I grew up in a family with a collective love of popular music. I grew up in a family with its share of hearing loss. We loved to sing along to everything on the radio. Loudly. And off-key. We didn’t always get the words right. Sometimes, the results were weird. Mostly, they were hilarious.
Misheard song lyrics are also known as mondegreens. Check out the wiki explanation. Basically, once upon a time, someone heard the line “And they laid him on the green” as “And the Lady Mondegreen”. You get the idea.
My sister used to sing along with the Winger power-ballad (ah, the 90’s) “Fly to the Angels.” The actual lyric was “But now you’ve got to fly (Fly high) fly to the angels.” In her world, it was “But I-i-i-i-i I truly hate you.” At the time we just laughed at her mercilessly. Now, I see the incredibly subversive possibilities. Imagine, you tell your girlfriend you wrote a song about her. The swelling violins and tinkling piano soften the rockin’ guitar chords. She tears up, realizing how much you care about her. Then, she actually listens to the lyrics. “I truly hate you?” Oh snap, she just got served!
My son Ben was not quite 2 the first time he heard the Micheal Jackson song “Bad.” Like all 2 year olds, he was an absolute narcissist. At the end of the chorus, when Micheal drops his voice to a stage whisper and sings, “Who’s Bad?”, my son decided he had said “Who’s Ben?”. He never made a big deal of it, this song he decided had been written for him. He would just sing to himself, when he thought no one else was listening, in that same stage whisper,“Who’s Ben?”
I think I was 30 before someone actually listened to me singing along with Cream to the song “White Room.” The real lyrics: “In the white room, with black curtains, near the station.” My version: “In the white room, with black carpet….”. My husband laughed at that like a 5 year old laughs at a fart joke. Seriously? How much does it change the meaning of the song? There was this white room. In both versions, a feature of said room was black. I don’t see the problem.
Then there’s the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic.” (Ah Alanis, to this Canadian kid who came of age in the 90’s, you’ll always just be Alanis, no last name needed, and I’ll always remember that you were “Too Hot.” But I digress.) Her lyric: “It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife”. What I heard: “It’s like 10,000 phones, when all you need is a dime.” Mine was a little dated, I’ll concede. Phones haven’t taken dimes since my mom was a kid. Cell phones have rendered pay phones vestigial organs in the body that is the communications industry. But I still like my image better. I think mine would be imminently more frustrating. Because really, anybody who’s done time could tell you, a spoon could be turned into a perfectly respectable shiv in under 30 seconds. Et voila, the desired knife. 10,000 of them, actually.
And finally, 2 that I did not actually hear. From the Ozzy Osbourne song, “Bark at the Moon.” His lyric: “Bark at the moon.” The misheard lyric: “Bark at your mom.” From the Elton John song, “Tiny Dancer”: “Hold me closer tiny dancer.” The misheard lyric: “Hold me closer Tony Danza.” In both cases, I not only find the misheard versions hella funny, I sing them exclusively. And loudly. And off-key. It’s a part of my heritage.