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March 07, 2006

Say what? (^o^)

Monterey County Herald | 03/06/2006 |
Say what? Misheard lyrics provide a good laugh

Zipping through traffic, windows cranked down, radio cranked up, I heard the opening guitar of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," a song I've been singing for 20 years, and prepared to let loose. After hunky Jon whispered that ''Once upon a time...'' preface, I threw my giant head back and screamed the song's first famous line:

"Tell me is the world gonna die!"

Now, it doesn't take a Jersey girl to know that not only did I botch the lyrics, but I WASN'T EVEN CLOSE. I would have kept butchering Bon Jovi's hit -- and vigorously pumping my fist in the air as I did so -- if it weren't for the fact that I was interviewing guitarist Richie Sambora later that afternoon. Once I got to work, I checked the lyrics in the liner notes just to make sure I was right.

All I could do was laugh.

Actual lyric: ''Tommy used to work on the docks.''

The truth? I do that all the time.

And I was willing to bet that every music lover does the same. So I posted a question on my music blog (www.sptimes.com/blogs/ popmusic) asking readers for the most misquoted and misheard lyrics in the pop canon. I 'fessed up to my Bon Jovi boneheadedness, figuring I'd get mocked, ridiculed, poked with sticks. But instead of ripping the music writer, readers proudly unloaded their own blunders.

My faves include the guy who grew up thinking U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was "Someday Buddy Someday" -- that is, until his brother heard him singing it in the shower and laid into him.

Then there was the reader who worshipped that classic Go-Go's hit "Otis the Seal" -- until she realized it was actually "Our Lips Are Sealed." One woman thought Deee-Lite's song "Groove is in the Heart" was "Roses in the Hearth." And another had a friend who stubbornly swore the infamous lyrics to Steve Miller's "The Joker" were actually "I really like your beaches, wanna shake your tree."

After reading those entries, my own famous gaffes came flooding back. In fact, I'd now like to serenade you with my version of England Dan & John Ford Coley's 1976 soft-hit "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," a song I first started singing as a wee 6-year-old in the backseat of my mother's whale-sized Buick Regal. I think you'll appreciate my attention to detail, especially if you work at Bed, Bath & Beyond:

''I'm not talkin' 'bout the linen! And I don't want to change your lights!''

Awesome, huh?

The way I figure it, music fans wear these blunders as badges of pride. It proves that we're emotionally invested in the songs. We've personalized them. We've made them our own. In fact, even after you learn the right words, it's still impossible to sing the song straight. I heard "Livin' on a Prayer" the other day, and I fell into the same ''gonna die'' routine. To be honest, I don't care where Tommy used to work.

Whether you're crooning in the car or standing in front of the bathroom mirror with a toothbrush microphone, it's the emotion that's driving you, not reality.

Rocking hard is not a reasonable recreation. "Livin' on a Prayer" is a great song with dramatic weight -- at least my version is. ''Tell me is the world gonna die!'' Wow. You can't get more dramatic than the Apocalypse.

According to author Gavin Edwards, who wrote the 1995 book "'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: And Other Misheard Lyrics," there's actually a technical term for the misheard lyric: It's called "mondegreen."

It was coined more than 50 years ago by an Atlantic writer, Sylvia Wright. She wrote about an old folk song she learned as a child. It went a little like this: ''They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.'' It wasn't until she was older when she learned the poem's actual lyric: ''They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.''

It's appropriate that the art of lyric-botching was originally recognized as a child's creation. That makes total sense. After all, all of my own ''mondegreens,'' and all of those submitted on my blog, were warmly reminiscent of way back when. Let it be known that nobody talked about screwing up the words to Kanye West's "Gold Digger."

My Forever Fiancee likes -- no, loves -- to tell the story of how, when we first started dating, we were listening to a classic Commodores cut. You know the one: "She's a big house! She's mighty mighty!" After hearing me warble along, my paramour turned the radio down and asked, ''What did you just sing?'' I could tell by her big, evil grin that she was about to pounce. The song was "Brick House," of course. Lionel Richie, she delighted in informing me, never said anything about a "big house."

The thing is, all these years later, I love when the FF tells that story as much as she does.

St. Petersburg Times

Posted by riesambo at March 7, 2006 07:24 AM