Sunday, December 02, 2012
Music Sunday: The "What did he sing?" Edition
Misheard lyrics are one of my favorite things in the world. That might be because I've misheard so many of them through all my years of listening to music. So, I thought, on this day when I'm having technical difficulties with my computer and using my roommate's machine to write this, I'd quickly share a few of the most famous misheard lyrics I know - or at least the ones that are most famous among the people I know.
First, and maybe the most famous, is Credence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising". You all know this one. The thing that amuses me most about it is that once he became aware of the legendary misheard-lyric status of the song, John Fogerty took to occasionally singing the misheard lyric, "there's a bathroom on the right", when he performs the song in concert.
And then there's this song, "Groovin'", by the Young Rascals, here in a live performance from 1967. Just listen to the song first:
And what did you hear? Did you hear the lyric, "Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly"? Or, did you hear, as I did for years and years, "Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie"? From the time I first heard the song until, oh, a few years ago, I always heard, the "you and me and Leslie" variation, and I always wondered, "and Leslie? How in the world does that work?" It especially mystified me as a very young teen in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I had no idea about some of the alternative lifestyles some people participate in.
This next song contains another famous misheard lyric. It's "Secret Agent Man", by Johnny Rivers. This was the theme song for the television series, "Secret Agent", which was originally shown in the UK as "Danger Man" but was seen in the United States under the former title between 1964 and 1966. The problem here is that Rivers didn't enunciate carefully enough when singing the song, and the lyric "secret agent man" sounded like something else entirely, and for decades people have been hearing him sing the completely politically incorrect "secret Asian man" instead. Here is a live performance of the song from 1966:
Even the biggest acts in the world aren't immune from singing a misheard lyric from time to time. Here, Elton John performs his song "Bennie and the Jets" from the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" double album, released in 1973. I don't know how widespread this misheard lyric is, but I had a friend who swore up and down when we were teens that the lyric, "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit" was really "electric boobs". I even showed here the lyric sheet once, and she still didn't believe that John wasn't singing about Bennie's breasts. Here is an undated live performance of the song:
I started out with a classic misheard lyric, so I'll end with one as well. This song, "Purple Haze", by Jimi Hendrix, gets mentioned pretty much every time misheard lyrics are discussed, so often, in fact, that sometimes I think more people hear him sing "'scuse me while I kiss this guy" than hear the correct lyric, "'scuse me while I kiss the sky." Here is Hendrix' performance of the song from the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967:
What are your favorite misheard lyrics? Leave a comment and let me know.