Tag Archives: music

325. Catching Up with Oli (Part 1) Past Challenges

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.

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Announcements & News

  • 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.

That’s it!


324. David Bowie (Part 2)

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.

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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.

Part 2

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.
Grammy Awards in 1975 - from left to right: Bowie, Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon, Yoko Ono, John Lennon

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

Aladdin Sane

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.

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

Chatting and rapping with Jason R. Levine aka Fluency MC! [Download]

Small Donate ButtonI’m feeling pretty excited today because I’ve got a bit of a celebrity on the podcast. Jason R. Levine, also known as Fluency MC is something of a legend in the world of online English language teaching. He’s become pretty well known on YouTube in particular for his videos in which he uses hip hop to bring a fresh approach to teaching English. Jason raps his English lessons, and many of those raps have become YouTube sensations – for example “Stick stuck stuck” the past participle rap (over 2.5million views on Youtube), and the present perfect rap which is a full on explanation of the grammar rules for the present perfect tense, delivered in rhyme. But, Jason is not only a teacher who raps – a look at Jason’s CV shows that he is involved in a number of very interesting English teaching projects – he leads workshops, has published material and is an English specialist for the US department of State – which makes him sound like a government agent, and he has a very interesting academic and personal background which has led him to take this fresh new approach to language teaching. On the musical side, Jason raps but he also plays the drums like me, and he DJs and produces his own tunes. There’s so much to ask him and so much to talk about, and hopefully Jason will do some rapping on Luke’s English Podcast too, and who knows – I might even get involved in that as well. You can look forward to all of it in this episode. (In fact, if you listen to the whole episode you will hear both Jason and me rapping on some of my brother’s music)

I’ve never met Jason before, this is the first time I’ve spoken to him in fact. I always thought Jason lived in New York, but a while ago I was on Facebook and I saw a photo of him in Paris and I assumed he’d visited for work or for a holiday, so I sent him a message saying “next time you’re in Paris, how about an interview for LEP” and he wrote back saying “Actually, I live in Paris”. Needless to say I was pretty surprised. What are the chances of that!? So naturally, I thought I’d take the opportunity to hook up with him and interview him for the podcast, and he’s sitting right next to me now so let’s get started…

Click here for Jason’s YouTube Channel
Click here for colloandspark.com Jason’s website
This is FluencyMC’s Facebook page

Questions & Stuff
These are some questions that we covered in this episode of the podcast.
I’m really chuffed to have you on the podcast Jason, because as we heard in my introduction you’re sort of a living legend of English teaching. Are you famous?
What are you most known for?
What other projects are you involved in?
Where are you from?
What did you study at university?
How does psychology come into your teaching method?
How long have you been teaching?
How did you get into it?
When did you first start rapping in the classroom? Was there one particular time when you first did it? What happened?
You travel quite a lot, teaching in different locations. Do you always rap in class?
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
How is rapping a part of that?
What are the reactions of your students to your method?
What’s collo and spark? Can you explain that?
Is it related to mnemonics?

FluencyMC on YouTube
This is the original video of Jason rapping “Stick stuck stuck” – just about 3.5minutes of one of his lessons.

Luke’s Rapping (Lyrics Below)

Here are the lyrics of my rap at the end of this episode!

The Well-Spoken MC (Lyrics)
Microphone check one two one two
Let me introduce myself to you
My name’s Luke
I’m an ordinary dude
I like food, I wear shoes
I like to watch YouTube
I’m just like you,
or maybe Doctor Who
when I’m in a good suit
I’m feeling in the mood

from time to time
I like to unwind
I Drink a bit of wine
and try to write a rhyme
and when I combine
all of this all online
then surely it’s a sign
it’s my time to shine,
cos I like to feel fine
I do it all the time
and in my mind
I’m going to get mine

It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen…

I get dizzy
with a bit of thin Lizzy,
while drinking some fizzy
getting busy with Queen Lizzy
I’m a gentleman
With a lesson plan
I’ll Help you understand it with a diagram
Of different tenses
and complex senses
or ways of saying sentences with different kinds of emphases
You could say I’m blessed
With a CELTA and a DELTA and my CV’s fresh!
I teach pronunciation
Throughout the nation
To stop alienation
Caused by poor articulation
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track

Cos I speak like a native
and I’m here to get creative
and I have already stated
that I’m very qualificated
I’ve got a wide CV
an even wider TV
which I’d like you to see
in Confidentiality
Because between you and me
and the deep blue sea
One day I’m going to be
On the BBC

Because I’ve got that BBC style
The one that makes you think for a little while
about the way most newsreaders speak
It sounds as if they’re trying to repeat
Sentences of information But With crazy intonation
and weird enunciation that’s clearly fascinating
And at the end of every news report
There is a summary of sorts
Of all the main sports, and some afterthoughts
Where the main news anchor
Turns to the camera
And delivers an answer
in the form of a mantra
This is the voice of the BBC,
and while you’re sitting there drinking cups of tea
We’re working away inside your TV
And on the screen you will surely see
that I go by the name of the Well-Spoken MC

Good night

252. Marooned With My Music: James Thompson

Welcome to Luke’s English Podcast and this special series, called Marooned With My Music. My castaway today is my brother James Thompson. [Download]
Small Donate ButtonSince being born in the mid 1970s in the south of England, it’s hard to say really what James has been doing for the past 39 years of his existence on earth. Nevertheless, he is a man of taste, a man of music and a man of experience. In the 1990s he studied a combined degree in English and Design at a university in Cambridge, before becoming something of an expert in wine tasting, wine selling and indeed wine drinking. Quietly entrepreneurial, James set up a successful t-shirt company in the late 1990s and now works as a freelance designer and artist – with perhaps the pinnacle of his career so far being the logo he designed for Luke’s English Podcast. I’m joking of course – James has contributed design work for various companies and organisations over the years. As well as being an artist, a designer, a wine enjoyer, a t-shirt maker and skateboarder – James has always been a keen lover of music both as a drummer & producer and as a collector of vinyl records, and I imagine that having to choose 8 records to take to his desert island has been something of a challenge for him. Let’s find out…

James’ Choices
(James accidentally choose 9 songs instead of 8)
1. My Girl by Madness
2. Dennis and Louis by Happy Mondays
3. Hole In The Sky by Black Sabbath
4. So Watcha Want by Beastie Boys
5. Clap Your Hands by A Tribe Called Quest
6. Xtal by Aphex Twin
7. Saint Angel by Goldie
8. No Feelings by The Sex Pistols
9. Fisherman by The Congos

Book Choice: The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
Luxury Item: A skateboard

Travis live at Glastonbury 2000 – red T-Shirt by James Thompson

251. Welcome to LEP / 16 Things You Should Know about LEP

The podcast has been nominated in the Macmillan Dictionary Award and the voting is now open here http://www.macmillandictionary.com/love-english-awards/voting-blog-2014.html

[Download]Small Donate Button
When I get nominated for this competition, I usually have quite a lot of new visitors to the site by people who are checking out the podcast for the first time. So, let me take this opportunity to say hello to any new visitors and to give you an idea of what LEP is all about.

In this episode I’m going to tell you 16 things you need to know about LEP. After listening to this, you should have a better idea of what this podcast is all about!

16 Things You Should Know about Luke’s English Podcast
1. I’m a teacher from London, living in Paris, with about 14 years of experience and both a CELTA and DELTA qualification. I’ve lived in Japan too, and I have experience of teaching adults and children at all levels of English, for general, business or more specific purposes. Students I’ve had in the past include Brazilian world cup winners, Scandinavian heads of state, top business executives and even a porn star. I now teach at The British Council and at a top university in Paris.

2. I started LEP in 2009 after taking a course in podcasting with The Consultants E. At the time I just felt like I wanted to have my own radio show, and I discovered ways of creating podcasts on my new Apple Mac laptop, and realised I could publish them myself on iTunes, and then get the word out using social networking. I started to get really busy producing episodes of the podcast. The aim was always to mix up teaching with general entertainment. I wanted to produce episodes that were instructive but also fun to listen to for their own sake.

3. I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I do try to use those skills in my episodes too, from time to time! I do stand-up comedy regularly in Paris, in English. This may not be obvious from this episode, as I’m not adding any jokes to it! From time to time I share some videos of my comedy on this website, and some of my listeners have come to see me perform my comedy live, which is great!

4. The podcast now has over 250 episodes, and I have a really loyal following. In fact, my listeners have lots of names – the LEPpers (yes, LEP stands for Luke’s English Podcast), LEPsters, LEPaholics, LEP Ninjas, PLEPS (people of Luke’s English Podcast) and so on.

5. Some of my listeners have created podcasts of their own, after being inspired to do so by listening to LEP.

6. There are various types of episode that you can expect on the podcast. Some are about specific aspects of English, for example – episodes about idioms, grammar points, pronunciation, vocabulary, and slang. In some episodes I try to keep my listeners locked-in and entertained by making up improvised stories off the top of my head. In some episodes I feature interviews and conversations with friends, family and special guests. Some episodes involve me just talking directly to my audience about whatever comes into my head. Some episodes are about films, music or popular culture, and some episodes deal with specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle. So the podcast covers a broad range of topics. Ultimately, I love the freedom of being able to talk about anything I like! The main thing is that it creates engaging content that encourages learners of English to do more and more listening!

Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular episodes of this podcast:
1. Introduction – this is the first episode I did back in April 2009 and it outlines my basic approach to LEP.
28. Interview with a Native Speaker: The Weather – this one follows on from a vocabulary episode about British weather and features an authentic interview with a teenager called Chris, and his odd views about foreigners in the UK
29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses – this is one of the most visited of my episodes. It teaches you narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) via a short mystery story that features several of the UK’s most beloved popular culture icons. The story is continued in the next episode.
71. The Ice-Cream Episode – an unplanned rant on topics such as: Amazon Kindles, robots & technology in Hollywood films and why we should put down the weapons and pick up an ice-cream instead, man.
83. How to Swear in British English – an indispensable guide to all the rudest words in British English. It’s extremely offensive, but extremely useful.
100. Going to the Pub – the guide to everything you need to know before you step into a pub in the UK.
118. Sick In Japan – the true story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital. It contains loads of medical and health related vocabulary, culture shock and a story which is engaging from start to finish!
125. The Pink Gorilla Story – one of the most popular ever, this is just an improvised story that regularly makes people laugh out loud, and which I really should convert into a one-man-show stage play!
140. Ghost Stories – just some scary true stories to keep you awake at night
167. Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English – revolutionise your learning techniques with these powerful memory devices.
174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast – this is your guide to improving your English using my podcast.
176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review – this is a very complete guide to all the main tenses in English
192. Culture Shock: Life in London – this episode deals with many of those strange aspects of the English lifestyle that foreigners find so hard to understand.
208. Travelling in Indonesia – one of many episodes about travelling experiences, this one has quite a dramatic beginning.

There are plenty more episodes which are popular with listeners, in fact everyone seems to have a different favourite. But that’s just a selection of some of the most visited pages on my website.

7. Yes, my episodes are quite long, but I always explain it like this: Firstly, all my favourite podcasts are long, and I think that it’s quite normal for podcasts to be about an hour long. Radio shows also tend to be at least an hour long too, so why not my podcast? It’s better for my listeners if they listen for an extended period. Why should listening only last 15 minutes? I can’t achieve very much in just 10-15 minutes, and I want my episodes to have some depth and rigour to them. Also, listeners can just pause the episode when they’ve had enough, and come back to it later!

8. I have a transcript collaboration project on my website, which allows listeners to transcribe sections of episodes and build a whole library of transcripts for other LEPsters to use. This is good for the transcribers because it is a big challenge and a good way to improve their English, and it’s good for the other listeners because we have an ever-growing library of transcripts which they can use to help them understand episodes. The collaboration is hosted on my website and is done using google documents.

9. I have won this award three times before and that is completely thanks to my devoted audience, who every year come out in force to vote for me. I hope to repeat the success this year, but I am up against stiff competition! Whatever the result, I’m just happy to have been nominated again.

10. The podcast has had 3 million listens in just over a year, since moving to a new audio host (audioboom.com) which is amazing!

11. I also have some videos on YouTube and they are pretty hot as well! My channel has had about 2.5 million views in total, but I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. The popular videos are ones I did in 2009 and feature me interviewing members of the public in the centre of London. There’s also a video called “16 Ways to Say I Like It”, which you may have seen too.

12. I launch competitions of my own from time to time, for listeners to take part in. The last one was called “Your English Podcast” and I invited listeners to send me short recordings of them doing their own versions of LEP. I received lots of entries and votes and the winner was interviewed on the podcast as a prize.

13. These days I record episodes of my podcast in a room at the top of my apartment, where I have great views of the rooftops of Paris from the windows. I call it the “SpacePod” or “SkyPod” and it’s the podcast HQ!

14. I have another podcast, called A Phrasal Verb a Day. It’s on iTunes and on my website. That is made up of short episodes devoted to individual phrasal verbs. I give definitions, examples and explanations. It’s a great way to pick up more of those tricky items of vocabulary – phrasal verbs. My goal was to record one a day in 2014. I didn’t reach my goal, but I haven’t given up and I still add episodes to the series when I can.

15. I love playing the drums, guitar, bass and ukulele (but not at the same time) and occasionally at the end of podcast episodes I play a song on the ukulele – but you have to listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear it.

16. I put my heart, soul, time, energy, humour, money and love into making episodes of LEP. It’s become quite a big thing in my life after having done it now for nearly 6 years. I enjoy a close and warm relationship with my listeners, I always welcome new additions to the LEP family, and in the future I plan to build my service more and more until I can perhaps do this for a living somehow. The future’s bright and I hope that many more people will join me on this journey to create authentic, entertaining and interesting content that helps you not only to improve your English but to enjoy yourself while doing it. So, I invite you to start listening today and like thousands of others get addicted to LEP – it’s good for your English!

If you haven’t already done it, I invite you to vote for LEP by clicking here. Thank you for your continuing support!
vote for us_love english2

250. Marooned With My Music: Gill Thompson

Welcome to Luke’s English Podcast and this special series, called Marooned With My Music. My castaway today is my Mum, Gill Thompson. [Download]

Small Donate ButtonBorn as part of the baby boom generation after World War 2, Gill grew up and lived in England during a time of great social change in the latter half of the 20th century. Gill has lived in various parts of the country during her life, including Yorkshire, the Midlands and London, and has had various jobs including time spent at the BBC, at a primary school, at a university, and now in a charity bookshop, but perhaps her most time-consuming and indeed energy-consuming responsibility has been to bring up two boys and manage a household of 3 men, her husband and her two sons. While doing all of that she also studied for a general arts degree with the Open University adding to her now quite considerable knowledge of history, art, literature and philosophy. She is a voracious reader, a fount of knowledge and wisdom, a loving wife and an amazing Mum, and I’m very glad to have her on the programme today.

Mum’s Choices
1. Always by Patsy Cline, written by Irving Berlin
2. I’ll String Along With You by Al Bowlly
3. Harvest Moon by Neil Young
4. Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles
5. Our House by Madness
6. Don’t Forget to Dance by The Kinks
7. Bach Double Violin Concerto – Played by Yehudi Menuhin And David Oistrakh
8. I’ll See You In My Dreams by Joe Brown

Book Choice: The Essays of Michel de Montaigne
Luxury Item: A king-size bed with an everlasting supply of 100% Egyptian cotton sheets

248. Marooned With My Music: Rick Thompson

Interviewing my dad about his life story through his favourite pieces of music.

“Marooned with my Music” is an interview concept based on a popular and long-running BBC Radio programme called “Desert Island Discs”. In that BBC programme, celebrities and noteworthy people are invited onto the show for an interview. They imagine that they have been stranded on a remote desert island and are only allowed to take certain items with them, namely: 8 pieces of music, one book and one luxury item. During the programme, the interviewee is asked about their life and their musical choices. Desert Island Discs remains one of the BBC’s most beloved radio programmes and has been broadcast on the radio for many years. In my version, “Marooned with my Music” I have decided to interview members of my family: My Dad, my Mum and my Brother. [Download this episode]

Small Donate ButtonWelcome to Marooned With My Music. My castaway today is my Dad Rick Thompson. Rick has been working in broadcast journalism for over 45 years, including nearly 30 years at the BBC where he worked as foreign news editor, and editor of the UK’s flagship daily news programme the 9 O’Clock News. He now runs his own broadcast training company called T-Media, which helps to bring BBC-standard television broadcasting to other countries around the world. Along the way he has become something of an expert in the art of efficiently and effectively delivering information to viewers on television and radio; something which requires a combined interest in all the big stories of the day as well as the values of language and public service. Rick is a man of broad interests and talents, having been a musician, a sportsman and a bird-watcher throughout his life, amongst other things. Last but by no means least, Rick has also been a devoted husband to his wife Gill and father to his two children James and Luke, from Luke’s English Podcast.

Dad’s Choices
1. I Saw Her Standing There by The Beatles
2. So What by Miles Davis
3. Route 66 by The Rolling Stones
4. Far More Drums by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
5. The Planets – IV. Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity by Gustav Holst
6. All Along The Watchtower by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
7. Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks
8. Fixing A Hole by The Beatles

Book choice: A History of Europe
Luxury item: A never-ending set of paints and canvasses

234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

Hi everyone, how are you doing? In this episode I’m joined again by my brother James. The last time you heard from him he was talking about how he had dislocated his shoulder after falling off his skateboard. In this episode he gives us an update on his shoulder injury and then we talk about the music (his “choons”) that he has been making recently. What is a “choon”? Basically, it’s a “tune” – a piece of music, typically a piece of dance music, hip-hop, house music, drum & bass or techno. When you hear a really good tune, it’s quite typical to say “Ah this is a CHOOOON!” My brother makes instrumental hip-hop CHOONS. You can hear him talking about his music making process in this episode. [Download this episode] [Update 2021: Jim has lots of new music on Bandcamp which you should check out here –> https://jimthompson.bandcamp.com/music ]

Small Donate ButtonJim’s Choons
Jim is quite modest about his music making, but for years he has been quietly producing lots of instrumental hip-hop on his own using an old Akai MPC2000, which is a bit of music making hardware used by some of the most well known hip-hop, drum and bass and techno producers from the past 15 years or more. Jim bought a second-hand MPC2000 about 5 years ago and he’s been learning how to use it, producing lots of tracks, and they’re getting better and better all the time, and now he’s at a point where he’s released a 10 track album which is available for purchase online via the website Bandcamp – click here to listen to or download his albums. He doesn’t like to talk about his stuff too much because it’s very personal, but in this episode he was quite willing to talk about how he comes up with ideas and how he then turns them into pieces of music. In our conversation you’ll hear us using various technical language related to music and music production.

Download Jim’s Album
Jim’s album is available here: Jim’s page on Bandcamp
You can download it free, or if you think he deserves to be paid, you can choose to purchase the music and you can choose the price! $0 – $1,000,000 – it’s your choice.

Listen to Jim’s tune “Sympathy” (Unofficial remix of “Life’s a Bitch” by Nas) on YouTube here:


222. Luke’s Late Night Podcast (Music Mix)

Take a musical trip through Luke’s hard-drive, in the middle of the night. Right-click here to download this episode.

Small Donate ButtonLate one night recently, I decided to record a podcast while randomly picking some pieces of music from my hard-drive and talking to you at the same time. This is the result.

There’s no language agenda in this episode in particular. It’s just me talking to you about various things while interspersing the episode with some music and other bits and pieces from my hard-drive.

Any music or other content in this episode is presented for educational purposes as part of my effort to aid people in their learning of English and culture.

Below you can read lyrics of some songs from this episode if you’d like to read to check your listening comprehension or pick up vocabulary.

Thanks for listening.

p.s. Competition Update: Voting closes this evening, and then I will count votes and eventually publish an episode with the names of the winner(s). Thanks for voting!

Song Lyrics

Arctic Monkeys – “Mardy Bum”
Buy “Mardy Bum” on iTunes here.
Well, now then Mardy Bum
I’ve seen your frown
And it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun
And it goes off
And out come all these words
Oh there’s a very pleasant side to you
A side I much prefer

It’s one that laughs and jokes around
Remember cuddles in the kitchen
Yeah, to get things off the ground
And it was up, up and away
Oh, but it’s right hard to remember
That on a day like today when you’re all argumentative
And you’ve got that face on

Well, now then Mardy Bum
Oh I’m in trouble again, aren’t I?
I thought as much
‘Cause you turned over there
Pulling that silent disappointment face
The one that I can’t bear

Well, can’t we just laugh and joke around
Remember cuddles in the kitchen
Yeah, to get things off the ground
And it was up, up and away
Oh, but it’s right hard to remember
That on a day like today when you’re all argumentative
And you’ve got that face on

Yeah I’m sorry I was late
But I missed the train
And then the traffic was a state
And I can’t be arsed to carry on in this debate
That reoccurs, oh when you say I don’t care
But of course I do, yeah I clearly do!

So laugh and joke around
Remember cuddles in the kitchen
Yeah, to get things off the ground
And it was up, up and away
Oh, but it’s right hard to remember
That on a day like today when you’re all argumentative
And you’ve got that face on

Black Sabbath – “The Wizard”
Buy “The Wizard on iTunes here.
Misty morning, clouds in the sky
Without warning, the wizard walks by
Casting his shadow, weaving his spell
Funny clothes, tinkling bell

Never talking
Just keeps walking
spreading his magic

Evil power disappears
Demons worry when the wizard is near
He turns tears into joy
Everyone’s happy when the wizard walks by

Never talking
Just keeps walking
spreading his magic

Sun is shining, clouds have gone by
All the people give a happy sigh
He has passed by, giving his sign
Left all the people feeling so fine

Never talking
Just keeps walking
spreading his magic

Charles Bukowski – “The Life of the King”
Unfortunately I can’t find the lyrics to this, but here is a video featuring Bukowski reading his poem “The Life of the King”, if you’d like to listen to it again.

Curtis Mayfield – “Pusherman”
Buy “Pusherman” in iTunes here.
I’m your mama, I’m your daddy,
I’m that nigga in the alley.
I’m your doctor when in need.
Want some coke? Have some weed.
You know me, I’m your friend,
Your main boy, thick and thin.
I’m your pusherman.

Ain’t I clean, bad machine
Super cool, super mean
Dealin’ good, for The Man.
Superfly, here I stand.
Secret stash, heavy bread,
Baddest bitches in the bed,
I’m your pusherman

Silent life of crime
A man of odd circumstance,
A victim of ghetto demands.
Feed me money for style
And I’ll let you trip for a while.
Insecure from the past,
How long can a good thing last?
No, no, no

Got to be mellow, y’all
Got to get mellow, now
Pusherman gettin’ mellow, y’all

Heavy mind, every sign
Makin’ money all the time
My LD and just me
For all junkies to see
Ghetto Prince is my thing
Makin’ love’s how I swing
I’m your pusherman

Two bags, please
For a generous fee
Make your world what you want it to be
Got a woman I love desperately
Wanna give her somethin’ better than me
Been told I can’t be nuthin’ else
Just a hustler in spite of myself
I know I can break it
This life just don’t make it
Lord, Lord, yeah

Got to get mellow, now
Gotta be mellow, y’all
Got to get mellow, now

I’m your mama, I’m your daddy,
I’m that nigga in the alley.
I’m your doctor when in need.
Want some coke? Have some weed.
You know me, I’m your friend,
Your main boy, thick and thin.
I’m your pusherman.
I’m your pusherman.
I’m your pusherman.
I’m your pusherman.
Lord, Lord

Victor Wooten – “Music as a Language” Click here for a version with subtitles.

24. Music Idioms

Learn some music-related idioms. Full Transcript available below.

Small Donate ButtonRight-click here to download this episode.

Learn English! Some music idioms for you to use. Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for everyone in the whole world to use. Download the podcast, listen, laugh and learn. Get new vocabulary, listening practice, pronunciation drills for speaking and some interesting cultural information. Email me at luketeacher@hotmail.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

This podcast is about music idioms. Idioms are difficult because they are fixed expressions. The individual words mean something different on their own. You have to learn the meaning of the complete expression. Here are some useful ones that relate to music in some way. You can use them to talk about anything.

The idioms

  1. it rings a bell
  2. to pull out all the stops
  3. to play it by ear
  4. it’s music to my ears
  5. to be fit as a fiddle
  6. to face the music
  7. to change your tune
  8. to blow your own trumpet

Here are the transcripts of the badly acted dialogues (sorry about the terrible American accents):

A: Have you ever met Jack Miller?
B: Well the name rings a bell
A: He work in the Nakatomi Plaza
B: Oh yes, I remember. He was the guy who sealed the OCP contract. He wouldn’t stop blowing his own trumpet about it.
A: Yes, he kept going on about how he’d closed the deal, saying how Cyberdine were going to be the number 1 agency in the country.
B: Yeah, what a pain in the neck

OK guys! Summer is the busiest time of year for us. Lots of tourists with their £50 notes. What they really need, is London souvenirs. OK, so pull out all the stops this month. I want you to SELL SELL SELL. More British flags, more models of Big Ben, more photos of the Queen, more toy London busses, more postcards of punks, more Beatles T-shirts, more London Eye photos, more We Will Rock You tickets, and more umbrellas!!

A: Sir?
B: Yes?
A: It’s Miller. We’ve closed the OCP deal.
B: Oh, that is music to my ears! I can’t tell you how important it is to Cyberdine.
A: No sir, you don’t have to tell me.
B: Excellent!

A: Hey Miller!
B: Yeah?
A: Are you going into the OCP negotiation?
B: Well, yes I am.
A: Don’t you need your notes? Where’s your file?
B: Oh, I don’t really need them
A: How are you going to manage the negotiation without them?
B: Oh, I’ll just play it by ear

A: Well Miller…
B: Yes Doctor?
A: I’m pleased to tell you that you have a clean bill of health. You’re fit as a fiddle! It’s quite surprising really considering your age. I expect you have the body of someone half your age. How do you do it?
B: Well, just lucky I suppose
[terrible, unforgivable acting]

A: Hey Miller! The board is furious! They say you screwed up the OCP deal. They say Cyberdine is in jeopardy.
B: Damn it! Did they say anything else?
A: Yeah, they say they want to see you immediately. Time to face the music Miller.
B: I suppose so…

Serious APOLOGIES for the bad acting and for the slightly offensive American accent. I do like America, and mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery (apparently).

Here are the idioms and their definitions:

it rings a bell – it’s familiar, or it reminds me of something

to pull out all the stops – to do everything you can to achieve a result

to play it by ear – to improvise, to not follow a plan

it’s music to my ears – it’s exactly what I wanted to hear

to be fit as a fiddle – to be in perfect health

to face the music – to accept the negative consequences of what you have done

to change your tune – to change your opinion of something, and the way you talk about it

to blow your own trumpet – to go on about or boast about something you did well or are good at
That’s it folks! Cheers, bye bye bye bye bey bye bey bey bye bye bey bey bey bey bey

24. Music Idioms – Transcript

You are listening to Luke’s English podcast. For more information visit teacher Luke.podomatic.com (teacherluke.co.uk)

Hello, folks and welcome to another edition of Luke’s English podcast. Now, the last podcast I did was about music festivals. So, I thought that I’d stick with the theme of music this time and teach you some music idioms.
Now, just a little note about idioms. Of course, an idiom is a kind of fixed expression that, you know, is used a lot in general conversation. Now, they are quite tricky because the meaning is difficult to understand. If you try to understand the individual words one by one in an idiom you probably won’t understand the idiom. It’s very difficult because the idiom as a whole has a different meaning to the individual words. So, for example if you look in a dictionary and try to understand the expression word by word you won’t understand anything. It’s got a different meaning as a fixed expression.

So, I’m going to teach you some idioms that are sort of related to music in some way and I’ve selected these ones myself, handpicked them to make sure that I was teaching you idioms which are actually quite useful because some of the idioms that you learn are not really useful.
There are so many that some of them are not used very often or are a bit old-fashioned and I think these ones are okay.

So, the idioms I’m going to teach you and you’ll be able to read all of these idioms with transcripts on the web page. So, the idioms of this….and I’m not going to tell you what they mean, yet. First I’m just going to read the idioms to you and then I’m going to read you little dialogues that include the idioms and then at the end I’m going to explain what the idioms mean. Okay?

So, the idioms then, one by one.

First on is: it rings a bell or that rings a bell. Right?
Next on is: to pull out all the stops- to pull out all the stops. To pull out all the stops
Okay? So that’s it rings a bell and to pull out all the stops.
The next one is: to play it by ear – to play it by ear. Right? To play it by ear. Right?
The next one is: It’s music to my ears – it’s music to my ears. Right? Okay?
The next one is: to be fit as a fiddle – to be fit as a fiddle – to be fit as a fiddle. Okay?
The next one is: to face the music – to face the music.
The next one is: to change your tune – to change your tune or to change your tune. Right?
And the last one is: to blow your own trumpet – to blow your own trumpet – to blow your own trumpet. Okay?

So, don’t worry if you don’t know what those idioms mean and don’t worry about trying to understand the individual words necessarily because sometimes they don’t really help you.

So what I’d like you to try and do now, is listen to these little stupid dialogues that I have written which I’m going to perform. They’re not very good dialogues and I’m not a very good actor but I’m going to try and perform the dialogues to you to make it more realistic or interesting. And as you listen to the dialogues try to notice the idioms that I’ve used and try and guess what they mean from the context of the situation. Okay? Don’t forget at the end I’ll explain what they mean. Alright?

So, I’m going to start with the first dialogue.
All these dialogues are in some way related to work, basically.

It’s a kind of work themed situation in which a man had to do a negotiation to win a contract, and what happened. Okay?

So, here we go. Here is the first part of the dialogue.

Have you ever met Jack Miller?
Well, the name rings a bell.
He works in the Nakatomi Plaza
Oh, yes, I remember, it was the guy who sealed the OCP contract. He wouldn’t stop blowing his own trumpet about it.
Yes, he just kept going on about how he’d closed the deal, saying how Cyberdyne were going to be the number 1 agency in the country.
Yeah, what a pain in the neck!

Okay, that was my first dialogue. I do apologise for the terrible acting but there is nothing I can do about it. I am not a professional actor. I am a teacher, so I’m just doing the best I can. Anyway, I hope you managed to catch the idiom there. It was to blow your own trumpet.
He said, he wouldn’t stop blowing his own trumpet about it.

Okay, the next situation, if you can imagine is like in a big souvenir shop in the centre of London in the summer time. Okay? And this is like a motivational speech by the sales manager of the souvenir shop. Okay? Here it is:

Okay, guys! Summer is the busiest time of year for us. Lots of tourists with their 50 pound notes. What they really need is London souvenirs. Okay? So pull out all the stops this month. I want you to sell, sell, sell. More British flags, more models of Big Ben, more photos of the Queen, more toy London busses, more postcards of punks, more Beatles T-shirts, more London Eye photos, more We Will Rock You tickets, and more umbrellas!!

Okay, so that was the souvenir manager and the idiom there was…oh, what was it? The idiom was there – the idiom there – uh, I can’t speak.
I’ll start again: The idiom there was to pull out all the stops. Right? Okay!

Now, the next one is back with the story of Jack Miller and the negotiation.

It’s Miller, we’ve closed the OCP deal.
Oh, that is music to my ears. I can’t tell you how important it’s to Cyberdine.
No, sir, you don’t have to tell me, sir.

Okay, I’m getting kind of embarrassed now because I realised that these little dialogues are just awful, I think. I am not very pleased with them. I think they sound terrible. My acting is awful and my accents are really rubbish. But I’m gonna keep doing it because I’ve started it now, so I’ve got to finish. Anyway! That idiom was: that’s music to my ears. That’s music to my ears. Okay?

Okay, here is the next dialogue! Here we go, more bad acting and even worse accents coming right up:

Hey, Miller
Are you going into the OCP negotiation?
Well, yes I am
Don’t you need your notes? Where is your file?
Oh, I don’t really need them.
How are you going to manage the negotiation without them?
Oh, I’ll just play it by ear

Okay, I think this is a pretty awful and embarrassing mainly because of my acting. I thought that I was a bit better than this but clearly I’m not. I’m rubbish in acting. But, that’s not important. The important thing is that you learn some English. Isn’t that right? I think so.
So, yeah, the idiom there was I’ll play it by ear, to play it by ear. Right? Okay!
So there are two more dialogues and here is the next one.
It’s in a doctor’s surgery, so our man, Jack Miller is going to the doctors to get a check up. Okay, so here it is.

Well, Miller
Yes, doctor
I’m pleased to tell you that you have a clean bill of health. You are fit as a fiddle. It’s quite surprising really, considering your age. I expect you have a body of someone half your age. How do you do it?
Well, I am just lucky, I suppose

More bad acting for you there. A kind of posh doctor character. Anyway! the idiom there was: You’re fit as a fiddle. You’re fit as a fiddle. Okay?

Now, here is the last dialogue and the last of my terrible performances. Here we go. It’s back to the story of Miller and the negotiation.

Hey, Miller, the board are furious. They said you screwed up the OCP deal. They say Cyberdine is in jeopardy.
Damn it! Did they say anything else?
Yeah, they say they wanna see you immediately. Time to face the music Miller.
I suppose so.

So, that’s the last dialogue. I hope you enjoyed the story of Miller and the negotiation and, yeah, sorry about the awful acting. Next time I’ll get, you know, Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Christopher Walken to come and perform one of my dialogues.
I think maybe next time I’ll do Christopher Walken and Robert de Niro. I think that will be quite a good combination. So, anyway the meanings of those idioms …well, actually in the first dialogue there were two idioms. That was: It rings a bell and he kept blowing his trumpet. Right?

So it rings a bell means it’s familiar – I think I remember it. It’s familiar or reminds me of something. So, if someone says something like: Oh, do you know Jack Miller. And I say “the name rings a bell”. So, it’s like there is a little memory of it in the back of your head. But you can’t really remember it. It’s like a little bell ringing in the back of your head. So, his name rings a bell. Right? So, it’s familiar.

The other one in that first dialogue was to blow your own trumpet. To blow your own trumpet. And that’s basically to boast about how good you are. So if you keep going on about how great you are you are just blowing your own trumpet. Okay? Right!

In the next dialogue we had to pull out all the stops. To pull out all the stops. It was, okay pull out all the stops this month. And if you pull out all the stops it comes from….well, pull out all the stops means you do everything you can in order to achieve the results that you need. So, you kind of go full power into your work. You pull out all the stops. Now, that comes from old organs like church organs which use pipes and to get the loudest sound of your organ, you would pull out all the stops and stops are like little buttons that you can pull out or press in and they change the sound of the organ. So, if you pull all of the stops out it makes a really loud sound of the organ, so now we use the expression to pull out all the stops to mean to do something full with all our power. You know, to do everything you can in order to achieve the result, right?

Now, the other idioms like I just said: It rings a bell. Well, a bell is like a little thing you have at the top of a church. Ding, ding, ding, ding like that, okay? So it rings a bell. Like I said it rings a bell in the back of your head like a memory.

The other one is to blow your own trumpet. So, a trumpet is a musical instrument which you blow into. I am sure you know what a trumpet is. If you don’t know what a trumpet is I’ll play you a little bit of trumpet. I don’t play the trumpet but I’m gonna play you a little bit of someone else playing the trumpet. Here it is:

trumpet music

Okay, so that was a trumpet being played. That was actually Donald Byrd there. A great trumpet player. So, to blow your own trumpet means to go on and boast about how great you are. Okay? To blow your own trumpet.

Okay, in the next dialogue we had: That’s music to my ears, that’s music to my ears and if you say that when basically someone has said something that is exactly what you wanted to hear. It’s exactly what you wanted to hear. So, something that makes you very happy. That’s music to my ears. Okay?

Now, the next one was….let’s see….I’ll just play it by ear. I’ll just play it by ear and in that one Miller’s colleague said to him: How you are going to manage the negotiation without your notes and Miller said: I’ll just play it by ear. So, to play it by ear means that…eh….let’s see ..you improvise you don’t follow a plan. You just react to whatever happens there. So, Miller is going to go into this negotiation without his notes. He’s not going to use a plan, he’s just going to react as things happen. He is just going to improvise. Okay? So the origin of that to play it by ear is a bit like: when you play a piano when you play a piece of music without music, without sheet music. You are not reading the music you are just playing it by ear. Okay? So, that’s where that comes from. At least we use that expression to say when you do something without planning, you just improvise. You play it by ear. Okay?

So, in the next dialogue, we had….you are as fit as a fiddle. And that’s what Miller’s doctor said to him. You are fit as a fiddle which means you are very healthy. You are in perfect health. To be fit means that you are healthy. You are —you know, you do lots of exercise and your body is in good condition. But if you are fit as a fiddle it means you are really, really healthy. And a fiddle is another word for a violin. So, I am not sure why they say fit as a fiddle. Why is a violin fit? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the strings are tight and it’s kind of …I don’t know, in good condition or something. But fit as a fiddle. Here we go.

And in the last dialogue we had: time to face the music, to face the music.
Now, if you face the music it means you accept the negative consequences of your actions. You accept like if you don’t… something that caused a really bad reaction you have to just accept that and just face it. For example when lots of people are angry about a decision you made and they are in a room and they are all angry, you just go in there and speak to them. You need to face the music. Right? Okay!

So, that’s it. Actually I’ve just realised, I realised something at the beginning of this podcast I said that I will teach you all of those idioms like it rings a bell, to pull out all the stops, to play it by ear, it’s music to my ears, you are fit as a fiddle, to face the music, to blow your own trumpet and to change your tune. But I didn’t explain to change your tune. I’ve just realised that.

So, basically you change your tune, you change your opinion of something. Change the way you talk about something. So, for example if maybe one month John always talks about – I don’t know – “U2, like the rock band U2 if usually he says: Ah, U2 are rubbish, they are boring, you know, they are not very good at music, their songs are really bad and Bono can’t sing and he’s really annoying. So, I hate U2” and when that’s what for example John says about U 2 and then, like the next day after he listened to one of their songs, the next day he says: “Do you know what, U2 are really good actually, yeah. I think, you know, possibly one of the best bands in the country in the moment. As a matter of fact, I’ve purchased 2 tickets and go to see them life in concert.” Right?
And you would say to him: “What are you talking about, John? You’ve changed your tune. I thought you hated U2.” Right? So, to change your tune is to change your opinion of something and to change the way you talk about something.

So, that’s it!
So, I hope those idioms are useful for you. Let me give you actually just a couple of drills for those …just drills for those idioms. Okay?
So, these are just sentences I’m gonna read to you. I’d love you to try and repeat them. It’s good practice for your pronunciation. Think about how all of the words in the sentences are linked together when I say them and try to copy it. Okay!

Here is the first one:
His name rings a bell.
We’ve got to pull out all the stops.
I’ll just play it by ear.
That’s music to my ears.
You’re fit as a fiddle.
Time to face the music.
You’ve changed your tune
Don’t blow your own trumpet

And that’t it for this episode of Luke’s English podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you’re using these drills to practice your pronunciation.
That’s it for me and have a very nice day.
Cheers buy, buy, buy, buy, buy

Hi, folks
You are listening to Luke’s English Podcast. That’s right, this is Luke. I’m just sitting here right now, playing the piano. I play the piano maybe three, four times a day. Sometimes, if I have the time and I’m not teaching English or doing a podcast. I came up here to start playing the piano. Kind of makes me feel good. I am sure it makes everyone else in the neighbourhood feel good. I know my neighbours particularly enjoy the piano playing all hours of the day. Sometimes they bang on the ceiling there, just out of pure enjoyment I think. They sure love it when I play the piano.
So, I just thought I’d play this short piece for you right now. Just to give you another side of my personality, ladies and gentlemen.
And I’ll be doing another podcast for you real soon so until then have a very, very nice week. I’ll catch you soon. Thanks a lot, good night!