Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Misunderstood Song Lyrics
January 28, 2005 7:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm compiling a list of misunderstood song lyrics as a gift for a friend who has an obsession with, well, misunderstood song lyrics. [...]

Some of my own gaffes, most of them from childhood:

"Go, spiders in the sky!" (Ghost Riders in the Sky)

"Because night, we are night divine!" (The BeeGees "Night Fever, Night FEEver")

"With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'/You could be an Arthur Lincoln/If you only had a brain" (Which convinced me at an early age that "Arthur Lincoln" was a great American thinker).

Can you add to the list? I need the real song name and artist.
posted by mudpuppie to Media & Arts (63 answers total)
 
Amiright has a whole site full of them.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:59 PM on January 28, 2005


For the first too many years of my life, I thought that the song "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys was about bombing Iran... Probably some weird invasion of my mind by the Iran hostage crisis... Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran! Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran!

To this day, I don't know what the real lyrics of "Blinded by the light" are (Springsteen... "wrapped up like a douche"??!?) ...
posted by socratic at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2005


Here are a couple more.
General - Kiss This Guy
80's Music - eightyeightynine.com
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 8:04 PM on January 28, 2005


Excuse me while I kiss this guy.

The girl with colitis goes by.

Our Father, Harold be thy name.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:07 PM on January 28, 2005


One I just learned about: "She's so pop!-u-lar" instead of "Jeux sans frontieres" (Peter Gabriel). Apparently Kate Bush's lousy French pronunciation is to blame (like so much in this world).
posted by gleuschk at 8:11 PM on January 28, 2005


My favorite is from "Every Breath You Take" from the Police.

I *still* hear "I'm a pool hall ace" rather than "How my poor heart aches".
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 8:12 PM on January 28, 2005


Carly Simon's "Life is eternal" was "Life is a turnip" for years before someone clued me in.

And "I'm a genie in a bottle" by (ugh) Christina A. had a line: "You gotta rub me to ride me" which apparently is actually "You gotta rub me the right way" but potato potatoe.
posted by stray at 8:16 PM on January 28, 2005


"I will build a bathesphere
I will choose free will."
posted by eriko at 8:25 PM on January 28, 2005


A friend of mine always hears Elton John's Tiny Dancer as Tony Danza.....

"Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza"...
posted by Boobus Tuber at 8:27 PM on January 28, 2005


A classic:
The ants are my friends, they're blowing in the wind.

Also:
I'm only happy when it rains. I'm only happy when I'm constipated.
posted by O9scar at 8:30 PM on January 28, 2005


From Help, Help Me Rhonda:

Ever since she left me I've had owls pukin' in my bed.
posted by mono blanco at 8:34 PM on January 28, 2005


Maybe this will help.
posted by trharlan at 8:37 PM on January 28, 2005


My own farkup:
Elton John's Rocket Man, Rocket man burning out the shoes of paragon (rather than, of course, Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone).
posted by littlegreenlights at 8:58 PM on January 28, 2005


An old SNL skit had Wayne's World doing a top ten misunderstood lyrics list. My google-fu didn't turn up anything, but I swear on my life it exists. I distinctly remember them getting Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth misheard as Electric Boobs.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:04 PM on January 28, 2005


Some of my own:

"Ah, the lightning bolt!" (for "ah, the night before" Beatles, "The Night Before")

"If you go carryin' pictures of Jim and Al" (for "If you go carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao" Beatles, "Revolution"; I certainly had never heard of Chairman Mao at the time)

"My sensitive manatee has gone down the drain" (for "Well my sense of humanity has gone down the drain" Dylan, "Not Dark Yet")

"This restless congregating don't mean no one no good" (for "It's a restless, hungry feeling that don't mean no one no good" Dylan, "One Too Many Mornings"; this time I always thought that mine was better)
posted by rustcellar at 9:18 PM on January 28, 2005


I newgrouped alt.music.lyricsback in 1994 because I wanted to discuss this topic.

You can find an archive of posts about it here.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:20 PM on January 28, 2005


We'll keep on spending sunny days this way
We're gonna talk and laugh our time away
I feel it comin' closer day by day
Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie...

posted by pzarquon at 9:31 PM on January 28, 2005


A friend of mine thought the song "Jump, Jive and Wail" was about drunk driving. Or, really, a drunk drivin' whale.
posted by kindall at 9:38 PM on January 28, 2005


gleuschk, I thought it was "she's so popular" until right this minute, and I've only heard Peter Gabriel himself sing it.

I'm still convinced that Macy Gray is singing, "Though I try to hide it, it's clear, I wear goggles when you are not there."

And I thought REM sung, "the sea, it swallows" (a pretty way of talking about drowning) instead of "sweetness follows." You'd think that the song title would have given it away....
posted by equipoise at 9:46 PM on January 28, 2005


And I just remembered a friend who used to sing, "Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of preachers." Who needs peaches when there are so many yummy preachers out there?
posted by equipoise at 9:48 PM on January 28, 2005


For the first too many years of my life, I thought that the song "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys was about bombing Iran...

At the time, someone had the same idea.
posted by gimonca at 9:51 PM on January 28, 2005


The Exciters version of "Tell Him".

I know something about love,
I've got a woman in bed.
posted by arha at 10:30 PM on January 28, 2005


A classic from the 80s: Go-Go's', "Our Lips Are Sealed" is widely misheard as "Alex the seal"

That's all I've got, at the moment. Too tired.
posted by ibidem at 11:01 PM on January 28, 2005


thought it was "she's so popular" until right this minute, and I've only heard Peter Gabriel himself sing it.

Gabriel doesn't sing that part, it is, as gleuschk noted, Kate Bush.
posted by kindall at 11:07 PM on January 28, 2005


In the song "Descendents" by The Descendents, I heard "We're looking for a few good men to generate speed, not light" instead of the actual "We're looking for a few good men, degenerates need not apply".

In the song "Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette, I heard "Like any uncharted terror, Tori Amos seemed greatly intriguing" instead of "Like any uncharted territory I must seem greatly intriguing".
posted by 23skidoo at 11:13 PM on January 28, 2005


There's a whole book of 'em.
posted by Vidiot at 11:14 PM on January 28, 2005


"I can fly higher than any gull." (Wind Beneath My Wings)

"I'll never be your pizza burnin'." (Beast of Burden)

Oh, and I thought the "she's so popular/jeux sans frontieres" thing was "she's so funky, lord."
posted by sklero at 11:37 PM on January 28, 2005


"I've got nothing to lose, except my mind" for "I got nothing to lose if I speak my mind." (I Don't Care Anymore - Phil Collins).

"After the poison summer has gone" for "after the boys of summer have gone." (The Boys of Summer - Don Henley).

"I ain't got time to die" for "I ain't that kind of guy." (Doctor, Doctor - the Robert Palmer Version)

Oh, and check out They Might Be Giants's version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." There are several verses of original lyrics like: "In the spaceship, the silver spaceship, the lion takes control...." I'm willing to bet that these were the lyrics the TMBG guys heard when they listened to the song as children.
posted by Clay201 at 1:33 AM on January 29, 2005


CCR - "There's a bathroom on the right."

Rolling Stones - "Heartbreaker, with your bowling ball..."
posted by fixedgear at 2:53 AM on January 29, 2005


Secret Asian man
posted by squirrel at 2:54 AM on January 29, 2005


I never understood why my ex was amazed that "Rock the Casbah" was played on the radio until she informed me that the song was called "Fuck the Cashbar". The shareef don't like it...
posted by pookzilla at 3:49 AM on January 29, 2005


"I'm the all-night drunk-driving wolf" from The Clash's "White Man in Hammersmith Palais".
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:35 AM on January 29, 2005


one i wasted people's time with here on askme is esos muertos viven en el tango ("those dead live in the tango" or, perhaps, "the tango brings them to life") from this poem, set to music. i thought it was esos muertos viven en el campo ("those dead live in the country" - more blur than borges).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:41 AM on January 29, 2005


try these two -

http://robmanuel.blogspot.com/2005/01/u2-vertigo.html

http://www.rathergood.com/alf/
posted by handee at 6:05 AM on January 29, 2005


I swear that the chorus to Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness" is You get your monkey down with the sickness! rather than "Get up, come on get down with the sickness." Personally, I like my version better.
posted by headspace at 7:00 AM on January 29, 2005


"No i can't forget the semen on your face as you were leaving..." (No i cant forget this evening, or your face as you were leaving - Mariah Carey, Without You)

"Jackie Chan's on me..." (Take a chance on me - Abba)

"I want your estrogen and your KISS" (I want your extra time and your KISS - Prince, KISS)

My personal favorite:
"Who you gonna call? Those bastards!" (Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! - Ray Parker Jr. Ghostbusters!)
posted by ramix at 7:04 AM on January 29, 2005


My very favorite ever is from my significant other. When he was a kid, he heard Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name", which goes "Shot to the heart, and you're to blame. You give love a bad name" as:

SHAKA-LA-HAR
The world can wait!
You made love to a bad man!

Shakalahar! That kills me every time. And now that's how I sing it because it's a terrible song and at least that make it amusing.
posted by jennyb at 7:10 AM on January 29, 2005


I always thought Simon & Garfunkel were singing, " Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon / Going through the candidates to date," when they were actually singing "going to the candidates debate" (Mrs Robinson).

I still like my version better.
posted by whatideserve at 7:32 AM on January 29, 2005


"Ceeereal...Oooh darling, cereal...come on and cereal." (Stir It Up by Bob Marley.)

(Boobus Tuber, you have the best username ever.)
posted by climalene at 8:34 AM on January 29, 2005


If you will allow Hymns:

"Gladly the cross I'd bear"
becomes
"Gladly, the cross-eyed bear."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:23 AM on January 29, 2005


Bryan Adams' "Somebody": He says, "Thought I saw the Madonna, when you walked in the room..." and I heard, "Passed out in the garden, when you walked in the room..."
posted by xo at 9:29 AM on January 29, 2005


gimonca - "Bomb Iran" ... You've brought a tear to my eye and validated 30 years of angst and self-evaluation! :)
posted by socratic at 10:17 AM on January 29, 2005


Instead of making out " would you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage" in Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, one of my friends heard it as " would you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a negro in a cage". I imagine that his image of PF was much different than that of the general public.
posted by ttrendel at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2005


"Hello, hello, I'm in a place called OREGON..." ("in a place called vertigo," U2)

"How's about a date..." ("Eyes without a face," Billy Idol)

"Like a birthday, or a preview..." ("or a PRETTY VIEW," Duran Duran)
posted by GaelFC at 10:42 AM on January 29, 2005


Gabriel doesn't sing that part, it is, as gleuschk noted, Kate Bush.

He often does, live certainly, and in various studio versions.

I still don't know what the "wrapped up like a douche" thing is supposed to actually be.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:53 AM on January 29, 2005


SLG, speaking of "cross-eyed bear," in my misspent adolescence listening to Alanis Morissette I misheard the same lyric the same way in "You Oughtta Know."

"It's not fair to deny me / oh, the cross-eyed bear that you gave to me / you you you oughtta know!"

I was like, yeah, dude, if he gave her a special stuffed animal he should totally let her keep it.

*hides head in shame*
posted by u.n. owen at 12:02 PM on January 29, 2005


Blinded by the Light would be:

Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night


According to this guy, link courtesy of ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo..
posted by spaghetti at 12:57 PM on January 29, 2005


My all time favorite is "hold my clothes and tie me down, sir" for "hold me closer tiny dancer".
posted by dmo at 1:56 PM on January 29, 2005


there are three whole books
posted by c at 2:24 PM on January 29, 2005


Jon Carroll, an excellent columnist at the SF Chronicle, has had quite a few columns about these over the past years. A google search on

mondegreen "Jon Carroll"

has 177 hits, in case (after all the above great comments) you're still looking examples.

[Of course, you could just search on mondegreen; that's about 9000 hits]
posted by WestCoaster at 4:09 PM on January 29, 2005


There's an amazing Memorex TV commercial from the last 70s/early 80s that's often on "best of" collections of advertising.

The main character holds up misunderstood lyrics. The song "The Israelites" is heard as "My ears are alight."

Finding a copy of that might be a nice present in itself.
posted by Gucky at 4:18 PM on January 29, 2005


I still don't know what the "wrapped up like a douche" thing is supposed to actually be.

Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night


Lots of people heard "wrapped up like a douche" (myself included) thanks to Manfred Mann's cover of that song. It's okay...but...

If you listen to Springsteen's original version, the chorus is a lot more coherent. It's also a better song.

I was 21 years old before I even knew that "Blinded by the Light" was, in fact, a Springsteen song. Boy did I feel dumb.
posted by TeamBilly at 5:11 PM on January 29, 2005


I love this thread.

When I was a kid, and a Monkees fan, I thought the lyrics in Last Train to Clarksville that go "we'll have time for coffee-flavoured kisses" were "we'll have time for coffee Filet o'Fishes".

And my beloved insists that "You're the One That I Want" is "yugga leggala weg" (yugga leggala weggala weg, oo oo oo, honey).
posted by biscotti at 7:26 PM on January 29, 2005


Oh yeah, I forgot, but WTF is "the pompitus of love?"
posted by fixedgear at 8:47 PM on January 29, 2005


23skidoo, I heard exactly that. Weird. Oh, and they have had a weekly series of Mondegreens in my Sunday paper for the past week or so. They're not all classics. I'll go look.

And fixedgear, Pompitus/pompatus. Drives me nuts.
posted by bdave at 9:51 PM on January 29, 2005


I saw Billy Bragg perform around the time Talking to the Taxman About Poetry came out. He told us a folk musicologist had written about "Greetings to the New Brunette" and had mistaken "I'm more impressionable when my cement is wet" for "...when my semen is wet."
posted by hydrophonic at 10:42 PM on January 29, 2005


"It's cheaper London gas" (for "it's sheep we're up against," by The Housemartins).
posted by hot soup girl at 4:16 AM on January 30, 2005


Just yesterday I realized that the repeated line in "Glorified G" by Pearl Jam is "Glorified version of a pellet gun," not "Glorified version of a pelican." Which was helpful, because I was having a hell of a time all these years picturing some sort of enormous, shiny robot bird getting Eddie Vedder excited. Or Big Bird.
posted by Polonius at 9:59 AM on January 30, 2005


From "Eye of the Tiger": "And the last known survivor stops to spray in the night..." (that's "stalks his prey.")
posted by kindall at 2:14 PM on January 30, 2005


I could have sworn Queen sung, in Bohemian Rhapsody, "rich men laugh--no, we will not let you go! Rich men laugh...", not "Bismullah" (or whatever). My husband thought this was hilarious, but I think my interpretation actually makes more sense.
posted by Savannah at 2:20 PM on January 30, 2005


'Pour some sugar on me' seems to be chronically misunderstood.

Then, of course, there's 'Louie, Louie'; I don't know if anyone understood that one.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:46 PM on January 30, 2005


For awhile, I thought the Clash were demanding "Who needs the polar bears?" in "Remote Control." What exactly the Clash had against arctic wildlife, I couldn't imagine. (Oh... it's Parliament. Gotcha.)

By the way, CCR would like you to know that "there's a baboon on the right." (Er, "bad moon on the rise.") And George Thorogood is made of "bags of corn." (Oh, sorry. He's "bad to the bone.")
posted by scody at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2005


One of the saddest things I've ever seen on the internet is this amateurish flash animation created to accompany a really lame "Which Backstreet Boy is Gay?" parody—and the lyrics in the animation get the parody's own lyrics wrong (the animator clearly had no idea how to parse "soufflé" or "Pekingese").
posted by rustcellar at 4:46 PM on January 31, 2005


« Older Along with some foodie friends...   |  Can you help me track down a v... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.