bill 'n sue

This has absolutely no point, but here I am attempting to write, whatever I can think to say.

Some time after Joseph and I met, we were having a conversation one night when I mentioned that I was spending my evening alone, playing ukulele. I still feel like an imposter saying I play ukulele. I'm not good enough to say that I do, it seems. But then I see someone pick up a ukulele for the first time and realize that I actually have come a long way, if not as far as I would have hoped after five years of spotty effort.

I don't play it every day. I don't even play it regularly, but I do keep coming back to it in flares of creative desire and a need to get a little better at it. I struggle with a lot of complicated chords. My strum patterns are weak and inconsistent. I've only just barely started learning fingerpicking. I really don't think I can sing very well, but when I do, my range is prohibitively limited. As a lifelong pianist, reading music is my crutch when playing such a frivolous no-thought-needed-just-feel-the-music instrument. There are so many hurdles to overcome with what I thought would be the easiest instrument to learn, but I continue to come back to it and I continue to improve at my own pace.

It was that night that Joseph responded, a little surprised, "I didn't know you played the ukulele. Piano, but not ukulele. Interesting. I, too." He hadn't yet told me that he had devoted his life to learning music, so I assumed he was similar to me. Someone who casually picked it up and learned a few chords.

A month or so later, after he started sharing some of his music with me, he sent me a file titled "3.6.04" - the date of the recording featuring a much younger Joseph I've always wished I could have known. It was a cover of a George Formby song that I had never heard before. George Formby, also not a name I was familiar with, was a popular ukulele player known for some pretty tongue-in-cheek songs, like When I'm Cleaning Windows, this song Joseph sent to me.

It was the first time I had heard joy in Joseph's voice, specifically a part where he chuckles while singing the song—appropriately, as it's a song designed to make you laugh. It's a catchy song, and Joseph's version of it is fun to listen to. It's one I listened to on repeat, often, when I needed to hear that happiness he exudes in it. He suggested at one point that I should learn to play that song, and I attempted to, but the chords were beyond my level and I never tried again.

Since I moved to Asheville, we occasionally play together. Him the guitar or the ukulele, me the ukulele, me the piano, him the guitar. We have very different backgrounds with music, and our styles of learning clash, but he's patient with me, trying to catch up to his 30 years experience playing more informally than my piano background ever gave to me.

We were playing last night when he started to play When I'm Cleaning Windows. I knew it immediately - I've heard him sing that song hundreds of times now, but never in person, I don't think. I've gotten used to watching his fingers to see what chords he's playing, now that I'm able to more quickly recognize them, and somehow, I managed to play along with him. He had to show me a couple chords, but I picked it up almost immediately (aside from my nemesis, the strum pattern).

I pulled up the lyrics so I could write the chords down while they were in my mind and never have to ask him for help again. That's when I learned that the line:

Honeymoonin' couples too
You should see them Bill 'n Sue
You'd be surprised at things they do
When I'm cleanin' windows

Is actually:

Honeymoonin' couples too
You should see them bill 'n coo
You'd be surprised at things they do
When I'm cleanin' windows

It's not that I ever heard Sue in that line, either in Joseph's version or any other I've heard. It's very clearly "coo". But my brain wanted it to be Bill and Sue, so I have always assumed it was.


Although, I kind of like my version better.