Not long ago, on a mild evening, my husband Amos and I were sitting outside at a local establishment, enjoying cold beverages, chatting about life, and halfway listening to the musician across the deck.
At one point, we perked up at the same time and looked at each other, puzzled. “What was that last line in her song?”
I vaguely recalled that she had been singing a song from Creedence (aka Creedence Clearwater Revival or CCR, for you youngsters out there), “Bad Moon Rising.” The last line is “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
But we were both certain we heard, “There’s a bathroom on the right.”
We laughed out loud, because we have long kept an on-going list of misheard and incorrect lyrics, and this was a jewel! We had never heard it before.
(Turns out, everybody else had already heard it a million times; some vocalists sing it on purpose – including John Fogarty, the CCR lead man who wrote the darn song!)
As we laughed, we recalled some of our other favorite wonky lyrics, something Amos calls “il-lyric-acy.”
For me, it all started in church. As a child, I learned a song about the Bible and all its stories, and one of the lines was “marvels wherever we look.” As a fan of my brother’s colorful ones, I thought we were singing about “marbles” and I wanted to find that story! Did Jesus play with marbles? Cool!
The mishearing started early for Amos too, with his elementary school singing of “America the Beautiful.” You know that second line, “For amber waves of grain”? He thought it was “Forever waves of gray.” That’s not so beautiful, is it?
Youthful mis-hearings continued with the Flintstones cartoon on TV. Amos said he sang along about the “modern storage family” instead of a “modern stone age family.”
He also thought Little Miss Muffet was “eating her curds away.”
Misheard lyrics or lines in poetry and other literature are called “mondegreens.” That fabulous word came from a misheard line in a 17th century Scottish ballad. Writer Sylvia Wright coined it in 1954, after confessing that she always heard the line “layd him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen.”
The internet offers numerous sites and listings of misheard lyrics and poems, but we think our list is just as much fun.
Some of our favorite and funny personal mondegreens include:
• “I found your Daddy underneath the tree” from the well-known “Diary” song by Bread
• “Little eyes of Jane,” more commonly known as “Little Liza Jane”
• “Put another dime in the juice box, baby,” maybe because there were little kids in our lives at the time?
• Courtesy of the Eagles backup singers, we have “Pipe in the vaseline” instead of “Life in the fast lane”
• Surely you’ve heard this one: Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” had this great line “You can’t have me for your pen pal, I’m going back to my house.”
• Another Sir Elton favorite of mine comes from “Tiny Dancer.” I always sang along: “Hold me close, now, Tony Danza.”
• “Northerner Woman” started out as the BeeGees song “More than a Woman”
• How about Robert Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With Insults”?
• While some want “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” one of us wanted “Popcorn.”
• Jimi Hendrix is well known for asking us to “Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” though it’s often heard as “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”
• Finally, here’s a double for you: The Beatles sang about Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, right? And in that song is a line about “a girl with colitis goes by.”
If you have some favorite mondegreens, share them with us. We’ll add them to the list.