May 25, 2002 6:54 PM   Subscribe

"Strike the heart, enjoy the florist, fa la la la la la la la la" AmIRight collates all of those misheard song lyrics and goes a step further, organizing them by band, song, or decade. Plus for the truly band-curious, they have archives of cool and stupid band names, song parodies and commentary on lyrics that people think are repetitive, nonsensical, or just insincere. Sometimes it's tough to tell the wrong lyrics from the right ones... "You strut your rasta wear and your suicide poem" real or misheard?
posted by jessamyn (30 comments total)
Hurrah, I love mondegreens!
The term "mondegreen" was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen." As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn't realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green."
-- from the website of Gavin Edwards, who has compiled four books about mondegreens.

I'm more familiar with Kiss This Guy, which is also a collection of mondegreens. Jon Carroll also does an occasional column or two on the phenomenon.
posted by kathryn at 7:18 PM on May 25, 2002 [1 favorite]

'scuse me while I kiss this guy...

DAMN, kathryn beat me to it on preview.
posted by JParker at 7:19 PM on May 25, 2002

Shakia's, "Whenever, Wherever "
Misheard Lyrics:
Lucky that my breast are small and humble,
so you don’t confuse them with 'muffins'
Correct Lyrics:
Lucky that my breast are small and humble,
so you don’t confuse them with 'Mountains'

...Come again?
posted by bonheur at 7:43 PM on May 25, 2002

Two of my personal mondegreens, embarrassing as they may be:

Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch"....I thought the line was "the audience sees too much", which prompted me to ask "well, why are you touching in front of an audience, then?"

Another was Supertramp's "The Logical Song", which I didn't realize I had wrong until a large group of us were singing along to the radio, and my incorrect lyrics somehow soared above the group: "There are times, when all the world's asleep, the questions weren't so deep, the Searcher's in command......"
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:54 PM on May 25, 2002

In the '70s, when I was in high school, there was a soon-forgotten song that included the lyrics, "I pull my blue jeans on / I pull my old blue jeans on." For months, my friend Eric thought the last line was "I pull my opal jeans on."
posted by diddlegnome at 8:07 PM on May 25, 2002

I think my favorite example is from my friend Dave...who singing along one day to Chumbawamba's, "Tubthumping"
where the correct lyrics are " I get knocked down
And I get up again..." and Dave's version was:

"I get no tongue, but I get up again...yep, you're never gonna keep me down..."

I still laugh every time I hear the song... :)
posted by dejah420 at 8:37 PM on May 25, 2002

I used to think Billy Ocean's song "Caribbean Queen" was actually "Caribou Freeze".
posted by evanizer at 8:58 PM on May 25, 2002

I don't understand the appeal of these. OK, when sung, "save" sometimes sounds like "shave." Why is that funny? And the comments in the nonsensical section look like they were provided by the most literal-minded dull-ass people around.

For some truly interesting (and obsessive) commentary, may I suggest David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead lyrics?
posted by muckster at 9:02 PM on May 25, 2002

beck's "loser" confused my friends and i back in the day. we had no idea that beck was saying "i'm a loser" in spanish (soy un perdador, or somesuch).

some of our translations: i (ayyyyye) am a pachyderm, i (ayyyyye) wear pantyhose, suuuuuper pooper germ, soyyyyymilk pitchers.
posted by carsonb at 9:32 PM on May 25, 2002

Oh, wow. Muckster, I love you. Thanks for that link.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:33 PM on May 25, 2002

Addictive site - TOO addictive - come up for air!
posted by davidmsc at 9:51 PM on May 25, 2002

Some of these are really hard to believe -- are there really people who thought that "I shot the sheriff" was really "I sat in sherbert?" Really?

Lucky that my breast are small and humble,
so you don’t confuse them with 'Mountains'

...Come again?

Like many of Shakira's English lyrics, this makes more sense, uh, musically, in Spanish (and in context with the whole verse):
Suerte que es tener
Labios sinceros
Para besarte
Con mas ganas
Suerte que mis
Pechos sean pequenos
Y no los confundas
Con montanas
posted by Dreama at 6:28 AM on May 26, 2002

Well for years I thought David Bowie was singing:

"and the papers want to know who's shirts you wear..."

when apparently it's "who shot you where" that the papers want to know. Odd thing is, my misheard "shirts" lyric makes more sense.
posted by jonmc at 6:38 AM on May 26, 2002

It's not "whose shirts you wear?" My world has been turned upside down. I'm scared.
posted by jennyb at 7:22 AM on May 26, 2002

Are you sure it's not 'whose shirts you wear'? I think I've seen 'whose shirts you wear' (but it's been ages, so who knows?) written that way in a published songbook.
posted by pracowity at 7:36 AM on May 26, 2002

(And 'whose shirts you wear' -- meaning 'what brand of shirt you wear' -- would make sense in the celebrity game he was writing about, whereas 'who shot you where' makes no sense in this context, unless you think of it as 'who launched you and to where', which would be a bit of a clunker.)
posted by pracowity at 7:40 AM on May 26, 2002

pracowcity- in "Ashes to Ashes" Bowie says "We know Major Tom's a junkie" so in that context "who shot you where" does make an odd kind of sense.

I saw the "who shot..." correction in one of those "misheard lyrics" books, FWIW
posted by jonmc at 7:44 AM on May 26, 2002

OK, jonmc, you're playing with fire now...

I am looking at the lyrics printed in the Ryko pressing of "Space Oddity" and it clearly says "And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear"

I googled the "shot you where lyrics" and came up with two pages of results . All of the lyric pages featuring the "who shot you where" lyrics seem to come from the same "SpaceOddity.txt" file source, while there are at least three sources (the least of which is this vast fan site called "Bowie Wonderland" who list the "shot you where" line as the misheard lyric and the "shirts you wear" lyric as the correct one. I also visited this encyclopedic site and came away with the same results: the line is "shirts you wear".

Additionally, I used ProTools to slow "Space Oddity" down by several percent and used a pair of reference headphones while scrubbing the disputed lyrical selection. The vocal track "Space Oddity", in true sixties fashion, is not mixed down to one channel, so the left and right channels are distinctly different, isolated vocal takes, offering two chances to hear Bowie utter the lyrics. I put the clip through several filters as well to reduce the prominence of the instrumentals. Since "where" and "wear" are sonically identical, and the sound of "shirt" and "shot" are very similar when uttered with Bowie's particular British accent, the logical focal point is the ending of the word shirts/shot. After listening to the section several dozen times, I can attest that there is a clear, distinct "s" sound before the word "you", especially in the left channel.

In addition, I searched the Bowie canon for examples of him singing both the word "shirts" and the word "shot". There is only one other song where he uses the word "shirts", a little-known song called "Tumble and Twirl". "Shot" appears with more frequency, such as in the song "Heroes". I listened to all these songs and, while his pronunciation of both words is sometimes similar, there is a distinct difference in the sound of his plural and singular word endings.

The logical conclusion is that the line is indeed "The papers want to know whose shirts you wear", supported by my experiments and the attestations of several MeFites who note that "shirts you wear" makes more lyrical sense, especially in light of other fashion-based concerns in the Bowie canon, and his use of the sartorial concerns of the media as an ironic device juxtaposing the different priorities of the parties depicted in "Space Oddity"

While I respect your encyclopedic knowledge of music, this heresy against Bowie, God among men, cannot be allowed to stand.
posted by evanizer at 9:07 AM on May 26, 2002 [2 favorites]

Speaking of Gods amongst men, evanizer, I bow down to your thoroughness of research. I had no idea that this was a contested line; proof that you could go through your whole life blissfully unaware. Anyway you look at it, "whose shirts you wear" makes more sense to the tone of the song than that other thing. Really now!

The lyrics to Black Dog make much more sense now that I can read them. It turns out I had half the song all wrong. I had no idea that there was a storyline to it. Genius, pure genius.
posted by ashbury at 9:24 AM on May 26, 2002

Wow, ev. That was amazing.I stand corrected. And FWIW, I love Bowie too. I even have his first ever recording with Davie Jones and the King-Beez. I'll send it to you if you can name it.In the meantime...

Oh! You pretty things. Don't you know your driving your fathers and mothers insane...Let me make it plain, gotta make way for the Homo Superior..
posted by jonmc at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2002

Evanizer, think you could help me figure out some lyrics?
posted by Apoch at 10:34 AM on May 26, 2002

It's not "Moosemeat in the sky with diamonds"?
posted by Spoon at 3:39 PM on May 26, 2002

Everyone I know (including me) has at one time or another thought that the particularly catchy Tommy James song was called "Hanging Around", instead of "Dragging the Line". It just makes more sense that way. It should be "Hanging Around". Don't pretend you haven't sung along to the song that way before.
posted by yhbc at 7:51 PM on May 26, 2002

I remember a friend of mine from college who thought that The Beatles were singing "Take the Back Right Turn" instead of "Paperback Writer". That one's my all-time favorite.

Another great one was the Stones' "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)". The original lyric was "Heartbreaker / with your .44". Her version was, "Heartbreaker / with your bowling ball" ...
posted by chuq at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2002

And on a related note, I find much of the Ruttles' music as enjoyable as the Beatles'.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:38 AM on May 28, 2002

One of my favuorites is my friend's singing of Led Zep's "Olive My Love". Who knew Robert Plant had a thing for a girl named Olive...

A related story involves two drunk guys and two guitars (yes, I was one of them), trying to figure out whic songs we both knew. CCR springs to mind, and both of us sing the "bathroom on the right" line with no prompting.
posted by sauril at 11:50 AM on May 28, 2002

Before I knew the proper name of the song, I was busted by a friend as we drove along, with me loudly singing the lyrics to the immortal Filter song "Hey Man Nice Shirt."

That's why I say, Hey man, nice shirt. Right. What a dork.
posted by Skot at 11:55 AM on May 28, 2002

And to think that I actually saw this band live (from the dumb names list). Actually, my first live show, opening up for the Dead Milkmen on the Beelzebubba tour.

When Damian appears in South Park, doesn't it sound like the choir in the background is saying: "Lactose! Intolerance!"
posted by adampsyche at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2002

One of my college roommates confessed to us one night that, as a child, she thought the Beatles' song was "When I'm Six-Feet-Four." She said it made sense to her at the time because she was old enough to understand the concept of getting bigger. She just naturally assumed people kept growing as they got older and that the man in the song was worried if his girlfriend would still want him if he got taller.

Ten years later, I still laugh when I hear that song.
posted by aine42 at 3:18 PM on May 28, 2002

evanizer, i've got some Cocteau Twins lyrics i need some help with...
posted by yonderboy at 7:01 AM on June 24, 2002

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