Talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English understand the subtle codes of polite language when making requests and giving information in professional and personal contexts. In the conversation we explore the topic and consider some tips for making your language more culturally appropriate.
In this episode I am talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English to find the right tone in their speaking and writing. Tone is something which is very much affected by culture and often relates to things like being direct, indirect, formal, informal, the use of modal verbs and phrasal verbs and so on. In English the general tone is often quite friendly, indirect and polite, and this can sometimes cause problems for English speakers coming from different places where codes of politeness or professionalism are different.
Natasha has worked as an English teacher and has also worked in international contexts for the UN and so she has direct experience of observing people communicating in English and not quite getting the tone right.
So in her book, “Give me tea, please. Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language” she lays out a sort of style guide with theory, practical tips and a glossary of defined vocabulary at the back.
It sounds like an interesting book which could be a worthwhile read for my listeners, so I thought it would be good to chat with Natasha a little bit and explore some of the ideas presented in her book.
“Give me tea, please” is currently available on Amazon but from 24 September should be available from all other providers too.
Right, so now you know what sort of thing we’re going to be talking about, let’s meet Natasha Broodie and find out some of those practical tips for tasteful language.
Learn English from some jokes in this episode as we go through 9 jokes chosen as the best of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe stand up comedy scene this year (2021). Let me tell you the jokes, see if you understand them, and then I will break them down for language learning opportunities. Video version available.
Hello listeners, hello video viewers. How are you? How is the world treating you today? Not too badly I hope.
Here’s a new episode. So stick with me. Listen closely. Pay attention. You can definitely learn some new English from this. Let’s get started.
It’s time to dissect the frog again as we look at some of the most popular jokes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of this year 2021. I’m going to read them to you and then explain them so you can understand them fully and also learn some new vocabulary in the process.
This is something I’ve been doing every year at the end of the Ediburgh Festival when the list of the most popular jokes is published in the newspapers.
Last year I didn’t do one of these episodes because Ed Fringe got cancelled due to Covid-19.
But the festival was back this year, so here we go again. Let’s find some popular jokes told by comedians at the fringe and use them to learn English.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Just in case you don’t know, the Edinburgh Fringe (full name: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe) is a huge comedy festival that happens every August in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.
Sometimes it’s called The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, The Edinburgh Comedy Festival, Ed Fringe, just The Fringe or simply Edinburgh.
It’s one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world, and every August comedians travel to the city in order to perform comedy to the large crowds of people who travel there.
For comedians August in Edinburgh is a huge opportunity to get exposure and experience, but it is very tough, especially at the beginning when you have to drum up an audience of people to come to your shows every day.
Just in case you didn’t know, stand-up is a form of entertainment that involves one comedian standing on stage with a microphone telling stories and jokes in an effort to make the audience laugh. It is an extremely popular form of entertainment in the English speaking world.
This episode is about specific jokes told by comedians during the fringe this year, but stand-up comedians don’t really just go up and tell individual jokes one after the other (except in the case of some specific comedians), rather they fit their jokes into stories, observations about the world or confessions about themselves.
However, this list of the “best jokes from the fringe” just picks simple one or two line jokes from people’s performances.
Lower Your Expectations Now😅
I expect that taking these jokes away from their original performances will not help the jokes.
They will probably be less funny outside the comedy show that they came from because we’re going to remove the context of the joke, the attitude and personality of the comedian who told the joke and what was happening in the room that particular evening. All those elements have a huge impact on how funny the joke will be.
So, it’s not very fair to judge these jokes on their own like this, outside of their original context, but this is still an interesting experiment in learning English, so here we go.
Here’s how we’re going to do this
First I will read each joke one by one.
There are 9 jokes in total.
How many jokes do you “get”?
If you “get” a joke, it means you understand why it is funny.
Ideally you will laugh, but you can also groan.
If you don’t understand it you need to say “I don’t get it!”
The main thing is: You have to notice and acknowledge that a joke has been told to you.
So, listen to the jokes, do you get them all?
Then I will go through each joke one by one and I will break them all down, explaining exactly how they work, showing you double meanings, explaining any specific vocabulary or cultural reference points and giving you all the information you need to be able to understand these jokes properly.
There is a lot of vocabulary to be learned from this, which I will highlight as we go through and recap at the end.
So, get ready, it’s time to dissect the frog again.
Of course, I have to say the quote:
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.
I expect I will be killing all these jokes by explaining them.
You’re not meant to explain jokes, and if you do, the joke suddenly becomes less funny.
Most jokes work by surprise.
Getting the double meaning instantly is usually the only way to find a joke funny.
So I can’t guarantee that you will laugh at these jokes, but this is certainly going to be good for your English in any case.
A lot of these jokes use
synonyms (different words with a similar meaning),
common fixed expressions and sayings
homophones (different words that sound the same)
similies (finding similarities between otherwise different things),
pull back & reveal (revealing extra information to change the situation)
Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021
I’m getting this list from the website Chortle.co.uk which is the UK’s number 1 comedy website.
1. “I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”
– Masai Graham
2. “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.” – Ivor Dembina
3. “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.”
4. “The roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.”
– Adele Cliff
5. “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.”
– Leo Kearse
6 “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.”
– Will Mars
7. “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.”
– Sameer Katz
8. “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.”
– Rich Pulsford
9. “People say zoos are inhumane. But that’s because they’re for animals.”
– Sameer Katz
Now let’s go through those jokes again and break them down so you can understand them fully, picking up bits of vocabulary along the way.
Broken down versions (sorry frogs)
1. “I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”
– Masai Graham
2. “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.” – Ivor Dembina
Common phrase: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
3. “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.” – Tom Mayhew
To be into role play
Role play – pretending to be someone else, often during sex to make it more interesting.
To pretend to be someone / to do something
He pretended he was James Bond
She pretended she still loved him.
4. “The Roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.” – Adele Cliff
This is a pun – a word joke and it’s just that one thing sounds like something else.
“Julius Caesar” sounds like Julius sees her, which is why his wife hates playing hide and seek because Julius always sees her. Julius Caesar. I think you get it.
To play hide and seek
5. “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.” – Leo Kearse
Oooh, this is a bit of a groaner. That’s where you go Oooooh like it almost hurts.
“Heard it through the grapevine” is one of Marvin Gaye’s most famous songs.
“Herd” can mean to move a group of animals in a certain direction, like sheep or cows. You herd your sheep into a field.
Marvin used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. A vineyard is a place where you grow grapes for wine.
The grapevine is where the grapes grow, but there’s also an idiom “through the grapevine” meaning when you hear people gossiping about something, or you over hear people talking about something.
In the case of the song, he hears that his girlfriend is cheating on him and he hears it through the grapevine.
He heard it through the grapevine. He heard rumours or gossip about it.
He’d herd it through the grapevine. He attempted to move the sheep around through the grapevines of the plants in the vineyard.
To herd sheep
To hear something on/through the grapevine
This is too much of a stretch and if you get the joke please let me know. Write a comment in the comment section – do you get the Marvin Gaye joke?
6. “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.” – Will Mars
This is quite a clever little joke. Everything took longer in the past – travelling, communicating etc.
Marriages seemed to last longer, but everything took longer back then.
7. “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.” – Sameer Katz
This is quite funny and of course it hits two of my favourite notes, well three in fact: Star Wars, France and speaking English.
There is a common misconception that French people arrogantly refuse to speak English in Paris let’s say,
but I find that French people are more willing to speak English than it seems, and in fact they’re a bit more shy than arrogant, and if a French person in Paris speaks French to you, that’s quite normal as you are in France.
Also, rather than being arrogant, a lot of French people just feel quite self conscious about their accent and certain common mistakes that French people often make. They also might have bad memories from English lessons at school which knocked all the confidence out of them, and they’re afraid to be judged by each other. So it’s more likely to be shyness than arrogance.
8. “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.” – Rich Pulsford
This is a clever little joke.
To have an inkling means to have a suspicion or an idea of something.
“I don’t know who stole the last biscuit, but I have an inkling. Or I have an inkling of an idea who took that biscuit, and I think it was you!”
But an inkling does sound like a small spillage of ink from a pen. A small puddle of ink, or ink on your hand. An inkling.
What do we call that? I don’t know, but I have an inkling!”
To have an inkling
9. “People say zoos are inhumane. But that’s because they’re for animals.” – Sameer Katz
I’m not sure I have to explain that, do I?
Being humane means treating people in reasonable and humanistic manner.
Treating people with respect, dignity, justice.
Inhumane is the opposite – and although it includes the word human, we do use this word to refer to the cruel treatment of animals.
Keeping animals in a cage is inhumane.
Even though they’re animals, we still use the word inhumane, and this is just a funny little thing that can make you laugh when you notice it.
Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.
It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.
The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.
Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.
I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.
The aims of this episode
To entertain you with a really engaging story in English. Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.
To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English. It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language. Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style. This can really strengthen your English in various ways.
To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way. Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.
To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book. Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.
This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.
You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.
Context of the story and the writing style
War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.
This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.
This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.
The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.
A note about the language and the writing style
The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.
As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.
Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.
There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.
Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.
This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.
This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.
This is quite scary stuff
I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.
Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.
Useful Links & Sources
Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.
Project Gutenberg I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.
These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.
The story is told by an unnamed narrator.
He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.
I. THE EVE OF THE WAR.
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]
With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.
No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.
It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.
Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens
That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.
Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.
Ogilvy the Astronomer
The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.
So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.
6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.
Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.
Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.
6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.
As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.
The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.
The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.
Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.
The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.
The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.
The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.
Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations
The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder. Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful) Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.
IV. THE CYLINDER OPENS. The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice: “Keep back! Keep back!” A boy came running towards me. “It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.” I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active. “He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one. “Keep back!” said several. The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit. “I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!” I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in. The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes. I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another. A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring. A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather. Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air. Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread. [It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one] Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture. I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things. There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled. Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.
Summary of Chapter 4
As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered. A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view. Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents. One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd. The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit. The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere. The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line. The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.
Learn English with The Beatles as we explore lyrics from Beatles songs and pick out some idioms, descriptive language and other vocabulary for you to learn. Featuring Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast.
In this episode you can learn English with The Beatles as we look at specific bits of English which appear in the lyrics of their songs.
I’m joined again by Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion on John Lennon Podcast. Antony is also an English teacher and something of a John Lennon expert. He is also a musician, and a lot of the credit for this episode goes to him, because he did most of the preparation, going through lyrics of Beatles songs and picking out specific use of English, including certain phrases and idioms.
This is like a quiz actually. Can you name the songs when Antony plays them?
Can you beat me?
Can you name the songs from the lyrics and from the music?
There are a few references to The Rutles and Neil Innes of course, but for us those songs are all part of The Beatles extended universe.
I’ll chat to you again at the end of the episode and will sum up some of the bits of language that come up, but now let’s get started.
Phrases / Vocabualry
Using lots of pronouns, me, you, us, I etc
Using more imagery in the lyrics
I’m going to love her until the cows come home
A chip on my shoulder
My heart went boom when I crossed that room
Buzz, hum, boom (Onomatopoeia)
It won’t be long ‘til I belong to you
I don’t know why she’s riding so high
To be on your high horse
I’ll make a point of taking her away from you
I sat on her rug biding my time, drinking her wine
This bird has flown
Please don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away, and after all, I’m only sleeping
If she’s gone I can’t go on, feeling two foot small
Feeling 10 foot tall
Ouch, you’re breaking my heart
To upset the applecart
Where there’s a will there’s a way
He was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
Or an iron hand in a velvet glove
Working like a dog
Sleeping like a log
Sleeping like a baby
If you need a shoulder to cry on
To give someone a shoulder to cry on
To open up the doors
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
It was anotherstring to their bow
There is a place, where I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue
To feel blue
Everybody’s green because I’m the one who won your love
Green = 1. Jealous 2. inexperienced
Oh dear what can I do, baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue
When the sun shines they slip into the shade, and sip their lemonade
With tangerinetrees and marmaladeskies, cellophane flowers of yellow and green
No-one I think is in my tree
Nobody is on my wavelength
Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower
The clouds will be a daisy chain, so let me see you smile again
Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering, in the sun
My mother was of the sky, my father was of the earth but I am of the universe and you know what it’s worth
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
Don’t need a gun to blow your mind
No longer riding on the merry go round, I just had to let it go
How are you doing? How is everything in your particular part of LEPland today as you listen to this? What’s going on? Where are you? How are you? Who are you? How’s your English? OK I hope.
This podcast is here to help by giving you a source (not sauce) of authentic English to listen to on a regular basis. There are various ways you can use the podcast to improve your English but let’s just keep it simple and say – all you need to do is listen, try to follow what is being said and hopefully enjoy the process, even if it’s a bit difficult to understand every single thing. Sometimes you will find notes and transcripts on the page for each episode on my website. Checking them can also be a good idea.
I have another guest today. Marie Connolly is back on the podcast in this episode. She came over to the flat a few weeks ago to record this conversation.
I know Marie from doing stand up comedy both in London and Paris. Like a lot of my friends she does stand-up, and she has also worked as an English teacher but these days the main thing she does is write – she is mainly a writer now – an author – writing books both for adults and for children.
You might remember Marie from episode 683 in October last year, when she told us some funny stories about moments when French men have flirted with her, and the book that she wrote which contains all those stories. Episode number 683 – that’s the last time Marie was on the show.
But she is back again to tell us about a new series of books she has written, this time for children. So, if you know any kids aged 8 or above, and you want to encourage them to read something fun in English, these books could be a good choice. They are written for people with English as a first language, so they’re not for beginners, but they are fun and if your kids can read English, they might like these stories.
She’s going to tell us about those stories and the process of writing and self-publishing them but this conversation also contains lots of other stuff too – including different types of extreme sports, the classic old topic of doing comedy to audiences from different countries, an anecdote about the time Jerry Seinfeld came to one of our comedy shows, some comments from listeners in response to Marie’s last apperance, and more stuff for your listening pleasure.
Right then. So let’s now enjoy the company of Marie Connolly once again. I will speak to you a bit more on the other side of this conversation, and here we go…
Thanks again to Marie Connolly there. You can find her books on Amazon – her writing alias is Muddy Frank, and you could search for Dude’s Gotta Snowboard.
There are also links on the page for this episode on my website.
So thanks again to Marie.
So how’s everything going with you?
I will say that things are pretty busy here, with a lot of work going on and also some fairly complicated general life stuff – basically, we are in the process of moving to a new flat, and if you’ve moved flat or moved house, you’ll know how complex and disruptive that can be.
Of course, all our possessions will have to be packed in boxes, moved to a completely new place and then unpacked, and that’s after all the decoration and work we’re having done on the new place and all that stuff. I will be leaving my pod room, taking everything down. All the books are coming off the shelves, all my equipment will be boxed up, all the guitars are coming down, everything is moving.
What is cool is that I am going to have my own dedicated office/recording space/pod-room.
It’s going to be incredibly small – more of a cupboard than an office, but it will be my HQ for LEP, and it’s not going to be part of our new flat. It’s in a completely different location, but it’s 5 minutes on foot from our new place. Anyway, we have a LOT of stuff to get done and our lives will be kind of turned upside down over the next couple of months, plus we want to do a trip to the UK for a holiday and various other things, so I don’t know how this is going to affect the podcast. I suppose there’s a chance I won’t be able to record, which would be a pity, although I’m sure you’d understand. I would have to publish some premium content though.
Luckily I have a few episodes recorded and edited and ready to be published, and they will continue to arrive over the next few weeks, but meanwhile, things in LEP HQ are a little bit chaotic at the moment. I won’t go into it in further detail at this moment, but as I said I will try to publish a rambling episode with news and comments about what’s going on and maybe I’ll respond to some listener comments and stuff like that soon, ok. In any case, podcasts will be arriving as normal at least for the next 4 or 5 weeks, so everything should be ship shape in podcastland, even if things are a bit crazy behind the scenes. We will see if I can continue to create and publish content during the madness of the next few months.
I said I wouldn’t ramble here. I’ll save it all for a full on rambling episode next time.
In any case, I hope you are well out there in podcastland.
At the end of the episode I thought I would sing a couple of songs which I’ve been playing recently.
The second part of my conversation with Antony Rotunno (John Lennon podcaster, English teacher) in which we discuss adjectives of personality, with John Lennon as a case study. Vocabulary list available.
Welcome to this brand new episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Here it is, another episode of my podcast, from me to you, in which I help you try to learn this wonderful language that we call English, and I am here to try to help you do it, in ways that I hope you will find interesting and motivating.
So, how are you doing out there in podcastland today? I hope things are pretty good all things considered.
You are now listening to the fourth in my Beatles mini-series and the second part of this double episode I’m doing about describing John Lennon using various adjectives of personality.
I’m assuming here that you have heard the first part of this. If you haven’t heard the first part of this double episode then you need to go and listen to that. It’s probably the previous episode to this one, ok?
I’m still talking to Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast. Antony is also an English teacher with plenty of experience. So I think he’s the perfect guest for this podcast series, and let’s continue going through this list of adjectives we compiled, and let’s see if we can use them to discuss John Lennon’s life, his psychology, his personality.
In the last episode we covered adjectives from A to I. It’s a sort of a rough A-Z, and we did A to I last time so let’s do the rest of the alphabet, more or less.
We might skip a few letters here and there but I’m sure that you’ll forgive us.
Just before we continue, let me read out the list of adjectives. Like last time, we don’t go into full detail about all of these, but have a listen and consider these things: whether you know these words, whether you don’t know them, whether you use them and whether you don’t and also what’s the word stress for these adjectives? How many syllables are there and which syllables are the stressed ones? It can also be useful to consider what the noun or verb forms of these adjectives are, if they have them, and sometimes you’ll hear us using the different forms of these words in these word families as well.
Adjectives of Personality J-Z
O o o <—- these symbols show the number of syllables and word stress in a word. For example, “podcast” = O o (two syllables, the first syllable is stressed)
Jealous O o, Jittery O o o (Also: to have the jitters, to be on edge, to be nervous, to be anxious)
Knackered O o, Kind-heartedo O o
LovableO o o
Misunderstood o o o O, Multi-facetedo o O o o
Narcissistic o o O o, Nasty O o, Nervous O o, No-nonsenseo O o
Open O o, Originalo O o o
Paranoid O o o, Progressiveo O o
Questioning O o o, Quick-witted O- O o (Also: to have the gift of the gab)
Reclusive o O o, Restless O o, Reveredo O
Sensitive O o o, Sensible O o o, Sentimental o o O o, Superstitious o o O o
Talented O o o, Tragic O o, Traumatised O o o, TroubledO o
Uncompromising o O o o o, Unconventionalo o O o o
Warm-hearted o O o, Well-read o O, Wise, WittyO o
(not) Xenophobic o o O o (this is the only adjective I could think of that begins with an X!) (xylophone and x-ray are other words beginning with x – but they’re not adjectives of personality)
Yellow O o / Yellow-bellied O o – O o (cowardly), YouthfulO o
Zealous O o, Zen
Also: Childish O o / childlike O o
We also cover a few common false friends in this episode, so listen out for those.
Embarrassed o O o
Suburbs O o / slums
Sensitive O o o / sensible O o o
That entire list is available for you to see on the page for this episode on my website. The link is in the description.
Now, I read that list of adjectives pretty quickly. If you didn’t catch the word stress, or in fact if you feel you need to explore these words more slowly, you can always just check the word list on the website page … and copy+paste them into an online dictionary, where you’ll see phonemic transcriptions of the words (so you’ll know how they are pronounced, including word stress) you’ll be able to hear someone say the words, and you’ll get definitions and examples and so on.
OK, so – I always encourage you to check words that you discover in episodes of this podcast in your own time, and I refer you back to episode 720 for more information about how to do that.
OK, so without any further ado, let’s jump back into my conversation with Antony about John Lennon, and here we go.
Thank you again to Antony for his contribution to this episode.
Let me suggest again that you check out Antony’s podcast if you’d like to hear more in depth discussions about John Lennon. It’s called Glass Onion: On John Lennon and you can get it wherever you get your podcasts. I must say, it is an excellent listen.
Right, so that’s not quite it for Beatle-themed episodes. The last in the series is with Antony too, and that’s where we turn to look at the music (or should I say listen to the music?) In any case, the next part of this series is all about the music and lyrics, especially the lyrics and Antony is going to guide us through a little exploration of words and phrases in Beatles songs, looking at nice idioms, uses of metaphor and other features that you should find interesting from a language learning point of view. And Antony got his guitar out for that too, so we also get treated to little snippets of songs as we go.
So, you can look forward to the final episode in the series, coming soon.
I say final episode, there’s nothing stopping me from doing more episodes with Beatle themes in the future, and I do plan to do that actually. I’d like to do some specific song breakdowns in which I could explore the story behind a particular song, then play the song for you and analyse the lyrics. That could be great.
Anyway, thank you for listening as usual! I hope this has been interesting and useful, and I will speak to you very soon in the next episode of this podcast. BUt for now it’s time to say, good bye bye bye bye bye.
Learn useful adjectives for describing personality traits with John Lennon as a case study. Episode 3/5 in my Beatles series, with returning guest Antony Rotunno from the podcast “Glass Onion: On John Lennon”.
Here is the next episode in my Beatles season, and this is where we look at some language too.
In this episode I’m joined again by Antony Rotunno who is a podcaster and English teacher from England. Antony’s main podcast is called Glass Onion: On John Lennon and as the title suggests it is all about John Lennon, particularly his psychology and his life story. Antony’s other podcasts are called Film Gold, a film review series and Life & Life Only which is about personal development and psychology, so Antony knows a thing or two about psychology and John Lennon, and of course as an English teacher he’s well experienced in helping learners to conquer this language of English.
In this one we’re going through a big list of adjectives which I prepared earlier. All the adjectives are words you could use to describe someone’s personality. We have loads of these adjectives, so Antony and I made a list of words which could be used to describe John Lennon. It’s an ABC in fact. Now we didn’t manage to talk about every single adjective in the list, but we certainly had a good go at them, and what you’re going to get in this episode is a sort of English lesson with John Lennon as a case study.
Here are the adjectives (I’m going to read them out)
I’ll let you discover which ones we actually talk about in detail in this episode. The rest of the list will come up in the next part.
Also, I’ve collected a set of other expressions from this conversation, not using adjectives of personality, but just useful expressions and examples of language you could use, and I’m planning to use that set in an upcoming premium episode.
teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get all the premium content unlocked.
Now, let’s consider John Lennon’s personality, things he did and said in his life and try to work out what kind of person he was, with a few useful adjectives in the process.
The second in a short series about The Beatles, this one focuses on the life of John Lennon, with an overview of his life story, some thoughts about his psychology and some rambling discussion questions about this iconic British musician, with podcaster, English teacher and musician Antony Rotunno.
Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well today and that you are ready for this new episode of my podcast. You join me here in my pod-room as the rain falls down above my head. Conditions are perfect for learning British English. Let’s get started.
This is a continuation of this short series of episodes I’m doing about The Beatles and this one focuses mostly on John Lennon. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about this iconic British musician then this episode is for you. Also, if you’re already a Beatles fan or a John Lennon fan then I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear this conversation too.
My guest for this episode is Antony Rotunno from England and Antony is very knowledgeable about John Lennon and his life. In fact I feel like I couldn’t have found a better person to talk to about this subject.
One of the reasons for that is that Antony is also an English teacher. He’s been teaching English as a foreign language to adults for over 18 years, and for obvious reasons it’s always useful to have a guest who has experience of working with learners of English.
Antony is also a podcaster so he is used to talking to audiences over the internet from his home in England. Antony’s podcast is all about John Lennon.
And he probably knows all there is to know about John Lennon because he’s read everything out there on the subject and for his podcast he has interviewed lots of people connected to Lennon, including authors and people who actually knew John himself – people with first-hand accounts of meeting him.
So Antony really knows a lot about John Lennon.
And we had a really good, really long conversation for this podcast, covering various things like John Lennon’s life story. This is the first part of that conversation.
Let me just explain my reasons for doing this series of episodes about the Beatles. I probably don’t need to explain this, but allow me to give my reasons.
So, this is a 5 part series actually. I published the first part with my mum in episode 717, which was a review of a book about The Beatles, followed by a general Beatles ramble.
The rest of the series will be this conversation I had with Antony divided into 4 parts. But it’s not just going to be us rambling on about Lennon for all that time. I’ve also decided to employ some of Antony’s English teaching skills in order to cover some language too, specifically in parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series as we focus on descriptive adjectives for describing personality traits, and then some analysis of the lyrics from Beatles songs, with various nice phrases and idioms to learn. So there should be plenty of English learning opportunities to take from this whole series.
John Lennon is a hugely significant person in terms of modern history, and of course being English he is very much part of our culture, and as we move forwards in time it seems that the significance of the Beatles and everyone’s interest in them is not waning. If anything, they continue to grow in stature.
And even if you’re not into the Beatles, hopefully this can be a chance to learn some new things about this band that is held in such high esteem by so many people.
I promise you – I’m willing to say I promise you here, that if you listen to this, you will know more about John Lennon than before you listened to it.
And if you’re wondering when we’re going to get to the music, part 5 will be all about Beatles lyrics and there will be some guitar playing as well.
First we will get to know Antony a bit and ask him about his podcasts, and then you’ll hear him talk about how he got into The Beatles and John Lennon in particular, then Antony is going to give a brief overview of John’s life and career and finally I’m going to ask Antony a few John Lennon discussion questions.
Let’s get started.
So that was episode 2 in this 5 part Beatles mini series, all about John Lennon.
Thanks again to Antony for his expertise.
The other John Lennon episodes will follow over the next few weeks.
Do you feel that you know more about John Lennon than you did before you listened to this?
I hope so.
I wonder what new things you learned from this. Feel free to leave your comments below.
I won’t say much more here, except that it’s been really interesting to talk to Antony and I look forward to the next few episodes in which we go into teacher mode and look at some descriptive adjectives and then song lyrics.
But that’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening. Be excellent to each other and I will speak to you soon.
Talking to my mum about a book which you could read as part of your English learning routine. The book tells the story of The Beatles and their impact on society. We review the book and then discuss many aspects of The Beatles story, especially the four Beatles themselves.
This is a new episode of Gill’s Book club and I’m talking again to my mum, Gill Thompson about a specific book which you might want to read as part of your English learning routine.
Hello Mum, how are you?
The book this time is all about The Beatles, which is a band from England that you *might* have heard of.
You could read this book, and if you did I’m sure you would learn plenty of things both in terms of language and general knowledge, but there’s no pressure to do so. If you like, you can just listen to this conversation with my mum and hopefully this will be interesting and useful enough on its own.
But if you are looking for a good book to read in English, then this one could be a good choice, and hopefully this conversation will help you to understand the whole thing a bit more, which in turn should help you pick up more English from it. So, my advice is: listen to this conversation with my mum and if you’re inspired, get a copy of the book and read it, or if you prefer, just listen to us without feeling any pressure to read the book at all. Hopefully this will still be enjoyable and interesting even if you haven’t read the book and have no plans to do so.
Over 700 episodes and 12 years ago, in the 3rd episode of this podcast, I interviewed my mum about her memories of seeing The Beatles performing live on stage in the 1960s, which she did, twice.
Now, we’re going to talk about the band again, this time focusing on a book which is all about the Beatles phenomenon and their place in history. The plan is to review the book as a text for learners of English, and then have a deeper discussion about The Beatles.
You probably know that I’m a big fan of The Beatles and grew up with their music, as my parents were (and still are) fans too. For years I’ve been thinking about doing more episodes about The Beatles story, and mentally preparing myself for it, but I have never actually got round to recording anything, mainly because the topic is just too big and there’s too much to say! But finally I have actually recorded some episodes that might scratch the surface of this topic a bit, and hopefully will give you something insightful and interesting to listen to, whether you are a fan of this band or whether you know almost nothing about them at all.
So this is going to be the first in a series of episodes in which I talk about Beatle-related things. There’s this one with my mum and then a few episodes with another guest who is an English teacher and something of an expert on The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular.
So, Beatle episodes are coming. I suppose, for some of you, episodes about The Beatles are like busses. You wait ages for one and then loads of them arrive at the same time.
And by the way, I am certainly not forgetting the main focus of this podcast, which is all about helping you learn English. I think The Beatles can help you learn English, reading is very important in learning English, and so why not do some reading about The Beatles?
Plus, later in this Beatles series there will be some language-focused episodes, using The Beatles as a context – focusing on some specific descriptive vocabulary and also some analysis of the Beatles’ song lyrics.
Maybe you’re not a fan of The Beatles. This is fine. I’m not going to try to convince you that you should like their music. That’s a matter of taste. But I do think that their story is something else entirely. I think it is hard to deny the fact that the story of these 4 individuals, the things that happened to them and the impact they had on the world – this is all simply fascinating. It’s an epic story. So, even if you don’t like the music, I hope you stay just for the story.
Now, let’s start this episode of Gill’s Book Club, talking about a recently published book about The Beatles.
Length – Is it a long book?
It’s long (642 pages) but the chapters are short, so it’s possible to read it in little chunks.
It’s available in audiobook and Kindle versions.
Appropriacy for Learners of English
The language is modern and plain in style. It’s quite literary of course, because it is a book and not a screenplay or something, but generally speaking it is clearly written and should be readable for learners with an Upper Intermediate level or above, although there will be some difficult words of course, but that’s good. I would say that overall the style is modern, neutral and definitely the kind of English that I would recommend as a good model of English for my listeners.
The short chapters make the whole thing quite easy to digest. It’s in bitesize chunks.
You can dip into it and you don’t necessarily have to read it in order. It’s almost like a collection of essays.
The audiobook version on Audible is good – different voices and voice actors doing different accents, including pretty good impressions of the main people involved.
Why is it called “One Two Three Four”?
This is the first thing you hear on the first song on side 1 of The Beatles’ first album “Please Please Me”, released in early 1963 – You can hear Paul McCartney counting the band in at the start of the song by saying “1, 2 , 3 , 4”. Also, there were four Beatles, so…
So there you have it, after more than 700 episodes I finally returned to the topic of The Beatles with my mum and I think it’s fair to say that we went into quite a lot more depth than we did in episode 3 back in 2009, although episode 3 does include stuff we didn’t mention here, specifically my mum’s account of actually seeing The Beatles perform live, twice. So check out episode 3 if you haven’t done so.
Also you could check out that episode in which I asked my uncle Nic to tell us about the time he met Paul McCartney. He told the story in episode 414, and not only has he met Paul, he’s also played football with the members of Pink Floyd and hung out with The Who backstage at one of their concerts, and more. So check that one out too. Links for those episodes are on the page for this one on my website of course.
I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. I must admit that although I feel compelled to talk about this subject at length, part of me is concerned that this is all too much for my audience but I suppose those people who aren’t into this can just skip this stuff. It’s completely up to you. But do let me know what you think.
Remember, any time you have any thoughts about what you are hearing on this podcast, if you have responses or comments in your head as you listen, you can express them in English and I will read those comments, and so will many other LEPsters. The best place to leave your comments is on the page for the relevant episode on my website. Go to EPISODES in the menu and find the relevant episode page, scroll to the bottom and that’s where you will find the comment section. I am curious to see what you think. Any Beatle fans, get in touch. Non Beatle fans, I want to know what you’re thinking. Remember, sometimes doing this podcast is a bit like talking into the void and not quite knowing what people are thinking while I’m doing it.
I won’t talk much more at the end here, except that of course there are millions of things I wish I could have mentioned or talked about in this conversation.
We didn’t talk enough about Ringo!
There are also loads of other people and events that I wanted to mention.
I hope I didn’t talk too much.
Just in case this wasn’t quite enough rambling about The Beatles on this podcast, remember there are four (count them) four more episodes on The Beatles to come, but hopefully those episodes will be different enough to justify this series.
Anyway, 4 more Beatle related episodes are coming up.
One is a discussion about John Lennon.
Another two are language focused and we’ll be talking about adjectives for describing personality traits.
And the last one is about Beatles song lyrics and little phrases and idioms that you can learn from them.
So it’s not just rambling about The Beatles, although that will be part of it too.
Thanks again to mum for her great contribution to this episode, and yes I am lucky to have a mum who is this cool. I appreciate that and I’m really glad to get her voice on the podcast along with my other guests.
And thank you as ever for listening all the way to the end, you are the best.
Take care, look after yourselves and each other and I will speak to you again soon. I think the next episode will be Michael from Poland. But until then it’s time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.
An interview with Megan Brady, who was the bass player in The Applejacks – a pop band from Birmingham in the 1960s who had a top 5 record, met The Beatles and performed on TV shows and at concerts in the UK.
Hello listeners. In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Megan Brady who was a pop star in the 1960s. Yes, a proper pop star. She was in a band which had a top 10 single, she was on the radio, she appeared on a lot of the music TV shows, she met loads of other pop stars of the moment including the Beatles – yes she met The Beatles, and in fact John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave her band a song which they recorded – their second single actually, the band were featured in the music magazines and no doubt many teenagers all over the country had her photo on their bedroom walls. Yeah, proper pop star stuff. So this is the story of Megan’s career in music in the 1960s.
You might be thinking – which band was Megan in? Well the band was called The Applejacks – you might not have heard of them. They’re not one of the big bands that we now think of when we look back at the 1960s, and they didn’t really reach fame on an international level but they were certainly part of the scene, and were well known at the time. My mum was a fan of The Applejacks, for example.
Of course we know about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but there was a whole wave of other groups from all over the UK who were playing a new form of music and so many young people were really into it, and that includes The Applejacks who were from the Birmingham area.
The 1960s was a really fruitful period in terms of modern British culture and I am proud of that part of our history. I find it fascinating, I like the music and I like the stories of the people involved, and I hope you do too.
My guest is Megan Brady (although she was known as Megan Davies in those days) Megan was the bass guitar player in the band, and at the time it was quite uncommon to have a female musician in a group. We’re talking about the early to mid 1960s. There were female singers, but you hardly ever saw girls actually playing instruments in bands, and so that was one of the unique things about The Applejacks.
So, yes, you’re going to hear Megan talking about all of this, as well as other details like her other career as a clinical physiologist in neurophysiology in the National Health Service (that basically involves studying people’s brain waves) and just stuff about playing the bass guitar, how she’s still working on her technique and things like that.
I know Megan because I’m mates with one of her sons, Jake – or Jacob as she calls him. I met Jake at sixth form college and we played music together in bands over the years.
I was always really impressed by the fact that his parents were both professional musicians, or had been professional musicians at various times because I was so into music from the 60s and 70s including a lot of the artists that Jake’s Mum and Dad had worked with or brushed shoulders with over the years.
For example, I was really into Jimi Hendrix when I was 16 or 17 and I remember talking to Jake about Hendrix and he told me that they actually had Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at their home somewhere. A wah-wah pedal is a kind of guitar pedal. Jake wasn’t bragging really, he thought it was cool too, and he just wanted to share it with me and I believed him! “Hey, you like Jimi Hendrix – check this out, we’ve got Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at home! Come over I’ll show it to you!” Whaaat? Etc.
Also, I went to Jake’s house one day and I was hanging out in his bedroom listening to some of his music, and his mum’s bass guitar was sitting there – a nice Fender Jazz bass – and I picked it up and played it a little bit, and Jake said to me “Oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix played that bass once!” I couldn’t believe it! Hendrix played the same bass that was actually in my hands. It turned out that Jake’s mum knew Hendrix a bit, back in the old days and he once had a little go on her bass guitar – the same one that was in Jake’s bedroom that time.
Eventually I learned more and my parents told me more about Megan and that she had played bass in The Applejacks in the 60s and they were one of the popular groups of the time.
So that’s how I know Megan. I am friends with her son, and now I’ve finally taken the initiative to interview her on this podcast. Megan is lovely and she was happy to do this, which I really appreciate.
Before we start, I need to just explain a few words that you’ll hear but you might now know.
The Scouts / The Scout Association / Cub Scouts / Girl Guides / Brownies – The Scouts is a worldwide movement for young people (it used to be just boys, but these days it’s for boys and girls I think), founded as the Boy Scouts in England in 1908 by Lord Baden-Powell with the aim of developing character and responsibility. My brother and I used to be Scouts and so did my dad. What kinds of things did we do?Megan was in the Scouts and so were most of the other members of The Applejacks. That’s how they met.
Skiffle numbers (songs)
A cruise / a cruise ship / Cunard Cruises
The Queen Mary and the QE2
Top of the Pops
Great Ormond Street Hospital – a famous hospital in London specialising in pediatric care (medical care for children) Where Megan has worked since the late 1990s.
Bass guitar stuff – Just a heads up – things will get a bit geeky and specific sometimes in this conversation as we talk about playing the bass guitar, different types of bass guitar and Megan’s bass playing technique. During lockdown she’s been practising with an online bass guitar teacher called Scott Divine from Scott’s Bass Lessons. I didn’t want to cut those parts out of the conversation because I personally find those things really interesting, Megan was enthusiastic about them and so who’s to say that you won’t find them interesting too?
Parts of a guitar – The head, the machine heads & tuning pegs, the neck, the body, the pickups, the scratchplate (or pickguard), the pick, the bridge.
Fender Jazz Bass vs Fender Precision Bass
Right, without any further ado then, let’s listen to Megan Brady talking about playing the bass guitar and her story of being a pop star in the 1960s.
And to lead us into this I’m going to play a little sample of The Applejack’s first and most successful single which was called Tell Me When, released in 1964…
Ending song – Baby Jane by The Applejacks
Thanks again to Megan for taking the time to talk to us about all of that.
You might be wondering why I didn’t get Megan to play some bass for us, which would have been really nice of course.
I didn’t want to put her on the spot, plus for us to hear it properly she’d need to plug it into something like an amplifier and connecting an electric guitar to a computer and playing the sound during a call is a bit tricky too, so it wasn’t really possible at that particular moment.
But you can hear songs by The Applejacks on Spotify and YouTube.
I’ll be sharing some bits and pieces on the page for this episode, including a video filmed in 1964 I think, of Megan performing with The Applejacks, which is a great little sample of the time and you can see her playing I think her Hohner semi-acoustic bass.
The super-long introduction that I recorded but didn’t use – you’ll find it as bonus audio in the app. I go into more details about how I first met Megan’s son Jake and also some other ramblings about The Applejacks…