This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Search BBC
BBC World Service
BBC BBC News BBC Sport BBC Weather BBC World Service Worldservice languages
spacer gif
You are in: Learning English > Watch and Listen > The Singer and the Song
Learning English
spacer gif
Karl Hyde
Meet Karl Hyde, the voice and the songwriter behind the London based group Underworld. The quality that has made Underworld so distinct on the British dance-music scene is that, unlike most dance bands, they write their own lyrics. For them words are no less important than tunes. In 1996, the group became internationally recognized, when their song Born Slippy was used as the lead track in Danny Boyle's award-winning film 'Trainspotting'. Find out from Karl Hyde himself what the song is about and how the lyrics were written.

Karl Hyde reads the lyrics especially for us. Listen and see if you can fill in the gaps in the lyrics.

Drive boy, dog boy, dirty numb angel boy. In the (...1...), boy, she was lipstick, boy. She was beautiful, boy, and tears, boy, and all in your (...2...), boy. You had hand girls, boy, and steal, boy. You had chemicals, boy. I've grown so close to you, boy, and you just groan, boy. She said, '(...3...), (...3...)', she smiled at you, boy. Babes and babes and babes... I just come out of 'The Ship' talkin' to the most blonde I ever met, shoutin', 'Lager lager lager lager', shoutin' 'Mega mega white thing, mega mega white thing'. So many things to see and do in the tube hole. True blonde goin' back to Romford. Mega mega mega goin' back to Romford. Hi mum, are you (...4...)? And now are you on your way to a new (...5...)?
Check answers
Find out how Karl writes his lyrics. Learn about his feelings for urban culture and find out what his song 'Born Slippy' is all about.

OK Karl, tell us how you write your songs.
These words are first-take a lot of the time. I fill notebooks with writing, I write every day. And I'll open up some pages in the notebook and I'll see these things, these words in front of me - and I go, 'Yeah, OK, this is this, I want to sing this'.
Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics from, Karl?
For me, there is an inherent beauty in the city. I see the city as a very very beautiful place. Even the underside of it. There's a beauty even in the kind of... the forceful presentation of something. As long as it's meant with no malice or anger or violence, there's a beauty in its energy.
What is 'Born Slippy' - a dream? A dream come true? Or is it your view of reality?
In the simplest form, it's me walking through the streets of Soho trying to get back home to Romford in Essex. I was referring to myself reduced to a piece of meat, due to the fact that I'd drunk too much. The bigger story is that I'm fascinated by the kind of snapshots that one retains when you've had a couple of drinks. These kind of very precise snapshots one has of a little piece of street, or of a rubbish bin, or of a tape-recorder... I'm talking about being like a hoover, hoovering up all the images and the sounds and the smells of the city. Because after all it's cities that would inspire me.
What exactly does the word 'babe' mean here? Not 'a child', it seems...
What I'm referring to there is a kind of a male idea of a stereotype. This kind of like, 'Ah, babes, oh, she's a real babe' - meaning a kind of real derogatory term... For a woman, yeah. And that's not having a go at women. That's having a go at men.
Why did you choose to use the word 'boy' to describe a man - not 'chap' or 'lad'?
Because I think men are boys. Most of us haven't grown up, you know, most of us are still struggling with taking responsibility. It's like, 'I don't want responsibility tonight, tonight I want to lose control' ... And so, it's boy again.
In the song, the word lager gets repeated 16 times! Did you mean it to be a 'lager anthem'?
The lyrics are quite ironic. At first it was kind of upsetting that it was used like a 'lager anthem', which was the antithesis of the way it was written. It was a piece of irony. But I still believe that cities are beautiful places and that people are essentially good and that's what I'm following at the moment. I've done my time, as far as I'm concerned, underneath the city and I'm looking at other things.

Karl Hyde
Did you get all that? Well, here's a chance for you to check if you know exactly what some of the words and expressions Karl used mean.

If something is first-take, it means...

you take it before you take anything else
you leave it unchanged, unedited, the way you first saw or perceived it
you take it for the first time

If you are referring to yourself...
you are talking about yourself
you are talking to yourself
you are asking yourself

A snapshot
someone who shoots their gun in a sharp way
a quick attempt to do something
a photographic image of a situation or place

You are having a go at someone if you are...
walking towards them
critisizing them or arguing with them
leaving their company
Check answers

Music Directory

BBC copyright
Learning English | News English | Business English | Watch and Listen
Grammar and Vocabulary | Communicate | Quizzes | For teachers
Downloads | FAQ | Contact us