January

Preparing online lessons has taken up a lot of my time recently. I'll try to keep on putting some interesting tit bits on these pages, but it might not be on a daily basis.

 

This term I've put a focus on speaking. We've also listened to and talked about songs. If you'd like to talk to me, you will have to come to our Zoom meetings. Here I'm going to present some songs with lyrics that can help you improve your English. I've told you that a good song is full of meaning like a poem, so you might even want to find out what that is.

We'll start with a great song by Peter Gabriel, a real pop artist. He's not only famous for his songs but also for his imaginative videos. The album 'So' came out in 1986 and contains the hit single Big Time. First watch the video and ask yourself the usual question:

 

What is the song about?

Now look at the lyrics. Maybe you want to listen to the song once again. If you do, you'll find out that very often the pictures shown in the video correspond to the text and help you understand it.

 

Big Time

 

Hi there!

 

I'm on my way, I'm making it
I've got to make it show, yeah

So much larger than life
I'm gonna watch it growing

 

The place where I come from is a small town
They think so small, they use small words

But not me, I'm smarter than that
I worked it out
I've been stretching my mouth

To let those big words come right out

I've had enough, I'm getting out
To the city, the big, big city
I'll be a big noise with all the big boys
So much stuff I will own

And I will pray to a big god
As I kneel in the big church


(Big Time)
I'm on my way, I'm making it
(Big Time)
Uhh, yes
(Big Time)
I've got to make it show, yeah
(Big Time)
(Big Time)
It's so much larger than life
(Big Time)
I'm gonna watch it growing
(Big Time)

 

My parties have all the big names
And I greet them with the widest smile
Tell them how my life is one big invention
And always they're amazed

When I show them round my house to my bed
I had it made like a mountain range
With a snow white pillow for my big fat head
And my heaven will be a big heaven
And I will walk through the front door

 

(Big Time)
I'm on my way, I'm making it
(Big Time)
(Big Time)
I've got to make it show, yeah
(Big Time)
(Big Time)
So much larger than life
(Big Time)
I'm gonna watch it growing
(Big Time)


(Big Time)
My car's gettin' bigger
(Big Time)
My house gettin' bigger
(Big Time)
My eyes gettin' bigger
(Big Time)
And my mouth
(Big Time)
My belly's gettin' bigger
(Big Time)
And my bank account
(Big Time)
Look at my circumstance
(Big Time)
And the bulge in my big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big...

Let's have a closer look at the text now:

 

How many words that refer to size (big, small etc.) can you find ? And don't forget the verbs!

 

Look up the meanings of the following expressions in your dictionary or the internet:

big time

big name

big noise

 

How important is money for the guy in the song? There are a lot of hints in the lyrics and you should definitely watch the video again.

 

Do you know the term 'yuppie'? You can look it up here and learn a lot more acronyms that are used to describe people:

https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2014/03/05/move-over-yuppies-the-magpies-have-arrived/

 

The American writer Bret Easton Ellis published his novel American Psycho in 1991. It's an equally fascinating and disturbing satire on the topic.

 

 

 

18th January 2020

Another song I haven't heard for a very long time is Downeaster Alexa from the album 'Storm Front' by Billy Joel that came out in 1989.

You'll find a lot of place names you might or might not know. Look them up on the internet or map to find out where the man in the song is cruising.

 

Here are some questions to help you find out what the song is about:

 

Who is the man in the song?

What are the problems he's facing?

Who are the 'giants' he is fighting?

 

Vocabulary:

Find all the expressions that have something to do with seafaring and fishing.

Downeaster Alexa

Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa
And I'm cruisin' through Block Island Sound
I have charted a course to the Vineyard
But tonight I am Nantucket bound

We took on diesel back in Montauk yesterday
And left this morning from the bell in Gardiner's Bay
Like all the locals here I've had to sell my home
Too proud to leave I work my fingers to the bone

So I could own my Downeaster Alexa
And I go where the ocean is deep
There are giants out there in the canyons
And a good captain can't fall asleep

I got bills to pay and children who need clothes
I know there's fish out there but where, God only knows
They say these waters aren't what they used to be
But I've got people back on land who count on me

So if you see my Downeaster Alexa
And if you work with the rod and the reel
Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis
And I still have my hands on the wheel

Now I drive my Downeaster Alexa
More and more miles from shore every year
Since they told me I can't sell no stripers
And there's no luck in swordfishing here

I was a Bayman like my father was before
Can't make a living as a Bayman anymore
There ain't much future for a man who works the sea
But there ain't no island left for Islanders like me

Ya-ya-ya-oh
Ya-ya-ya-oh
Ya-ya-ya-oh
Ya-ya-ya-oh

The song Storm Front from the same album contains even more useful vocabulary about the sea and the weather, but you'll see that this song is completely different.

 

Where is the man in the song?

What does the weather report say?

Why is he going out although there's a weather warning? What do you think? Let me know your ideas.

Storm Front

Safe at harbor, everything is easy
Off to starboard, daylight comes up fast
Now I'm restless for the open water
Red flags are flying from the Coast Guard mast
They told me to stay, I heard all the information
I motored away and steered straight ahead
Though the weatherman said

There's a storm front coming (mood indigo)
White water running and the pressure is low
Storm front coming (mood indigo)
Small craft warning on the radio


I've been sailing a long time on this ocean
Man gets lonesome, all those years at sea
I've got a woman, my life should be easy
Most men hunger for the life I lead
The morning was gray, but I had the motivation
I drifted away and ran into more
Heavy weather off shore

There's a storm front coming (mood indigo)
White water running and the pressure is low
Storm front coming (mood indigo)
Small craft warning on the radio

We've got a low pressure system and a northeast breeze
We've got a falling barometer and rising seas
We've got the cumulonimbus and possible gale
We've got a force nine blowing on the Beaufort scale

I'm still restless for the open water
Though she gives me everything I need
She asked me to stay, but I'd done my navigation
I drove her away, but I should have known
To stay tied up at home

There's a storm front coming (mood indigo)
White water running and the pressure is low
Storm front coming (mood indigo)
Small craft warning on the radio

23rd January 2021

 

The next song that tells a story is Running in the family by the British band Level 42, who were very successful in the late 80s and early 90s. Some might say their music is 'easy listening', but I don't think it's a crime to make beautiful music. And the lyrics are about feelings you might know yourself.

 

Running in the family contains some very interesting expressions. I'm quite sure you'll have to look them up in addition to a number of other words. I've marked them to make it a little easier for you.

Read through the lyrics to decide what you understand at the first go.

Running in the Family
 

Our dad would send us to our room
He'd be the voice of doom
He said that we would thank him later
All day, he was solid as a rock
But by eight o'clock
We'd be crumbling

One night, my brother Joe and me
Climbed down the family tree
That grew outside our bedroom window
We ran, though we knew it couldn't last
Running from the past
From things that we were born to be

Looking back, it's so bizarre
It runs in the family
All the things we are
On the back seat of the car
With Joseph and Emily
We only see so far
And we all have our daddy's eyes
Looking back, it's so bizarre

Dad rang the officer in charge
A man so large
He barely fit his circumstances
He said two kids out on the street
Were picked up on the beat
And in the station

So there's me, with Emily and Joe
Daddy driving home
All heading in the same direction
He knew, no matter what the breaks
We'd make the same mistakes
Couldn't take his eyes off Joe and me


Looking back, it's so bizarre
It runs in the family
All the things we are
On the back seat of the car
With Joseph and Emily
We only see so far
And we all have our daddy's eyes
Looking back, it's so bizarre
It runs in the family
All the things we are
Looking back, it's so bizarre

Like a dream within a dream
We're all somewhere in between
Like a drummer plays his drum
Like a father, like a son
And you're gonna have to face the music, oh yeah
Face the music

Hey hey, we keep it running in the family
Hey hey, we keep it coming in the family

Looking back, it's so bizarre
It runs in the family
All the things we are
On the back seat of the car
With Joseph and Emily
We only see so far
'Cause we all have our daddy's eyes

Looking back, it's so bizarre, whoa yeah
Running in the family
Running in the family
And we all have our daddy's eyes
Looking back, it's so bizarre, whoa yeah
Running in the family

Now listen to the song and read the lyrics again. After that you can look up the words and expressions you still don't understand in your dictionary or on the internet.

Oxford Learners' Dictionraries

Cambridge Dictionary

Collins Dictionary

Leo

Have you found out the meaning of the following expressions?:

 

run in the family

see so far

face the music

 

Here are some dictionary articles to help you:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/de/worterbuch/englisch/run-in-the-family

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/so-far

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/de/worterbuch/englisch/face-the-music

Do you remember the proverb Like a father, like a son?

 

Can you say what the song is about?

 

Do you know the double meaning of the word family tree in the song? And what could break mean in the context of the story?

 

Look at the line 'Cause we all have our daddy's eyes.

 

What does it mean if you consider the expression see something through someone's eyes?

And last but not least a little grammar:

 

Look at the use of would in the first verse. How would you translate the lines?

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