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We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut(1922-2007)

Mother Night, 1961

Maybe It's Imaginary

Kirsty MacColl [Electric Landlady]
Electrc LandLady LP Cover

Maybe it’s imaginary, I’d like to know
What’s the world coming to and where will it go?
The hole in the sky where the sunshine gets in
It dries up the land as it mucks up your skin
And I don’t know why, who will reveal?
Maybe it’s imaginary, maybe it’s real

We wash all the food and we peel off the skin
But what is the point if it’s poisoned within?
Now I don’t know why we say OK
Maybe it’s imaginary, hope it’s not too late

And when in the summer we go to the sea
The things floating by aren't what we want to see
And I’d change it all if I had one wish
I’d never go swimming with those nuclear fish
Maybe those imaginary rivers run dry
But if it’s true then I’d like to know why
I don’t know much but I’d like to know why

Song Strips for small classes

Song strips are simply strips of card, one per line of the song. Shuffle them up and then give out one to each student. Students take turns reading their lines and asking questions if they have any problems with meaning. Repeat the process until all the strips are given out. Next find the title and put it at one end of the table as a starting point. Make sure everyone has their strips laid out so that all are visible and explain the idea of building the song up together. You can mention that you will play the song more than once. Keep playing the song until all the strips are in the right order or very nearly. Finally give out the lyrics sheet and play one more time as required.

Song Strips for large classes

Either put the students into groups of 4-6 and use multiple sets of strips or make one large set. Students aim to stand side by side and display each line in order. If necessary some students can hold two lines, one in each hand. Alternatively the students can aim to walk past a monitor who has a copy of the lyrics. If someone is out of order they can stand to one side and try again when the song is played again. Either way, make sure to go through the song one strip at a time randomly for reading and meaning before playing the song.


Do an internet search on the phrase nuclear fish and it's likely to turn up references to Fukushima. What do your students think when they here the phrase. And do they know what the hole in the sky refers to? According to data from NASA the Ozone hole is in the process of healing and expected to return to pre-1980 levels by around 2075. The song was written over 25 years ago. Do your students think climate change is imaginary? Do they eat organic food?


This is a short song with only 17 lines and a run time of little over 2 minutes. The song can be found on YouTube.

Because rhyming is a fairly alien concept for many Japanese students when going over the lyric sheet I will often ask them to find words that rhyme. This can also be done while going through the strips as a mental exercise - finding rhymes for the last word of each line. This can aid with putting the song together when it is finally heard.

There are two versions of the lyrics sheet included. The first contains the lyrics and a wordsearch. The second contains the following biographical details that can be used for comprehension activities:

Kirsty MacColl, born October 10th, 1959, was the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl (1915–1989) and dancer Jean Newlove (1923–2017). The album Electric Landlady was released in 1991. On December 18th. 2000, while on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, MacColl was killed by a powerboat. The boat was owned by multimillionaire, Guillermo González Nova who was on board with members of his family. MacColl was killed pushing her fifteen year old son to safety. The boat was in a designated diving area and there were questions about its speed and who was at the controls. The BBC later produced a documentary entitled Who Killed Kirsty MacColl.

The Official Kirsty MacColl site is here.

Put up 28th April 2018