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Friday, 30 May
Now Don't Hear This

Last night, the wife fixed for me a delicious meal of steak and broccoli, and as I finished up, I asked her for a toothpick. But nothing can be that easy; as often happens, the phrase picked up some resonance in my brain, and I found myself singing the request to her using the chorus melody from Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero."

Hand me a TOOTH! PICK! BABY!
Got fooood in my teeeeth!
Hand me a TOOTH! PICK! BABY!
For paaarticles of beeeef!

(To be honest, I only sang the first two lines; the last two came to me a bit later, but my unlucky readers deserve the whole unfortunate quatrain.)

I do this all the time; I find some rhythmic match between any given banal sentence and any given pop song, and then I wander around with it in my head all day. It had even happened moments before last evening; terribly . . . it really hurts to confess this. But my mind wrapped itself around this desperately awful phrase, set to John Denver's "Annie's Song":

You fiiilll up my stoooomach,
Like . . . food in my stooomach.

Hold me.

Anyway, from there I moved on to idly thinking about Mondegreens (which I realize those aren't). If you don't know the term, Mondegreens are basically misheard or misinterpreted lyrics; it comes from a woman who for years thought the lyrics to an old Scottish ballad were "Oh, they have slain the Earl of Morray and Lady Mondegreen". They weren't; the actual lyrics were "Oh, they have slain the Earl of Morray and laid him on the green". A couple of other classics are "The ants are my friends/ They're blowing in the wind" and "The girl with colitis goes by." We've all done this at some point; here's a couple of my favorites. Feel free to share yours.

1. An old girlfriend of mine from college had a good one from a song by Simple Minds--remember them? They were an earnest bunch, and made clangy, anthemic pop songs that sounded like a bit like they were mixed by Phil Spector's talented dog. They seemed to hang out for a while, waiting for an entire arena of screaming fans to be built around them, but unfortunately, only John Hughes showed up. Anyway, their song "Alive and Kicking," a typically hollow, boxy song, was continually heard by my girlfriend as "I Like It Kinky." Sadly, she herself did not, as I recall, particularly like it kinky.

2. This one is mine. My friend M. had, one night, cooked me dinner at her place, and was driving me home after an excellent feast. We listened to the radio, and presently a Filter song came on. Now, for some reason, I like Filter, despite the fact that I realize that they are the answer to the question nobody asked: "Who will fill in for Tesla when the 90s roll around?" Anyway, I turned up the radio and began lustily singing along: "That's why I say 'Hey man, nice shirt! What a nice shirt, man!' " M. turned to look at me. She said, "Wha- . . . what did you say?" I sat there silently like a crushed bug; something was wrong. She cackled at me. "Nice shirt? The song is called 'Hey Man, Nice Shot!' " She swerved dangerously as the laughs kept coming. I muttered sullenly, "Fuck. I always thought those were some pretty twee lyrics for such a menacing song."


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Comments

I knew I had a problem, from the time I couldn't figure out why doughnuts made Crystal Gayle's brown eyes blue to when, although there was nothing she could do (it being, after all, a total eclipse of the heart), I would have sworn Bonnie Tyler lamented "living on a cul de sac and giving off sparks".

Comment number: 000900   Posted by: TheBrad on May 30, 2003 11:17 AM from IP: 216.151.40.226

I like that Filter song! But I can't think of any mondegreens except for the old standards: "There's a bathroom on the right" and "My girl wants to potty all the time!"

Comment number: 000901   Posted by: Dave Adams on May 30, 2003 12:04 PM from IP: 146.7.44.79

My friend Tina is famous for these. She has her own set of lyrics for any given song on the radio. We, her friends and admirers, have taken to writing them down. My personal favorite of hers is from the Steve Miller Band song, "Fly Like an Eagle": "Kill the babies who don't have enough to eat, shoot the children with no shoes on their feet..."

Comment number: 000902   Posted by: Anne on May 30, 2003 12:49 PM from IP: 63.231.49.81

Another classic is Jimi Hendrix "Excuse me while I kiss this guy."

Comment number: 000903   Posted by: KOTWF on May 30, 2003 01:21 PM from IP: 65.194.128.156

Damn KOTWF, you beat me to it... another good one is ACDC - "She was a fax machine, she kept her motor clean"

Comment number: 000904   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on May 30, 2003 01:25 PM from IP: 206.47.252.98

Speaking of "Excuse me, while I kiss this guy," I just went to www.kissthisguy.com, which is a mondegreen website with about a jillion misheard lyrics like "Fly, fly, Miss American Fly" and of course Ms. Spear's famous lyric "Hit me with your big behind."

Comment number: 000905   Posted by: KOTWF on May 30, 2003 01:30 PM from IP: 65.194.128.156

I had a friend that when Hello Nasty came out wanted to know why the Beasties had turn mean. He heard "In-ter-ga-lac-tic, kill the children/kill the children, in-ter-ga-lac-tic."

Comment number: 000906   Posted by: ufez on May 30, 2003 01:42 PM from IP: 66.88.162.174

an online community i'm in has the JUKE BOX HERO meme; anytime a particularly witty dah dah didah occurs to one of us, we JBH it. The challenge is of course thinking up the next line (which has to have something about 'stars' or 'eyes' (you had teeth -- body part, good show!).

Skot! In! Belgium!
Beers in his thighs!

So sorry.

Comment number: 000907   Posted by: Zvi on May 30, 2003 02:28 PM from IP: 142.148.105.18

My parents listened to Dolly Parton incessantly when I was little. The song 'Wildfowers' contained the curious lyrics "I hitched a ride with the wind in Cincinnati, my friend..." The aforementioned parents thought it was cute so it wasn't until many years later that I learned the correct lyrics were the only slightly less surprising "I hitched a ride with the wind, and since he was my friend..."

Comment number: 000908   Posted by: Linda Lou on May 30, 2003 04:06 PM from IP: 65.101.149.84

My favorite to this day is from a Scorpians song - it was "Here I am, rock you like a hurricane!" and he really draws out the word "hurricane."

My boyfriend at the time thought it was, "Here I am, raunchy like a herpe germ!"

It's funnier if you really try to hear him carry out the sustain on "herpe germ."

Comment number: 000909   Posted by: ombra on May 30, 2003 07:22 PM from IP: 68.35.234.77

"I won't be your pizza burnin'. Don't need no oven..."

and then it gets hard to figure out...

Comment number: 000910   Posted by: DaveP on May 30, 2003 09:25 PM from IP: 208.210.148.236

Lessee. For a while I thought the words to "The Boxer" were "Just a come-on from the war zone: Seventh Avenue." The real words are "whores on," not "war zone."

Comment number: 000911   Posted by: Andrea on May 31, 2003 03:00 AM from IP: 139.102.150.77

When I was a kid, I heard the refrain to the Bananarama song "Venus" as

I'm your penis...
I'm your fire
What's your desire?

Comment number: 000912   Posted by: dan on June 1, 2003 08:53 PM from IP: 24.239.138.213

Years ago, a friend of mine thought the words to Bob Marley's "Kaya" were not "Got to have Kaya, now" but "Got to have Tylenol..."

Comment number: 000913   Posted by: marian on June 1, 2003 11:39 PM from IP: 24.76.109.16

Of course I myself never screw up song lyrics but I have two cases from nearest and dearests:

My mom, riding in the car with me one day, commented on how she couldn't understand HOW in the WORLD a song like CCR's "Lodi" could see the light of day. Especially with such a dumb lyric as "Oh, Lord, suckin' on an old diaper pin." (btw, she as yet has not lived this down)

My cousin, on the other hand, had gone on and on to me forever about how she couldn't believe "Jailhouse Rock" got to be such a classic hit, "as dirty as it was." Huh??? What's dirty about "Jailhouse Rock?" Well, apparently her smutty mind, instead of hearing "I sure would be delighted with your company," heard "I sure would be delighted with your pumpin' me."

Comment number: 000914   Posted by: Bet on June 2, 2003 08:02 AM from IP: 12.34.246.4

Never one to be outdone,here is mine. I am not alone in hearing this though.
The song : FLASHDANCE
- the real lyrics : " Take you passion, and make it happen..."
- heard by the 9 year old me : " Take your pants down, and make it happen..."

Comment number: 000915   Posted by: Brodie on June 2, 2003 09:03 AM from IP: 134.114.5.2

I can't believe the biggest Mondegreen song of all time has not been mentioned. It was even a Skit on The State. The song? Blinded by the Light.

Some variations:

"Blinded by the light, held up like a luffe by the foreman of the night."

"Blinded by the light, ripped up like a douche and then you throw away the night."

The funny thing is, I had to go to a lyrics site to get the original:

"Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night"

By the way, this is my first time posting here, but I check/read this site every day. Great stuff.

-Jason

Comment number: 000916   Posted by: on June 2, 2003 10:53 AM from IP: 206.16.5.38

Yeah, we went through a "Best of the 70s" station phase at work and at least once per shift someone would run around singing "Wrapped up like a douche in the middle of the night."

Sadly, my memory is such that I cannot contribute anything funny.

Comment number: 000917   Posted by: binkin on June 2, 2003 11:02 PM from IP: 65.24.105.130

At a family wedding I went to a few years back, they played "Strokin'" by Clarence Carter toward the end of the reception.

As we were driving home, my mother commented how much she liked the music. I expressed surprise, 'cause I never hear her listening to rock 'n' roll. She went on to say, "I particularly liked that song about smoking."

I didn't know how to explain that "mom, it wasn't QUITE about smoking..."

Comment number: 000919   Posted by: Vidiot on June 3, 2003 07:04 AM from IP: 165.247.34.50

First off, my wife used to hear the chorus to Bush's "Machine Head" as "I've got a mushy head, better than the rest."

Second, that thing about "Blinded by the Light" always gets me irked. The problem is that when discussions about this come up, someone says that the actual lyric is "Wrapped up like a Deuce." Which is maybe what Springsteen wrote originally, but there's no way in hell anyone can tell me that that's what Manfred Mann's saying in the cover. He says "Wrapped up like a Douche." I don't think it's a simple matter of mispronunciation, I think he was trying to create this gigantic controversy. He failed, though, as I'm the only one controversied by it.

Comment number: 000920   Posted by: i on June 3, 2003 07:25 AM from IP: 141.156.178.140

A friend from college thought the Beatles' song "Paperback Writer" was really "Take the Back Right Turn". It's nearly impossible for me to not sing those lyrics now.

Another old favorite was the Stones' song "(Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo) Hearbreaker", featuring the line "Heartbreaker / with your .44 / I wanna tear your world apart." Her version was "Heartbreaker / with your bowling ball ..."

Comment number: 000925   Posted by: Chuck on June 3, 2003 11:18 AM from IP: 64.236.249.8

I was really confused when I first heard Fugazi's "Repeater". I mean, why in the world would such a political DC rock band be singing about This Old House?

One, two, three-eee
Bob Vila!

Comment number: 000926   Posted by: bigbadem on June 4, 2003 11:47 AM from IP: 170.112.1.251

Y'know, Beck's "Loser" has to be in the Top Five Most Mondegreened of All Time.

"Sore from head to toe..."
"So I don't like candy corn..."
"So-un heyd'na ho..."
"Sword at the door, I'm a lizard..."

Not one of us had it right, not even the freaks who knew all the lyrics. No wonder. It was Spanish:

"Soy un perdedor,
I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me."

Comment number: 000927   Posted by: Lindsey on June 4, 2003 05:45 PM from IP: 216.174.211.5

Probably a lesser Mondegreened song, one of the last songs on Paul Simon's Graceland (I think it's the Myth of Fingerprints) contains the line "Ever since the water melted." Except all I can hear is "Ever since the watermelon."

Comment number: 000933   Posted by: Krizzer on June 5, 2003 11:09 AM from IP: 12.229.253.255

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