Mis-sung Lyrics are a thing of the Past

As a product of their generation, my children have trouble understanding the lack of music on demand, lyrics on demand, and movies on demand of my era growing up. I consider it part of my job to make them aware of it though as you can see in this great blog.

Take song lyrics for example: as a writer, I am a bit of a word-smith and words are very important to me. For that reason, growing up, lyrics to songs were always every bit as crucial as a catchy melody. Some songs appeared like a form of poetry to me.
I also weirdly memorize lyrics and never, ever, ever forget them. Plus, you had to know the lyrics to sing along loudly as I always did to my favorite songs.

My children, and especially my daughter Elissa, are into lyrics as well.

Through the great 60’s musical era while growing up, I used to sing plenty of lyrics wrong, thinking they were all together different words than what they were. Lots of people did this. Not only did we sing them wrong, we belted out bizarre incorrect words with all sincerity at the top of our lungs, actually convinced we were singing what the writer had in mind.

Of course now the correct lyrics are just a few clicks away on any computer, so some of the fun of discovering the real words for lyrics has been taken away.

That is now though. Back then I had a bunch of trouble understanding some of my faves like Creedence Clearwater Revival. John Fogerty, bless his heart, had such a charming and distinctive voice, but never exactly enunciated the words.  In Bad Moon Rising, instead of “there’s a bad moon on the rise” some of us sang, “there’s a bad moon on the right,” or worse, some actually sang”there’s a bathroom on the right.”
Their song “Looking Out My Back Door” was a mess of misinterpreted lines such as “Mammories of elephants playing with the band.”

Even my Monkees were not immune to this defilement. Daydream Believer had a lyric that went “The razor’s cold and it stings.” (We all sang stinks) “White knight on his steed” became “white night on the sea.”

My daughter thinks it is hilarious that we ignorantly butchered lyrics of everyone from the Beatles to Billy Joel. As a modern child, she forgets that computers with lyric sites weren’t available then.  True, there was the odd album with lyrics printed on the protective sleeve – but that wasn’t always the case.

So I explained to my daughter how groups of us would all be singing the same incorrect lyric to a song, blissfully unaware and uncaring that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense at times!

With utter delight my daughter and I discovered a book that had us howling at lyrics – mostly bad ones, and plenty of mis-interpreted ones. It was Dave Barry’s “Book of Bad Songs.” Although my daughter had never even heard of many of the songs in this book, it was still funny to her.

There were some chapters where we had tears streaming down our faces at Barry’s interpretation of some pretty awful lyrics like Neil Diamond’s “I Am I Said”
“I am I said. To no one there, and no one cared at all, not even the chair.” (Please note that I am one of the biggest Neil Diamond fans – but a chair can’t hear or care, so that was one pathetic lyric.)

Or “MacArthur Park”
“Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don’t think that I can take it, because it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again.”
(I explained the metaphor to her, but it didn’t stop our laughing)
Or “Horse with No Name”
“In the desert, you can’t remember your name, cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.”

We had a great bonding session for days and days over this one book, reading out loud together. If you need some laughs, and like songs and song lyrics, go buy this immediately.

And here’s another great find for those of you who want to relive those mis-sung lyrics of your youth. There is now a whole website called Kiss This Guy- a riff on the Jimi Hendrix mis-heard lyric “Kiss the sky”–that gives hundreds of songs and examples of mis-heard and mis-sung lyrics. (Notice I left the link on the Creedence page, but there are hundreds of others>)

Have some fun with these, and don’t forget to tell me your favorite mis-heard or mis-sung lyric!

One comment

  • My best friend Donna and I were teens, listening to “Evil Woman” by ELO when I heard her singing “Believer Woman!” I think of that moment and our laughing every, single time I hear that song. I myself thought the words “electric boots” in Bennie & The Jets was actually “electric boobs”, meaning they were really hot and nice. Of course, being a skinny and flat chested teen, I would have thought that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *