Produced by

You Are What You Hear

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi takes us through some of the most famously botched song lyrics in rock history. We’ll explore why the words we make up are usually more interesting than the real version. Then, listeners confess their favorite and most embarrassing reinvented lyrics.

Leave a comment: Give us your favorite set of misheard lyrics! Were you disappointed when you learned the actual words?

Comments [113]

Isabelle from North Jersey

I shared this topic with my husband who, in the process, created a mondegreen for "mondegreen" - he swore he heard me say "moon dragon"!

Aug. 14 2008 09:21 AM
Anne Kopstein from Long Island

My son's friend used to think the "little deuce coupe" was the little goose poop!

Aug. 01 2008 02:33 PM
Jessie G from NYC

In the Dixie Chicks' Wide Open Spaces my brother always misheard, "As her folks drive away, her dad yells, 'Check the oil,'" as, "As her folks drive away, her dad yells, 'Chicken boy.'"

Jul. 14 2008 05:04 PM
Ted Shred from Atlanta

I think I read every entry (great topic, great responses!) and though I forgot about the wrapped up like a douche / Manfred Mann version which I think most of us of a certain age mis-heard, there is no mention I saw of the ultimate band for quizzical lyrics early in their career; REM! "We could gather, throw up beer... up to par, and Katie bars the kitchen sign but not me yet/sit and try for the big kill/waste of time, sitting still" ??????

Still have no idea what Stipe says.

Jul. 11 2008 10:51 AM
Ed Skillin from New Jersey

Listening to the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" on a car radio in 1966, one friend of mine always insisted the voices in the heavily echoed refrain were actually singing "take the back right turn."
This certainly seemed appropriate for a gang of teenagers cruising to the hamburger stand on a summer night!

Jul. 11 2008 08:45 AM
Byron from Brooklyn, NY

From the Beatles "I Want To Hold your Hand":
"It's just a feeling that my love "I get high, I get high, I get high!"
According to legend, Bob Dylan thought that these were the actual lyrics.

Also, the Springsteen-penned Manfred Mann classic "Blinded By the Light":
Blinded by the Light, revved up like a douche and it is over in the night..."
That is my personal mondegreen:)

Jul. 10 2008 08:38 PM
Lisa from Austin. Texas

I always thought the Beach Boys sang "her archie sennels too" instead of "You"d seem em wearing their baggies
Huarachi sandals too" in Surfin USA.

Jul. 10 2008 08:21 PM

You mean, mondegreen WASN'T in the dictionary before? My favorite language podcast, The Word Nerds, did an episode ("Fantastic Flubs") on mondegreens, malapropisms, spoonerisms, and shibboleths a couple of years ago.

Jul. 10 2008 08:15 PM
Matt from Nassau County, NY

Steve Miller Band Jet Airliner.

Real lyrics: "Big old jet airliner"

Thought it was Big hotel with a light on

Still hearing about it

Jul. 10 2008 07:04 PM
Meg from NJ

I always sang (quite loudly) Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen, incorrectly.
My lyrics were:
Miss Miller! no-,we will not let you go-let him go-
Miss Miller! we will not let you go-let him go
Miss Miller! we will not let you go-let me go

The irony of it was that I had a teacher in high school named Miss Miller. She wasn't well-liked and, to this day, this song still reminds me of sitting in her class during a lecture, DYING to get out.

I'll never sing it any other way!

Jul. 10 2008 05:27 PM

When I was a kid, I thought the lyrics to CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" were, "Don't go out tonight, cause it's bound to take your dad." Listening to the song as an adult, "life" sounds nothing like "dad," so I must have had a childhood fear of abandonment!

Jul. 10 2008 05:08 PM
Cynthia from sunnyside, ny

A friend thought Kiss's biggest hit was a paean to moderation:

she heard "I want to rock and roll all night,
and part of every day"

instead of

"...and party every day".

Jul. 10 2008 03:37 PM
kristin from brooklyn, ny

my favorite from childhood is from chaka kahn's "feel for you" song:

chaka khan = suck a car

Jul. 10 2008 03:21 PM
Peter from Brooklyn

Why does Bush yell "Swazzi Wot my Wotted Eye" in Everything Zen?

Try to see it once my way...everything zen..I dont think so...
Neither do I. (I dislike Bush BTW - the band and the world leader(s))

Jul. 10 2008 03:07 PM
Charles from New York, NY

I always thought when I heard "Hungry Eyes" that it was "Home Briana" ...

Jul. 10 2008 03:06 PM
Claire from Califon

My husband just came back in the middle of his errand to tell me I had to write in with what he thinks is the funniest botched lyrics ever-

The B52's lyrics
"Roam if you want to, roam around the world" somehow in my young mind at the time became "Go Nipsy Russell, go around the world".

And as I was scrolling down I see I'm not the only one! The lasting effects of Match Game!

Jul. 10 2008 02:52 PM
SK from Midtown Manhattan

That song by Nirvana..something about the guy with "rabid tooth" not rabbit tooth as i initially thought...

Jul. 10 2008 02:44 PM
Pascale Vaillancourt from Hackensack NJ

As fun as hearing some weird lyrics is, it's nothing compared with the game called "auditive hallucinations" that I used to listen to back in Montreal on my local radio station. It was a french speaking radio, and listeners were asked to send the french lyrics they heard from an english song (or sometimes from instrumental music). On one of Nirvana's song (from the album Unplugged), we can clearly recognize (not on purpose, of course) the sentence "a suce pas fort Helene". Now, I will not translate in english because I would probably be censured, but for those of you who understand french, this is quite vulgar but at the same time very funny for everytime I hear the song now I think of those lyrics and just can't remember what the real words are...

Jul. 10 2008 02:43 PM
Anna from NW Bronx

Had to chime in with two more, both of which I think speak to our mindsets. A million years ago, when I worked at a theater and played in a mostly-cover band that did a lot of its own setup, I thought that the Credence lyric from "Down on the Corner" was "Lucas throws the duct tape and he solos for a while." Maybe it is that, though, I never could figure out anything else.

And just a few weeks ago, after hearing a story about Ben Bernanke and the rising interest rate, my husband sang that old Stones number, "Shattered"--"Don't you know the prime rate's going up, up, up, up, up!" Boy, we really live in a different NYC than the one that Mick was singing about back then.

Jul. 10 2008 02:39 PM
Lara McDonnell from Brooklyn, NY

My poor aunt had the misfortune of hearing "and the fish hook that was planted in my brain" in Simon & Garfunkel's Sound of Silence. The real lyric for those who also heard fish hook is "And the vision that was planted in my brain". My familiy has yet to let her forget it.

Jul. 10 2008 02:36 PM
Evan from New York, NY

Also, I thought the Steve Miller Band was singing, "Pinko Jet Airliner."

Jul. 10 2008 02:36 PM
Harry from bronx

not a song lyric but from Latin Mass :

when I was a child, I always heard "liberamus domine" as "eva on a stormy day " ; got cleared up when I became an altar boy

Jul. 10 2008 02:36 PM
LKC from NYC

Billy Ocean's "Carribean Queen": Listening to it as a very young child, I thought he was singing about his "Caribou Queen".

The Bee Gees' "More than a Woman" was "Bald-Headed Woman"

Jul. 10 2008 02:36 PM
Evan from New York, NY


You're wrong about "Angel of the Morning." The correct mondegreen is "Just brush your teeth before you leave me," thank you.

My wife thought it was "just smack my feet before you leave me." I think we can both agree that's just ridiculous.

Jul. 10 2008 02:35 PM
Annie Lansdowne from New York

My sister tells the story of a non-English-speaking children's choir that was trying to learn the lyrics to Silent Night. "sleep in heavenly peace" came out "slop in heavenly piss". I'm guessing you can't say that on the radio...

Jul. 10 2008 02:34 PM
Keri Kroboth from New York NY

right: secret agent man
wrong: secret asian man

Jul. 10 2008 02:34 PM
Ryan from Toronto, Canada

I used to think Steve Winwood's "Bring me a Higher Love" was "Bring me an Iron Lung"!

I know it makes no sense, but if you listen to the song, it actually does sound like he's saying "iron lung."

I wonder what that says about me? Hmmmmm...

Jul. 10 2008 02:34 PM

My favorite

Dave Matthews Band - Two Step

Real lyric: "celebrate we will because life is short but sweet for certain"

My lyric: "celebrate women because life is short but sweet for certain"

I like my version better, because women should totally be celebrated.

Jul. 10 2008 02:34 PM
taylor from yonkers

Rick James -Super Freak

I hear:
"When I get to her house she's got intertwining candles"

True lyric:
"When I get to her house she's got incense, wine and candles."

"intertwining candles" is such a freaky scene.

Jul. 10 2008 02:33 PM
Fay Halberstam from Manhattan WS

Neil Diamond on diarrhea: She got a wet movement (She got a way to move me)

Jul. 10 2008 02:33 PM
Thadeus from New Jersey

Great topic!
But, the controversy over Louie, Louie was about an obscenity shouted in the background - not part of the actual lyrics.
Listen carefully (on headphones) toward the end, an off-mic voice yells the 'f word" in between beats.

Jul. 10 2008 02:32 PM
Grace from edgewater, nj

America the Beautiful - I thought it went...

"Four Spacious Guys"
instead of
"for spacious skies"

Jul. 10 2008 02:32 PM
Victor Juhasz from In my studio

Amazingly that line from Creedence's Bad Moon was probably one of the only lines I've ever understood. With all due respect to Fogerty, cause he's cool, he's so indecipherable. It's like mush mouth. Sadly, Bruce also suffers from the affliction.

Jul. 10 2008 02:31 PM
Adriana from Oakland

My fave from my husband- Dan Hill song, I think.

wrong: sometimes when we touch, the otter speaks too much...

right: sometimes when we touch the honesty's too much...

Jul. 10 2008 02:31 PM
Jacob from Oakland, NJ

Until just recently, I misheard Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" chorus lyric as "after the poison summer has gone.".

Jul. 10 2008 02:31 PM
lee weingast from rio de janeiro

In the 1970s, my friend Mia insisted that it was "why can't we refress". I argued that "why can't we be friends" made a whole lot more sense but I don't think I ever convinced her.

Jul. 10 2008 02:31 PM
Jackie from Theatre District

I know it sounds crazy but. . .

"Lit-tle red co-orvette" sounds just like "Libby, come on back." Despite the name of the song, I really though this was the lyric.

Jul. 10 2008 02:30 PM

annie lennox - walking on broken glass

my friend thought it was walking on propane gas

Jul. 10 2008 02:30 PM
Jennifer H from Brooklyn

how about blinded by the light by Bruce Sprinsteen - when he sings it he says cut loose like a duce another runner in the night and when manfred man sings it you can't tell what the heck he is saying!

Jul. 10 2008 02:30 PM
Ward Kelvin

Juan Tanamera = One Ton Maria

theme to All In The Family - My Ole La Salle Ran Great = myolasalrangrate took me years to figure it out

Jul. 10 2008 02:29 PM
Lennie from Manhattan

Give me the Beach Boys and rock and roll instead of Give me the beat boys

Jul. 10 2008 02:29 PM
michael from chinatown

It is CALLED Bad Moon Rising....

Jul. 10 2008 02:28 PM
Sandi Reinardy from Hoboken

Here are a couple:

What are they saying in 'Blinded by the Light?' It sounds like 'Wrapped up like douche in the middle of the night'????

In The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go - the spanish lyrics "Esta undecision me molesta" -- I thought they were saying 'Indecision named Melissa.'

My sister once thought 'Eyes Without A Face' was 'How's About It Baby'/

And my aunt thought 'I'm Driving My Life Away' was 'I'm dragging my left leg'.

Jul. 10 2008 02:28 PM
Clark Lovelady from Vero Beach, FL

Blinded by the light, I always heard as blind date by the light. And of course 'rewed up like a duece' I could never decipher until 2 decades later.

Jul. 10 2008 02:27 PM
Melissa from NYC

My husband is Italian and, until a couple of years ago, thought "I've got you babe" was "I've got two babes."

I realized when he was walking down the street with me and a friend and started singing it - thinking "two babes" was the true lyrics.

Jul. 10 2008 02:27 PM
Nan from Westchester

My childhood friend Leslie believed that the lyrics for the song Groovin' included her name, as in, "life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie" and was disappointed to later learn that that the Young Rascals were more realistically singing "you and me endlessly."

Jul. 10 2008 02:26 PM
Catfish J. Rivers from Elizardbreff, NJ

My pal used to hear Foreigner's lyrics as "hot bloody, chicken of the sea"

Jul. 10 2008 02:26 PM
Lawrence from Tribeca

Everything But The Girl's song line...

"I miss you like the deserts miss the rain" I thought was "I miss you like the famous Mister Ed."

Jul. 10 2008 02:25 PM
Harris from NYC-Harlem

I have my two favorites:

1) Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone"

the real lyric is:
I'm praying
Take me back,
consider me please
If you walk in that door,
I can get up off my knees

I thought it was:
I'm praying
Take me back,
If you walk in that door,
I can get up off my knees.

2) Earth, Wind & Fire's "I Write The Songs":

The real lyric is:

"My magical mystique, finding it all complete"

I thought it was:

"MY MAGIC HO MUST SPEAK, finding it all complete"



Jul. 10 2008 02:24 PM
Janet Shapiro from Montclair NJ

My own mis-hearing of that Fogerty line was:

Memories are eloquent of playing in the band....

I had a friend who heard Dianna Ross sing:

Stop in the neighborhood
Before you break my door

Jul. 10 2008 02:24 PM

Whenever I hear America being sung "Oh beautiful for spacious skies....", I think back twenty plus years ago, when my daughter at 4 yrs old sung it as "Oh beautiful, for spaceship skies..."

Jul. 10 2008 02:24 PM
Giuliana from Midtown

When I was about 10, I thought that the lyrics to Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning" "...just touch my cheek before you leave me" were "just take my teeth before you leave me"

Jul. 10 2008 02:23 PM
Eric from Iowa

There's a bunch:

Right Said Fred, "I'm too Sexy" -- I thought (until last week) that he sang "I'm too sexy for my lamp" not "too sexy for Milan" which makes more sense.

Melissa Etheridge, "I Wanna Come Over" -- I always thought it was "I wanna come over, to hell with your concert plans" not "to hell with the consequence". I thought since she's a musician, she wanted her friend to skip the concert and come right over.

Fats Domino, "Blueberry Hill" -- one of the last lines, I've always thought he sings, "No ear of corn, I butter you still". I still have no idea what he's really saying.

Actually, thanks to digital quality XM radio, I'm suddenly hearing all kinds of lyrics much more clearly.

Eric, Iowa

Jul. 10 2008 02:23 PM
pio from Liechtenstein

I once attended a "harmonic convergence" in the Southwest and was later asked whether they were good? It turned out that my buddy thought I had heard a concert of the «Harmonica Virgins» (a band I don't know existed:-)

Jul. 10 2008 02:23 PM
danielle from upper west side - the suburbs

crosby stills nash love the one you're with: the line "like a rose in a fisted glove" never could understand it till one of the band revealed it in interview

Jul. 10 2008 02:23 PM
DoubleD from New York

Louie Louie

As a kid, I thought the chorus was saying "a doin' away - woh no!" for Louie Louie. It still sounds like this and I never could understand what was meant.

Jul. 10 2008 02:23 PM
Priscila from Brooklyn

until the day my boyfriend laughed at me for 1 hour, I always used to sing the American Pie chorus like this:

Bye, Bye Mister-Merican Pie
Throw Machete to the wettie
but the levy was dry...

and good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
singing this will be the day that i die...

Jul. 10 2008 02:22 PM
sheri from toronto on

In grade 7, i thought AC/DC were singing about "dirty jeans on the Thunder-Chiefs" instead of dirty deeds...
what a lame seventh grader i was!

Jul. 10 2008 02:22 PM
Maddie from Brooklyn

I thought the song "Amadeus" was about "hot potatoes."
I blithely sang the chorus, "hot potatoes, hot potatoes" to the amusement of my friends in seventh grade. And I have a friend who thought the line "Mephistopholes is not your name" was "never stuff a leaf in your nose."

Jul. 10 2008 02:22 PM
stephanie from Ringwood NJ

Manfred Mann's 'Blinded by the Light', lyrics by Bruce Springsteen was my montegreen.

For the longest time, since childhood, I thought the the chorus was ..blinded by the light wrapped up like a douche another ronner in the night.
Not event knowing what I was saying...!!!
I finally listened closer and I have since understood the true words.

My sister I would purposely make up incorrect lyrics. The Pointer Sisters 'Jump In' became 'Jump me'.

Jul. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Jimmy from Brooklyn

Steve Miller Band's "Big old jet airliner" mistaken for "Big old cat and a rhino"

But, you've got to discuss the classic: E.L.O.'s "Blinded by the Light"

Jul. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Sean Ormiston from Brooklyn

What a trip to hear the real lyrics to the chorus of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I thought it was quite the opposite:

With the lights out,
this is dangerous,
here we are now,

Jul. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Jarod from brooklyn

My friend misheard the lyric (and title) from DMX's 'Up in Here' as 'Pumpin Gas.'

Ya'll gon' make me lose my mind,
pumpin' gas, pumpin gas.

She even made her own dance for the song, with her pantomiming pumping gas during the appropriate time.

Jul. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Ross Bonadonna


I was in a band a number of years ago, called "Domino Freak Effect" that had a collaborative song writing process, most of the lyrics were misheard among the band during the writing process, so that the final lyrics that were recorded were mostly mondegreens.It was part of the process of creating resonant, but abstract lyrics...

Jul. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Bud Rofheart from Manhattan

When I was a kid in grade school, we all sang...
"Jose can you see by the dawns early light...
we think it's still great

Jul. 10 2008 02:21 PM
Josh from Upper West

I always preferred my version of a Strawberry Fields lyric: “living is easy with eyes closed, its understanding all you see.” I just think it is better than “living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.”
If you don’t see anything, you understand everything that you see because it is in your head – away from other’s possible objections.

Jul. 10 2008 02:20 PM
Martin from Brooklyn Heights

Summer of 1968: I was in the Peace Corps in eastern Turkey. On the short wave came my first hearing of the Beatles' "Hey, Jude." I heard Hey Jew... and thought it very profound. Youth...poor reception...too much Valium?

Hey, Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey, Jude, don't be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better.

And any time you feel the pain, hey, Jude, refrain
Don't carry the world upon your shoulders
Well don't you know that its a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder

Hey, Jude! Don't let her down
You have found her, now go and get her
Remember, to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better.

So let it out and let it in, hey, Jude, begin
You're waiting for someone to perform with
And don't you know that it's just you, hey, Jude,
You'll do, the movement you need is on your shoulder

Hey, Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Jul. 10 2008 02:20 PM
YM from Brooklyn

There's a long tradition of this in Japan on a late-night program called Tamori Club hosted by a famous comedian and TV personality. Called "Soramimi Hour," (soramimi = sky ear -- Japanese for when you mishear something), the section features soramimi episodes -- generally of English songs-- from Japanese viewers, and they create a video based on it. It's hilarious, especially given our language gap.
One of those I remember is the famous Buena Vista Social Club song "Chan Chan." In the first line, "De Alto Cedro voy para Macané," many people hear "para Macané" as "Tarabagani," a type of crab. Some refer to the song accordingly as the Tarabagani song. Hey, why not?

Jul. 10 2008 02:20 PM
Patricia from Somers, NY

Growing up in the Bronx we one night heard the line "I'll never be your beast of burden" As I'll never see your pizza burning" and it has remained that well it should! I smile every time.

Jul. 10 2008 02:20 PM
Margarita Artiga from Aberdeen, NJ

Interesting topic, but does the mishearing of lyrics happens because the way English is pronounced? This doesn't seem to happen too often in songs with Spanish lyrics.

Jul. 10 2008 02:20 PM
Antonio Becerril from Mexico City

One of my favorites is from a friend who thought that the Stone Roses "I Wanna Be Adored", actually said "I Wanna be a Dork." And Toots & the Maytals' "Pressure Drop" is one of my favorite to rant over the lyrics.

Jul. 10 2008 02:20 PM
Ted Shred from Atlanta

I was in Rome years ago and we ducked into a nightclub recommended by Let's Go. There was a very bad lounge pianist, singing some tired hits - and he loudly, earnestly and clearly sang out "perforate, perforate... I only wanted to see you and then perforate" - this was Purple Rain.

My other favorite was a buddy admitted he had thought AC/DC's Dirty Deeds was proclaiming, "Dirty Deeds, and the Dunder Cheese!"

Jul. 10 2008 02:19 PM
Siouxie from Brooklyn, NY

Gloria Gaynor's Never Can Say Goodbye Boy

mangled into

Never can save the Bible

Jul. 10 2008 02:19 PM
Valerie from LIC, QNS

Billy Bragg (who sings in a thick accent, making his lyrics difficult to decipher for non-Brits) once said that some people mishear the lyrics to "Greetings To the New Brunette".

The correct line is: Does she still love me? She still has my door key. The mondagreen: Does she still love me? She still has my donkey.

Jul. 10 2008 02:19 PM
Lionel from Avenel, NJ

When my son was a toddler, he thought Chaka Khan was singing "climb every woman" when she was really singing "I'm every woman"
He's grown now and we still laugh about it.

Jul. 10 2008 02:18 PM
Maddie from Brooklyn

I was convinced that the song "Amadeus, Amadeus" was actually "hot potatoes" and I have a friend who heard "Mephistopholes is not your name" as "never stuff a leaf in your nose."

Jul. 10 2008 02:18 PM

Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know?" - I always sang "I'm asking you 'cuz you know about bee stings" instead of "I'm asking you because you know about these things." I'm still not willing to let it go!

Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM
sam from westchester

in college a guy thought the B52's "Roam if you want to" was "Roam Nipsy Russell"

Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM

Sweet Gene the maitre d, who am I to disagree?
He's travelled the world and the 7 seas.


Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM
smokedgouda from NY

This was always my favorite: Rolling Stones' - Beast of Buden..

The real lyrics are "I never been your beast of burden".

What I heard "I never seen your pizza burnin'"

Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM
Chris from Ct

My wife thought that the "Holy Night" christmas carol was about "round young virgins". Makes sense to me.

Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM
courtney from lower manhattan

Eric Clapton's "After Midnight" as "Captain Midnight"

Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM
CK from NYC

I swear that the lyrics in Paul Simon's "Myth of Fingerprints" are "Elvis is the watermelon" when in fact they are the much more sensical "Ever since the watermelon".

Also, my boyfriend was singing AC/DC one day and I laughed for way too long when I heard him sing "...Dirty deeds and the Thunderchief!"

Jul. 10 2008 02:17 PM
william from accoss the street on varick st

The opposite.

I heard that written copies of “Let's Call the Whole Thing Off” made it to Europe long before any recordings. Musicians there sang the song with potato and tomato in the same “accent” on both parts of the line and apparently they missed out on the whole point of the song.

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Hal from astoria

Stevie Winwood's You gotta roll with it baby, or You GET a roll with it baby?
I always thought Smells like teen spirit went something like With the lights out/Its contagious..

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
al oof from brooklyn

i once heard the song 'catch me i'm falling' introduced on the radio as 'catch me i'm crawling'. that is to say, the dj said that was the name of the song. also, it was probably 1989.

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Anna from NW Bronx

I have to steal two from my friend Roy, who I assume isn't listening. Both were, I think, from when he was in bands. They've gotten requests for "Chew the hot dog" (doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-do-doo-do; i.e., Do the Hustle), and my favorite, "Pompano Beach" (you know, the Madonna song where she's pregnant on the Staten Island Ferry, i.e., Papa don't preach).


Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Lauren from Woodbury, NY

Too my laughter and horror, I found out recently that the lyrics to Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris "Marathon" was way off base:

My childhood version:

"For vacations on tape, instant happiness..."


"FORNICATION on tape, instant happiness..."

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Jonathan J. Johnson from Greenpoint

I've always mistaken in my mind the Beatles lyrics for twist and shout:

Well, shake it up, baby, now, (shake it up, baby)
Twist and shout.

As shaking a baby now.(shaking a baby)
Twist and shout.

Kind of like a shaken baby syndrome anthem, and I won't sing it any other way.

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Daniel from Philly

Hold me closer Tony Danza, plant the headlights on the highway!!!!!

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Celia from Manhattan

The 70s song "Rock the Boat" has a chorus that goes "so I'd like to know where you got the notion" but when I was a kid I thought it was "so I'd like to know where you got the nose job"

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Sarah from New York

My mom thought the lyrics to bring me in higher love my robert palmer were bake me a pie of love

Jul. 10 2008 02:16 PM
Adam from L.E.S. New York

Actual Beatles lyric (from "Polythene Pam"):
"She's the kind of a girl that makes the news of the world..."

Misheard by my friend as:
"She's the kind of a girl that makes a noose of the will..."

Jul. 10 2008 02:15 PM
Paul from Downtown

Wish upon a star -> Wish I'm a porn star.

Jul. 10 2008 02:15 PM
Edward from NJ

And I would not be caught dead with jewelry in my ears.
Still crazy after all these years.

Jul. 10 2008 02:15 PM
lesley from greenpoint brooklyn

To me, the Go-Gos "Our Lips Are Sealed" will forever be about "Islands Of Seals"!!

Jul. 10 2008 02:15 PM

FYI- Nirvana was very conscious of this phenomenon and purposely construed lyrics

Jul. 10 2008 02:15 PM
ALex from Manhattan

Hey Ya-
Shake it like a corduroy pager.

Jul. 10 2008 02:14 PM
Dan from Kearny NJ

Dan Ingram was the best at it!

Got a Black Magic Marker (woman)!

and songs by Elmo Parsley (Elvis Presley).

Jul. 10 2008 02:14 PM
Angi from SoHo, Manhattan

My husband thought that the lyrics for Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" actually said "Lady Elaine" - he thought they might be referring to Lady Elaine Fairchild, a character from the Land of Make Believe on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Jul. 10 2008 02:14 PM

I thought "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" was "Tent Devils in Freestyle."

Jul. 10 2008 02:13 PM
Katie from Manhattan

I think the CCR lyric is about preparing heroin by cooking it in a spoon.

Jul. 10 2008 02:12 PM
Chuck from Westwood,NJ

How about Paul McCartney's

"My Love doesn't Cook" I was very disappointed to find out I was wrong

Jul. 10 2008 02:11 PM
mombi from NYC

Among many the first one I can recall was thinking Go's name was Harold, from Hark the Harold Angels sing and Harold be his name, etc...

Jul. 10 2008 02:10 PM

Coincidentally This American Life is replaying their show "A Little Bit of Knowledge" this weekend which has a hilarious story about a "little-studied phenomenon: children who get a mistaken idea in their heads about how something works or what something means, and then don't figure out until well into adulthood that they were wrong."

Jul. 10 2008 02:10 PM
Chris from Chestnut Ridge NY

Our host just mis-stated the lyrics of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". It's "With the Lights Out" not "With the Lights Off".

Jul. 10 2008 02:09 PM
John L. from Brooklyn, NY

Two that I love from my Dad --

Pete Seeger singing (excuse my spelling...) Juantanamera became "One ton tomato, I ate a one ton tomato..."

And from Abbey Road: "Step on the case of my fat tooey" (Step on the gas and wipe that tear away)

Jul. 10 2008 02:08 PM
Alan from Brooklyn

I was disappointed to learn that in Radiohead's "Fake Plastics Trees" Thom Yorke does NOT, in fact, sing about "a fake Chinese Robert Plant," but rather about "rubber plants."

Jul. 10 2008 12:53 PM
mel from Manhattan

One day in college, my roommate was playing the soundtrack from Fame. She began to sing along with the title song and sang, "Take your pants down, and make it happen!" (instead of "Take your passion, and make it happen!") I laughed so hard! She honestly thought those were the words and had been singing them in that same way all of her life. I asked her why in the world would the lyrics be "Take your pants down and make it happen!"
She thought about it for a second and said that, as a child, she had justified in her own head (and hadn't thought about it until I asked her) that the dancer had to "take her pants down" when she pulled off her sweats to reveal her leotard, tights and legwarmers and to really dance!

As for me, although it isn't technically about a song, I grew up saying a prayer before dinner with my family that went, in part, "By his hands we must be fed, Give us Lord our daily bread." My little brother's name is Brian, and I always said "Brian's hands must be fed." (My parents apparently had never noticed, since we all said the prayer together, in unison.) My logic was that he was the youngest, so if there was little or no food, he had to be fed first. Later, when my brother Jeremy was born when I was about 8 years old, I asked my parents why we still said "Brian's hands must be fed" and shouldn't it now be changed to "Jeremy's hands must be fed"? I am 34 now, and my family STILL teases me about it!

Jul. 10 2008 12:40 PM
Laura from Upper West Side

I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking dictation software to "type" hands-free on my computer. It works very well for standard words if I speak clearly, but can generate magnificent MONDEGREENS which reveal its own bias.
A few examples:

WNYC public radio show host Lopate's name came out as "low-paid"......

Brian Lehrer [Dragon = Bran Layer, Brand Lehrer]

More mis-recognized names:
Tavis Smiley -> Have a smiley, "Ever smiling"

Dennis Kucinich [Dragon = Dennis good Senate]

Dennis Kucinich Congress [Dragon = Diskless image Congress]

Investigative journalist Greg Palast [Dragon = Greg calloused]

The Port Authority [Dragon = "the war of starting"]

Hiroshima [Dragon = "your shame a"]

Imus [Dragon = "I miss"]

Freddy Ferrer [Dragon = "ready for air"]

The Museum of Modern Art [Dragon = " amusing of modern Art"]

Jul. 10 2008 12:35 PM
Stephen from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

I heard the funniest one ever years ago when WBAI was covering the same topic.

In the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" someone misheard the lyrics "the girls with kaleidoscope eyes" as "the girl with colitis goes by."

Jul. 10 2008 12:04 PM
Jaime from Manhattan

Being born and raised in the US from a Spanish speaking background, we laugh with family and friends of how non-native speakers interpret lyrics.

It's also part of Colombian stand-up comedian, Andres Lopez's act when he, who grew up in Colombia listening to American music. In the bit he sings "En bus a Pereira" (on a bus to Pereira [a city in Colombia]) for Sade's "Smooth Operator".

Thank you and regards,


Jul. 10 2008 10:44 AM
Pat Oblak from Florida

My Personal Favorites:
Mistaking the Police's Don't Stand So Close to Me for Don't Smash Those Groceries (a friend)
Mistaking Huey Lewis's I Want a New Drug for I Want a New Truck (me)
Mistaking a lyric from some Bette Midler song that was really The stuff that dreams are made of for Stop and Be a Tomato (me)
My Mother swearing on everything she holds holy that MicK Jagger is singing Crowds in My Coffee, to this day...
Great topic-brilliant!!!

Jul. 10 2008 08:14 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.