Does anyone else mishear the chorus in "Institutionalized"?
July 12, 2022 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I think I'm going crazy. Is there a version of "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies where the gang chorus sings the title word institutionalized instead of just institution?

When I remember the song "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies, the gang chorus sings the word institutionalized. As in "I'm not crazy / Institutionalized! / You're the one that's crazy / Institutionalized."

The word doesn't really fit. But it's sloppy, fast, and fun to sing.

I recently re-listened to the song. The lyric is institution. I'm dumbstruck! There's a little reverb or other effect going on, but it's clearly the shorter word.

I also checked the re-recorded version on Still Cyco After All These Years. It's just institution on that track, too.

However, in the covers by Senses Fail and Brak, they sing institutionalized! I haven't heard either until today, so I don't think my memory is confusing those version with the original.

Other covers by Body Count and Amanda Palmer say institution.

So what gives? Do Senses Fail, Brak, and I share the same mishearing of the original or is there a version by Suicidal Tendencies that sings the longer word?
posted by Boxenmacher to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am pretty sure the album version is "institutionalized." I can check when I get home.
posted by cooker girl at 9:56 AM on July 12

There have been at least 99 different releases of that album, so it might be a challenge to establish conclusively that no version with 'Institutionalized' (as a lyric) exists.
posted by box at 10:13 AM on July 12

I've always heard it pretty clearly as "institution"; you're the one that's crazy.
posted by Superilla at 10:18 AM on July 12 [10 favorites]

I always heard this lyric as "in an institution". It's slurred / rushed but the second chorus you can hear it more clearly, kind of like "inna institution" or maybe "an institution"? But this is just going by the old video version from MTV, which I saw on Beavis and Butthead. Maybe there's a version by ST that says something different.

I'm not crazy / In an institution / You're the one that's crazy / In an institution / You're driving me crazy / In an institution
posted by cape at 10:19 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

It's definitely "institution," at least in the original release. (I'm not crazy.) I think the covers that say "institutionalized" are doing a common thing, which is editing and correcting the original author of the lyrics to something with a more conventional resonance. Another really common version of this is the lyrics for Replacements' "Bastards of Young," which goes from:

wait on the sons of no one, bastards of young


we are the sons of no one, bastards of young

This second lyric makes way more sense, but it's not the right lyric. Could be similar with your "institution" or "institutionalized" question. The audience is weighing in!

FWIW, I used to always hear it as "de-institution!" Give it a listen, you'll never hear it the same way again!
posted by kensington314 at 10:36 AM on July 12

My primary experience with the song is the music video, where, like you, I’d always been under the impression they were saying “institutionalized”. Right up until I just rewatched the video on YouTube and heard them pretty clearly say “institution”. I’m quite confused. And also, I want a Pepsi.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:38 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

I totally remember this as "institutionalized" and am confounded the way you are. I thought maybe I had our answer in the Repo Man soundtrack, which is the version I know best, but no that's also Berenstain Bears.

Many of the online lyrics sites write this as "institutionalized". I gotta think there's a version like that out there!
posted by Nelson at 11:04 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]

I also remember "institutionalized." Maybe whichever cassette release or mixtape from a friend you blasted in the car was that version?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:17 AM on July 12

Best answer: FWIW I've now listened to like 15 Suicidal Tendencies recordings including a 1983 concert, the 1986 Miami Vice appearance (!), the original recording on F.N.G., and a bunch of recent concerts with some middle age guys who seem to still know the lyrics. Every single one is "institution". Perhaps there's a version with Sinbad singing it the right way?
posted by Nelson at 11:21 AM on July 12 [7 favorites]

we are the sons of no one, bastards of young

I just watched the SNL live version and he totally said "we are the sons". Lyrics sites are often wrong as are written lyrics in the credits on albums. If you take them as cannon, that's a mistake (unless you personally know Paul Westerberg) or Mike Muir for this song. He only says 'institutionalized" in the pre-chorus.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:26 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

@The_Vegetables, totally! I hate online lyrics sites for this reason.

With "Bastards of Young," I think that the song went through several minor lyrical revisions in the writing process and to my memory, "Tim" liner notes didn't have lyrics. BUT! The Bob Mehr Mats bio from a few years ago notes that the "wait on"/"we are" confusion was a real thing.

Mehr here:

No lesser source than Westerberg himself mentions it in page 53 of this 2010 issue of Spin:

Anyways, sorry for the diversion from "Institutionalized." On the Suicidals song, I went and looked up the liner notes and the lyrics sheet treats this piece as an ad-lib, i.e. it's not mentioned in the lyrics at all.
posted by kensington314 at 11:49 AM on July 12

I totally and utterly would swear it was "institutionalized". Nelson is right, this is some serious Berenstein Bears shit. Or Nelson Mandela, appropriately and even more weirdly.
posted by conifer at 3:51 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

I’ve heard dozens of versions of this song and afaik the ST always did “institution.” But at least one cover does it the other way.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:38 PM on July 12

I totally remember this as "institutionalized" and am confounded the way you are.

Yep even saw them in concert and this is how we always sang it. I guess it was possible we all had it wrong?
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]

I have the version on the Repo Man soundtrack and have always head it as "institutionalized"
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:44 AM on July 13

> I have the version on the Repo Man soundtrack and have always head it as "institutionalized"

Wait, same, I know it from Repo Man and I've always heard it as "in institution."

I just turned to Mr Corpse (who knows it from MTV) and sang "I'm not crazy!" and he shouted "Institutionalize!" Yet our marriage remains strong. I think.

Has anyone tried to contact Cyco Miko?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:07 AM on July 13

Response by poster: Big ups to Nelson for doing the leg (ear?) work! Seems definitive.

Also thanks to those who also misheard for sharing their stories. Glad I'm not alone.
posted by Boxenmacher at 8:56 AM on July 13

This is absolutely blowing my mind. I've always heard/sung it as "institutionalized" and have been listening to it since I was a kid in early/mid 80s.
posted by smich at 11:37 AM on July 13

I'd always heard it as "Institutionalized"—until now. I'm not sure whether to thank you.

...It doesn't matter, I'll probably get hit by a car anyway
posted by not_on_display at 7:51 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]

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