Friday, September 19, 2014

Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

In the last Wisdom of the Oldies posting, guest columnist Jim Borgmann wrote that for years, he had been singing the wrong lyrics to “What a Day for a Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. He thought the lyrics were:

Tomorrow I’ll pay the dues for dropping my load
And find me a place for being asleep before dawn.

The actual lyrics are quite different.

Tomorrow I’ll pay the dues for dropping my load
A pie in the face for being a sleepy bulldog.

I’d venture that at some point or another, all of us have gotten a lyric wrong. I remember my younger sister going around the house for months in 1966 singing “Wild Thing, you make my heart stink.”

I was surprised to learn there is actually a word for these mistakes: Mondegreen.

According to Wikipedia, a mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar, and make some kind of sense.

Probably the best showcase for misunderstood lyrics was Wayne’s World on Saturday Night Live. Their Top 10 screwed up songs included There’s a bathroom on the right instead of CCR’s There’s a bad moon on the rise. Also, from “Benny and the Jets”, She’s got electric boobs, a mohair suit, you know I read it in a magazine.  Party on Wayne and Garth!

Here are a few mondegreens I love. Tell me about your favorites.

Hold me closer, Tony Danza. Count the headlice on the highway.                                                      



                                                                          Tiny Dancer
      Elton John

Well since she put me down I’ve had owls pukin’ in my bed

                                                               Help Me Rhonda
                                                               – The Beach Boys

The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind.
                                                               Blowing in the Wind
                                                               ­– Bob Dylan

Gross spiders in the sky…
                                                               Ghost Riders in the Sky
– Sons of the Pioneers

She’s a good girl, loves her Mama
Loves Cheez-its and America, too.
                                                               – Tom Petty

This is the dawning of the age of asparagus, age of asparagus.
The Fifth Dimension

Like a virgin, touched for the thirty-first time
                                                               Like a Virgin
                                                               – Madonna

Rock the catbox, rock the catbox.
                                                               Rock the Casbah
      The Clash 

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with colitis goes by

                                                               Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
      Elton John

Sugar fried honey butt, you know that I love you
                                                               Can’t Help Myself
      The Four Tops

Goin’ to the jack-o-lantern, gonna get married.

                                 Chapel of Love
      The Dixie Cups

I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together
I think it’s wonderful and how that people are finally getting together
Freak out in the garden
And you may find a friend
                                                               Reach out in the Darkness
      Friend and Lover

I’m not talkin’ bout Bolivia
And I don’t want to change your life
                                                                         I’d Really Love to See you Tonight
      England Dan and John Ford Coley

We got the Flintstones microwave ovens…

                                                               Money for Nothing
                                                               Dire Straits

I dig a French bikini on a wild albatross

                                                               California Girls
      The Beach Boys
And when he died, all he left us was a lawn

                                                               Papa was a Rolling Stone
      The Temptations
Baby come back, you can play Monopoly

                                                               Baby Come Back
                                                               – Player

I wanna know, have you ever see Lorraine?
                                                        Have you Ever Seen the Rain
– Creedence Clearwater Revival

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred Men on Mars could ever do

Muh, muh, muh, muh muh, mice aroma.
                                                               My Sharona
                                                               – The Knack

And then there’s Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.” I’ve been singing these lyrics since 1973:

Gimme the Beach Boys and free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.

The actual lyrics are:
Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul…
I like my version better.

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