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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WR 8.1.Annex. Our Quest for English with music > my musical history-story

FOLLOW UP WR8.1. student 12# - José Miguel C. R.
Report (My quest for English with music)

Everything Rock and Roll taught me
( a.k.a: “There’s life beyond the I miss you, I love you, I hold you… clichés”)

I hope my parents never know this, but nearly 90 percent of my interest in learning English, is due to my passion for R’n’R. Since my early teenage years, I spent my spare time and my low incomes buying cassettes, records or CD’s (depending on technology advances). I am aware of the importance of knowing a second language like English (In my case as 3rd or 4th since I have always spoken gallego at home, and catalan at work), but the goal that encouraged me day by day was understanding what Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan or Patti Smith sang out loud through the stereo speakers in my living room. Sad but true, I looked up for more words in the dictionary to achieve the famous G open-tuning in trying to emulate the Keith Richards riffs, than to pass my A levels (=COU) English exam. Much to my surprise, years later (10?, 15?...20?... Who cares?) I realized that after reading such tons of song lyrics, I developed a special ability to memorize them. That means that I can sing from memory dozens/heaps of songs (I swear that I am not lying) even from bands or artists that I don’t like at all. This skill helped me along my learning courses; each time I wondered: Is it allow followed by to?.....So, I just had to recall: “Please, allow me to introduuuce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taaaaste…” (Sympathy for the devil, 1968 by The R. Stones) Apart from this, I have also read lots of books (Right now I am reading Bowie, in his own words), magazines, and also the Internet has become a treasure for a die-hard R’n’R fan like me.

Thus, my aim with this text is to show how R’n’R didn’t waste my life, indeed it will help me to pass my last but not least English course! (Won’t it?) As the title of this dossier points, I have avoided all the topics and clichés that didn’t teach me anything relevant (… “All women are wicked” ¿? ,well I already knew that since I was a child!, …..ha! ha!, ha!. Obviously, I was joking….)

I have made several categories: first of all, I will deal with some words related to music, then Juicy expressions (Often, double meaning), thirdsly, Life in the streets and finally nicknames (see next page).

But needless to say that although I am grateful to this easy way of learning English, what I found most pleasant and joyful is founding out those impressionists lyrics by Bob Dylan: Jewels & binoculars hang from the head of the mule/But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel. Or knowing that the Minnesota songwriter felt like if he had “a corkscrew in his heart” when his wife quit, as well as all his rage and angst feelings: Idiot wind, blowing evry’ time you mouth your teeth/You’re an idiot babe,/It’s wonder that you still know how to breathe. Even Patti Smith made me think of my own and deep beliefs when I heard her sing: Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine…
I don’t mean to despise all my efforts, but in conclusion it seems that learning English has been some kind of side-effect throughout my R’n’R years. A practical and useful one, indeed.

A. All the terminology more closely related to music:
Band/artists names: I know that The Go-Betweens didn’t choose their name because they used to walk down Main St. Some names have several meanings: The Jam (a jam session, a sort of mermelade or a traffic jam?), others have close meanings: The Pixies or The Posies, others like The Stooges shouldn’t have a high self-esteem. Other names that discovered new words or expressions: Humble Pie or Steppenwolf (The later is also a book by Herman Hesse…Yes man, Rock & Roll improves your cultural command too !)
Rolling Stonesque words: My favourite band also means juicy expressions like: “Stone-dead”, “Stone Age”, “No Stone Unturned”(=remover Roma con Santiago), “ Precious Stones” or “Milestones” (The later is also the title of the Miles Davis masterpiece (…Yes man, Rock and Roll offers you the chance to find out more respectable genres like: free-jazz, cool or be-bop!! ).
B. Juicy expressions (Often, double meaning): I have considered this is the most outstanding in my learning process, I owe most of my successful writing (without wishing to be immodest) to these kind of sentences, among them…:
- Spill the beans - Thick as thieves - Raise hell - Tongue in cheek
- Blackmail - I call the shots - Ill-equiped - Fish on the line
- Nitty Gritty - make my day! - No use in crying - high & dry
- Draw the line - Read between the lines - Small hours - My min’d eye
- catch a fire - Howdy! - back to the roots - Tear my hair up…
- Still life -against the rain - safe and sound - rollercoaster
-hand in glove - get your kicks - sleep a wink - helter-skelter
- jump the gun - happy ever after - throw pearls at swine - rollercoaster
- Flogging a dead horse - love at first sight - The powers that be - All-time greats

I will not show the meaning of all of them, though I have included them because once it took my time looking up their meaning (And obviously I will not say where they come from…It’s not the point knowing that Surf’s up is a Beach Boys 70’s masterpiece, isn’t it?). Most of the times I found them out with mixed feelings; surprised and disappointed at the same time as I frequently realized that such a brilliant lyrics were nothing but typical expressions and sayings, far from the artist min’s eye (yes… imagination!).
(Superb! Isn’t it?).

C. Life in the streets is also one of the main topics in rock lyrics, and one of its threats: drugs & delinquency, spreads its slang on tons of songs. That’s the reason that I know this:
Dealer=Pusher Joint = Bar Booze= Drink Dope=Drug Hemp= Grass= Weed= Pot… Smack=Horse=Heroin= junk… Coke=Cocaine=Powder… Stoned=High=Loaded=Ripped

D. The way nicknames are made: skinny-leg Pete, the name of fiction characters like Cinderella or Tombstone and adjectives like sleepy-head or sleepy-eye were discovered at my early twenties due to my passion for the MC5 (Motorcity five, a quintet born in Detroit), David Bowie or Bob Dylan.

(abridged selection by J. M. C. R. )

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