A conversation with my brother about a specific musical genre, “ambient”. We discuss Brian Eno’s inspiration and approach to his first ambient albums, talk about the genre’s origins in French 19th century classical music, jazz and the avant-garde and describe ambient trance music from the 80s and 90s including artists like Aphex Twin, The KLF, The Orb and The Irresistible Force. Enter the ambient zone on LEP.
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.
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.
A DISCLAIMER: We’re not trying to offend or upset anyone!
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.
Kate Arnold’s Music (download her album here)
VIDEOS & IMAGES
Maths experts show us how 666 refers to Emperor Nero, and how 666 is not such a remarkable number.
Bill Bailey’s Psychological Doorbell
Black Sabbath – War Pigs live in Paris 1970
Black Sabbath Greatest Hits – scary album art
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 https://mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/the-triumph-of-death/
Tony Iommi and the Black Sabbath sound
Heavy Metal Britannia BBC Documentary (recommended!)
END OF PART 1 – Parts 2 & 3 coming soon…
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.
That’s it for this part then and we will speak to you again in part 2, but for now… good bye!
An in-depth episode all about an innovative British form of dance music from the 90s: Jungle (aka Drum & Bass). Includes discussion with James about the origins of the music, how it sounds, its position in UK culture and a few anecdotes too. Notes & music playlists available on the website.
Hello dear listeners, how are you today? I hope you are well. Here is another episode about British Music with James. This one is about jungle – a form of dance music.
We did this one in response to a request from a listener who wrote a comment on the website. While recording the episode we couldn’t remember the name of that listener but I have checked and found his name and his message and it goes like this.
Kirill Hannolainen • 2 months ago (January 2020) Dear Luke, I have already told you how amazing your podcast is in general and how particularly moving those episodes are in which you speak to James about music. They are just brilliant. That’s when the magic happens.
Is there any chance I could suggest a new topic for discussion with James – Electronic music developed in England. I mean your country brought the world irreplaceable genres of music, such as jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, big beat, ambient and stuff like that, and I think these ones are just a few examples. I grew up in the nineties in Saint Petersburg listening to jungle music made by DJ Aphrodite and drum ‘n’ bass provided by Goldie. We had some good times.
Now I’m really into ambient music from the early 1990s – artists such as the Orb, Aphex Twin and the KLF.
I would be over the moon if you could make an episode on this subject. I’m more than sure James and you know a thing or two to tell us about. Thank you in advance.
I’d also like to wish you and your beautiful family Happy New Year! Best wishes for peace and prosperity in 2020.
We’d been meaning to make an episode about jungle music for a while, even before we got this comment, and James has lots of the old tunes on vinyl. So here it is. This is our attempt to explain this music, where it comes from, what influenced it and more. You’ll also hear little bits of music during this episode, not just jungle music but also other types of music that have inspired it.
You’ll see that this episode is long, but it’s as long as it needed to be for us to cover the subject properly.
The music won’t be for everyone. It’s not to everybody’s taste. I know this is quite a specific topic, but hopefully you can learn things from it and even if you don’t like the music, I hope you can still enjoy listening to the two of us explaining and describing this subject.
This episode is accompanied by detailed notes, links and music on the page for this episode on teacherluke.co.uk, including YouTube videos for almost all the tunes that we talk about, a Spotify playlist and a special jungle mix done by James, especially for you, on his decks using vinyl records in his collection.
We hope you enjoy it. Here we go.
James & Luke start talking together (about 4m30seconds into the episode)
Episode notes used while recording this conversation
Hello, we’re going to talk about a British genre of music called Jungle.
What follows is a music documentary of sorts. We will be dipping into James’ vinyl collection as we go through this in order to play you little samples of the music we’re talking about as we continue.
So this is a history of a certain musical genre from England in the 90s: Jungle. Both James and I were really into jungle at that time and it’s also a good example of a uniquely form of British music that doesn’t get talked about much.
The period of time we’re talking about is from around the mid to late eighties to the mid to late nineties, so while the Berlin wall was coming down and so many other changes were going on in the world, this is one of the things that was happening in the UK at the time.
It won’t be for everyone! But I have had requests for this I promise! UK jungle or drum & bass, like UK EDM is pretty big around the world. We usually talk about guitar music on this podcast but this is uniquely British music from a different genre and background.
What is jungle music?
Jungle is a form of dance music that evolved out of the rave scene in the UK (more in a bit) which is personified by fast, intense, looped breakbeats over the top of deep reggae style bass lines with atmospheric sound effects, some vocals (often sampled) and maybe MCing over the top.
Complex drum patterns, and sub bass.
It evolved in the UK in the early to mid 1990s.
It was a really interesting and original new kind of music that was exciting because it kept changing and became really sophisticated and original quite quickly, and went from being a form of music that was considered the lowest of the low to being much more critically accepted by the mainstream.
The music is really intense. We’ll play you some. Listen to this, it’ll blow your socks off.
An example of a jungle track from James’ collection
River Niger – Nookie
When did you get this record? How did it get that scratch? Why have we chosen this one? – Atmosphere – Nice stuff – Heavy stuff – Not an obvious anthem
Why do you want to talk about this on LEP? – Personal connection to it (LEP has always been personal) – Uniquely British (we always talk about British stuff)
It’s not the kind of thing that usually gets talked about and analysed – when you talk about British music from the 90s it’s always Britpop, Blur and Oasis but we weren’t really listening to that. Jungle gets overlooked.
Not understood by the music press originally, which was into guitar music.
They didn’t know how to review it.
Do all British people listen to jungle music? – No
Underground music Criminal music Black music (to an extent)
How did you first get into it? Can you tell the story?
Mystery track (1993/4)
Luke: I heard jungle or rave stuff and always thought it was not for me. It was overheard from cars driven by very dodgy geezers. The compilations were on sale in record shops. It was associated with the slightly scary underground rave scene.
But I was into electronic music like ambient and stuff.
We listened to guitar music and funk from the 70s and Stone Roses and some hip hop.
Matt and Eggy – our friends who were into heavy metal and stuff like that. They were in a car and listened to this tape for a laugh and decided it was amazing and played it to us.
How did we used to get jungle music? How did we have access to it?
Tapes found in small record shops or handed round and copied.
It was mysterious – it was word of mouth, or by discovering them on tapes. You didn’t know what they were called. They were anonymous. It wasn’t like in pop music where there was an image and press, there was really no information about it beyond maybe a weird name.
When/how do you listen to jungle music? – Clubs (although we never really went to the proper jungle and hardcore raves in the early to mid nineties) – Walkman – Travelling – Listening in different contexts (You’re listening to a big rave and you’re on the bus in the countryside, listening in a car with big bass speakers) – DJing – Mixing at home (You need speakers with good bass)
What is the origin of this music?
American stuff – techno and hip hop (1980s)
Chicago and Detroit techno, based on Kraftwerk and other influences.
Can you feel it? – Mr Fingers (aka Larry Heard) – Chicago (86)
Rhythim is Rhythim (the dance) – Derrick May – Detroit – 1987
NYC hip hop (samples) Run DMC 1990 House Euro techno
DJs in the UK were mixing up everything – techno, hip hop, breakbeats, other obscure stuff, diverse influences
UK hip hop / breaks
20 Seconds to Comply – Silver Bullet (1990) ~including samples from Robocop
Bring Forth The Guillotine – Silver Bullet (B side)
Breakbeats (what are they?) – Luke’s Breakbeat Lecture
A break in the music where the drummer plays alone for a bit – maybe does a solo but probably just keeps the music going. James Brown used them, lots of others too.
Also, musically they are dance beats played with some syncopation.
The drummer uses ghost notes to add extra little beats to help it skip along in a way that you can dance to. I suppose the origins of that skipping breakbeat in funk music goes back to things like jazz, latin influences, R&B and the general shift towards syncopated dance beats that have a pattern which starts and concludes on the first beat of the bar.
Apache – Incredible Bongo Band
Think About It – Lynn Collins
Amen Brother – The Winstons
Hip Hop DJs sampled these drum breaks, often looping them in crude ways with tape machines, or mixing them on decks.
Jungle DJs also created their own breakbeats by chopping them up, and often creating amazingly complex beats that sometimes sound like a jazz drummer chopping it up.
This was the great change that happened in hip hop – where anything and everything became fair game, as long as it had the kind of break that you could rap and dance to, it was ok, with weird stuff being sampled that you wouldn’t expect.
But new music was being made directly using old music. A weird post-modern form of inward cultural appropriation.
V cheap, naive, basic, simple, unsophisticated! (but also great in its own way)
Using samples, early computers like Ataris and Amigas, some hardware like bassline generators or drum machines.
Considered the nasties, lowest, crappiest, low class music listened to by criminals and low level scumbags in cars.
The breakbeat samples get all mixed up – several generations of people sampling and then being sampled.
The sound becomes more and more compressed, The texture changes from speeding it up and adding other drum samples on the top. This was heard in a lot of hip hop and dance music at the time. The same samples being used by everyone and often several samples at the same time.
So in the UK also had a sort of hip hop dance craze that involved sampling breakbeats.
There was also this very nasty music called acid house, rave or hardcore which was very electronic, fast, had some nasty synth sounds and bleepy squidgy noises and stuff. It had an awful reputation. More on that later.
Also in the UK because of the carribean communities particularly around London and the West Midlands.
Reggae / Dub – deep sub bass, atmospheric sound effects, echo, delay, reverb.
King Tubby – Good Time Dub
White Rum – Sly & The Revolutionaries
Scientist mix (1980)
Reggae sound systems, toasting, MCing, ragga
This was actually hip hop before hip hop. – Big sound systems – Sub bass – MCs toasting over the top of music – People dancing
2nd gen black/carribean kids
Not American – a uniquely UK thing (a multicultural mix)
Eclectic rather than purist
Led by DJs trying to get the right reaction on the dancefloor
Acid / Rave / Hardcore
Jungle came out of a scene called hardcore, which came from rave, which came from acid.
What were raves? Warehouse raves Moral panic Drugs
Generally it was seen as a lawless threat and a disturbance to public peace, and maybe they had a point to an extent.
Before it gained any acceptability it was on the fringes and underground.
Later the raves became legal and took place in clubs and this was all part of how the music became more accepted, ultimately.
1993/1994 – Jungle
Inner City Life – Goldie
This is when jungle started appearing in the mainstream and fully established itself as a genre of music in its own right.
Also there were other forms of music coming from the same origins. It wasn’t a single narrative. (Techno continued, happy hardcore, big beat, “trip hop”, ambient, etc)
Musical differences & features compared to acid, rave, hardcore…
What does jungle actually sound like?
What are the distinguishing features, musically?
– 150-170 BPM (James says 168BPM specifically!) – No 4×4 bass drum – Sampled drums from funk records looped and sped up, sometimes re-sequenced and chopped up – Multiple break beats from different samples layered over the top – Gives a sort of jungle feel because – Everything is v compressed, sped up which raises the tone of the drum track – this emphasises the higher frequencies and leaves the mid range quite open and empty and then there are deep sub basslines a bit like reggae basslines – This feeling of space and echo with a deep soft layer at the bottom and a canopy of sound at the top creates this feeling of being in a tropical jungle – quiet a deep and heated atmosphere – like in a rainforest. Sometimes there are the sounds of tropical birds or a drop of water. – Then spacey sounds like synth pads, possibly piano lines, some soulful vocals but plenty of space and sparseness – a bit like in dub reggae – Fast but slow – Fast upper rhythm in double time to a reggae bassline played at half speed – Things come in more slowly with slower patterns – Losing the beat – It can sound like a drum kit falling down the stairs – It might sound like total chaos
What would our Mum think if she listened to it?
Dead Dred – Dred Bass (1994)
Babylon – Splash (1994)
The Spectrum – Wax Doctor (1995)
The Lighter – Sound of the Future
LTJ BUKEM & MC CONRAD “Chrome” Live in Leamington Spa 1995 (this is the tape I used to listen to all the time)
Different types of Jungle
A lot of people disagree about the names etc
Luke: two types → Harder, darker stuff and then the lighter more atmospheric stuff.
Started appearing in adverts and other people’s music
Roni Size win the Mercury Music Prize in 1997 (but it should have been won by Goldie who wasn’t even nominated in 1994)
Heroes – Roni Size (1997)
Little Wonder – David Bowie (1997)
Big DJs and names
– Dillinga – Goldie (didn’t win the Mercury prize in 94) – Grooverider – LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad – Fabio – DJ Rap – Jumping Jack Frost – DJ Hype – DJ Randall – DJ SS – Kenny Ken – Aphrodite Tons of others
Source Direct interview
I won’t add anything else here really. I don’t want this to be ridiculously long.
All I’ll say is that I sincerely hope you enjoyed this episode. James and I put our heart and soul into this episode so I hope it comes across. It’s a bit ambitious because this music is never going to appeal to everyone, but I hope you’ve got something from this in any case.
If you like some of the things you’ve heard and you’d like to hear more, or if you’d just like to listen again to any of the stuff we’ve been talking about then you should head over to the page for this episode on teacherluke.co.uk where you will find a plethora of music for your ears, including…
YouTube videos or Soundcloud links for almost all the music in this episode – all the tracks, and even some full length mixes
A jungle mix by James, with actual vinyl records (scratches and all) made especially for listeners of this episode (includes some pirate radio MCing by James) uploaded to my Mixcloud page
A Spotify playlist that I’ve made featuring some of the tunes in this episode (it’s called LEP Jungle if you want to find it on Spotify on your phone)
All the notes we used while recording (so you can check some words that you might want to spell)
Thank you for listening, and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.
Spotify playlist for this episode
James’ LEP Jungle mix
For more music mixes (various genres), check out James’ Mixcloud page here
A bit of pop culture history in this episode, talking about the musical movement of punk and the social situation in which it happened.
This year we have several anniversaries in British music.
50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper by The Beatles
40th anniversary of Never Mind the Bollocks by The Sex Pistols
A lot changed in British music between the release of those two albums. 1967 was the height of the peace and love movement but 10 years later music was much more gritty, cynical and realistic. In this episode we’re looking at the whole punk movement, understanding what it was all about, what the music was like, who was involved and how the whole thing has now become a sort of pop culture myth.
I’m joined by my brother James who has been a fan of punk music ever since he borrowed a tape of The Sex Pistols from a chef when he was a teenager (I don’t think the fact it was a chef has any significance to the story, but I just like saying he borrowed the tape from a chef. I can imagine a man in a chef’s hat giving James a tape. Just me? Ok) So he discovered punk music later, in the early 90s. He wasn’t actually there at the time the music was made in 1977, he was too young, but he’s collected a lot of records by punk bands, read all the books, seen all the documentaries and even played drums in a few punk bands himself. I think he knows more about punk than anyone else I know, so I think he’s a good person to talk to.
Check out the page for the episode where you’ll see video playlists chosen by James and also a musical punk mix that he did from his vinyl record collection.
But without any further ado, you can now listen to my conversation with James about punk rock music and culture.
40 years since Never Mind the Bollocks by The Sex Pistols was released. Is that the seminal punk album?
Why are we talking about punk in this episode?
What gives you any authority on the subject? Why should we listen to you?
Importance of punk for understanding culture
What is punk?
Origins of U.K. Punk
Political context – state of the country
What was the era like / music scene of the time
Spirit of punk
Purpose of punk music
Reaction to punk – tabloids
Punk art / design / fashion
2nd wave / post punk / punk influence
Reality vs legend / absorption into the culture / establishment
In this episode I’m going to play you another conversation which I recorded during the recent Christmas holiday. In this one you’re going to hear my brother and me talking to our uncle Nic about some of the amazing rock stars that he’s met over the years.
Nic has always been a huge fan of rock music and because he was born in the early 1950s he saw many of Britain’s greatest rock stars performing live on stage quite early in their careers. I’m talking about the late 1960s, throughout the 70s and beyond.
So, Nic has met a lot of musicians at gigs but he also just has a knack for bumping into rock stars in normal everyday situations and then being very cool, calm and casual in their company. It’s almost like they’re on the same wavelength or something.
Anyway, my brother and I have always enjoyed hearing Nic’s anecdotes and I’m very glad to have recorded some of those stories for this podcast.
If you’re a fan of rock music, especially some of the classic bands of the 60s and 70s then I’m sure you’re going to be impressed by some of the people my uncle has met, talked to, and even had breakfast with.
And there is one person in particular that he once bumped into – who is not only a bonafide legend of the music world, but also just one of the most famous people on the planet today. Any idea who that is? Well, to find out just listen on.
So, here’s a chat with my Uncle Nic, with some help from James.
I say “help” from James, what I mean is that he just takes over the interview at one point because he thinks he can do a better job than me, and maybe he’s right. Anyway, that’s enough rambling… here’s the conversation.
Thank you very much to Uncle Nic and belated happy birthday to him too.
Let us know what you think, and which one you think is the most impressive story. Because they are impressive stories, aren’t they. Come on! Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Pink Floyd! Fast Eddie from Motorhead!
I realise there will be people out there who don’t really know a lot of the people we were talking about. I’m sure you know Paul McCartney, but you might not know The Who, Motorhead, Pink Floyd (hard to imagine), The Damned, Slade…
And I’m sure there are others too, not necessarily in the toilet but in other situations, but who knows.
The Who – Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltry, John Entwistle
Motorhead – “Fast Eddie” & Lemmy
Free “All Right Now” live at The Isle of White Festival (1970)
Paul McCartney & Wings “Junior’s Farm” (Nic’s favourite)
Pink Floyd recorded at Live 8, Hyde Park in 2005
Slade in 1973
Have you ever met a famous musician? Let us know in the comment section.
Join my wife and *me as we walk around the streets of Paris during the annual World Music Festival. You’ll hear live music, descriptions of the scene, a couple of conversations with people we met, and the sounds of this amazing evening in the city of light. It’s another long episode, but I hope you listen to all of it because I just really want to share the atmosphere and moments of this special event. Check below for photos.
This episode was recorded yesterday evening on 21 June, which is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year. It’s also World Music Day and here in Paris there is always a big music festival on this date, called “Fête de la Musique”. In Paris the whole city comes alive all night as live bands and musicians perform music on every street corner. The whole city becomes a big festival and it’s one of the best nights of the year here. The streets are filled with people partying, having a good time, drinking, socialising and dancing to the music.
So last night my wife and I went out to walk around the area and get into the spirit of the festival and in fact my wife suggested that I do some recordings so I could show another side of life in Paris, because it’s not all just Euro 2016, floods, strikes and terror alerts. There are loads of amazing things going on. Yesterday we had a brilliant evening and I’m really glad I captured it on the podcast.
So, I invite you to join us as we take a stroll through the streets of Paris on this hot summer evening, taking in the various musical performances, getting into the spirit of the evening and meeting a few people along the way. I met a few people during the evening and recorded short interviews with them. They were mainly Brits (a couple of guys from England, a French guy and a Belgian guy who spoke good English and two guys from Northern Ireland) and I asked them a couple of questions about the big stories of the moment like the football and the EU referendum.
You will also hear plenty of live music which I recorded yesterday. On every street corner there was a different band or a DJ playing. There were some moments when I chose just to record the music and not to speak, so you will hear some little musical interludes sometimes in which I’m not actually saying anything and it’s just live music, so you can soak up the atmosphere of what turned out to be a really brilliant evening in Paris. I hope you enjoy being part of it and that you can use your imagination to picture the scenes. The sounds should be in stereo too, so if you’re listening on headphones it should sound pretty cool.
There are some photos on the page for this episode (below), so check them out!
Now, I will let you listen to my audio diary of la fete de la music in Paris. I really enjoyed recording this episode and I really hope you enjoy it too and that you get into the atmosphere of this evening of music and good vibes!
In this episode the results & winners of the LEP photo competition are announced, and – it’s the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast! This episode is long but you don’t have to listen to it in one go. You can listen, pause, do something else, listen later and so on. Enjoy!
Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please because the results of the LEP photo competition are here. Try to contain your excitement. I know we’ve all been waiting for weeks with bated breath to know who has won this most prestigious of prizes, but you can now relax and breathe normally because the wait is over! Yes, in this episode I’m going to give you the results of the photo competition. I’ll tell you the winners and the runners up, I’ll describe the winning photos in some detail including my thoughts and feelings about them, and later in the episdoe I’m going to ramble on about some other stuff.
Also, this is the 7th birthday of my podcast!
Also, I’ve just realised that this is the 7th birthday of LEP! It’s been almost exactly 7 years since I uploaded the very first episode of Luke’s English Podcast. So, this is not just the photo competition episode but also the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast too! Wow. Has it been 7 years? 7 years of my life have gone into this project. I have put a huge amount of time and energy into this over the years and I’ve loved every moment of it. Time flies doesn’t it. Yes it does. I’ll talk more of birthday-related things later, but if you’re feeling like you want to congratulate the podcast, celebrate the birthday, send me a card or a gift, or say thank you for my work or something like that, and you’re wondering what the appropriate thing to do is – well, here are some suggestions:
leave a lovely comment on the website explaining briefly what LEP means to you. It’s always nice to read your feedback and it helps the podcast because new visitors will see that I have an active, engaged, positive audience and that the podcast is good. It’ll help me reach a wider audience.
give the podcast a review on iTunes. This is really important actually – lots and lots of new people come to my podcast through iTunes and many of them will look at the reviews. So, if you enjoy this podcast and you feel it’s made a difference to your English, leave me a good review on iTunes. Lots of other people will see your review and it will really make a difference to the reputation of the podcast. Just go to https://itunes.apple.com/fr/podcast/lukes-english-podcast-learn/id312059190?l=en&mt=2 , view the podcast in iTunes and leave your review.
the most sincere way to say thanks is to leave me a donation via paypal. You should be able to find a button on every page of the website that says DONATE. This is the most sincere way you can thank me, because it’s like an investment in the podcast. Any contribution you make will support the podcast directly because it’ll help me to cover costs, such as website hosting and other payments, and because it just means I can do things like buy my wife lunch or something, and that’s important for my quality of life and my energy, which then feeds back into the podcast.
There will be more birthday celebrations later but first let’s get back to the photo competition, and here is just a quick reminder of what’s up for grabs in terms of prizes (this is where things get very dramatic and exciting – the tension is almost palpable isn’t it?!) First place will get two prizes: an LEP mug and another gift of the winner’s choice (so, another mug, a t-shirt, a pad or a tote bag), the two runners-up will receive one prize: an LEP mug each, and then there’s a surprise 4th prize, in a category that I’ve just added, for the winner of the Luke’s Choice Award (a gift of the winner’s choice from the gift shop).
I know some of you might be listening to this thinking – “What competition?” “What’s he talking about?” If that’s the case it probably means you haven’t listened to episodes 313-327 and so you’re blissfully unaware of this photo competition. Either that or you just forgot about it, or you had your memory wiped by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones or something. So, if you don’t remember, go back to episode 313 and 327 to remind yourselves of this competition and to find out more details.
Hey, don’t skip this episode, alright?
Some of you might also be thinking, “Oh, very good Luke, very good, but I might skip this episode because I’m not involved in the competition because I didn’t send a photo and I didn’t vote and yada yada yada”. First of all I should say that I would be deeply shocked and saddened if you skipped an episode. I mean really. It would upset me very much and it would be a huge trauma for me. I might have to go and have a lie down or a cup of tea, just to get over the emotional impact of knowing that you’d decided not to listen. In fact, I’m feeling very emotional about it right now just thinking about that… But if it makes a difference to you I’d like to say – I do hope you stay and listen, because I think there are some good things to be gained from listening to this, and I’ve got some biscuits here. Don’t you want a biscuit? Anyway, this episode is not just about announcing the winners, but it’s also about describing some of the popular photos using words, in English, and sharing thoughts and feelings with the LEP community.
Yes, I will be describing and commenting on the photos during the episode – so you’ll hear some descriptive language. I suggest you check the page for this episode to see the pics I’m talking about. Also, in episode 327 I taught you some very useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures, which should be very important if you’re taking a Cambridge exam, or if you’d like to learn some useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures. So, that’s back in episode 327.
Summarising the Competition
Just in case you don’t know, or you’ve forgotten or something, let me quickly sum up the competition again.
Some time late last year I opened up this new contest. I got the idea originally from a Long Term Lepster (LTL) called Guillaume who suggested it to me ages ago by email. He said, “Hey why don’t you do a competition in which you ask your listeners to send you photos of them listening in different situations, and you could share the photos on your website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something?” and I thought, hmm, a competition in which my listeners send me photos of them listening in different locations and I could share the photos on my website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something, that’s not a bad idea! And so I decided to do just that, and in episode 313 ( I think) I said, “I’m launching a competition in which you my listeners can send me photos of you listening in different locations and I’ll share the photos on my website and people can vote for their favourites and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. All you have to do is take photos of yourself listening in different situations and I can share them on my website and everyone can vote for their favourite ones, and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. What do you think?”
And people said “What? Sorry, can you repeat the sentence?”
Most people seemed up for the competition, which was nice.
There was just one condition , I said – “you have to include something that proves that you’re listening. So, that could be some headphones in the pic, or an LEP logo, or something like that.”
And that’s exactly what happened, everyone sent me pictures of themselves listening in different situations and I shared them on the page for episode 327 and then everyone voted for their favourite ones. I say, everyone – I actually don’t mean everyone – not everyone in the world. I didn’t get 7.125 billion votes, and not even everyone who listens to this podcast voted. In fact, just a small fraction of my listeners voted – which means that there’s a good chance that you, listening to this right now, yes you, the one with the ears – there’s a good chance that you didn’t take part in this at all. And I’d like to ask you why not?? What were you doing? Did you have something better to do? I can’t imagine what could be more important than voting in this competition! Except maybe writing a report for work or something – in fact there might be lots of things that stopped you from voting maybe you were going food shopping to buy food to keep you and your family alive, maybe you were cooking dinner and you couldn’t vote, eating dinner, feeding dinner to your family or friends, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, digesting food (I can’t vote I’m busy digesting), washing clothes, wearing clothes (sorry, I couldn’t vote, I was too busy wearing clothes), taking your clothes off in the evening – that’s time consuming, sleeping, being woken up by your alarm, putting your alarm on snooze, going back to sleep again, being woken up by your alarm again, putting it on snooze again, going back to sleep again, being woken up by the alarm AGAIN, and putting it on snooze AGAIN, then suddenly realising that you’re really late, smashing the alarm with a hammer, jumping out of bed, putting your clothes back on, having a shower, changing your clothes because they’re all wet, going to the toilet, taking another shower, cancelling 3rd world poverty, making coffee, leaking sensitive legal documents to the media that reveal the hoarding of massive amounts of secret money by a law firm based in Panama as part of a huge multinational tax avoidance scheme involving the leaders of many developed countries and various semi-legal tax avoidance schemes in offshore accounts based in tax-havens all over the world revealing incredible levels of alleged corruption at the highest level, eating a banana, going to work. You know, just the usual daily chores that take up our time. Maybe you were doing one of those things, and you couldn’t vote in the competition. I understand! That’s fine! I think that most people for one reason or another decided not to take part in the competition, and probably said to themselves – “Who? Me? Send pictures of myself listening in different situations so that Luke can share them on his website and then people can vote for their favourite pictures and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something? That sounds nice, but sorry Luke I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment – I’ve got a big meeting with the boss this morning, and I’m trying to learn phrasal verbs, I’ve got to shred a few documents at the Panamanian law firm where I work and I have a conference call between with David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and some other world leaders that I have to attend to, and I have to eat these biscuits and I’ve got to escape from this pink gorilla that’s chasing me and I’m trying to learn the phonemic script to improve my English pronunciation… so I can’t do it I’m afraid, I can’t vote – but carry on anyway, it sounds like a lovely plan.”
Right. Are you following this?
I’m just saying that most people didn’t get involved in the voting, but that’s totally fine of course, and in a way it’s perfect because if 7.125 billion people had voted and sent me photos, I would have been impossibly busy over the last few weeks and my website would have crashed and so on… So, all’s well that ends well.
Total number of votes and photos? In fact I received a grand total of about 115 photos and then a total of about 270 votes.
Why did I do the comp?
I wanted to see things from your point of view a bit. Obviously, I do these podcasts on my own, mostly. Sometimes I’m joined by other people, which is lovely. But usually I just sit here on own (sad, lonely music?), I record episodes, publish them, read comments from some of you, and watch the download numbers go up and up and I think – who are all these people? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they thinking? It turns out, you’re all just normal human beings (which shouldn’t be a surprise) – I mean, you’re all normal people (I say normal, of course you’re all extraordinary) but seriously, you’re ordinary people just going about your lives in different countries, in different weather conditions, in different environments and you find time to listen to this podcast while you’re doing it. There’s a pretty diverse range of people out there in different situations, but the cool thing is that you’re all united by the fact that you listen to this podcast. You’re united by other things too of course, like the fact that you’ve all got legs (although, saying that I realise that some of you might not have legs of course and that’s great) or you’re united by the fact that you live on earth and other things, like that you need to drink water regularly, breathe air, eat food, go to the loo sometimes, we’re all united by these things, you probably like eating good food – who doesn’t? and you probably don’t like it when you have a stone in your shoe, it’s annoying when your neighbours play loud music all night, sometimes you run out of sugar or milk or, err, rice, and you get angry, like “Why don’t we have any sugar left!? Oh god!!!” or you find it embarrassing when you drop something in public or you trip over in the street and you’d love to get more sleep in the mornings. Yes, you’re all united by those things, but you’re also united by the fact that you all listen to this podcast.
In all seriousness, I can’t really overstate how amazing that is. It’s amazing. It is amazing. It’s amAAAAYzing. OK? Thanks for listening and thanks for your photos & votes.
But really, I was quite surprised at what a fun and even touching experience it was to look at all the photos that were sent. Did you check out the page for 327? It was a genuinely lovely experience, that was just a little bit heartwarming. Unless you’re a steel-hearted terminator of a person, who doesn’t let emotion defrost the edges of your frozen heart, I imagine that you felt it to be quite sweet as well, to look at all these pics of people around the world.
Not all the photos were outstanding works of photographic genius of course. In fact many of them were probably taken right at the moment that you were listening to episode 313 when I said “just take a pic while you’re listening – just take a pic of whatever you can see right now” and that’s exactly what a lot of you did – so there are some photos of computer screens, or mobile phones, or views from car or bus windows and stuff, but these pictures do have interesting details in the background or on the edges of the frame – just revealing little things that show us the things we have in common but also differences like which part of the world you’re in, or what your life is like – for example, the weather, the landscape, your working environment, other people we can see in the pictures, public spaces, etc.
Luke gets deep and meaningful
I’d like to take this opportunity to get deep and meaningful now and say some profound things about what your contribution to this photo competition means to me personally, and the way it represents something special as we move through life in this crazy world we call ‘earth’, struggling to make sense of what’s going on around us and searching for some oasis of calm and some sincere sentiments outside the usual banal nonsense we are exposed to in the media and in advertising. So, here’s some profundity for you.
So here we are, all living on this planet. We all lead these separate lives in different places with our own unique problems, stresses, responsibilities etc, but at the end of the day when we put our heads down to go to sleep, or when we lose a sock in the washing machine, or when we put our headphones on to listen to LEP, aren’t we all the same in some ways? We essentially care about the same things, don’t we? Despite being in different countries, divided by political boundaries, geo-cultural distinctions, ethnic and religious differences, we are all connected. We live pretty similar lives and we share the world together (cheesy). Things we do, even small things, affect the world around us, and affect other people’s lives – even people we can’t see might be inadvertently affected by our actions in some way, and what’s good for other people is good for the world ultimately is good for us too. You know, it’s like what Cypress Hill said – “What goes around comes around”. (Cypress Hill – “What go around come around!” – I couldn’t have said it better myself, except that it’s “what goES around comeS around”, but other than that, well done Cypress Hill.)
OK this might sound bit cheesy and naive but I think it’s true, and what I’m trying to say is that it’s stupid to divide ourselves up into little groups and isolate from each other, alienate people, stigmatise or scapegoat people and point the finger at others for being different. We should celebrate our differences, like our different customs and behaviour but we shouldn’t let those differences drag us into fighting each other on behalf of people who just care about their own power. Yeah man. Deep. OK, that was a cheesy and slightly preachy message there, but there it is. I think there’s a place for a little bit of cheese and maybe the odd bit of preachiness on this podcast sometimes because I enjoy the fact that my podcast is something that crosses borders and I think these things need to be said. It’s nice. If you don’t agree that we’re all interconnected in complex ways and that humans all basically deserve to be treated with respect, and that we have more things in common than differences – if you don’t agree with me, then leave your comments on the webpage unless you’re too busy shredding documents in an office somewhere.
So, back to the photos
Seeing people’s working lives – it’s awesome to observe the different types of work that my listeners do, and there are some interesting things in there, like Julia from Russia who works with gold for example. Multitasking – it’s great to see so many people managing not just to listen to the podcast but also to do other things at the same time – like playing the piano, cooking, driving or in some cases answering the call of nature – (that means going to the toilet – yes I got a couple of pics of people listening in the loo). Good work (not for the toilet thing – I’m not judging you based on your performance in the toilet) but good work for the multitasking if that’s how you listen to this podcast! Babies listening – There are a couple of little babies (newborn ones) listening too, which I do think is a good way to get the kids started on English. I wonder what this new generation will be like in English – the generation who will grow up with access to English online. It’s possible to raise kids with good English if you just let them interact with it from an early age. It’ll definitely help. Obviously, you should speak to them and get them to speak to you in English too. Hunter in Taiwan – I’m happy to see he’s smiling while listening to the podcast! I know that some of my episodes are really long. I’ve spoken about how I think that’s good for your English. But I realise that your time is precious and I think it’s just brilliant that you choose to spend that time listening to this. So, as ever – thank you for devoting your time to this podcast. I’m glad my work is appreciated.
Obviously it’s a free podcast and I do this in my free-time so really it’s you who should be thanking me – writing me heartfelt messages filled with praise and admiration, sending me generous donations and and religiously recommending my podcast to every single person you meet (literally everyone) but nevertheless, thank you for devoting your time to LEP. In fact, joking aside, many of those things are true – I really do get regular messages from my listeners telling me how appreciative they are. In fact, you may have sent me an email or written a comment or something saying thank you and I appreciate that. Your feedback is great.
Also, congratulations to you for having the sense to listen to a podcast to improve your English, because in my professional opinion it’s a very good thing for you to do and it should give you an edge over other people who don’t do it. Obviously you should also do other practice as well, to activate your English including doing plenty of speaking if you can find ways to do that. But, you know, congrats for adding an English language podcast to your lifestyle. It’s BOUND to have an impact on your English.
So, now that I’ve rambled on about the podcast for a while let me now ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS of the competition and DESCRIBE THE PHOTOS in more detail. (why did I put those words in CAPITALS? …I don’t know – it just seemed more EMPHATIC!)
PHOTO COMP – RESULTS
4 prizes: 2 runners up, the winner, and the Luke’s Choice Award.
RUNNERS-UP (a mug each)
RUNNER UP (3rd place)Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener? 20 votes.
Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener?
Thoughts: This is simply an amazing view and it looks like the perfect place to listen to the podcast. Walking in the mountains must be invigorating and energising, and I hope you also get some mental stimulation from the podcast while you’re doing it. I also like the composition of the photo.
RUNNER UP (2nd place)
Photo title: Sergio’s illustration of me as a Jedi in training / Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! Total = 22 votes
Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I’m Luke Skywalker, finally.
Here’s a closer look at that illustration:
Note: Just describe the photo. What’s yoda whispering in my ear? “Mmmm, strong in the ways of podcasting you have become, but incomplete your training is.” Why master Yoda? What must I do to become a true Jedi Master of English Teaching? “Hmmm, monetise your podcast you must! Yes! Create online courses! Download them people will! Help them learn, you can! Video courses you could produce, yes! Study packs, pdf worksheets. Publish and sell your own materials online you must. Only then, a Jedi you will be.” OK master Yoda. I’ll try. “Hmm speak not of “TRY”. DO or DO NOT. There is no ‘TRY'”. Your voice is a bit weird master Yoda, are you ok?
Thoughts: A lot of effort went into this. The illustration is great, particularly Yoda. You’ve also done a pretty good job of capturing my face, probably based on just one photo. Also, the picture shows a lot of things like the fact that you’re listening while drawing, you’re a Star Wars fan, and you’re aware that I am too. It shows that you’ve been paying attention! I am Luke Skywalker after all. It’s really funny and nice!
OVERALL WINNER (1st place) (a mug + t-shirt, bag or pad)
Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework (29 votes)
Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework
Thoughts: This is a great pic because it shows very clearly the way that many people listen to the podcast – while doing something else. Gabriella is obviously very clever to combine the two, and she seems so happy! Big smile on her face, and it’s just a very striking and colourful picture. There’s something appealing about it. It’s a slice of life. We have a glimpse into your home, and we get a sense of how much you enjoy listening to the podcast. Lovely stuff!
Luke’s Choices for Honourable Mentions (from ones that didn’t win) – and one of these will receive a Luke’s Choice Award (a mug)
These are photos that didn’t win or get runners up prizes, but which I’d like to mention because I like them.
Esther and so many ginger biscuits 9
Dima Okun – listening all the time! 8
Lеksandra Sokolova – an artist who listens while illustrating – sashasokolova.com 8
Denis (Bosnia and Herzegovina) during his Orchestra Rehearsal 9
Thavorn Twinant from Thaliand in San Francisco 10
Hunter in Taiwan listening with 14 day old son 12
Zdenek_Lukas in Czech Republic 13
Sylke Strüber and her pet dog Robin in Germany 13
Meliana and bear in Wroclaw (in Poland), which is this year European Capital of Culture 15
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Alexander in hospital in Russia – don’t worry he’s ok – and he’s listened to every single episode of LEP while recovering.
Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1 (stayed up all night studying and then chose to listen to my podcast – instead of crashing out in bed, exhausted – you’ll go far my friend)
The ‘Luke’s Choice Award’
This is an award given to one of the photos that didn’t win, but which I personally like.
I like them all, but of the ones that didn’t win, this one stood out for me.
The award goes to: Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets (5 votes)
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets
Why have I chosen this one?
It’s a slice of life. First of all, we get a sense of daily routine. It seems so busy, with other people cycling past. A sense of movement. A sense of multiculturalism. Environmental issues – with he pollution. A sense of urgency. Although it was probably taken very quickly and it’s essentially a selfie, I like the composition, with the cyclists moving past in the background and to the side, with Daria on the left, quite close engaging us with those lovely blue eyes. It makes me wonder what she’s thinking while surrounded by all this traffic. It must be a stressful daily commute, but she seems calm while listening to the podcast. And she l looks like a ninja, which is cool.
If you’d like to buy some merchandise, click the image below to visit the LEP GIFT SHOP.
Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.
Other entries and their votes
Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1
Amir Khosh – the Dentist who listens to LEP 1
Sara Viñas in Beijing China with a mask for pollution 1
Gabriel Reis 1
Armando Torres driving in Mexico with the iztaccihuatl volcano in the background 1
Mohsen from Iran 1
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Vlad from Kharkiv in Ukraine, where it looks very cold indeed 1
Alex from Spain making delicious chocolate cookies with the kind help of her two girls 1
Valtesse Maria Thompson – hashtags are enough proof! 1
basma-salman listening in bed I think! 1
Mike in Sri Lanka or India 1
Ewelina – keep on running! (with headphones on) 1
Carolina from Santiago Chile 1
Amaia Garcia – Bilbao in Basque Country – Guggenheim museum 1
Emília Hosszú – she nominated herself in the most boring category – in the UK I think 1
Julien the French stonemason 1
Emma Lee – LEP Ninja from Australia – in her 6 year old son’s room 1
Adam from Poland, now a sheet metal worker in Leicestershire in England 1
Irina Lavrova – another frozen Lepster! 1
Tania from Chile now in Munich 1
Aine Ito – LEP Ninja from Japan now studying in Edinburgh 1
Farid from Algeria now living in Montreal Canada 1
Tetsro – shaving in Japan with Philip’s shaver – did you ask Philip before you borrowed it? 1
Junji Yanagi, from Japan, who prefers walking than taking the train because it gives him more time to listen to LEP – 2
Jonatan Uriel Vidal Carmona in Mexico City 2
Francesco Lotto – a foggy day in Italy 2
romana from höflein, austria – running betwen vineyards 2
Anthony CP from Spain – listening in Northern Ireland 2
Ivan Irikov at the Gym 2
Anna Maria Chachulska (Polish girl living in Netherlands) and Kermit and a gin and tonic 2
A lovely photo of Renato in a typical listening situation 2
Guillaume driving with The Thompsons in Switzerland 2
Ariel Tsai (from China) marking her students homework 2
Quyền Cao commuting and listening 2
Sebastian from Poland – feeling good after a 5 km jog 2
Sergey Abakumoff – somewhere in Russia – spot the headphones 2
Alexey Алексей keeping an eye on the road in Russia 2
playdoh crow multitasking with a nude_potato 3
Mamen – waiting for the snow in Biescas in Spain 3
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Kaline who listens everywhere! 3
Vasyl Usik on a bike ride in Ukraine 3
Sylke from Germany 3
Marina F with her listening partner – Daniel 3
Achim Winter – Cooking with Luke 3
Facundo Vilicich with a skipping rope in the PLaza Malvinas 3
huda s – favourite place for listening 3
Maxi from San Nicolás, a small town of Argentina – with the view from his kitchen and a cup of mate (local tea) 3
Paulina from Poland – listening in the morning. 3
Hideki from Japan and the Tokyo Skytree 4
Marina in Moscow 4
Jose, who listens while running to the toilet 4
Sabine from Germany – starting the day brushing her teeth in English 4
Leila somewhere in Russia 4
Carlos Rodríguez from Chile – multitasking 4
Alessandro from Rome on a ferry from France to England 5
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Kristina listening at -20 degrees C 5
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets 5
Charleston from Brazil – on the way to his girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night 6
Julia from Minsk in Belarus 6
Eric in France – raising a glass to LEP 6
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Julia from Russia – a restorer who works with GOLD – note the golden LEP 6
Cristian cooking for his British fiancee – who also is a lepster 7
Joanna from Poland and her comments! 7
Kristina in Moscow – smiling despite the snowstorm 7
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Serezha Sergey from Moscow 8
Weijia Wang from China 9
Crikey! It’s the 7th birthday of LEP! I completely forgot about that!
Top countries by download over the last 7 days, 30 days, 90 days, year.
Nicknames for LEPsters
I expect I have many types of listener. Some of you have been listening for ages, some might be quite new. Some of you leave comments, some don’t. Some of you use transcripts, some just listen. I was thinking of nicknames I could use to refer to the different types of listener I have. Here are a few ideas. They’re mainly acronyms. *Let’s see how many of these nicknames I can actually remember in the future! and Let’s see how many get adopted by you*
LEPsters (all people who listen) LEP Ninjas (People who listen but never comment, or people who comment rarely, or people who comment anonomously and then slip away into the darkness) DLLs – Dedicated Language Learners (obviously that’s everyone – but these are people who really go all out to learn using the podcast, like listening numerous times, repeating what they hear, keeping vocabulary records, studying transcripts, or using any kind of serious work ethic while listening) Dudes – Anyone (men or women) who just likes to chill out while listening. You might have a cup of tea and lie down on your nice rug and just listen for the pure enjoyment of it) Civilians or “muggles” (People who don’t listen and who have no idea that it exists) Splitters! (People who used to listen, but decided to stop for some reason – especially if they listen to OPP but not mine) Scrubbers! (People who know the podcast exists but just ignore it, choosing not to listen) Passive smokers / Second hand LEPsters / Significant Others (Wives, girlfriends, boyfriends or husbands who listen because they’re with another LEPster) Younglings (Kids who listen to the podcast) Comrades – I’m referring to fellow English teaching professionals who listen to this podcast. I have a special sense of solidarity with other English teachers. All creatures great and small (any animals who listen) Aliens (just aliens – I imagine they’re scanning all broadcasts on earth) NSA Agents (Those American secret service agents who are listening to this – imagine Agent Smith from The Matrix) LTLs (Long Term Lepsters – people who have been listening for years – maybe since 2009 – early adopters) Newbies – Anyone who’s just started listening recently. The Lost Adventurers – Listeners who are quite lost because they just don’t really understand what’s going on in episodes, but they keep pushing forwards anyway, searching for the truth. I imagine you sort of lost in the jungle, slashing at the foliage with a machete, trying to find the path that will lead you to the temple of English enlightenment. Transcribers (LEPsters who take part in the transcription process) Audiophiles (People who have downloaded audiobooks from Audible) Talkers (People who talk on italki) Cowboys / gunsligners = people who think I talk too much “You talk too much” Readers (People who just read the show notes and transcripts, but don’t actually listen to the episodes) Multitaskers (people who listen to LEP while doing other things) Philanthropists (people who donate money to the podcast out of generosity and kindness)
I’m sure you could think of plenty of other types of listener. So, I invite you to think of other names and add them in the comment section.
POLL – What are the most common types of listener? Complete this poll to find out!
Here’s a 2-part episode featuring a conversation with my cousin Oliver in which we talk about first some challenges he faced over the last few years (including dramatic things like a scooter crash, a tropical disease, a burglary and how he completely flooded his own house) and then some more positive things about being a father and predictions for how society will be different in the future. Also, listen for some general news and announcements about Luke’s English Podcast.
I hope you enjoyed the episodes I recorded as a tribute to David Bowie. Unfortunately, so soon after we lost Bowie, the news came that another great person has died – the British actor Alan Rickman, who like Bowie was 69 years old and died from cancer. He’s most famous for playing the part of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, and the part of Hans Gruber the bad guy in the film Die Hard with Bruce Willis – both very enjoyable and distinguished performances, but he played many other roles too. Alan Rickman was known for his sardonic humour, his wonderfully rich and unique voice, and for bringing a great amount of weight and humanity as well as humour to his roles. He will be missed too.
And, I haven’t even mentioned Lemmy – the lead singer of the group Motorhead, who also died recently. Lemmy played a massive part in the invention of heavy metal music, and was generally a huge personality in the world of British rock. He was on the scene all the way from the 60s until this year when he passed away due to cancer. Lemmy was known for his gravelly voice, his appearance (he looked like a biker dressed in leather with big mutton-chop sideburns and moles on his face – he wasn’t a pretty guy like Bowie by any means), his hard-drinking speed fuelled lifestyle and his bizarre obsession with Nazi regalia – clothing, weapons and so on from the Nazi era. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just liked the designs and imagery from that time – it had nothing to do with the ideology, and at heart he was just committed to playing loud and fast music and living a loud and fast lifestyle – and he will surely go down in history as a true legend of the music world. So, that’s three people, at least. So, can famous British people stop dying please!? If we carry on at this rate there’ll be none left by the end of the year.
But let’s not dwell on these dark things any more! I’m glad to present you this episode today because this one is all about the future, and new life because my cousin Oli is going to be a Dad for the first time – his wife is expecting a baby daughter at any time, so let’s look to the future, with new life and positivity and all that stuff! We’ll start that in just a minute, but first – a little bit of admin…
The comments issue on the website is fixed. I just needed to do a few updates. You can now post comments on the homepage again. No worries!
Email subscribers – are you still receiving emails when I post new episodes? I had a couple of messages from listeners recently who said they hadn’t received emails with new episodes. How about you? If you’re an email subscriber, could you let me know if you received emails for the David Bowie episodes, the episode called With the Thompsons, and the Star Wars spoiler review.
Picture comp is finished – so, don’t send me any more photos please! Thank you for the photos I have received in my email account, and, of course, I have loads of pictures. They’ll go up on the website soon and you can pick your favourite. I’m a little bit concerned about how that’s going to work because there are about a billion photos, but I’ll work something out.
I’ll be meeting Paul and Amber again soon. Firstly to catch up with them both – because quite a lot has happened since we last spoke on the podcast. Amber went to Costa Rica, and Paul Taylor is now something of a celebrity as his comedy video about kissing in France went super-viral over the last few weeks. His video, “Paul Taylor – La Bise” is about his frustration with the French custom of kissing people when you meet them. It was uploaded onto Robert Hoehn’s YouTube channel French Fried TV on new year’s day and within the space of just a few days it got over 1 million views. He was featured on lots of French websites, radio and TV, and then the video went global on the BBC’s website and more. Paul also has a new solo comedy show every Saturday (as well as the one with me on Thursdays) and it’s completely sold out for the next 10 weeks or something. Wow! Remember when he was on this podcast talking about how he quit his job to do comedy? Remember how difficult it was in Edinburgh? Well, things seem to be working out for him now! Good news!
Also, I hope to get Amber and him on this podcast again (if he’ll come on now that he’s such a big celebrity) in order to do that interactive version of the Lying Game – remember that? Listen to “318. The Rematch (Part 2)” to find out the details. Basically, this is a chance for you to get involved in another version of the lying game. All three of us said some statements, and you now have to write questions in the comments section for episode 318. IN the episode we’ll ask each other your questions, and answer them. Then you can decide if they’re true or lies. Again, listen to 318. The Rematch (Part 2) for all the details (listen until the end).
Introduction to this Episode
As you know at Chrimbo I want back to the UK and stayed with my family, and with my cousin at his home in Bristol. It’s been a while since he was last on the podcast, and quite a lot has changed with him. In our conversation we talk about lots of things and I really think this is an interesting episode, and a very valuable one from a language point of view. The topics we talk about are diverse and quite in-depth and as a result we use lots of different features of grammar and vocabulary. I always encourage you to notice language while listening to native speakers on this podcast, so try to do that in this episode if you can. First we talk about what happened to Oli since the last time he was on the podcast, so watch out for the ways in which we talk about the past – tenses, and other forms. Oli faced a few difficulties and challenges, so watch out for the ways he describes those things. Essentially, he tells me a few anecdotes about some of his difficulties in London, watch out for past tenses and so on. Then we talk about the future, and about various predictions for the next 10-20 years, so naturally you can try to notice the specific language, tenses and modal verbs that we use to describe the future, make predictions and make judgements about the future. As well as that, there’s a lot of vocabulary related to technology, transport and communication.
In my opinion this is a very useful conversation for you to listen to. I loved catching up with Oli and I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it, and by the way, listen all the way to the end to hear Oli play a bit of guitar – and he’s a really good guitarist.
Hello, welcome to Luke’s English Podcast, which is a podcast for learners of English around the world. This is part 2 of a special episode about English musician David Bowie who died just a few days ago on 10 January 2016. The aim of this episode is to talk about David Bowie’s significance as an artist, to consider some of the themes of his work and to look at why so many people had such a strong emotional attachment to him. Hopefully after listening to this episode you’ll be better able to have conversations about David Bowie, but also about art and culture in general. You can find almost everything I’m saying transcribed on the page for this episode – see below.
In part 1 I talked about Bowie’s career up until about the year 1975. So let’s carry on in just a moment, but before that I just want to say that since I recorded this episode I’ve realised that there are lots of other things didn’t mention. For example, I could have talked more about his first wife Angie and his second wife Iman. They say that behind every great man there’s a great woman. If that’s true then Bowie must have had two great women in his life – and probably quite a lot of average ones as well I expect… Anyway, joking aside, I’m sure they had big parts to play in his life, and I hope they’re alright. It’s hard for us to lose an artist we love, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for his close family who must have cared about him in so many other ways.
Anyway, let’s get back into this episode and I’ll carry on from where I stopped last time in the mid-70s.
It’s hard to explain everything that happened in the 1970s! It was a whirlwind of different things, and incredible music. Everything moved so fast for Bowie during that period, and he was really ahead of everyone else in terms of fashion. Bowie was very ahead of his time.
Around this time he starred in a film called The Man Who Fell To Earth, directed by Nicholas Roeg. In it he plays the character of an alien who lands on earth and attempts to make sense of the place. He was perfect for the part and it is still a mesmerizing performance. He was a great actor. IN the film he’s very thin and his otherworldliness and his vulnerability were perfect for the part of an alien, alone on earth.
If you’ve seen the film “Under the Skin” with Scarlett Johannson, I think it borrowed a lot from “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.
Why was he so thin? Drugs and his excessive lifestyle.
It’s amazing that he survived that period.
You can see him in quite a dark place in the documentary film about him called “Cracked Actor”.
This is partly due to the ravages of his rock and roll lifestyle – touring, performing and being a celebrity can have a weird effect on a person, but add drugs into the mix and things can get seriously out of control.
Bowie took a lot of cocaine in the 70s. http://ultimateclassicrock.com/david-bowie-cocaine/
He did this mainly to help him work, but also because it was fun of course (in the beginning). I think cocaine can give you lots of energy which allows you to keep working much more intensively and for longer periods than people who are not using it, but it comes with a price of course – to your wallet, but to your mental and physical condition. Apparently it is incredibly habit-forming and very difficult to break away from. Ultimately, if you continue to use it then eventually it will use you. “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.” I don’t know where that quote comes from, but I guess it means that “you might use drugs, but eventually the drugs will use you.” And I don’t know what drugs will use you for… it’s probably best not to let drugs use you or dictate your life. They’ll take you to bad places.
Paranoia, weird eating habits, alcohol, obsessions.
He was incredibly thin and seemed to be quite out of his mind during that period.
Check out some of his interviews and TV appearances, and photos of him at the Grammy Awards with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1975. He looks almost like a skeleton.
He later described this period as horrible. Imagine being so far out of your mind and yet so lost within yourself that all your demons are made real and are talking to you in persuasive, frightening and seductive voices. Apparently Bowie was so disturbed and paranoid that he could only bear to eat certain foods. Apparently he lived for quite a while just drinking milk and eating green peppers, while snorting cocaine all the time and drinking alcohol. It’s amazing that he survived.
I think his problems at that time were not just drug related, but also identity related. Apparently he had let the Ziggy Stardust persona take over his real life. He wasn’t sure where Ziggy or Aladdin Sane ended and David Bowie began. The lines became blurred. Reality and performance were all messed up, and he lost a sense of who he really was. He must have nearly lost his grip on reality for a while. Again, he was the astronaut spinning into deep space.
Nevertheless, despite the craziness in his personal life at the time, he continued to make some of the best music of his career and it’s all there for us to listen to, like great albums such as Young Americans and Station to Station. Always such fantastic music and well written songs. That’s the bedrock of all of it – he wrote very good songs. He combined appealing and popular music which also contained some very complex and avant-garde elements, like a crazy freeform piano solo here, some very unorthodox string arrangements, some totally distinctive chord changes, and some incredibly versatile singing. Some people say Bowie couldn’t sing, but it’s not true. He had quite a narrow sounding voice, but he used it in a lot of different ways and could sing low or very high. Sometimes he would sing in a kind of cockney accent, and sometimes he’d use a posher, deeper and more distinguished voice.
The Berlin Period
My Dad didn’t have any records by Bowie from 1975 until 1983, so I missed the whole Berlin period, and I still haven’t really explored it, which is, on one hand terrible because how can I be a fan without really knowing those records, but also great because I’m going to explore all those albums now. My uncle sent me 3 CDs not long ago – Low, Lodger and Heroes. I’m going to feast on those LPs. He’s always been good that way, my uncle Nic. Never been on the podcast, but he’s a huge music lover and a massive fan of Bowie. When I was 16 Nic made me a tape. It had Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, David Bowie and The Clash on it. What an education. My uncle saw Bowie perform live 3 times. At one of those performances it was 1975 or 1976 and he was right at the front of the audience. He actually saw Bowie performing as the Thin White Duke, just a few metres away. It must have been incredible. I’ve been chatting a bit with Nic, and my brother who is also a big fan. Here are some of the things that my Uncle said to me via text just yesterday.
Nic: I feel really very sad about it, more than I can imagine for someone I never actually knew. Except of course I did in a way. Such a soundtrack through my adult life. The highlight for me was being near the front at Wembley Pool for the Thin White Duke, maybe the best concert we ever went to. The greatest artist of my generation.
Saw him three times but The Duke was the best, mainly also because we saw him swept away in the back of a huge black limousine after the gig, this little white genius in the back of this huge black car.
Luke: I’m about to do a podcast about Bowie, but I really don’t know where to start.
Nic: What you have to say is that part of his genius was the utter unpredictable nature. Each successive album was unique and different, you never knew what to expect. But it was always different and fascinating.
Good luck with the podcast I’m sure you’ll manage it but don’t worry if you can’t. Such a huge subject.
Luke Thompson: I’ll do what I can! Didn’t someone once say that art is never finished, it’s just abandoned? I’m not saying my podcast is art or anything, but I think you know what I mean.
Nic: I do. I think you and David would’ve got on really well!
Luke: Oh man, what a thought!
My bro sent me a little voice message. Here it is.
(James’ audio message)
Anyway, back to the Berlin period. I think what happened is that Bowie decided to get out of LA in order to escape all the drugs and madness. He moved to Berlin with Iggy Pop. I think they believed that there would be no drugs in Berlin, but they were wrong – apparently there was lots of heroin. I don’t think Bowie used heroin. Good – that’s the real killer and must be avoided at all costs. His friend Iggy Pop (real name James Osterberg) was a heroin addict, so I think he may have succumbed to it there, I’m not sure. But for Bowie, Berlin was a chance to start piecing his life together again and work on new projects. He also split from his wife Angie during this period. (Yes, during all the madness of the previous few years he had married and had a child, now called Duncan Jones – he’s a filmmaker who did a really great science fiction film called Moon, which is quite reminiscent of Bowie’s song Space Oddity).
Anyway, Berlin was Bowie’s attempt to begin again, and although it must have been a difficult and troubling time for him, it was also an extremely creative period, again. Some say it’s the peak of his career, but David Bowie had so many different peaks. Just pick one.
Berlin and the art scene there influenced him a lot. His records from that period were a collaboration with Brian Eno, and they have a totally different feel to the Thin White Duke period. They’re stark, sparse, quite low-fi, quite gritty, depressing yet with an air of grounded optimism and a sense of rebirth. It’s amazing how he managed to change and find new creativity with each step. I think artists are always struggling to find that inspiration to be creative. You can’t always manufacture the creative urge, it just comes to you and you have to try and put it into music or paint or whatever you’re using. I’m amazed at how Bowie managed to follow his creative muse so consistently and regularly. He was really in touch with something – a creative channel, that most of us don’t have access to. It makes us think that Bowie knew things that the rest of us don’t know. I don’t really understand that, but it’s true of all great artists I think – that they have direct access to something that we don’t, and they are able to put it into their art and then we can have access to it too. I feel like that about The Beatles too.
Song: Ashes to Ashes.
This was made just after the Berlin period and it’s his way of saying goodbye to the 70s. The song is incredible, especially when performed live. It has a really cool funk groove, but it also has some really weird and original chord changes and melodies. For me the lyrics are about him looking at his recent past and putting it behind him. It’s about letting the past be the past and moving on. I really can’t do justice in words to how poignant this song feels for me whenever I listen to it. It just grabs my feelings and throws them around all over the place. I don’t want to sound pretentious, that’s genuinely what the song does to me. I care about it in personal ways that I can’t go into now. I love the strength in the song. That you can move on and change and that you are not defined by your past. That’s incredibly brave and positive.
My Dad had another album – Let’s Dance, released in 1983. Perhaps Bowie’s biggest commercial hit. Produced by Nile Rogers.
On the cover Bowie was dressed as a boxer and is throwing a punch. There are also some diagrams for dance steps. I like the analogy of boxing and music. Dancing can be like fighting, when you dance on your own that is. It can be like sparring with your demons, if you like.
Bowie was still in a suit in this period and had bleached blonde hair. He still looked super cool as always.
The production on the album is absolutely massive. It sounds incredible.
The vinyl was in much better condition.
Maybe my Dad listened to it less (I think having kids and a job took up most of his time) or maybe the technology had improved since then, and vinyl records were just better made.
“Let’s Dance” blew my socks off completely. Still does.
“China Girl” also sounded incredible. The musicianship was so tight. It was produced like an up-front commercial dance album. Apparently Bowie didn’t like it that much. I think it just didn’t match his artistic vision, but I love it – because I love the work of Nile Rogers (think tracks like “Good Times” by Chic or “He’s the greatest dancer” by Sister Sledge, and many other records).
My Dad told me that he thought China girl was a song about heroin. That was really intriguing to me. “How could those romantic lyrics be about drugs?” and also, I was interested to know if Bowie had used heroin, because I know how dangerous that drug is – just watch the film Trainspotting and you’ll know.
It turns out the song was written by Iggy Pop. That explains it. Iggy was the heroin addict.
Listening to it, there’s a lot of pain and despair in the lyrics. Bowie screams in pain, including the line “It’s in the whites of my eyes!” to describe the depth of Iggy’s drug addiction. That’s scary, but it’s a pop song.
In fact, the raw upbeat power of the song overwhelms the dark sentiment of the lyrics. Maybe that’s why Bowie wasn’t so keen on it.
Since listening to that album as a teenager (and throughout my life) I’ve learned that by 1983 Bowie had managed to get clean and had left his drug habit behind. That was always really impressive to me. He always managed to maintain such distinction and class, even when he must have been feeling so terrible sometimes. He really kept it together, but there must have been some pretty dark and difficult times. I respect him for having the strength of mind to stop. Lesser people would have been destroyed by the lifestyle he had. Apparently, to help him stay clean, Bowie had a tattoo on his leg of the serenity prayer, which is the common name for a prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971). It has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. The best-known form is:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Which means I think – he wanted to remember that he could never go back to using drugs. I think some addicts slip back into using when they think they have the power to stop again, but they have to remember that their drug addiction is something they can’t change. If you believe you can control the addiction, you’re wrong. But you can control yourself by choosing to stay clean.
It’s something like that. But to me it’s impressive that he tattooed that onto his leg. He was really committed and strong-minded.
The 80s were a slightly mixed period artistically for Bowie. I think he probably got his personal life together but his art suffered a bit. Fair enough. I think he deserved to have some happiness and stability for a while and so what if some of his work in the late 80s wasn’t that great.
I remember seeing him again in about 1986 or 1987 when as a family we went to the cinema to watch a film called Labyrinth. David Bowie played the bad guy in the film – called Jareth The Goblin King. Basically it’s a kind of dark fairy tale about a girl who goes on adventure into a maze in order to rescue her baby brother who has been kidnapped by the goblin king. Bowie’s performance is pretty hilarious. He’s dressed up in a very camp outfit with big hair and tights. He sings a couple of songs. I remember being a bit disturbed by the film but I didn’t know why. Watching it back more recently I think I realised what it was – it’s Bowie’s tight trousers. They were… well… a bit too tight. I mean, you could see everything. The film was supposed to be scary and there were a few monsters in it, but really the most frightening monsters were on display under David’s tight pants. If you don’t know what I’m getting at, watch the film and you might see what I mean. I’m not the only one to have made that observation by the way. Apparently it was intentional too. The director wanted to create a villain who was attractive yet dangerous – like a rock star.
Bowie came back again in the 90s with another creative period. He reinvented himself as a kind of godfather of British rock music. He wore an awesome jacket with a union jack on it, and collaborated with drum and bass artists like Goldie.
For me the rest of his career is interesting but not quite as great as his earlier work, in terms of music. But he did lots of TV interviews and live performances and many of them are on YouTube. I like to think of his later period as his interview period, but of course he was involved in loads of other projects. There are plenty of things I’m not mentioning here just because it would be impossible to cover everything. One thing he did was use the internet to share his music, right from the beginning, before most other artists or companies used the internet for publishing. He really had his finger on the pulse. He was always ahead of his time.
His TV interviews on YouTube are great. He was always really interesting to listen to. He was very thoughtful, intelligent and articulate, and funny. He was really witty and had a fantastic sense of humour. That’s perhaps one of the most attractive things about him. He never ever took himself too seriously. He took the art really seriously, but never himself. His attitude was so refreshing. No ego.
He had a characteristic voice and way of speaking. It’s fun to do impressions of him and many comedians have done that over the years. My favourite impressions of Bowie are done by Hugh Cornwell on a TV show called Stella Street, and by Adam & Joe who are both Bowie obsessives, particularly Adam Buxton. They do great Bowie impressions. Check out the page for this episode to see those Bowie impressions and to listen to a long documentary that Adam did about Bowie. It’s brilliant.
Bowie released a few albums during the 2000s that were well received by critics, including Heathen and Reality.
Then he went quiet for a while after having a heart attack. He sort of disappeared from the media, except to help promote his son’s film “Moon”.
Then, more recently he came back with The Next Day, and just a week before his death his final album called Blackstar.
What’s interesting about this last couple of albums is that he seemes to be singing about his career as a whole, revisiting some of the themes, places and images that he created earlier.
What none of us predicted is that his latest album Blackstar is about his mortality. Listening to it now, immediately after his death, the songs and videos take on a much deeper significance. The album is very poignant and moving, and is full of puzzles and enigmas that seem to express his experience of coming to terms with his own death, and then dying, leaving us with a completed body of work. It is the perfect ending to his career.
Just over a week ago Bowie released his new album on his birthday.
Lots of people were talking about it, and Bowie fans were excited as usual to get some more music to explore.
We were all celebrating his return and wishing him a happy birthday.
So when we heard about his death, it came as a painful shock.
It was so unexpected, because we had no warning. We had no idea he was sick. He’d kept it secret.
It might seem like a small thing, but a new album of music from an artist you love can make a difference to your life in subtle ways.
A week before he died, early on a dark Monday morning while eating my corn flakes, I had watched the video to his song Blackstar. I found it to be really strange and quite frightening, yet with an appealing and catching song in the middle of it.
Just like much of Bowie’s best work, it’s both avant-garde and poppy. It’s not easy listening, it’s quite dark and moody, but I like that. Music shouldn’t always be safe. It should be challenging sometimes.
Anyway, the video disturbed me a bit. It was full of nightmarish visions, and seemed to be symbolic of something but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
I went to work that day and put it to the back of my mind, deciding to just come back and listen to the whole album at some point later.
Then a week passed and last Sunday evening came around. I couldn’t sleep.
I just couldn’t get to sleep.
That doesn’t always happen to me. Usually I get to sleep quite easily. I love sleeping.
This was one of those nights when I couldn’t rest. My mind was just wide awake and it was racing in lots of different directions at the same time. I ind it very frustrating and annoying, especially if I have work the next day. I just want to sleep but my mind seems to be connected to something and won’t switch off. (perhaps I should have listened to my own sleep episode – or tried the relaxation techniques, but I couldn’t focus)
It was disturbing to be still awake at 4am, just lying there in the darkness, with the stars in the sky outside, just staring into space even though my eyes were closed.
Eventually I dropped off and got a couple of hours of sleep, but I was feeling pretty delicate on Monday morning. You know how it is if you haven’t slept.
I had corn flakes again like normal. I have to get up extra early on Mondays in order to teach. My wife was still sleeping peacefully. Lucky her!
I got to school in the rain.
I was holding it together, getting my lessons prepared and someone came in the room and just said to me “David Bowie’s dead”.
Immediately I just said “WHAT???”
In fact, the news spread around the teachers’ room pretty fast. Usually people are busy getting their lessons planned but everyone just stopped.
It’s hard to comprehend that someone is just not in the world any more.
There’s a period where you can’t come to terms with it.
I felt a bit empty or something.
Then I had to go and teach.
During the classes that morning, when I wasn’t interacting with my students, like when I was getting the CD prepared, or when I turned away from them to write on the board, it came back to me quite quickly, and I got surprisingly emotional and had to try to get control of myself!
Fair enough I hadn’t slept much so I was feeling a bit weird anyway.
But I’m still quite surprised at how moved I was.
It was so unexpected.
It’s like David Bowie himself had punched me in the stomach.
Apparently he used to train as a boxer to keep fit.
Well, apparently he was still pretty fit because laid a combination of punches on me that morning that I didn’t expect.
In those moments when I wasn’t occupied by something else I couldn’t help thinking of the times when David Bowie’s music was in my life. They were all key moments for me somehow. Like being in the car with my Dad, discovering new feelings as a teenager in the corner of the living room, dancing in a nightclub somewhere with girls, doing Bowie impressions with my best friends, singing a Bowie song to try and seduce my girlfriend (it worked – the song? “The Prettiest Star”).
They all struck me, but I wasn’t the only one of course. Millions of people around the world were feeling pretty much the same things as me at that moment.
And later on I thought about that scary video that I’d seen exactly a week before and it made a lot more sense to me.
Bowie knew what he was doing. He new he was sick with cancer and he knew that he was going to die, but he didn’t tell the public. We had no idea. So he decided, probably very quickly, to make this music and throw into it all his feelings and experiences when confronted with his own mortality. Apparently he had 6 heart attacks in the year before his death, while recording the album, but he kept fighting to finish the album. Wow.
Apparently he was very close to the edge during the period when the album was due to be released. But he managed to time it somehow so that he would die a week after his birthday and the release of the album.
Even his death was a flawlessly judged artistic act.
Imagine my sleepless night, the frustration of not sleeping, the weird thoughts and fears that passed through my head in that condition. It was weird but what must it be like to be lying in bed, not waiting for dawn to come, but waiting for the end to arrive? What would you be thinking and feeling? I think Bowie has done a great job of expressing that in this music. It’s scary I know, but it’s powerful, and it’s not just morbid and depressing. There are moments where I feel he’s exstatically happy, looking back on some of the victories and joy he had in his life.
Also, the music is good. It’s got some bubbly electronic sounds and some jazz/funk drumming, and some soulful elements and sweeping string arrangements and saxophone.
But what’s mind-blowing is that Bowie used his death as a way of delivering his art to us. That punch in the stomach is a great way to get someone’s attention. Now he has everyone’s attention and we’re all listening. It’s the perfect exit! He really left with a bang.
Now what we have is a complete body of work with a distinct beginning and end, which makes it all the more powerful. I’m sure that all his best music will stand the test of time. In 100-200 years, if we’re all still here, I think Bowie will still be considered one of the most influential and significant artists of this age.
For me personally, I hope there will be many more moments coming in the future that I can share with David Bowie and his music, like the ones I had in the past.
The man may be gone, but the artist remains – preserved in the music, in the images and in our memories.
Thank you David Bowie.
Here are lots of David Bowie Links and Videos.
Just take your pick and dive in.
Space Oddity studio version with lyrics
Space Oddity live on TV in 1969
Ziggy Stardust sings Starman on BBC Top of the Pops in 1972
David Bowie announces the end of Ziggy Stardust on stage
Bowie interviewed by Dick Cavett in 1974, clearly under the influence of cocaine
Thin White Duke
Bowie in Berlin
Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jan/13/david-bowie-berlin-years-heroes-just-a-gigolo
Fascinating interview from 1979
Bowie in 1983 criticises MTV for not playing black music
Bowie talks about acting and touring in 1983
Nile Rogers describes meeting David Bowie
Bowie – “The Interview Years”
Bowie & Comedy – Ricky Gervais described meeting Bowie
Phil Cornwell on Stella Street (skip to 5:00 for the David Bowie impression)
Adam Buxton’s Audio Bowie Documentary
This is my favourite Bowie tribute.
YouTube version here but with the songs removed
The new tracks – Blackstar (the creepy video I watched on Monday morning while eating corn flakes) and Lazarus
Adam & Joe talk about Bowie and do some impressions
If you watch just one of the videos in this list, please watch this one. Adam & Joe obviously love Bowie very much, and their impressions and improvisations are a lot of fun.
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