Sunday, December 05, 2010

Penny Lane / Hello, Goodbye

It has been a while since I had time to update this blog and two songs have been sung since last time. In November we had the marvelous bit of nonsense verse that is Penny Lane and this month we have just started with Hello, Goodbye, which makes a bit more sense, but not much. Both from the eventful year that was 1967.

Penny Lane was written about the sights and sounds to be seen and heard about the eponymous location in the suburbs of Liverpool. Penny Lane is named after James Penny who was an 18th century slave trader and a strong opponent of abolition. McCartney and Lennon grew up in the area and they would meet at Penny Lane junction in the Mossley Hill area to catch a bus into the centre of the city. The street is now an important landmark, sought out by most Beatles fans touring Liverpool. In the past, street signs saying "Penny Lane" were constantly being stolen for souvenirs and had to be continually replaced. Eventually, the Liverpool city officials gave up and simply began painting the street name on the sides of buildings. This practice was stopped in 2007 and more theft-resistant Penny Lane street signs were installed though some are still stolen. In July 2006, a Liverpool Councillor proposed renaming certain streets because their names were linked to the slave trade. Ultimately, city officials decided to forego the name change and re-evaluate the entire renaming process. On 10 July 2006, it was revealed that Liverpool officials said they would modify the proposal to exclude Penny Lane.

The students had a lot of fun singing Penny Lane especially when I explained the slightly naughty nature of some of the lyrics.

Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he's had the pleasure to have known
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mac
In the pouring rain...
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back

In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen.
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It's a clean machine

(Trumpet Solo)

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
Four of fish and finger pies
In summer, meanwhile back

Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she's in a play
She is anyway

Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
Then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain...
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies...
Penny Lane.


About half-way through the month of November, the TOEIC results were announced and it turned out that 95% of the students who had been part of this singing experiment had managed to improve their score. Half a dozen individuals had added 100 points or more. Whether this was really due to the singing is impossible to prove, of course, but it does no harm to be aware that they happened at the same time.


Hello, Goodbye was released in November 1967 as a monophonic 7-inch single. It was not available in stereo until it was included in the 1973 compilation album 1967-70. With the release of the song, McCartney gave an explanation of its meaning in an interview with Disc: “The answer to everything is simple. It's a song about everything and nothing. If you have black you have to have white. That’s the amazing thing about life.”
In the UK Hello, Goodbye spent seven weeks at Number One including Christmas.
The students are having an easier time with this one than they did with Penny Lane, but on the other hand there is less to discuss.

You say yes, I say no -- You say stop and I say go, go, go
Oh, no
You say goodbye and I say Hello
Hello, Hello -- I don't know why you say goodbye
I say hello
Hello, Hello --I don't know why you say goodbye
I say Hello

I say high, you say low -- You say why, and I say I don't know
Oh, no
You say goodbye and I say Hello
Hello, hello -- I don't know why you say goodbye
I say hello
Hello, Hello -- I don't know why you say goodbye
I say Hello

Why, why, why, why, why, why
Do you say Good bye
Goodbye, bye, bye, bye, bye

Oh, no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello, Hello --I don't know why you say goodbye
I say hello
Hello, Hello -- I don't know why you say goodbye
I say hello
Hello, Hello --I don't know why you say goodbye I say Hello
Hello

Hela, heba helloa
Hela, heba helloa

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road is a ballad written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon/McCartney) that originally appeared on The Beatles’ final album Let it Be. It became The Beatles’ last number-one song in the United States on 23 May 1970, and was the last single released by the quartet. The Long and Winding Road was listed with For You Blue as a double-sided hit when the single hit number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
While the released version of the song was very successful, the post-production modifications to the song by producer Phil Spector angered McCartney to the point that when he made his case in court for breaking up the Beatles as a legal entity McCartney cited the treatment of The Long and Winding Road as one of six reasons for doing so.

In 2003, the remaining Beatles and Yoko Ono released Let it Be… Naked, touted as the band's version of Let It Be remixed by independent producers. McCartney claimed that his long-standing dissatisfaction with the released version of The Long and Winding Road (and the entire Let It Be album) was in part the impetus for the new version. The album included a different take, Take 19, of The Long and Winding Road recorded on 31 January. Although a different take, this version is nonetheless closer to McCartney's original intention than the album version, with no strings or other added instrumentation beyond that which was played in the studio at the time. This take is the one seen in the film Let it Be.

Ringo Starr was impressed with the Naked version of the song: “There's nothing wrong with Phil's strings, this is just a different attitude to listening. But it's been 30-odd years since I've heard it without all that and it just blew me away."[3] Spector himself argued that McCartney was being hypocritical in his criticism: “Paul had no problem picking up the Academy Award for the Let it Be movie soundtrack, nor did he have any problem in using my arrangement of the string and horn and choir parts when he performed it during 25 years of touring on his own. If Paul wants to get into a pissing contest about it, he's got me mixed up with someone who gives a shit.”
All of which goes to show what a delightful character is Phil Spector, currently serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life for murder in the second degree.

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door.

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day.
Why leave me standing here?
Let me know the way.

Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried,
Anyway you’ve always known
The many ways I’ve tried.

And still they lead me back
To the long, winding road
You left me waiting here
A long, long time ago
Don't keep me standing here
Lead me to your door.

But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me waiting here
A long, long time ago
Don't leave me standing here
Lead me to your door.

Lennon/McCartney 1970

To my generation The Long and Winding Road marked the end of an era during which we grew up. I was only 15 years old in May 1970, and to be quite honest, didn’t like the Beatles all that much. They were mainly singing about things I was too young to understand. However, at that time I had developed an all-embracing crush on a young lady called Victoria. Unfortunately she was not much interested in me, the gawky, spotty impecunious, callow youth that I was. Victoria lived about three miles away from our house, out of town almost. I would walk those three miles late every Saturday afternoon, knock on her door and ask her out for the evening. And she always turned me down, albeit with a sweet smile, for some reason or other and always with a “Maybe next week…” And I would walk the three miles back to our house every week, feeling that Mr McCartney was singing his song about the Long and Winding Road just for me. This went on for six months, by which time I had turned sixteen, covered about 150 miles and worn out a pair of suede desert boots. Looking at the distressed footwear I eventually came to the conclusion that I was on a hiding to nothing, and gave up. I realize now that this was a kind of ningen kousaten, as the Japanese call it, or human crossroads. If Victoria had consented but once, my whole life might have been very different.

Food for thought, indeed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sakura Sakura

As the cherry blossom season has been upon us recently and with it the attendant viewing parties, I chose the lovely Irish ballad The Jug of Punch for April’s song.

We actually managed two evening viewing parties this year. The first one was a little early and the blossoms were only about 30% open, but it was a pleasant evening and a good time was had by all, with lots of sake put away.



The second one was a week later and the blossoms were in man-kai (fully opened) mode. However, there was a bitterly cold wind and sporadic drizzle, which meant we only lasted an hour or so before abandoning proceedings. So it goes…



I assume the words to this song are traditional, as there seem to be several variations knocking about. The version here is as I remember it was performed by the late Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

One pleasant evenin’ in the month of June
As I was sittin’ with my glass an’ spoon
A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was The Jug Of Punch

(Chorus)
Tooralooraloo... Tooralooralay…
Tooralooraloo…Tooralooralay
A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was The Jug Of Punch

What more diversion can a man desire
Than to sit him down by a snug turf fire
Upon his knee there a pretty wench
And on the table a jug of punch?

(Chorus)

Let the doctors come with all their art
They’ll make no impression upon my heart
But if life was gone, within an inch,
What would bring it back but a jug of punch?

(Chorus)

And if I get drunk, well the money’s my own
And them as don’t like me they can leave me alone
I’ll tune my fiddle and I’ll rosin my bow
And I’ll be welcome wherever I go

(Chorus)

And when I'm dead and in my grave
No costly tombstone will I crave
Just lay me down in my native peat
With a jug of punch at my head and feet.

(Chorus)

Traditional

Monday, March 08, 2010

You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me...


Last month’s practice TOEIC test showed consistent high scores overall, showing that the January results were not a one-off fluke. For March I have chosen the old Aussie favourite Waltzing Matilda. This one is nice and easy to learn and is well represented on YouTube. Of course, part of the fun is found in pre-teaching the unique Australian vocabulary that gives the song its charm.
I was a little surprised that only 2 students (out of the 100 or so in my classes) had ever heard of Waltzing Matilda and that precisely none of them knew what it was about. So, in case you, dear reader, are in the latter category, here goes:

Swagman––a homeless itinerant who wandered the Australian bush looking for work carrying all his possessions (his swag) on his back. The backpack was affectionately known as his ‘Matilda’; as it was his only companion it was as well it had a feminine moniker. ‘Waltzing’ was the walking he did (possibly from the German auf der Walz which means to travel while working as a craftsman and learn new techniques from other masters before returning home after three years and one day, a custom which is apparently still in use today).
Billabong—an oxbow lake left behind by a river changing course during flash flooding, or any kind of deep pool.
Coolibah—a variety of eucalyptus which grows near billabongs.
Billy—short for billy-can, a metal pot for making tea or coffee over a campfire.
Jumbuck—a kind of feral sheep which had roamed from its flock. Sheep were introduced to Australia by the British government in the 19th century.
Tucker bag—a bag for carrying tucker (food).
Squatter—an early farmer in Australia who raised livestock on land he did not legally own, but had permission to use. The farm workers for the most part were prison labourers who had been sentenced to transportation by a British court. They were obliged to work for food and lodging only for 7 years on average, before being released. Having no savings to show for 7 years effort, many then became swagmen. Many squatters became fabulously rich, as a result of the low labour costs of their businesses.
Trooper—a mounted policeman.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
"Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?"
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda etc
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"
"Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?",
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong,
"You'll never take me alive", said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me"
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me."
"Oh, You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me."



Lyrics: Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Patterson 1895
Music: Christina Macpherson


This song is held in great regard by most Australians as it aptly describes the early social conditions of their nation. In fact many would prefer it to be their national anthem, rather than the turgid Advance Australia Fair.

It is worth noting that sheep-stealing in colonial Oz was a capital offence and the ‘swaggie’ obviously considered that drowning himself was a better course than the gallows. Not the happiest of endings, but a great song nevertheless.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Right to Roam

The singing of songs has continued apace, particularly after the results of a short TOEIC practice listening test at the end of January. Out of about 75 people who took this test, only two scored 5 out of 8. This 62.5%, if averaged across the board in an actual test, would net the test-taker a score in the low 600s--which would easily be 100 points up on most people’s 2009 score. However, 36 people scored 6 out of 8, 28 scored 7 out of 8 and an elite group took full marks. As the realization of what this meant sank in, grins became broader and broader. They are beginning to believe in ‘Yes We Can’, so thank you President Obama for that.

As it is February now, we have a new song to sing. This month I have chosen The Manchester Rambler, which has an easily acquired melody and an interesting history.

I’ve been over Snowdon, I’ve slept up on Crowden,
I’ve camped by The Wainstones as well.
I’ve sunbathed on Kinder, been burned to a cinder,
And many more things I can tell.
My rucksack has oft been my pillow,
The heather has oft been my bed.
And sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead.

(Chorus)
I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler, from Manchester way,
I get all my pleasure the hard moorland way.
I may be a wage-slave on Monday,
But I am a free man on Sunday.

The day was just ending, and I was descending,
Down Grindsbrook just by Upper Tor.
When a voice cried “Hey you!”
In the way keepers do,
He’d the worst face that ever I saw.
The things that he said were unpleasant,
In the teeth of his fury I said,
Sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead.
(Chorus)

He called me a louse and said “Think of the grouse”
Well I thought but I just couldn’t see.
Why old Kinder Scout and the moors round about,
Couldn’t take both the poor grouse and me.
He said “All this land is my master’s”
At that I stood shaking my head.
No man has the right to own mountains,
Any more than the deep ocean bed.
(Chorus)

I once loved a maid, a spot-welder by trade,
She was fair as the rowan in bloom.
And the blue of her eye matched the June moorland sky,
And I wooed her from April till June.
On the day that we should have been married,
I went for a ramble instead.
For sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead.
(Chorus)

So I’ll walk where I will, over mountain and hill,
And I’ll lie where the bracken is deep.
I belong to the mountains, the clear running fountains,
Where the grey rocks lie rugged and steep.
I’ve seen the white hare in the gullies,
And the curlew fly high overhead.
And sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead.
(Chorus)

Ewan MacColl 1933

The song recalls the heady days of the early ’Thirties and the mass trespass movement.
The first mass trespass was a notable act of willful trespass by ramblers. It was undertaken at Kinder Scout in the Peak District of England, on 24 April 1932, to highlight weaknesses in English law of the time. This denied walkers in England or Wales access to areas of open country, and to public footpaths which, in previous ages (and today), formed public rights of way. Political and conservation activist Benny Rothman was one of the principal leaders.


Kinder Scout from the North

Although the event was originally opposed by the official ramblers’ federations, the vicious sentences which were handed down on five of the young trespassers actually served to unite the ramblers’ cause.
It is now recognized as a major catalyst not only for the Right to Roam, but the creation of the National Parks, of which the Peak District was the first in 1951.
In 2002, Andrew, the 11th Duke of Devonshire (who owns the land), publicly apologized at the 70th anniversary celebration event of the Kinder trespass at Bowden Bridge for his grandfather’s ‘great wrong’ in 1932:
“I am aware that I represent the villain of the piece this afternoon. But over the last 70 years times have changed and it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome walkers to my estate today. The trespass was a great shaming event on my family and the sentences handed down were appalling. But out of great evil can come great good. The trespass was the first event in the whole movement of access to the countryside and the creation of our national parks”

Which all goes to show how much things have changed.

Ewan MaColl has been gone from us since 1989, but the collection of great songs he left with us will last for a lot longer, of that I am sure.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sailing homeward to Mingulay

For January I have chosen the haunting ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ which has gone down very well with most classes. This song was not meant to be accompanied by instruments, but chanted in unison with the full breaths that it takes to pull long ropes or oars. In this aspect it is similar to the songs of chain-gangs swinging axes, being work songs to keep physical workers in unison. Therefore it is really sung best if you move your body in time to its rhythm, as if rowing a boat homeward. It was also good to find that ‘The Minch’, ‘bairns’ and ‘’ere’ are entries in my electronic E-J dictionary so there is no feeling of ‘we’re not learning real English here’.

Heel yo ho, boys; let her go, boys;
Bring her head round, into the weather,
Hill you ho, boys, let her go, boys
Sailing homeward to Mingulay

What care we though, white the Minch is?
What care we for wind or weather?
Let her go boys; every inch is
Sailing homeward to Mingulay.

Heel yo ho, boys; let her go, boys;
Bring her head round, and all together,
Hill you ho, boys, let her go, boys
Sailing homeward to Mingulay

Wives are waiting, by the pier head,
Or looking seaward, from the heather;
Pull her round, boys, then we’ll anchor
`Ere the sun sets on Mingulay.

Heel yo ho, boys; let her go, boys;
Bring her head round, into the weather,
Hill you ho, boys, let her go, boys
Sailing homeward to Mingulay

Ships return now, heavy laden
Mothers holdin’ bairns a-cryin’
They’ll return, though, when the sun sets
They’ll return to Mingulay.

Heel yo ho, boys; let her go, boys;
Bring her head round, and all together,
Hill you ho, boys, let her go, boys
Sailing homeward to Mingulay


The original lyrics were written by Sir Hugh S. Roberton in 1938, however the original tune was a pipe tune, "Creag Guanach"; from Lochaber.

What is interesting about this song is that, even though it sounds authentic, it was never sung by the inhabitants of the isle of Mingulay.

Situated at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides, the storm-tossed rocky sanctuary was abandoned in 1912 after almost 2000 years on human habitation. Life presumably became too difficult to continue. The island is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is inhabited only by sheep and seabirds.

Having started with America and now on to Scotland, to continue with a song for every month until the next TOEIC venture, we are going to move south to England next.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Slip me some skin...

Following on from last week’s post, my singing voice has been severely tested this week, as I inflicted Little Boxes on every class from Tuesday to Friday, with generally pleasing results. I think if we do this as a warm-up exercise at the beginning of every class, it will have the desired effect i.e. to get the students more in tune with the cadence of the English language. I have been scouring the WWW for suitable song lyrics and will introduce one every month till the time comes around for the TOEIC torture-chamber again. However, if my notion is correct, I expect it will be less of a torture-chamber in 2010. As we only have a couple of weeks left before the end of this term, and Christmas is coming, Felix Bernard’s 1934 Winter Wonderland will get an airing next before we call it a day for 2009.

Another thing I tried this week was watching a VHS video movie clip, with Japanese subtitles, to see if there was good correlation between what was said on screen and what appeared at the foot of the screen. It turned out that there was, after a fashion, in that the students could understand what was going on on screen but they were generally unable to catch what the English words were, even after several repetitions. This seems to be because of elision, or syllable omission, which native speakers do as a matter of course when speaking naturally.

The clip I chose was from the 1987 movie Good morning Viet Nam, which made Robin Williams into a star. This movie is set in Saigon in 1965 just as the Viet Nam ‘police action’ is about to escalate into a full-blown conflict. At about 1.17 the main character (Adrian Cronauer) first tells an outrageous falsehood, then resorts to bribery in order to persuade the Army EFL teacher to allow him to take over the class, so he can get a chance at dating the Vietnamese girl in white. In Japanese subtitles the soldier’s response is gojiyuu ni, which means ‘feel free’ or something like that. However, what he actually says is “ ’sallyurrs – yuugaddit” (It’s all yours, you’ve got it). The rest of the clip shows how the new ‘teacher’ is then hopelessly out of his depth as he has no idea how to proceed. He eventually has to confess that he is not a real teacher but achieves a measure of success, and popularity with the students by teaching them Harlem street slang. As he says, in the real world this is probably somewhat more useful to them than the hackneyed phrases the ‘real’ teacher was trying to teach, even though they were grammatically perfect.

video

I think it is unlikely that the TOEIC test is ever going to test for knowledge of phrases like ‘slip me some skin’ or ‘groovy’, but it does use lots of natural spoken English in its listening sections. There are a lot of examples of elision in this short clip, which I was able to exploit and I hope will be useful to my students, especially for TOEIC.

Full marks to those who noticed the subtitles are in Chinese not Japanese, but I’m sure my main assertion holds true.