Friday 18 May 2012

English by radio, Pedagogical Pop and Bush House mice

Extract from my column Radio Websites, May 2012, Radio User, PW Publishing,

Follow the Bush House mice on Twitter for some shrewd and amusing observations of life at the bottom end of a large international broadcaster.  

Whether the mice migrate with the BBC World Service across London to New Broadcasting House is a moot point, but for a tour around the BBC’s swish new offices, studios and meeting rooms go to the following YouTube link  or go to  and look for the W1 tour. Another video of interest here is BBC World Service’s World Have Your Say from Tanzania a couple of years back.

When I was a teenager living in London I used to tune to the BBC World Service on 648kHz. In between the BBC World Service it was always fun to hear the BBC German and French services on that same frequency. Likewise, the BBC English by Radio programmes aired there always amused me, and despite English being my first language, educated me as well. I have found one of the classic BBC English programmes, called Pedagogical Pop, online. This would take a contemporary song and analyse the lyrics, line by line. This is probably more than average BBC Radio 1 listener managed to do.

So head for this Spanish site where you will find Starry Starry Night, Send in the Clowns, Suzanne, Heard it through the Grapevine, I Shot the Sheriff and many more explained in BBC English.

Summer Breeze audio is at  and there’s a transcript of the Ticket To Ride programme at


Andy Walmsley said...

What a find! BBC External Services programme recordings on the web seem to be very rare.

Unknown said...

Is it possible to download these songs from anywhere? I had two of original tape recorded in 1990. London town, and Phil Collins. I would like some more

Oscar said...

I've got the following recorded from the radio in a cassette and then connverted to mp3:
10CC - Don't Squeeze Me Like Toothpaste (English)
Andy Fairweather Low - Standing on the water (English)
Aretha Franklin - You make me feel like a natural woman (English)
Carl Perkins - Blue suede shoes (English)
Linda Ronstadt - That'll be the day (English)
Olivia Newton John - Banks of the Ohio (English)
Stevie Wonder - Ebony eyes (English)
If interested, please write to

Chrissy Brand said...

Fantastic, thanks Oscar! Chrissy

Hamish Norbrook said...

Hello, I’ve just read the posts. Thanks for your interest in a BBC World Service English by Radio series I first wrote and produced back around 1976. It ran for many years, was heard in lots of countries, with different writers and producers. At that time I had to transcribe a lot of the words myself. The third verse of one song I was writing about just didn’t make sense, so I rang the group. “Sorry about that - we needed another verse to make the song long enough, didn’t have time, so just wrote down anything!” I tried to pick songs that would be popular with teenagers, and could be used by teachers in class.

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