Category Archives: TV series

602. British Comedy: The Day Today (Part 2)

The Day Today is an award-winning parody of news and current affairs TV programmes. Let’s listen to some more clips, understand the humour and learn some English in the process.

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Intro Transcript, Notes & Videos

Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you? It’s boiling hot here. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and today the temperature is expected to be in the high 30s with a feels-like temperature somewhere in the 40s.

I’ve never understood that. So the temperature is 39 but it feels like 43. So isn’t the temperate 43 then? I don’t get it.

In any case, it is boiling. So if at some point I stop talking, you hear a thud and the podcast goes silent – don’t worry, I’ve just passed out from heat stroke or exhaustion or something. Just joking, but it is very hot.

These aren’t exactly perfect conditions, but my dauntless British spirit is unbowed by any crisis, as we heard in the last episode, so I will be just fine, thank you.

I wonder how it is where you are.

Now, enough idle chit chat, let’s on to this episode.

This is episode 602 and it’s the second part of this episode I’m doing about British comedy TV show “The Day Today”.

You should listen to part 1 before listening to this, and also know that there are notes, videos and bits of transcription on the page for this episode on my website. Just go to teacherluke.co.uk and check the episode archive where you will find all the other episode pages, plus some bonus website-only content too.

In the first part of this episode I talked to you about The Day Today – what kind of programme it is, who made it and so on. Then we listened to three clips from that show which you can find on YouTube and then I broke them down for language and to help you understand the humour.

That’s exactly what we’re going to continue doing in this episode. I have 3 more clips, available on YouTube, so let’s do it like this:

  • First I’ll talk to you about the clip we’re going to see, explaining the context, giving you the main details and asking you to listen out for certain things. This part is necessary because it will really help you understand the reference points and bits of humour that you might otherwise miss.
  • Then we’ll listen again bit by bit and I’ll explain specific things including phrases or other features of English

Hopefully through this process you will understand and appreciate the humour and you’ll also pick up some English in the process.

Just a reminder – The Day Today is a parody news programme. None of the stories we’re going to hear about is real. It’s all completely made up parody for comedy purposes. This show makes fun of the conventions and clichés of TV news and current affairs programmes, and does it with a weird and surreal twist.

Also, I want to appeal to you to write to me about these episodes. Whenever I do episodes about comedy I wonder what people are thinking. Part 1 of this is doing well in terms of listens, but in terms of comments there are only a couple on the website and I’ve received maybe one email about this, so I’d like to appeal to you to get into the comments section. As a teacher in a classroom and a stand up comedian in a comedy club I get instant feedback on what I’m saying and doing. On the podcast it’s not like that. I record episodes, publish them and then I have no idea beyond just a few numbers, what people think. So, write to me and let me know what you think of this. Do you understand it all? Does it entertain you or disturb you? What are you thinking? Let me know.

Get The Day Today DVD Box Set on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Today-Complete-BBC-Disc/dp/B000171RU4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+day+today&qid=1560774228&s=gateway&sr=8-1

OK, so let’s carry on with the first of our three clips.

It’s your blood – “Chopper of Doom” 22:30 (Episode 1)

This is from a feature called “It’s your blood” which is exactly like those old TV shows that told stories of bad accidents and how the emergency services responded to them. We used to have a show called 999 which was exactly the same as this.

They always used reconstructions with actors to remake the accident, and they were very cheaply done with the victims telling the story with a voice over. The presenter was Michael Buerk (again) and he had a certain kind of tone which was serious and stern with a patronising edge as if to say “If you’re stupid enough not to take precautions then you deserve to have an accident” perhaps with a little pause, looking at the camera to say “Don’t be an idiot”.

A little snippet of 999 (12:00)

Listen out for the stern, dramatic and slightly patronising tone of it. Also, it’s presenting itself as a public safety broadcast but really it’s just stories of bad accidents reconstructed for our entertainment.

So this is a little clip from BBC 999. (12:00)

On the Day Today it was called It’s Your Blood.

“Every week on It’s your blood we feature an actual bad accident”.

It’s a parody of that kind of show. Did you have shows like that in your countries? Someone tells the true story of a bad accident that they had and then it’s reconstructed using actors and sometimes the real ambulance workers themselves, who are always terrible actors.

In this clip, the accident is that a farmer flies his helicopter above some fields, but passes out while flying. The helicopter is dangerously out of control in the sky and might crash on some children. Luckily the farmer’s dog is in the helicopter, so the authorities manage to save the situation with the help of a local shepherd who whistles to the dog through the CB radio, instructing him how to land the plane, which he does.

If you’re not listening carefully you could easily miss the fact that the dog is the one that lands the plane, because everything is told in such a serious way. The dog even has a voice over at one point as it explains what it was like to fly in the helicopter.

Listen out for

  • How Chris Morris ramps up the drama by suggesting that the blades of a helicopter could easily kill humans “Helicopters, machines for cutting air, air that’s soft and easy to slice, like human beings.”
  • The perhaps unnecessary levels of drama, violence and suspense in the retelling of the story
  • Making the reconstruction had ethical questions because it forced the victims to face their ordeal again
  • “All bodily fluids are the ones that actually emerged at the time.” Ridiculous and impossible, but somehow exactly the kind of thing they’d say on a show like this. For example, the first 20 seconds of the real BBC 999 show.

  • The way he says “For this reason and many others, you may find that the following sequence produces a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” Listen out for how he says the final line “a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” in a kind of tragic way because it involved an actual bad accident. They could just not show this, but for some reason it’s their duty to show it and for us to watch it because a man had an accident and we shouldn’t do it too.
  • The voice over from the sheepdog Lindsay “It was smooth and exhilarating like an aerial motorbike” – that’s the sheepdog actually speaking in voice over
  • Question: What causes the farmer to pass out?
  • The local resident who takes 10 minutes to call for help because she’s too busy filming the disaster on her camcorder
  • Does the story end on a positive note or a negative note?

Clip begins at 22:30

A treat – give a treat to someone, promise someone a treat, get a treat for doing something, to deserve a treat, give a dog a treat
A memento – I decided to video it for him as a memento
Perilous – the helicopter was perilously out of control
To head towards something – the chopper was heading towards a field, heading for a field

REDUNDANCY (Peter O Hanrahanrahan) 5:05 (Episode 6)

Economics Correspondent Peter O Hanrahahanrahan is back. This time the story is that General Motors in Detroit have laid off some workers at their factory.

Some language
A factory / a plant
To lay someone off / to make someone redundant

How many workers have been laid off? Peter O Hanrahahanrahan has the story, live in Detroit. The thing is, he’s got the wrong number.

Chris Morris presses him on this, forcing him to embarrass himself by showing his notes, which have a doodle of a spider in a spider’s web in the corner of the page.

Chris tells Peter off like he’s a naughty schoolboy.

Listen out for

  • Peter’s conviction at the moment that this is “Mass redundancy on an unprecedented scale”
  • How Chris shows his scepticism over Peter’s number.
  • How Peter quickly admits that he’s wrong when Chris asks to see his notes.
  • “You’re lying in a news grave” …what does it say on the gravestone? …news

Clip begins at 5:05

The POOL (Coogan’s bit) 24:21

This is from a spoof fly on the wall documentary about a municipal swimming pool in London and the people that work there.

You know that kind of thing – a camera crew follow people around their working life and reveal little human dramas that go on and tell the story of people in their ordinary lives in their own words.

In this one we’re at a swimming pool and we’re following some of the staff there. We see footage of the staff interacting, dealing with problems. We see what it’s really like to work at a swimming pool. There used to be a lot of shows like this on TV, and they spawned parodies like The Office. The bit I want to look at is Steve Coogan as the pool’s security guard. He’s playing a much older man and it’s pure Peter Cook. It’s a great little comedy character that we have never seen again.

He’s the security guard at the pool and he describes his work including several incidents like when a pigeon got into the pool once. It seems his working life is extremely boring and mundane, but then we learn that one year a person was killed at the pool and there’s a question of whether the security guard is somehow responsible for this. I love the way he responds to the suggestion that he’s liable for the person’s death.

Listen out for

  • Coogan’s tone of voice, accent and other little touches that make this an authentic feeling character
  • The way Coogan’s story about the pigeon has a very boring ending
  • What did he do one night when he found a woman’s swimsuit?
  • What’s his response to the allegation that he was responsible for the death at the pool?

Clip begins at 24:21


Rick Thompson in the DVD extras for The Day Today

The DVD has various bonus extras on it. I remember watching one of those extras with my brother and there was one which was a mini documentary about news broadcasting and how The Day Today uses the style of news for comic effect.

After a couple of minutes, we were surprised to see our dad on screen! He’d been filmed for the documentary and there he was in the BBC newsroom talking about news.

601. British Comedy: The Day Today (Part 1)

Let’s investigate a brilliant British comedy TV show and use it to learn English. The Day Today was originally broadcast on the BBC in the mid-90s and is now considered a groundbreaking parody of news programmes and launched the careers of various comedians, including Steve Coogan.

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Introduction Transcript, Notes & Videos

Hello folks, this episode is called British Comedy: The Day Today and in this one we’ll be looking at another classic bit of British TV Comedy.

First I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the show and then we’ll listen to some clips and I’ll explain the language for you.

This time, it’s The Day Today which was originally broadcast on TV in the 1990s, 1994 to be exact – yes, that’s probably before some of you were even born. But we don’t care about whether this is old or brand new, it doesn’t matter. I think good comedy always stands the test of time, and The Day Today is no exception. It’s still relevant and funny now just like it was before. And in any case, I think it’s part of the fabric of British culture now, just like many other classic bits of British TV comedy that we all grew up watching on TV.

What kind of programme is it?

It’s a surreal parody of news and current affairs TV programmes. It’s a comedy version of the news.

Imagine the news, like the BBC 10 o’clock news, but with everything turned up to 11, everything exaggerated. It’s more dramatic, more pompous, more self-important and much more ridiculous than the real news.

But The Day Today isn’t just an impressions show of people copying news readers, it had this amazing surreal twist to it, which made it so much more subversive.

The show made fun specifically of the self-important nature of TV news and used surrealism and absurdity under the guise of a news broadcast.

The news always presents itself as being very important, very serious, very heavy, completely trustworthy, stern, authoritarian even. These days TV news has softened a bit, but not much. It still has this air of superiority, which I suppose is a necessary part of attempting to convey information in a factual, serious and balanced way. But TV news language – both oral and visual has become a cliché (had become a cliché back in the 90s) which makes it very ripe for making parody comedy.

An example of real TV news headlines

Here’s an example of the opening of the BBC 9 o’clock news, which was and still is the flagship news programme for the BBC.

Listen out for the serious tone of the newsreader Michael Beurk, the important and significant sounding music and also Michael Beurk’s slightly old school pronunciation in places. All of these things went into The Day Today. (News begins at 00:50)

The difference between the Day Today and other shows which have parodied the news was the surrealism. Basically this meant taking a silly story and dealing with it in the most serious way possible, but there was more to it than that. The phrases used, the images created and the slight sense of twisted insanity create this version of the news that’s part Monty Python, part Peter Cook and part some kind of high tech dystopian vision of the future.

This is absolutely a show that inspired Charlie Brooker to do work like Black Mirror. In fact, the creator of Black Mirror worked with Chris Morris – the main guy behind The Day Today. So, for me, they come from the same creative community. Clever, satirical, twisted, dark and very funny comedy writing in the UK.

The Day Today was broadcast at 9pm on BBC2 – the same time as the national news on BBC1. Apparently some people mistakenly watched The Day Today, thinking it was the real news, and believed the stories.

The parody of news tropes was spot on. It looked, sounded and smelt like news. The opening titles of the show captured that sense of drama, pomposity and urgency that you get from news programmes. The set looked just right. The different characters were weird and bizarre but perfectly captured the sorts of journalists or presenters that you could find on TV.

Alan Partridge made his first TV appearance on this show as the sports reporter with a chip on his shoulder who was always getting things wrong.

The language is a big part of it. The news readers speak in this kind of news dialect, with a certain kind of intonation, complex sentences that go on too long and mixed metaphors, as we will hear.

Who wrote it and all that stuff?

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_Today

Excellent performances by the cast, all of whom have gone on to do other great things.

Chris Morris is a talent that people often forget about, but he was fearless, original, very clever, quite ruthless and a bit sick – the perfect recipe for great British comedy. He went on to do another show called Brass Eye, which was similar to The Day Today but more extreme and controversial (and is a potential other episode for LEP), then various weird comedy projects like BlueJam, an ambient mix album with subliminal sketch comedy going on at the same time. Then he became a film director and did the film Four Lions which is about inept terrorists planning an attack in London. The film won various awards, as did The Day Today.

Armando Iannucci went on to make The Thick of It and In The Loop – political satires about life on Whitehall, and then Veep which is the American equivalent following the vice president. He also directed Death of Stalin and has been involved in writing for Alan Partridge and other big projects.

Other notable cast members are Steve Coogan of course who went on to become successful as Alan Partridge but has also starred in a few Hollywood movies and things.

All the other comedians on the show went on to do more great work.
Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Patrick Marber, David Schneider.

Other writers on the show were Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews who went on to create Father Ted and later The IT Crowd and Black Books (just Graham Linehan).

LET’S LISTEN TO SOME CLIPS AND USE THEM TO LEARN ENGLISH

Alright, enough already. Let’s listen to some clips which you can find on YouTube, and which I have posted on the page for this episode, with time codes to help you find the clips.

There are only 6 episodes of The Day Today but they’re pretty packed with classic stuff.

I’ve been through all 6 episodes and picked out some of my favourite moments to share with you.

The plan is to play them, then break them down sentence by sentence to make sure you understand them 100% and hopefully, get the jokes, although this show doesn’t really use jokes per se, but in any case the aim is to help you understand and appreciate the humour and learn plenty of English in the process.

All the episodes are on YouTube so you could check them all out later if you like, or buy the excellent DVD box set from the BBC, which I own and recommend to you. It’s only £5 on Amazon. Other bookshops are available.

www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Today-Complete-BBC-Disc/dp/B000171RU4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+day+today&qid=1560774228&s=gateway&sr=8-1

I have played some clips of this show before, and explained them for language. You might remember Alan Partridge’s World Cup Countdown or his Sports Roundup, there was Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan interviewing the minister for ships, and I think also we had the interview with the woman raising money by selling jam.

Anyway, let’s get into it.

First I want to play you the opening titles of an episode, just for the music really, because it sets the tone. There are a few ridiculous headlines too.

CLIP 1: THE DAY TODAY – OPENING TITLES

  • What are the three stories exactly?
  • Luke describes the opening titles

Those headlines again

Remember the way grammar changes in headlines.

FIST HEADED MAN DESTROYS CHURCH
Presumably a man with a fist for a head has destroyed a church. You can imagine him headbutting the walls or something. Don’t think about it too much, it’s supposed to be funny to hear such ridiculous things spoken in that voice using that register.

CAR DRIVES PAST WINDOW IN TOWN
The most boring story. A car drove past a window in a town. It’s accompanied by a video of a car driving past a building.

LEICESTER MAN WINS RIGHT TO EAT SISTER
Presumably a man from Leicester has taken court action to allow him to eat his sister. You could imagine this was a real story if he wanted to ‘wed’ his sister, or cousin, especially if he’s from Leicester, but this is to ‘eat’ his sister.

“Those are the headlines, now fact me till I fart.”

CLIP 2: WAR

Australia and Hong Kong have signed a treaty to create an amazing free trade agreement which will be very beneficial for both places and marks a new beginning of peace and cooperation between them.

Chris Morris interviews the British Minister with special responsibility for the commonwealth (this is the days when HK was still a British dependent territory) and the Australian Foreign Secretary – both men who are responsible for the deal.

The interview seems to start as a celebration of the new deal, but the newsreader Chris Morris manages to manipulate the two of them into a diplomatic fight which ends in a declaration of war.

This is a great sketch. The newsreader causes a war in order to be able to cover it in dramatic fashion on his news show. For me it’s about how the media can sometimes drive the agenda through their reporting. The BBC isn’t officially biased. In fact I think most journalists have an honest intention to report on what’s happening, but they’re always going to impose some of their world view on the way they explain stories. But also you get the sense sometimes that some TV producers and presenters are a bit seduced by their own power and end up pushing things in a certain direction under the guise of critical thinking.

Also, perhaps news programmes thrive on creating drama and reporting on a war is somehow the dream of many broadcast journalists, or at least seems like that because war correspondents have this air of action and adventure which borders on being romantic, and the efficient and lively way that broadcasters deal with stories of war makes it seem like they’re enjoying it somehow. There’s precise technical information, reporters in the middle of the action and loads of dramatic music, graphics and images.

Let’s listen to this sketch, which is about 4mins long.

Over to you

Here are some things to listen out for

  • How Chris Morris stokes up tensions and pushes the two diplomats towards war
  • Chris Morris’s confrontational interview style, typical of BBC presenters like Jeremy Paxman, notorious for bullying politicians on TV
  • The mixed metaphors and clichés like, “The stretched twig of peace is at melting point” and
  • “People here are literally bursting with war.”
  • The glee with which Chris says “YES, IT’S WAR!”
  • The OTT way that the show snaps into action once war has been declared, like they were ready and prepared for this, and as journalists this is what they live for
  • The name of the Day Today smart bomb (which I think is an actual bomb fired by The Day
  • Today, with a camera on it, so they can report from the middle of the fight. The news station have launched their own bombs in this war)
  • The clunky way the show goes to the weather, after all that war

I will be going through all of this again after we’ve heard it and I will break it down to the bare bones and will explain language and all that

CLIP 3: Peter O’hanrahahanrahan – Ich Nichten Lichten (Episode 2)

Ministers in Europe have been involved in difficult discussions about quota rates for trade with the US. I expect they’ve been debating what the rates should be, with some ministers disagreeing about the final decision.

Economics correspondent Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan is in Brussels because he says he’s spoken to the German minister and knows how he feels about the decision.

Peter O Hanrahahanrahan’s name is a joke on a real correspondent called Brian Hanrahan (an irish name I think) who actually used to call our house sometimes to speak to my dad (who used to be a BBC news man). Michael Beurk also came round sometimes. He was one of the presenters of the 9 o’clock news who is parodied by Chris Morris on The Day Today. In fact, I feel like I grew up in a news household because my dad often reviewed videos of presenters, we always watched the news, there were BBC pens and mugs all around the house and we sometimes met BBC TV presenters and news readers. I never met Alan Partridge though.

Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan is incompetent, stupid and also petulant (disobeys orders and lies, childishly). It turns out that Peter hasn’t spoken to the German minister and just stayed in his hotel room the whole time. He’s making up the information and can’t even speak German.

Listen out for

  • The way Chris Morris is sceptical about what Peter is saying, and starts to question his story subtly, before full-on bullying him and telling him off like a naughty schoolboy
  • Peter’s pathetic attempt to speak German, clearly pretending that he knows the language and actually spoke to the German minister, when he doesn’t and didn’t
  • How Peter finally admits that he doesn’t actually know what happened and didn’t speak to the minister at all, like a teenager admitting that he’s lying

Peter O Hanrahahanrahan – Ich nichten lichten (starts at 19m40sec)

CLIP 4: SOME KIND OF DRUBBING INCIDENT  (Episode 3

In this one we start with a sports report from Alan Partridge but it gets interrupted with the news that The Queen and the Prime Minister have had a fight. We then follow the story and learn that during their weekly meeting, the PM (John Major) punched The Queen. This sounds shocking of course, especially now that The Queen is elderly, but that’s not the point.

Instead the show is mocking the way the news would deal with a constitutional crisis, springing into action in order to cover the crisis in full detail. It’s also just ridiculous to imagine The Queen having a brawl with anyone.

Listen out for

  • The report from Jennifer Gumpets in front of Buckingham Palace. This report is so realistic.
  • There isn’t much comedy in it beyond the bizarreness of the story. It’s just a perfect little parody of a report from a correspondent.
  • “And as a result of that broadcast the crisis has deepened dramatically” The news actually makes the situation worse by broadcasting footage of the fight, and then starts reporting on that too.
  • Spartacus Mills (history expert) – “Can you sum it up in a word? No. A sound?” What sound does Spartacus use to sum up the situation?
  • The special broadcast which was pre-recorded and designed to be played at times of crisis. It’s basically a way to say “This is Britain, and everything is all right. It’s ok. It’s fine.” and it’s filled with proud patriotic sentiments. The irony is that this kind of thing is either a) needed now in order to make British people feel that everything’s fine or b) the sort of thing used by the Leave campaign to convince people to vote Brexit.
  • What’s the solution to the crisis which has been agreed by both sides?

Clips start at 5:38 & 19:40/21:10

The PM was seen to leave hurriedly after half and hour

The Currency Kidney

595. Andy Johnson Returns (Part 2) Eating / TV Series / Football / Music

Asking Andy questions from a speaking task in the English File Intermediate course book and chatting about eating habits, TV series, Liverpool & Tottenham in the European Champions’ League and music we’ve been listening to recently including some stories about Steely Dan and The Beatles. Intro & ending transcripts + Videos available below.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. How are you? You’re doing alright?

How’s the weather? Not too rainy I hope. Sunny? Bit cloudy? Windy?

OK, that’s the small talk, the chit chat out of the way. But enough of this idle banter, let me introduce the episode.

This is part 2 of a conversation I had with Andy Johnson. You should probably listen to part 1 first, if you haven’t already done so.

In this part I ask Andy some questions from a speaking exercise from English File Intermediate 3rd Edition, a book I’ve been using with some intermediate classes I’ve been teaching at the British Council.

I’ve been helping my students practise their grammar, pronunciation and speaking using this book and I thought it would be interesting to ask Andy some questions that my students have been discussing with the aim of practising “used to” and other ways of talking about habitual behaviour in the past or present.

So, what you’re going to hear is us using “used to” and some other bits of grammar and then rambling on in a natural way, answering these questions designed to help learners of English develop their fluency.

The topics of the questions include stuff about our eating habits, TV series we used to be addicted to (Andy gives a nice summary of The Wire and we talk a bit about how neither of us have ever watched Game of Thrones – shock horror!) and then we go on to talk about music we’ve been listening to on Spotify recently – the latest Vampire Weekend album in Andy’s case and a classic album by Steely Dan in my case. If you’re a fan of Steely Dan, then listen all the way to the end for a bit of Steely Dan chat. I’ve been listening to their stuff on repeat recently and I’ve become slightly obsessed by a couple of their songs.

We also end up talking about football at some point, specifically the dramatic and unbelievable recent events in the European Champions’ League. Barcelona and Ajax fans, I expect you’re currently feeling a bit wounded by what happened last week, but I think it’s fair to say that football fans around the world were stunned at how both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur managed to win their semi-finals against all odds, beating Barcelona and Ajax respectively. Basically, it looked like Liverpool and Spurs were both definitely going to be knocked out as they were both behind by quite a few goals each, but they both managed to come back in spectacular fashion, winning their games and going through to the final. That description doesn’t quite do it justice. Those of you who saw the games will know that they were somehow two of the most astonishing moments of football in recent memory, certainly for us Europeans.

Right then, so now you’re prepped for the rest of the conversation, let’s get started.

Check the page for this episode on the website and you’ll see a script for this introduction and some more bits and pieces including a load of recommended YouTube videos relating to the music we talk about. Oh and one more thing – bonus points for anyone who manages to notice the sound of a hoover in the background during this conversation. You might hear a hoover (a vacuum cleaner) at one point and you might think “Where’s that coming from? Is that someone hoovering in my house or something? I SAY! WHO’S HOOVERING?” Well, it was our cleaner who comes round once a week and was doing some hoovering outside my room while I was recording this. Hopefully you won’t notice, but just in case – there you go. So, extra bonus points for anyone who notices the sound of my flat being cleaned in the background.

All right then, let’s go!


Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Andy for being a great guest on the podcast as usual, and also a special thanks to my cleaner for doing the hoovering in the background.

Any comments you have – leave them on the page for this episode and Andy might well reply to you. He quite often does that when he’s been on the podcast.

Before we finish, I would like to just clarify something I said near the end of the conversation about drummer Bernard Purdie. It just seems important somehow.

Bernard Purdie & The Beatles

At the end there you heard us talking about a drummer called Bernard Purdie who played drums on some Steely Dan songs back in the 70s. I said that Purdie was a compulsive liar who claimed to have played on some Beatle records. This is actually a bit of a legendary story in the world of music, especially for Beatle fanatics like me.

I’d like to just fact check this or clarify this a bit, because I don’t want to spread misinformation and I would like to be fair to Bernard Purdie. He’s one of my drumming heroes. Long term listeners might remember that he appeared in episode 88 of this podcast, which was called How to play the drums. He wasn’t a guest on the show, unfortunately. I mean, I just played some audio of him talking about one of his drumming techniques. Episode 88 is in the archive of course.

88. How To Play The Drums

So here’s the story of Bernard Purdie and The Beatles.

The facts as far as I know are that Purdie once said that he’d played drums on 21 Beatle songs (we’re not sure which ones exactly) and that the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was in the studio when he did it. We think he means he overdubbed drums on some of the songs, but he’s never been 100% clear about it. in fact his story changed quite a lot over the years, which makes it seem like he’s lying.

He also said that there were 4 drummers who played in the Beatles, and Ringo wasn’t one of them.
For any Beatle fans, those are slightly outrageous claims to make.
Which 21 songs is he talking about?
Ringo didn’t play the drums in the Beatles?
What’s he talking about?

Also, this isn’t just some nutter with no credentials. Purdie was a bona fide legend of the drumming world. His drumming was amazing. One of the best funk, soul & RnB drummers ever. His work was outstanding, he was recognised for it and was highly respected as a session musician.
Also, looking at interviews and drum tutorial videos he did, he seems to be a jovial, friendly, big hearted person.

So I was a bit unfair when I said he was a compulsive liar.

He might have misremembered events from his life, or perhaps made a mistake that he just didn’t repair over the years. Perhaps he was just saying something outrageous in order to give himself a bit of publicity as a drummer, which worked because, well people are still talking about it.

The truth of the matter is that he did overdub drums on some recordings featuring John, Paul and George, but they weren’t recorded under the Beatle name, and they were songs the boys recorded while living in Hamburg, Germany in 1961.

Beatle fans will know those songs as the Tony Sheridan recordings, the most famous one being “My Bonnie” which was a minor hit at the time. The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete Best played as the backing band to Tony Sheridan who was a singer working in Germany at the time. They recorded 7 songs. This is before the Beatles were famous and before Ringo replaced Pete Best in the group. Before Brian Epstein turned round to him one day and said “I don’t know how to turn round and tell you this Pete, but the boys have turned round and told me they don’t want you to be in the group any more”, or something along those lines. I digress…

Later on, when the Beatles (with Ringo installed on drums) had become a massive sensation, the Tony Sheridan recordings were acquired by a record company in the USA and they wanted to re-release them under the Beatle name, but the drums didn’t sound good enough in their opinion.

They were too quiet in the mix and there was no bass drum sound. So they got a studio drummer to record drum tracks over the top of the 7 Tony Sheridan songs. That studio drummer was Bernard Purdie. So, he did overdub drums on some songs, but not the 21 songs he claimed before, and they weren’t really Beatle songs, they were Tony Sheridan songs, with the Beatles playing in the background.

And, the thing about the Beatles having 4 drummers but Ringo wasn’t one of them… God knows what he meant. Maybe he was alluding to the fact that Ringo wasn’t the drummer on the Sheridan tapes, and also the fact that there are a few other Beatle songs in which Ringo isn’t the drummer. Some of the tracks on the White Album feature Paul as the drummer, and there’s a version of Love Me Do, the Beatles’ first single, which has a session musician called Andy White playing the drums, because producer George Martin wasn’t convinced by Ringo at the time.

So, just a bit of fact checking there, for the record and for the music fans listening.

Purdie wasn’t really a compulsive liar, but he didn’t exactly tell the truth either. But what is certain is that he was a brilliant drummer.

I have to give credit to a YouTube video by FabFourArchivist which I watched and which gave me those facts. If you’re interested in music and these sorts of stories, you might enjoy it. The video is on the page for this episode.

Going back to Steely Dan, that band that we talked about before. I have a few other videos to recommend to you if you’re a fan of theirs or if you’re interested in stories about how songs are made and recorded.

First, I’ll put a video of the song Deacon Blues with lyrics so you can check it out, listen to the song and try to work out what the lyrics all mean.

Then there’s a brilliant video essay by a YouTuber called Nerdwriter1 which is all about how Steely Dan wrote and recorded the song Deacon Blues and what it all means. It’s a very well made video and is fascinating.

And you heard me talking about the Steely Dan Classic Albums documentary which is on YouTube. Here it is for your viewing pleasure, including the scenes with drumming legend Bernard Purdie.

I’d like to thank Andy for coming back on the podcast. He’s always a great guest.

You can find him on LinkedIn, on Twitter @andybjohnson and the London School Online website is www.londonschool.com/lso/ And he’s on Spotify of course, just search for Moby.

That’s it for this episode. Let me just give you a gentle reminder that you might want to become a premium subscriber. I’ve got premium episodes in the pipeline for this month that include some explorations into vocabulary that has turned up in episodes of the podcast. That means you’ll get audio English lessons teaching you real, natural vocabulary, with all the usual things like PDF worksheets with tests, pronunciation drills and all that good good stuff. And of course, when you become a premium subscriber you get instant access to the entire back catalogue of premium episodes, which is ever growing. I put a lot of work and time into my premium content, and it’s available at what I consider to be a very competitive price! Just like buying me a nice cup of coffee every month from my local coffee place, maybe with a nice bit of carrot cake too if I fancy it, and why not? www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Thanks for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon.

I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.

For now though, it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye…

Ajax fans turn from celebration to devastation as they watch their team get knocked out of the Champion’s League.

More Bernard “Pretty” Purdie Videos (because this is what life is all about)

Cory Henry jams with one of Bernard Purdie’s drum tutorial videos

Bernard talks about The Purdie Shuffle – “I’m gonna SPLAIN ya!”

Bernard Talks about his “Ghost Notes” (previously heard in episode 88)