Asheville Citizen-Times 4/27/2015 – Ted Alexander, Columnist –
Remember that old Christmas song, “Later on, we’ll perspire as we dream by the fire …”
No? Oh, right, “we’ll conspire as we dream by the fire.” That’s how the song was originally written.
Kenny Rogers told Lucille that she’d picked a fine time to leave him with 400 kids and a crop in the field. Actually it was four hungry kids, but what’s a few hundred extra youngsters among friends?
In the tune, “Rock the Boat,” the Hues Corporation sang, “Oh, I’d like to know where you got the notion.” For decades it sounded to me like, “Oh, I’d like to know where you got the nose job.”
You hear what you hear.
There’s a name for a misheard song lyric that changes the intended meaning: “mondegreen.” The term was coined by a writer named Sylvia Wright. For years, she thought a Scottish ballad she’d heard contained the words, “They hae slain the Earl of Murray and Lady Mondegreen.” Turns out, the actual lyric was “They hae slain the Earl of Murray and lay him on the green.”
A lot of the mishearing can be attributed to poor recording studio work, or lyrics designed to mash into the music. Sometimes it’s just a band’s style to launch into the unintelligible.
But one thing’s for sure: We’ve all sung along using the wrong words. And the results are often funny.
There’s a line in Merrilee Rush’s hit song “Angel of the Morning” that sounds an awful lot like, “Just count my teeth before you leave me.”
But no, common sense dictates that’s not it.
“Just cross my feet before you leave me?”
Not even close. We’ll revisit Merrilee later.
A favorite mondegreen is from the J. Geils Band’s hit single “Freeze Frame.” The organ plays a catchy melody while the group shouts the words “Freeze-frame” seven times in the chorus. Someone — obviously an animal lover — was convinced that instead of “Freeze-frame,” the band was yelling, “Flea spray!” If that was the case, the lyric would go like this: “Stop-time heart for me if she’s not mine … Flea Spray!”
Yep, that’s pretty hard to top.
The same band had a hit with the song “Centerfold,” which many thought sounded very much like they were singing “Xenophobe.”
The Sandpipers’ hit single “Guantanamera” sounds like “One-Ton Maria.”
In the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” instead of the line, “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes,” several folks with medical backgrounds insist they’ve heard, “The girl with colitis goes by.”
Back to Merrilee: “Just wash my sheets before you leave me.”
Nope. You still don’t have it.
I never knew that Jimmy Webb, author of American classics such as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston,” had an Asian background. In his huge song “MacArthur Park,” instead of “Someone left the cake out in the rain,” several folks have heard, “Chun Won left the cake out in the rain.”
Eddie Money sings, “I’ve Got Two Tickets to Paradise.” Some choose to disagree, claiming they’ve heard he has “two ticks and a parasite,” “two chickens to paralyze,” “two Chicklets to sterilize” or “two chickens with carrot eyes.”
Elvis, the king of rock ’n’ roll, speaks to “everybody in the whole cell block,” not to “everybody in a wholesale frock.” And when he mentions “Return to Sender,” he’s not pretending to be a Sesame Street acolyte singing “Big Bird Descender.”
“There’s a bathroom on the right.” No, not really. Creedence Clearwater Revival is singing “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
Elton John chants, “Hold me closer, tiny dancer,” not “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”
Donuts don’t make Crystal Gayle’s eyes blue. (“Don’t it make my brown eyes blue” is accurate.) The Eagles tell us “You can’t hide those lying eyes,” not Hawaiian eyes, and Led Zeppelin’s “All My Love,” is not a tribute to Popeye’s wife, “Olive, My Love.”
OK, time has run out. The correct lyric line for Merrilee Rush’s song is, “Just touch my cheek before you leave me.” I guess that makes sense. Personally, I like, “Just smash my Jeep before you leave me,” but hey, what do I know?
Last question before I go. You’ve probably heard the old song with a title sounding like “Papa-Om-Mow-Mow.” Obviously a mondegreen, right? So what would the actual words be? Here’s a twist for you. You heard correctly the first time. Those are the exact words, syllables, whatever you want to call them. Kind of a reverse mondegreen.
“Papa-Om-Mow-Mow.” That’s the actual title.
Ted Alexander lives in Asheville. His first novel, “The Fall of Summer,” a 1960s coming-of-age story, is now on sale at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe and other online and local retailers. Contact him at TedMAlexander.com/contact.
Learn more about the author and the novel online at http://tedmalexander.com/Books.html.