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Lyrical Idiocy

Today I'd like to chat with you about something we're all probably guilty of engaging in. That's right, folks, I'm talking about the misheard song lyric quandary. You know the drill: You buy a new CD (or download a song, if you're one of those young whippersnappers), turn up the volume, sit back and take-in the music. Eventually, you begin to sing along with the vocals, whether they affect you in a happy or melancholy way (depending on your mood), and you're one with the music experience.

The aforementioned ceremony is all well and good, until you happen, one day, to perhaps share the song with someone else. It could be on purpose --- "Hey, I loooove this new song, you've gotta' hear it!"  --- or on accident --- "You're in my car, and I'mma play this music, whether you like it or not" --- and you begin to sing along with it, swept-up in the glory of the moment. That's where the trouble begins. A brusk friend might interrupt your euphoric tune-belting and say something like, "Wait, what did you just say?"  A more polite friend may just smile embarrassingly for you, waiting for you to ask them what is amusing them so.

As you might be able to surmise, I have been in the situation (several times) of being corrected on some misheard song lyrics. Never one to bother much with the booklets that come with the CDs (some of which contain the song lyrics, some of which don't), I've always learned the lyrics by rote, considering that to be adequate. Unfortunately, it's not always proven to be the case. Take, for example, the Pet Shop Boys b-side song Too Many People. For years I thought it to be a commentary on how there were too many people on the planet, annoying the crap out of us. Consider the following lyrics, which I belted-out in unison with the song on several occasions:
The tactless Whitburn put his foot in it
Oh, a sensitive soul -- He's a role model
The urban jet setter -- never at home
Oh, a country of kooks, just leave me alone!
Or, consider the actual lyrics, related (and verified) to me years later:
The tactless twit who put his foot in it
Or the sensitive soul who's a role model
The urban jet setter -- never at home
Or the country recluse -- just leave me alone!
See, the song is actually about a person often feeling like they're two different people, depending upon whom they're with, and what a particular situation requires of them. The song is meant to indicate their internal struggle. Of course, my version worked just fine (for me) for a long time, but I admit, the Matt Lyrics were incorrect. Such is life. Of course, there are occasions when I believe the 'official' lyrics to be flat-out wrong, when put up against the actual song. Case-in-point:, along with several other web sites, insist that the lyrics to John Lennon's Jealous Guy are as follows:
I didn't mean to hurt you
I'm sorry that I made you cry
Oh no, I didn't want to hurt you
I'm just a jealous guy

Now, dear reader, I implore you -- listen to the song. Lennon is clearly singing "oh my," not "oh no." Seriously. Same thing with Cher's mega-hit song, Believe. As we all know, that song was #1 for something like two decades but, during the first few months of its popularity, I would sing along with its chorus thusly:
Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough,
Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough,
 Of course, the 'official' lyrics read as follows:
Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough,
Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough,
In a word: bullshit. There is no way that Cher is singing "now" instead of  "no." Trust a gay man on this. And, I don't care if you produce the official CD booklet for the album and it says "now." It's a mis-print. Whoever plated the page for Believe's lyrics made an error. That's it. Final word.

Of course, there are times when I've misheard lyrics to songs that, frankly, would take a cryptographer to decode. Those are freebies, aren't they? I mean, I gleefully misheard almost the entire vocals to Notorious B.I.G.'s Hypnotize for something like twelve years until, one day, I decided it was time to find out what he was really saying. Gotta' be real here.... I still don't know. But that's not always the point. Sometimes, just bopping along to your favorite tunes, making-up the lyrics as you go, is part & parcel of enjoying the music listening experience.

At least, that's what I tell myself in order to feel better.


  1. Well it could be worse... how about a whole FBI investigation into your lyrics:

  2. How many of us actually hear "revved up like a deuce" when we listen to Blinded By The Light (as performed by Manfred Mann and his Earth Band, not Springsteen)?

  3. Hotel California: On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair/Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air

    I mumble through "warm smell of colitas"...and then pick right back up at "rising." Also, when I sing it, her mind is definitely twisted, not tiffany-twisted.

    This post triggered a memory for me; when Brian was a kid, we'd sing our conversation to whatever tune was playing on the car radio. Funniest when we were arguing about something.

  4. Sven: That's insane!

    Dan J: Those of you who listen to it, no doubt. ;-)

    Gnightgirl: I loved hearing about your shared memory with Brian. That sounds so cute!


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