent gig in London, their set included a
hilariously deadpan version of Je T'Aime, 1970s disco
hit Le Freak, the recent UK garage anthem Dynamitee
and a jaunty reworking of Kate Bush's Wuthering
Heights, sung by Hinchcliffe.
Wuthering Heights had such a rapturous response
that they hoped to release it as a single and put it
on their new album, The Secret of Life - but Bush, or
one of her representatives, refused.
"It may have been that she herself or the publisher
heard it and thought we were taking the mickey out of
it, or that we were just too ungroovy," Hinchcliffe
Although audiences are left in fits of laughter
and whooping for more, Hinchcliffe
said they did not set out to be a comedy band.
"It's grown like that lately. I hesitate to use the
word comedy because I don't know we go out of our way
to try and tell jokes, but it's light-hearted and a
bit of a spoof," he said.
There is a musical objective behind the
band, he said. It is easy to sound professional
on many instruments - but not the uke, much less many
"On a ukulele, you have to work quite hard to make it
sound like music," he said.
"Our idea was that the
essence of music could be transmitted via not just one
ukulele but lots of them, in a way that is sometimes
obscured by more complicated musical set-ups.
"Attempting to do this great big overblown
orchestration with this trivial instrument of a
ukulele as your tool is a bit of a challenge, so
whether you succeed or fail, it's making the attempt
that is the fun. I think that's what people go for."