Song writers spend a lot of time searching for the perfect lyric for their tune. Often they have quite a story on how they came up with the specific words for the song. One of Paul McCartney’s best known tunes, Yesterday, is no different. He always has claimed the tune of it came to him in a dream. McCartney did not have the words written for months for the tune, so he instead put in the words Scrambled Eggs as sort of a placeholder until he could figure out the lyrics he liked. John Lennon said years later that the lyrics came to McCartney in another dream. The song was eventually completed and has always been thought of as a masterpiece.
It would have been humorous to keep the song as Scrambled Eggs. It is easy to sing the tune in your head and replace the word yesterday with scrambled eggs. Part of the difficulty in listening to songs is deciphering the correct lyrics. Many singers do not exactly enunciate their words well while they are singing (I’m looking at you, Bob Dylan), so as their audience, sometimes we are left with puzzling lyrics. While in grade school, one of the boys in my class always sang the song Money For Nothing by Dire Straights. Whenever it would come to the line, “Money for nothing and chicks for free,” he would always get it wrong. He would sing it as, “Money for nothing and your checks are free.” It makes total sense for for a third grader!
There are plenty of misheard song lyrics that are often quite hilarious. Often times, the wrong lyrics are actually better than the correct ones. I’m sure all of you have many more that you could add. But here are a few of the top misinterpreted song lyrics found through my research.
I’m a Believer
The Monkees have been a popular musical group since 1966. Even with the death of Davy Jones a few years back, their latest album Good Times! commemorating their 50th anniversary received rave reviews this past year. With that said, one of their most classic songs, I’m a Believer written by Neil Diamond, is still being heard wrong by many. The line “Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer” is being sang by the misinformed as “Then I saw her face, now I’m gonna leave her.” Or maybe they are just mostly superficial people worried more about looks than personality? Yet, the song lasted seven weeks as the number one single in the country.
I Can See Clearly Now
Johnny Nash hit his musical peak back in the early 70s with the song he wrote and sang, I Can See Clearly Now. The correct lyric he wrote was “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” Sounds pretty simple. However, it is sometimes heard as “I can see clearly now, Lorraine is gone.” While this incorrect lyric is perfect for a guy that has broken up with a girl named Lorraine, it is the wrong lyric.
Losing My Religion
R.E.M. had a hit song with the tune Losing My Religion. Michael Stipe has a pretty clear singing voice as well. But that hasn’t stopped people from mishearing a key lyric in the song. “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight” is pretty catchy. However, some people believe the song is more about bodily functions. “Let’s pee in the corner, let’s pee in the spotlight.” I’m not sure how people thought they heard this lyric, but it will be one I repeat next time I hear this song.
This is considered one of Elton John’s best, even though it only reached number 41 on the US charts. Everyone sings along with this song when it plays on the radio. I can still recall it from the movie Almost Famous. In the song, he says to “Hold me closer, tiny dancer.” Nevertheless, there are many out there that have heard the hit song completely different. “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.” I have nothing against Tony Danza. In fact, I sort of enjoy his acting style, if you want to call it that. But I am not sure I want Tony Danza holding me closer. Ay oh, oh ay!
I Want to Hold Your Hand
It’s nice to know that even other singers mishear hit songs. Bob Dylan first met the Beatles and told them that he really liked their song I Want to Hold Your Hand. Then he said one of his favorite lines in it was “I get high, I get high”. John Lennon had to inform him that the line was actually “I can’t hide, I can’t hide”. It is sort of ironic that Bob Dylan has trouble deciphering lyrics when everyone that listens to Bob Dylan sing has the same problem.
If you are not a Jimi Hendrix fan, then you just haven’t listened to enough of his work. He wrote the song Purple Haze, and while many believed it was in reference to drugs, it was actually a love song. It only reached number 65 on the US pop chart, but it climbed to number 3 in the United Kingdom. One line that he wrote in the song was “Scuse me while I kiss the sky”. Almost immediately, the lyric was misheard as “Scuse me while I kiss this guy”. Jimi Hendrix thought that the incorrect lyric was so funny that he sometimes sang it in place of the actual lyric he wrote. It’s nice when icons don’t take themselves so seriously. I’m looking at you, Paul McCartney.
Like a Virgin
Madonna leaves many people scratching their heads. Sometimes it is about her music, and other times it is about her life. Notwithstanding, her song Like a Virgin has a lyric in it that states “Like a virgin, touched for the very first time”. If you go back and listen to it right now, it is easy to hear how people have misconstrued it to “Like a virgin, touched for the thirty-first time”. In any case, it was her first number one hit. She had 12 number one hits in total.
Toto did an album back in 1982 with their hit song Africa on it. It hit number one of the Hot 100 US Billboard chart. The real lyric is “I bless the rains down in Africa”. I am guessing not many of us have ever visited Africa though. Especially when many think that lyric is “I guess it rains down in Africa”. Up until writing this article, I always thought the lyric was “I felt the rains down in Africa”. Touche!
Blowin’ in the Wind
You knew I couldn’t do this list without mentioning a Bob Dylan song. Blowin’ in the Wind is an absolute classic from his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The real lyric that he wrote was “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind”. But Mr. Dylan does sound a bit like he is singing “The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind”. He could have totally made this song a different classic with that line. Who’s to say which song would have been better in the end?