We all do it. Singing along to some song on the radio, we reach a section of lyrics we don’t know and keep right on singing anyway, slipping in there whatever we’ve got that sounds even remotely close to what’s actually being sung by the artist. Many of the results are humorous; most are horrendous. The actual words of the songwriter, which are invariably better than anything we come up with, are resigned to a CD sleeve that lies crumpled somewhere under the back seat.
Just for grins, I’d like to share a few misheard lyrics that I have enjoyed over the years. I’m starting with some older songs and working my way up to the present. So, if you’re under the age of 30, maybe skip down a few.
Song: Bad Moon Rising, by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Correct Lyric: “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
Corrupted Lyric: “There’s a bathroom on the right.”
I suppose John Fogerty could be said to have some sort of accent, but if he does, it’s nowhere near strong enough to account for this. Seriously. Here he is singing about earthquakes and lightning, hurricanes a-blowin’ and rivers over-flowin’, and we’re supposed to believe he suddenly feels the need to inform us where the crapper is?
Song: Blinded By the Light, by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Correct Lyric: “Wrapped up like a deuce.”
Corrupted Lyric: “Wrapped up like a douche.”
A lot of people don’t know that Bruce Springsteen wrote this song. If they did, they might seek out his original version, which was done without all the candy-glossed production that went into Manfred Mann’s version and thus contains vocals which, while raspy, are easy to understand. Bruce clearly sings the word “deuce”. He also says “cut loose” instead of “wrapped up”, but that slight lyrical modification by Manfred Mann hardly serves as an excuse for accepting a feminine hygiene product as a valid metaphor in a popular rock song. But maybe I’m wrong. Is “wrapping up douches” a common practice somewhere? Maybe it is. I don’t know.
Song: Twilight Zone, by Golden Earring
Correct Lyric: “This is a madhouse; feels like being cloned.”
Corrupted Lyric: “This isn’t bad now; penis like King Kong.”
Um… yeah. He’s sitting in a hotel room at two in the morning with a smoking gun in his hand and tells himself what he’s done isn’t completely terrible because he’s so well-endowed. It’s not tough to figure out why this type of lyrical error was made when you consider that the person I heard sing this beauty was a guy in high school who drove a BMW and always had a fake tan. Dude like that can’t go ten minutes without referring to something as large and phallic.
Song: Give It Away, by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Correct Lyric: “What I got, you gotta get it, put it in you.”
Corrupted Lyric: “What I gotta get to getta put it in you?”
Here we have Anthony Kiedis rattling off syllables at a highly inefficient rate of speed. When you try to cram too many words into such a small space, you’re bound to be misquoted. And as the above example shows, you can quickly go from singing about generosity and how others should take up your philanthropic attitude to bitching about how difficult it is to get in some girl’s pants. Gives new meaning to “How come everybody gotta keep it like a Kaiser?”
Song: Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Nirvana
Correct Lyric: “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous. Here we are, now entertain us.”
Corrupted Lyric: “Look what I’ve found! This is dangerous! Here we are now, in containers.”
What can I say, Kurt Cobain was an immensely talented young man, but he screamed this song as if he was having a cathartic breakdown and being stung by wasps at the same time. I suppose we’re lucky we were able to find any words in there at all, correct or not.
Song: My Doorbell, by The White Stripes
Correct Lyric: “When you gonna ring it? When you gonna ring it?”
Corrupted Lyric: “When ya gonna reggae? When ya gonna reggae?”
Look, I know Jack White sounds like he’s followed a pint of Tanqueray with a few speedballs during this number, but come on. It’s a tune about a dude’s doorbell, not his bongos! Song's not called My Waterpipe. Sheesh.
There are a lot more, but I have other things I have to get done this evening. I'm about half way through the final season of Buffy and it's all I can do to limit it to one episode* a night. Feel free to add your own favorite botched lyrics to the comments. I’m sure you guys can think up a bunch that are way more humorous than my examples.
*Okay, sometimes two. Three or four on weekends. I have a problem, I know.