Just for fun, he asked me to share some of my thoughts and observations about the series and what it means to me. For some reason, he thinks you might get a kick out of his Mom’s completely biased and musically unqualified perspective. Either that, or he’s just trying to distract me, so I’ll stop texting him ten times a day with “helpful” suggestions. No matter! I love talking about my very cool kid and all the incredible friends, collaborators and supporters (like you) who bring life to this project. It’s been a truly bright spot in a dark time and a source of happiness for many people.
With that said, if you’re interested in knowing more about the series, as seen from a rather quirky vantage point, buckle up! Otherwise, thanks so much for supporting the ‘Mikey and his Uke’ team and for indulging me this far. You really are the best!!
Mom’s Notes #2
SENTIMENTAL FAVOURITES FROM THE FIRST 100
A lot has been said about the way the series began, first with Mikey alone, and then with Mikey and friends doing daily ukulele videos for 100 days straight. By the time it was done, 146 different performers had been featured. If you haven’t seen it, Global News Toronto did a story that nicely captures the spirit of those first 100 videos.
I love all them, of course, but certain videos have special significance for me. For sentimental reasons, I adore the ones that include my kids and grandkids. In the Jungle (#29) and Tequila (#51) still make me laugh every time I watch them!
I also love the ones that signify special days or conjure family memories. Even though Mikey and I haven’t lived in the same city for over 20 years, we’ve always visited back and forth regularly until Covid changed things for everyone. Video #56 is a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ that Mikey released on Mother’s Day 2020, just a few months into that first wave of the pandemic. He and I had seen Bruce in concert a few years earlier, and he knew that song was one of my favourites. It was a nice reminder of all the good things waiting for us on the other side of lockdown.
Three other videos I love are complete flashbacks to when Mikey and his sister and brother were growing up. Daydream Believer (#38) is one of the many Monkees’ tunes they used to dance around to in the living room, usually wearing crazy costumes and singing into pretend microphones. The TV theme song from ‘The Littlest Hobo’ (#11) and the cheerful ‘Log Driver’s Waltz’ (#16) were both musical staples of Canadian kid-culture in the 80s. Anytime I hear those tunes, it takes me immediately back to those long-ago days.
While these six videos may not be the artistic highlights of the First 100, they mean the world to me! And in the spirit of deep diving, here’s a grainy old home video of ‘Mikey The Early Years’ perfecting his moves! Little did anyone know when this video was created that Mikey would eventually work with the artist whose sound track backs it up – the amazing Nikola Sarcevic!
Mom’s Notes #3
Favourite Female Artists
From the First 100:
Musically, I’m a huge fan of all the incredible female vocalists who came on board, but there are some whose performances affect me in a particularly personal way. I’ll begin with the beautiful and talented Amy Gabba who has become a part of our extended family through her long-time friendship with Mikey. She was one of his earliest ‘Quarantunes’ collaborators, starting way back on a joyful cover of Holiday Road (#23). As of this writing, she’s appeared in ten other videos, including three from the second phase of the series (Bro Hymn, Bad Reputation and Bonzo Goes to Bitburg). Amy is a powerhouse and never fails to impress! She’s also a great sport about her ‘Diva’ tendencies, as shown in this Amy/DC band promo below.
Mom’s Notes #4
Amy and Mikey play together often in clubs and bars and share the stage in several different bands. I love that she can belt out punk classics and power ballads with the same ease that she delivers smooth and sassy versions of pop and country songs. Here’s a clip of Amy and Mikey covering The Science of Selling Yourself Short by Less Than Jake.
What’s not to love?!?!
Mom’s Notes #5
BY AMY GABBA GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
MIKEY AND HIS UKE
When the first lockdown was being announced, there was a lot of uncertainty. I had just stepped off a plane from Mexico, knowing that our band, AMY/DC, was scheduled to play a show that night. We all come from the church of "You NEVER cancel a show. EVER." but we also didn’t want to put anyone at risk. Luckily and unluckily, the bar decided to close, so the decision was taken away from us. Suddenly, the world was shutting down.
Over the next few days, I noticed Mikey posting little ukulele videos on Facebook and taking requests. I remember asking for "Valerie" and talking to him about the "days in quarantine" count that we both had going. Most of us thought "OK. Two weeks and then we’ll all go back to normal." I never expected Mikey’s uke videos to continue past that two week mark and I don’t think anyone imagined us being where we are now – at the one year anniversary of lockdown. It's been a slow year, and at the same time, it feels like it all started yesterday.
‘Holiday Road’ (#23) was the first time Mikey did a collaboration video with more than two people. I wasn't surprised when he asked me to do harmonies on that one because he’d wanted us to cover it for a really long time. At first, I was unclear about how we would record separately. None of us were set up to record from home and we couldn't get to a studio to do it properly (as we sometimes do now) so it was mostly trial and error.
Essentially, I played Mikey’s track on my phone, into my headphones, and recorded it onto my iPad. I had no idea how it would turn out. I thought, “It’s going to sound super-amateur!”, but once Dean put it together and added drums, I loved it. After we heard the first mix, I remember Mikey saying, "Dammit, now I really want bass!!!!". At that point, his cousin Andrew was brought in, Dean added a few more harmonies, and ‘Holiday Road’ was born. For me, I think that's the moment when ‘Mikey and His Uke’ really became something; people started looking forward to a new one every day, always wondering "What’s next?"
A lot of videos followed and a lot of guests were added over the span of those first 100. My personal favourite is probably "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips (#89) because I got to do it with my sister Sara. We grew up adoring that song and always singing it, but we’d never actually covered it.
I'll also never forget "Second Hand News" with Emily Bones (#93). Warmer weather had arrived and restrictions on gatherings had loosened a bit. I was with Emily and a small group of friends, outside, celebrating a socially distanced birthday. At 11 at night, after a few too many shots of whiskey, we both stood on her front porch and "winged it" as best we could. I think it turned out pretty well, all things considered!
Oh, and the Spice Girls song (#79)! I forgot how difficult it is to sing live and dance at the same time.
COVID-19 better beat it soon before I forget how to play a live show!
At least we have Mikey and His Uke to keep us company in the meantime.
Mom’s Notes #6
Favourite Female Artists
From the First 100:
Emily Bones of the Anti-Queens is another stand-out vocalist who appeared in several of the First 100 videos, including Hold On (#89); The Kids Aren’t Alright (#41 with Noodles) and Bro Hymn (#100). Emily is an incredibly talented artist and another long-time friend and collaborator of Mikey’s. Here’s a video of them sharing a stage at Amnesia Rockfest back in 2015, doing a cover of Green Day’s ‘She’:
Mom’s Notes #7
Emily & MIKEY
Like her good friend Amy Gabba, Emily has the pipes to do everything from hardcore punk to angelic versions of pop classics. She and Mikey did a playful cover of Hotel Yorba a few years back, and it’s one of my favourites.
Emily & mikey
A lovely cover of a Ramones classic!
Mom’s Notes #8
Favourite Female Artists
From the First 100:
I’m in awe of Paige Kopp’s soul-stirring vocals on Johnny Thunders’ ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’ (#77). I haven’t met Paige yet (damn you Covid!) but I hope to see her performing live once the pandemic is behind us.
Given that everyone was just doing simple recordings on their phones when the Thunders’ video was created, the whole performance is stunning. I love the way Paige looks in this video, I love the way she sings, and I love the emotion she pours into the lyrics. When I asked her about the video, this is what she had to say:
“It was such a fun experience! Even before the video was created, I was already turning to Mikey’s daily posts to listen to all those brilliant covers of my favourite bands. It got my mind off everything else that was happening in the world, as music does!! I loved being part of this song specifically because I’m fascinated by Johnny Thunders. I love the New York Dolls too, that he had joined in the 70s, but this tune from his solo album “So Alone” has this undeniable raw emotion that makes it a hauntingly beautiful song. Watching it all come together with Mikey, Manny, Dean and myself, was exciting. And it was all done on our phones!”
I was happy to see Paige again on Sham 69s’ If The Kids Are United in the second phase of the series. Her band, Foolproof, is on fire these days, and getting lots of well-deserved attention. Here’s their video for Violet, a darkly beautiful original song released in 2020:
Mom’s Notes #9
Favourite Female Artists
From the First 100:
The exquisite Janet Turner appears a number of times throughout the First 100, most prominently in The Motley Crüe cover of Home Sweet Home ( #32). She and Mikey have been friends for years, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her several times while visiting Toronto. I can say without reservation that all the warmth and positivity she conveys through her music is a true reflection of who she really is. Janet is the real deal – not only as an artist but as a person.
When I asked Janet about the series, she said, “It was so much fun to sing on a few of the “Mikey & His Uke” Quarantune videos! I really looked forward to seeing what the next video release would be and which musician(s) would be featured so when Mikey asked me if I wanted to add some vocals I was really excited! Aside from being a new mom at the beginning of this pandemic, I didn’t really have a lot going on to help pass the time in lockdown so getting involved in these videos gave me an opportunity to be creative and do something that I really love to do and share something positive and fun with everyone. Seeing all of the reactions to the videos showed how the power of music can really help keep spirits up in such an uncertain time.”
Well said, Janet!
Mom’s Notes #10
janet & mikEy
Several years back, Janet Turner participated in a series of Rolling Stones covers that Mikey had created under the banner of Stones Soup. In hindsight, the spirit of that series – friends getting together to cover songs they love - now seems like an early template for what MIkey and his Uke would eventually become.
If you check out the Stones Soup series, you’ll find that Janet’s performance on Wild Horses (Stones Soup Vol. 7) is incredible, but my personal favourite from that series is the ensemble version of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, done with Janet, Amy Gabba, Gen Gorman and Mikey each taking a verse.
Mom’s Notes #11
Special love for noodleS
Initially, in the First 100, Mikey wasn’t reaching out to his extended network of musician friends and acquaintances. He was just calling on talented people from his immediate circle, with no intention other than bringing a little cheer to Facebook. That all began to change when Noodles came on board. He was the first internationally known artist to appear in what has now become a series of international collaborations.
Mikey had been introduced to Noodles and his son while they were all having lunch backstage at Montebello Rock Fest a few years earlier. Afterwards, they stayed in touch, and when Noodles ‘Liked’ a few of the early videos on Facebook, Mike asked if he’d be interested in helping out on an Offspring song. Noodles immediately agreed.
As Mikey’s Mom, I can’t thank Noodles enough for sharing his time and talent on that incredible video (#41 The Kids Aren’t Alright). It was such a joyful and energetic performance and a real jolt of happiness and positivity in those early days of the pandemic. As a fan, I’m in awe of his musicianship, but as a Mom, I’m even more impressed with his openness to all kinds of musical ventures – from major tours and album releases to fun little side projects with fellow musicians. The videos were keeping Mikey busy and creative in a time that would otherwise have been heartbreakingly lonely for him, and Noodles’ involvement was an amazing highlight. His appearance opened the doors to what eventually became the second phase of Mikey and his Uke. This world needs more people like Noodles!
In case you missed that early performance, here it is:
Back to the future
Harry Waters Jr.
Mom’s Notes #12
SPECIAL LOVE FOR HARRY WATERS JR.
When Mikey was growing up, our family rented a lot of movies from ‘Bandito Video’, a neighbourhood video store just down the hill from where we lived on Fairmount Drive. Yup....Fairmount Drive, as in the Fairmounts! Anyway, each of the kids had their favourite picks.
Mikey’s sister, Kim, loved ‘The Princess Bride’ and was thrilled years later when Mikey arranged for us to meet Carey Elwes who had played Wesley in that iconic film. His little brother’s movie obsession at the time was ‘Newsies’, featuring a very young Christian Bale. Danny watched it so often, and so attentively, he eventually memorized almost every line of dialogue – and can still quote much of it to this day.
For Mikey, the favourite was always ‘Back to the Future’ which had special significance for him as a budding musician. It introduced him to the music of Huey Lewis, which he still loves, and more importantly, it showed him the joy and power of an all-out stage performance. The first time he saw Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, dazzling the crowd with his rock star version of Johnny B Goode, Mikey knew it was what he wanted for himself and he’s never faltered in that decision. Just before the pandemic, he had the opportunity to tell Michael J. Fox in person how much that performance had meant to him, and how it had changed his life.
Flashing forward to 2020 and Mikey was in the midst of the First 100 videos.
As he was approaching #55, he was thinking about the year 1955, when the BTTF character of Marty McFly takes to the stage with the Starlighters’ band, led by Chuck Berry’s mythical cousin Marvin. That sparked an idea!
Over the years, Mikey had gotten to know a number of people associated with the film, and one in particular who was able to put him in touch with Harry Waters Jr., the actor who played and sang the role of Marvin Berry. Mikey reached out to him to see if he would collaborate on a cover of the Starlighters’ signature song, Earth Angel. Much to Mikey’s delight, he generously agreed.
Watching that video now, you can see how respectfully Dean, Chuck and Danny approach the task of filling in for the Starlighters. I love every aspect of their mannerly performance, but for me, it’s the look on Mikey’s face that really tells the tale. Even as he tries to hold character, he can’t stop his 12 year self from smiling all the way through the song. If there was a thought bubble over his head, it would say “Holy Shit! I’m backing MARVIN BERRY!!”.
Harry Waters Jr. holds a unique place in pop culture history and a special place in my heart because of his involvement in the First 100 ‘Quarantunes’. In case you missed it, here’s #55, Earth Angel, direct from Hill Valley High!
The inner city surfers
Mom’s Notes #13
Inner City Surfers in the First 100
Mikey toured with The Surfers for over 10 years and still counts them among his closest friends. The band never achieved much in the way of commercial success but they had a devoted following across Canada and the U.S. and were crowd favourites wherever they played. Mikey has some truly incredible stories about their escapades, about the people they met, the places they travelled, and the crazy things that happen when four musicians live together on the road for months at a time. None of those stories are really mine to tell, and there are undoubtedly many I’ve never heard (for good reason!) but I do have a very special love for the Surfers.
Members of the band appear in a number of videos in the First 100, including a cover of the Surfers’ signature song, ‘Booze ‘n Doobs’ (#83). I’m attaching a link to the original recording, which is best appreciated if you can imagine it being played in a downtown bar, filled to overflowing, with a boisterous crowd singing along to every word, clapping, stomping and belting out the chorus. There really was nothing like a live Surfers’ show!
Mom’s Notes #14
Inner City Surfers
Dave Bahun also appears on the cover of ‘Loser’ by Beck (#75) where he decided to tuck the camera into his guitar for a unique angle, and again on ‘Saturday Night’ with Blag from the Dwarves (#72), where he takes a turn on bass. Dave is an incredibly talented musician and his contributions to the whole Surfers’ catalogue are immeasurable. As an example, here’s a classic Surfers’ tune that shows off Dave’s unique guitar wizardry, with Mikey on drums, Brad Lacell on lead vocals and Dustin Jones on guitar and harmonies. It’s called ‘Pickin’ from the Country’.
Mom’s Notes #15
Inner City Surfers
Raspy-voiced Brad Lacell wrote and sang a lot of the Surfers’ most-requested tunes. He’s an angry poet who wears his heart on his sleeve, runs at life full-tilt, and bears his scars like a badge of honour. I’ve never known anyone quite like Brad, and the rawness of his music breaks my heart. He’s an incredibly gifted song-writer and this recent composition, Wanted Posters, is possibly one of his best. It definitely deserves a listen.
Mom’s Notes #16
Inner City Surfers
Aside from ‘Booze n Doobs’, Surfers bandmate Dustin Jones appears in several other videos from the First 100, including a cover of Joe Strummer’s Coma Girl (#76).
He now owns and operates Tidal Records in Sault Ste. Marie where Mikey recorded some of his guitar tracks for the second phase of the series, most notably “Jealous Again’. Dustin also appears on the cover of the Pogues, ‘Streams of Whiskey’.
He’s a prolific songwriter who currently fronts a number of popular bands, runs his studio and manages several emerging artists.
Dustin and Brad were the Surfers’ primary songwriters and vocalists, and they were a great complement to one another. In comparison to Brad, Dustin tended to write songs that were lighter, with more of a pop feel, including this fan favourite called ‘Here’s to the Days’:
Mom’s Notes #17
inner city Surfers reunion
On August 3rd, 2019, the summer before lockdown, the Surfers reunited for a 20th Anniversary show in their hometown of Sault Ste. Marie. To say that it was well received doesn’t even begin to describe the excitement the show generated. The band hadn’t performed together in nearly a decade, but they still had a loyal following who were eager to see them playing live once again. Tickets were in high demand, and there were calls for a larger venue to accommodate a larger crowd, but the band decided to keep it small so they could stay close to their audience, in classic bar-band style. The following clip from that night, captured by Soo videographer Junkyardjim, shows a typical Surfers’ performance, including the fact that Brad Lacell is wearing nothing but his socks and boots by the final set.
I’m also attaching a link to a local news story, published the following day. It was a night to remember!
Mikey wanted to do something really special for the final song of the daily series (#100!). He’d already had an incredible experience with Unity (#94), and decided to build on that collaborative spirit. He and Darrin Pfeiffer reached out to friends, fellow musicians and even a few family members (myself included) to start developing a lineup and chorus.
Many members of the chorus were familiar faces from the First 100 – people like Amy Gabba, Emily Bones, Darren ‘Mista D’ Dumas, Valerie Knox, Dean Glover and others – but there were also a lot of first-time guest performers.
I was especially excited to see George Stroumboulopoulos (Strombo) join in. For anyone unfamiliar with Strombo, he’s a well known Canadian media personality, currently living in L.A., and also a huge punk fan. As an interviewer, he’s warm and engaging and always a pleasure to watch. In his highly acclaimed ‘House of Strombo’ series, he recorded sessions in his own home featuring conversations and live acoustic performances by legendary artists such as John Prine, Bad Religion’s Brian Gaffin, The Beastie Boys and many others.
In the following clip, Strombo interviews Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighers.