Listen to Luke and James talking about various topics as we answer questions from the book “Emergency Questions” by comedian Richard Herring. Text video and full transcript available.
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Listen to Luke and James talking about various topics as we answer questions from the book “Emergency Questions” by comedian Richard Herring. Text video and full transcript available.
Guest host Oli Thompson interviews Luke using a classic format from BBC Radio. Luke is going to be marooned on a desert island but he is allowed to bring 8 pieces of music, one book and a luxury item. For episode 700 this is a chance to get to know Luke and his musical choices a little better. (Transcript and text video versions available)
The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness
Cheese & Onions by The Rutles
We’ve Got Johnny Wells by Booker T & The MGs
And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles
To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen
Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius
Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)
Rule My World by Kings of Convenience
Talking to my brother about some click-bait topics, with stories, beliefs and a few celebrity impressions. Links, transcripts and videos available.
Hello listeners, how are you?
This episode is called CONSPIRACIES / UFOs / LIFE HACKS with James and I’m going for the full Joe Rogan clickbait title here, as you will see later.
I’ve said before that I wonder if clickbait titles actually work (I think they do) and whether I should use them (still not sure). I guess we will find out with this episode, which is a rambling conversation with my brother.
Clickbait, by the way, is any content on the internet which is designed just to get you to click it – usually with some sensational title or a promise of amazing exclusive information which is often not actually included. Usually they’re there as bait for clicks which ultimately will be turned into advertising revenue.
E.g. (for example)
“Dermatologists hate her new skin care routine that will save you thousands”
“Why Jabba The Hutt is the key to the Skywalker bloodline in ways you couldn’t imagine”
“10 Life Hacks guaranteed to change the way you live forever”
“Proof that aliens have already landed, and are living among us”
“7 Secrets about COVID-19 that the government don’t want you to know”
“These simple Language Hacks will help you speak like a native OVERNIGHT”
I hate clickbait but as an online content creator I am drawn to and fascinated by the impact of attention grabbing, wildly sensational titles. They obviously work, that’s the thing, because they’re everywhere. But a lot of the time I find clickbait titles annoying and even depressing because it’s so devious and also hackneyed. Anyway…
I’ve gone with the simple: “Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks” as a title. It’s clickbait-ish, with certain buzzwords that seem to attract attention. But really this is just a bit of a joke as you will hear in the episode.
Let’s see if it makes any difference.
What are you going to listen to in this episode then?
The other evening I called my brother James and I started recording our conversation before he answered the call, which I probably shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t expecting a podcast recording this time. But I pressed record before he’d picked up and what resulted was a spontaneous chat that ended up going all Joe Rogan as we talked about UFOs, conspiracy theories and life hacks.
First of all there’s a bit of a catch up and a chat about the COVID situation and how James has been handling it, and then we get on to some of the major topics of our time, including whether we are alone in the universe, how to cook poached eggs, how to walk up stairs, how not to make “British Tea”, The Beatles meeting Elvis, some sketchy impressions of celebrities, a dodgy chair and what you should do with overripe bananas.
I hope you enjoy it. I will be back at the end to chat to you again with some music going in the background as usual.
But now, let’s call my brother and see what happens…
I hope you enjoyed that. It was really silly in the most fun way possible. I’m glad I recorded it.
This tune in the background is one of James’ own, made on the Akai MPC2000. Those of you who work for the Akai consumer electronics company – James’ MPC2000 is currently on the floor of his living room, with the top off and all the circuits and boards visible. It’s not looking good. There’s something wrong with it and he needs a new one. So, if you’re in a position to provide him with an Akai MPC1 that would definitely help him to help the podcast by providing more background music. Just get in touch with the show if you’d like to help out and we will dedicate a special episode just to the wonderful Akai company and their delightful music making machines!
If you like James’ stuff check out his Soundcloud page where you can hear most of them
As you may know, James is also a DJ and since his MPC broke, he did a brand new LEP DJ set using his record decks and some new vinyl that he got recently. That special, exclusive DJ mix is now available on the page for this episode, it’s also available on the Music Mixes page on my website. Check it out there and have a listen. You’ll hear James introducing the tunes, speaking to you and DJing some music. Alternatively, get the Mixcloud app for your phone and listen to it there.
Here’s a link to James’ Mixcloud page with music mixes across various genres, including Drum & Bass, dub, punk, hip hop and so on
Music and comedy mixes (mostly done by me) on my website
Includes these shows:
Moto Mix (with plenty of silly improvisations, characters and voices by James and me)
Have you heard any conspiracies about COVID-19?
Have you ever seen a UFO?
Do you believe aliens exist?
Do you think they’ve made contact with us yet?
Who do you think might be posing as an alien in the world?
Do you think I might be an alien?
Do you have any good life hacks?
More Life Hacks (to justify the title)
OK, here are a few more life hacks. 5 fairly good ones I just found online, just in case you feel there weren’t enough life hacks in this episode.
This meaning of “hack” is something that makes your life easier – it’s like a solution to a problem in life. We talk about life hacks, learning hacks for language learners – simple little tricks you can apply that make your learning more successful.
I think you know what life hacks are then, so here are 5 more half-decent ones just to make sure you don’t feel undersold by the title of the episode, which is not a sentence that many internet content creator feel the need to say very often is it. “Oh yes, after all this video doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title, sorry about that” – something you never hear. But I like to be different, so here we go.
Noel Gallagher story about champagne
“Arr kid” means his brother Liam
(Liam had a fork in a pint of milk because he thought it would keep it fresh)
That’s the end of this episode, have a lovely morning, day, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you next time!
Talking to my brother James about the significance of the number 666, and then some scary music including ‘The Devil’s Interval’, Black Sabbath and more…
This is episode 666 and the plan is to talk about all things evil, satanic, demonic, wicked, unholy, malevolent, hellish and scary, focusing on pop culture – music and films and a few anecdotes and rambles.
This is part 1 and this one deals mainly with the musical side of things after we talk about the significance of the number 666.
Just in case you don’t know, the number 666 is associated with the devil, satan, lucifer and generally frightening things like that.
Before we begin, here is a disclaimer of sorts.
I know people are very superstitious out there.
Just talking about this subject will probably make some people a bit uneasy or uncomfortable. Some people take this sort of thing quite seriously.
But, don’t worry, we don’t believe in numerology, the occult or satanism.
It is interesting but we don’t really believe in it.
Also some of you might suffer from hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia
…which is the fear of the number 666.
Yes, there is a phobia of this number. In the same way that some people have claustrophobia, arachnophobia or glossophobia, there are people out there who have hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia.
So, if you are one of those people, if you are very superstitious about this stuff, or if you are of a particularly sensitive nature then this might not be for you.
Also, you should know that during this episode we will be playing some extracts of fairly loud and scary music, and also you will hear some clips from scary horror films – including weird and creepy background noises, maybe some screaming, maybe the sound of a chainsaw… you know, stuff like that.
So if you’re listening on headphones or something and you hear some scary noises, those scary noises will probably be coming from the podcast, rather from the world around you…
But just bear in mind that there will be scary noises and some heavy-ish music during the episode, I hope it doesn’t give you a shock or freak you out too much.
OK, I feel I should say that stuff before we start just to give some of you a little warning.
My companion in this episode is my brother James, naturally. He is the scariest person I could think of to invite onto episode 666. (just joking, he’s lovely)
Actually, ages ago James claimed episode 666. He bagsied it.
Also, listeners have been asking me about this since they realised that I’d make it to 666 episodes. Typically comments are like this: Luke, Episode 666 is coming up. I hope you are planning something special for it, like maybe an episode on heavy metal or horror films or something.
Well, that is the plan.
The Triumph of Death by Breugel (don’t look too closely unless you want to see all the disturbing details) More info and a high-res image here mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/the-triumph-of-death/
Tony Iommi and the Black Sabbath sound
Heavy Metal Britannia BBC Documentary (recommended!)
Hello everyone, this is actually the end of part 1, we will continue the theme in part 2 and as you heard just at the end there we are going to tell some true stories about frightening things we’ve really experienced in our lives.
So, some anecdotes are coming in part 2.
I hope you have enjoyed part 1 and that you’re not feeling too disturbed or anything.
Just to recap, we talked about the origin of the idea that 666 is the number of the devil, and how it turns out that it’s not quite as satanic as people often think. Then we talked about the devil’s interval in music – the augmented 4th or diminished 5th depending on your outlook on life (augmented means raised – to augment means to increase the value of something or to go up, and diminished is the opposite – to diminish means to make something less – so when you go up one semitone from a fourth you get the augmented 4th, and when you go down from a 5th you get the diminished 5th, but they’re actually the same exact note – just two ways of describing it). We talked about that, which is a feature of so-called unholy music, and then we had a good old ramble about Black Sabbath, heavy metal and other scary forms of music.
Still to come we have our scary stories and then in part 3 we turn to the topic of scary films.
Leave your comments in the comment section if you fancy getting involved.
Thanks again to Kate Arnold for her input in this episode.
App users – you will find a bit of bonus audio for this episode. It’s Kate talking more about The Wheel of Fortune, which is the name of her album, but it’s also an image which appeared in a lot of medieval art and culture. So if you’d like to hear Kate talking for a couple of minutes about the wheel of fortune, then tap the gift icon for this episode in the LEP App. The icon can be found when you’re playing this episode, it’s next to the share, favourite and download icons in the app. If you don’t have the app, you can get it free from the app store on your phone, just search for Luke’s English Podcast App.
If you’d like to hear Kate’s music properly, without it being faded out by me, then check out the page for this episode on the website where you will find links to her album on Bandcamp and also some YouTube videos of her stuff.
Also on the page for this episode on the website you’ll see a video from Numberphile, explaining in more detail how the number 666 is a code which refers to Emperor Nero rather than the devil, plus some footage of Black Sabbath and the Heavy Metal Britannia documentary which is well worth a watch.
Have you ever wondered why British people sometimes change their accent when they sing? This episode explores the question of why this happens, with various examples and some (dodgy) singing by me. Notes, videos and transcripts available on the page below.
This is episode 657 and it’s called “Why do Brits sing with American accents?”
Essentially this episode is about accents in English, and how our accents sometimes change when we sing.
This is all based on an email I got from a listener recently. Here is that email.
I’m curious to see if you have ever wondered the same thing.
Name: János Bernhardt /jænɒʃ bɜːnhɑːt//
Janos gave me the OK to read this out, and I’ll make some corrections as we go.
I have just watched this video (attached) and one question came to my mind about the british english accent.
A couple of corrections from Luke
“British English” should have a capital B and a capital E (British English) because we capitalise the first letters of nationality adjectives and the names of languages in English. Also, I’d avoid saying “The British accent” or “The British English accent” because there are lots of British accents, and this often annoys British people, who often get a bit offended by other people writing “the British accent” and they say “There’s no such thing as The British Accent!”. So, I suggest that instead you should say “British accents”, just “British English” or maybe “a British accent”.
Let’s rephrase Janos’s sentence like this:
I’ve just watched this video and one question came to my mind about British accents…
The video in question is of a British singer called Charlotte Awbery who became a sensation (in February) due to a viral Instagram and YouTube video in which she was randomly asked to sing in a Tube station in London.
In the video sent by Janos, we see that she sings Lady Gaga’s song “Shallow” from the film A Star Is Born really well, just like Lady Gaga, but when she speaks she does so in a completely different accent to the one she was singing in.
We’ll listen to the video in a moment, but let’s continue Janos’ email.
In the video Charlotte clearly loses her accent when she sings, but when she speaks I can hear her beautiful british accent. Is this a normal thing or she has to pay close attention to this during singing? Does she have to…
Sorry for disturbing you if it is a stupid question and also sorry for my bad english.
By the way I love your podcast. I just discovered it recently but I really try to relisten as much episodes as I can.
I am really trying to relisten to as many episodes as I can.
Thanks a lot Luke!
This is an example of an email from a listener which immediately sent me down a huge rabbit hole (a complicated journey in which you get lost looking for an answer).
That doesn’t always happen when listeners send me questions, but it did with this one. To be honest, I should have been working on other things but when I received this email it caught my attention and then I got sucked in! I thought it would make a perfect episode of the podcast because it’s about accents in English, it’s about American and British English, it’s about music, it’s about culture, it’s about identity and I am certain this is a question that a lot of you have thought of → Why is it that British singers often sing with American accents?
Brits don’t always sing with American accents (there are plenty of cases when this doesn’t happen, as we will see later in the episode), but they often do.
This is the stuff I’m interested in. Also it gives me a chance to play a bit of guitar and do some singing on the podcast too, which I will probably do a bit later when we get stuck into this properly.
God knows how long this episode will be, because there’s a lot to unpack here. It might be a double episode. We’ll see.
Before we go any further, we should check out that clip that Janos sent to me, so we know what he was talking about.
Let’s listen to the video that he mentioned.
This is a clip from the Ellen show (an American chat show), and you’ll hear various people speaking including chat show host Ellen Degeneres, and also some other people. I won’t explain any more. Let’s just listen to the clip and your job is to work out what is going on, who is speaking and where they are from.
“Charlotte Awbery is an internet sensation after a video of her showcasing her incredible singing voice went viral on February 20. Just four days prior, a content creator named Kevin Freshwater shared a video of a segment he hosted called, “Finish the Lyrics.” In the video, Freshwater can be seen traveling through the streets and subways, asking random people to finish the lyrics of popular songs. And, that’s where he came across Charlotte, who was making her way to a train in the subway. [The Underground!]
Freshwater approached Charlotte who was visibly caught off guard, and began singing the lyrics to “Shallow” — Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper‘s Oscar-winning hit from the film, A Star Is Born. Charlotte began singing the lyrics quietly, but just enough for Freshwater to recognize how talented she is. When he kept asking her to sing more, Charlotte went all out and it took the internet by storm.“
Then she was invited onto the Ellen show with Ellen Degeneres, to sing the song and then be interviewed.
The thing is, she sang with an American accent but then spoke with a really broad Estuary English accent (some call it cockney, some call it Essex – basically it’s a strong local accent from the area to the east of London.)
So, going back to Janos’ original question then:
Is this normal?
Do British people normally do that when they sing?
Do they/we have to make special effort to do it?
What’s going on?
Is this normal? Do Brits normally do this when they sing?
Yes, lots of Brits suddenly change their accent and sound American when they sing. (Why? We’ll see). I’m talking about singing pop music, which sort of covers various forms of modern music that largely originate in the USA, like jazz, blues, soul, country, rock & roll, rock, gospel –> all the main ingredients of modern pop music.
It’s not just Brits. Irish people, Australian people, people from New Zealand, people from South Africa, any English speaker, including non-native speakers of English in France, Germany, Japan, wherever! Everyone does this.
I’m sticking with Brits though because that’s what I am and that’s what I know.
Yes it is very normal and very common. There are various degrees of it – sometimes it’s just a slight American accent, sometimes it’s really strong. We’ll be looking at some examples later.
But it doesn’t happen every time. There are plenty of examples of British singers singing in their own accent too (again, more on this later).
Do British people have to make a special effort to sing in an American accent?
I would say “no”, it normally happens completely effortlessly but it does depend on the song, or the style of the song. In fact, in many cases it would take a lot of effort to sing some songs in a British accent even if that is your native accent. I’ll hopefully demonstrate this later when I try to sing some songs myself.
What’s going on?
Various things! This is a complex question to answer and that’s what the rest of this episode is about. I’m going to explore the answer to the question, although I’m not a linguist or a sociologist or anything so I’m kind of working it out myself. One thing that can help is to listen to some samples of music and also it might help if I try and sing in different accents myself and we can see what happens.
Social, linguistic and musical conventions
American accents are conventional in music which has its roots in the USA.
Certain genres of music were born in the USA, including most pop music, soul, rock, R&B, jazz, funk, hip hop → this goes back to the roots of modern pop music, American blues, gospel and country music.
Therefore, when singing pop songs an American accent is the standard and is therefore easier, more normal and more natural.
Singing those songs with an obvious RP accent (or other) just ends up being weird, unnatural and wrong sounding, mainly because it would be unconventional. It just doesn’t sound right to sing certain songs with a British accent like mine.
But there are plenty of exceptions to this too, and that’s songs, genres or bands that have something authentically British about them.
In the case of this song (Shallow) Charlotte is singing a Lady Gaga song, and Lady Gaga sings it with an American accent because she is American. It’s a cover version and it would be a bit weird if she made it sound different to the original. Also the song is in a country-rock style, and in country music it’s normal to sing with a really pronounced accent – probably a southern or mid-western drawl. “Shallow” is a song from the film “A Star is Born” which is about a country singer.
Let’s play “Shallow” on the guitar and first sing it in an American accent and then in a British accent.
How does it sound in my accent?
What’s your accent Luke?
Just a reminder (and because people often ask me questions about this) My accent is basically standard RP, which is said to be not specific to any region of the UK, but to be honest it’s usually associated with educated, middle-class people, probably from the South East of England. I’m not trying to say I’m educated (and of course you can be highly-educated and everything and have a regional accent), but I’m definitely middle class and from the south east of England, but I also spent time growing up in the midlands as well as west London, so you might hear a bit of west-midlands Brummie in my voice or a bit of a London accent – if you’re listening very carefully. But basically, I speak with standard British RP from the south east of England but I’m not posh.
Shallow doesn’t really sound right in my accent.
I don’t know what you think. There’s bound to be some people who prefer my British version. It’s a question of taste, but I think overall my British RP version wouldn’t really be accepted by most audiences. It would be weird, different, unconventional. Most people in the USA would think it was weird and wrong, I reckon.
But some songs and genres are definitely British and British voices are more obvious → things like folk music, UK hip hop (does Rapping count? It’s basically talking), Britpop, merseybeat, punk – in fact any music which is uniquely or authentically British in some way, or in which the local identity is being emphasised.
Brits sing in a British accent when they’re really being themselves, when it’s traditional British folk music, or when they’re pushing the British identity in the music.
Some British musicians make an effort not to sound American. You can hear that in some of the Beatles’ output (although sometimes they’re a bit American sounding too) and definitely in punk bands, new wave bands, britpop bands and so on → any musical movements in which a British identity gets pushed to the forefront.
Madness – My Girl
Me singing it with an American accent (sounds wrong!)
So, in summary, I’d say that although this seems a bit weird, it’s common for Brits to sing with American accents because of the conventions of pop music which has its roots in the USA, but there are also examples of Brits singing in their own accents.
This article from thrillist.com has some more comments (read some extracts)
I might be re-emphasising what I just said, but I think it’s worth reading these extracts from an article I found on a website called Thrillist.com
One of the most prominent academics on this case is Peter Trudgill. In 1983, the man published an oft-cited study that examined the disconnect between how so many British pop singers talk in real life and how they perform. He concluded that acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones incorporated American phonetics because they were so influenced by Yankee musicians — particularly blues acts. (Remember, the Stones got their name from a Muddy Waters track.) It was an attempt to ape their idols and break into the U.S. market.
Rolling Stones singing “Not Fade Away”
Trudgill noted the American-ness got less aggressive as time wore on, and the British Invasion acts became more comfortable with their native speaking voices. By the time the ’70s arrived, punk bands like The Clash were turning away from American affectations.
So, basically –> In the beginning, UK singers were copying their American idols, but later this influence lessened.
Here are a couple of examples of UK punk bands singing in obvious British accents, to illustrate what Peter Tudgill said.
Sham 69 – Hurry Up Harry
Peter & The Test Tube Babies – Banned from the Pubs
That’s one explanation, but seeing as we still have modern fakers like Adele, it’s incomplete.
Adele speaks with a cockney accent like Charlotte Awbrey but sings in an American accent.
Some people argue that the phenomenon is more a matter of technique. Billy Bragg, who’s normally pretty cool with singing like a Brit, once said, “You can’t sing something like ‘Tracks of My Tears’ in a London accent… the cadences are all wrong.”
Billy Bragg singing normally
Billy Bragg singing Tracks of My Tears by Smokey and the Miracles.
So the point here is that it is just easier to sing in an American accent and sometimes an American accent is just appropriate for the song.
A recent study by Andy Gibson, a sociologist in New Zealand, would appear to back Bragg up. Gibson found that Kiwis defaulted to an American singing voice across the board, and it wasn’t a conscious choice. He surmised it was just easier to sing in that accent. That’s partially because of the way we round off certain words when we sing, and partially because the world is so used to hearing American accents in pop songs, it requires more effort and concentration to sing in a different accent. Even if that “different accent” is your default speaking voice.
Clearly, researchers are still working on a definitive answer. But people do “lose” their accents through song, and it’s not some weird conspiracy. It’s just linguistics! Or Mick Jagger’s fault. You decide.
Let’s break down “the American singing accent” vs my British accent
I’ve decided called it “the American singing accent” because it might not match perfectly with General American or with all American accents.
America is a diverse place and there are many diverse accents there. But it seems that there is a certain kind of American accent that we can hear in a lot of music.
I get the feeling that this accent comes from the people who sang the blues and gospel (basically that means black communities in southern states) and from people who sang country (mostly white singers from southern or midwestern states) but I’m not a musicologist.
I’m sure there are other features. Let me know in the comment section if you can think of others.
To be honest, the best way I can demonstrate this is to try and sing some more songs in different accents and see what happens.
That’s where we’re going to pause. This is the end of part 1, and we will continue in part 2, which will be available soon, possibly already.
In part 2 the plan is to explore this question further by doing some more singing. I’m going to take some songs which are normally sung in that American singing voice, sing them normally and then sing them in my accent and we’ll see how it sounds.
We’ll also hear some more examples of British singers singing in American accents, and also British singers singing in British accents.
So, a lot more examples in part 2 to illustrate what I’ve been talking about in this episode.
As ever, I’m interested in your comments. Perhaps you have examples of British singers singing in American accents, or British singers singing in British accents.
Or maybe there’s a song which you like, but you don’t really know what the accent is?
In any case, you can share your thoughts and YouTube videos in the comment section.
I hope you’re keeping well, that you’re not climbing the walls or going stir crazy if you are currently in self-isolation at home. If you’re cooped up with members of your family I hope you’re managing to make it work and that you’re not at each other’s throats. Maybe you’re a lovely lovely time, in which case I am happy for you. If you’re struggling then hang in there, this won’t last forever. And if you or anyone else you know is currently unwell, then I wish you a speedy recovery and what else can I say –> may the force be with you? Actually, that’s when the lockdown is supposed to be lifted here. May the 4th (although I suspect it will be extended) but anyway, “May the 4th be with you”.
Alright, that’s enough. I hope you have found this interesting and part 2 should be available now or very soon, so you can get stuck into that.
So, speak to you again in part 2 but for now –> bye bye bye!