A very special music video lesson


What would happen if The Beatles sang about what’s actually happening in the Penny Lane music video?

There are lots of hilarious literal music video clips on Youtube, which are voiced-over with a version of the song describing what’s going on in the video. These videos are great for fun music lessons. Why not use these clips to teach your students to describe what they see?

Here’s an example lesson with The Beatles’ Penny Lane:

Play the first few seconds of the original Penny Lane video without any sound. Stop the video when you can see all of the Fab Four (after about 21 seconds).

Does anybody recognize the clip? Can your students guess which Beatles song the clip belongs to? Do they know the song? Why could they guess the song? (I suppose the bus might give a clue…)

Does anybody know The Beatles? What are their names? Can they tell who is who in the clip by pointing at the stopped video?Who is singing in the video?
(John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr; Paul is singing)

Now, listen to the literal video without showing the visuals and the subtitles (you could just hide your internet explorer behind another programme, or switch off the monitor). Ask your students to complete the lyrics below.

John is walking down a ________________ ,(street)
now there’s a barber pole.
Wide shot of barber ___________________, (shop)
And close-up of a _____________.  (bus)
Now you will see that there are __________________ of us. (four)
What a stupid _____________________. (coat)

Trading shades can not distract him from my stupid coat.
Bad edit shows him putting _________________ on three times. (glasses)
A plastic unibrow above his _______________________ , (eyes)
and we _______________________ away. (walk)
Where’d we go?

There we are,
we’re all with him,
now he’s ______________________ . (alone)
Let’s not ride these ______________________ in the street. (horses)
We’ll get ___________________ by that bus. (hit)

At last, the horses have departed from the ______________________. (alleyway)
Quick cut of John, and then our horses in a ________________________ . (park)
I’m not __________________, but George and Ringo are, (amused)
by the horse montage.

Horse montage! (3x) The horse montage!

Stupid bus!
You ___________________ my horse! (scared)
Now he’s too _________________! (fast)
George is saying “blah blah blah”
to me, but I don’t __________________________. (care)

It looks like John is saying “bite me” to the camera ________________. (guy)
We ride our horses past the _________________ and to a stage. (street)
Well, that’s a stupid place for a stage.
Let’s go here instead.

Those shots of John can not distract me from that table there.
What kind of ____________________ is this? It’s all outdoors. (restaurant)
It’s time for everyone to park his ____________________. (horse)
Don’t get trampled, John.
Random cop.

Want to eat, but now this horse is in my shot.
Hey, what’s in this __________________? (tea)
John’s face looks weird.
Now there’s some Mozart guys.

What the hell!?
It’s our ______________________________! (guitars)
Where’d they get those?
Trash the place, and end this ______________________. (video)
Pretty scarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfffffffffffff! Ffff!

Having played the song once, ask your students if anything seems strange? Is this the original Penny Lane text? Can they guess what happened to the clip? Play the song again in order for students to check their answers.

Now, play out the full literal video (including sound and visuals) and ask your students to compare their answers with the subtitles.

Are there any questions about the lyrics in the video (e.g. What’s a “random cop”)? Write anything that’s unclear on the board. Then watch the video again. Can they find explanations about the meaning of the text in the video?

With more advanced classes you could then do your own version of a literal video. Pick a video clip and ask students to write a text that describes what’s going on in the video!

You can find many more videos like this on Youtube – for example A-Ha’s Take on me, Tears for Fears’ Head over Heels, Meat Loaf’s I would do anything for love, Starship’s We built this city, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the heart. Some of the more famous songs come in a reframed video version due to copyright issues.



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