Author Sylvia Wright first introduced us the phrase Mondegreen when she misheard the lyrics to a popular Scottish ballad of the time The Bonny Earl of Murray.
She heard them as:
Ye highlands and ye lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray
And Lady Mondegreen
When in fact the final line of the rhyme was:
“slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green.”
And so the birth of the first recognised ‘misheard lyric’ that has given us so much joy and merriment in the years hence. Well, me anyway. How they make me howl! Not of course, that I have been immune from the occasional one here and there in my youth (never of course, nowadays).
Who can forget the classic from the 70’s mega hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, and God bless our beloved Freddie Mercury and Queen, but play it as much as you like and I swear they say:
“I’m just a poor boy from a poor family. He’s just a poor boy from a poor family, spare him his life from his pork sausages!!”
In fact, back in the day, when I was a lonely soul and knew no better, I ran an internet quiz on a rival provider, and the most popular subject was Mondegreens.
I had much fodder fed to me by those eager to a) relieve themselves of the agony of singing or mumbling the wrong words for so many years, desperate for the right ones, and b) those that just wanted plain humiliation.
Having done this, I had so many favourites, there were just too many to choose from, but the Bee Gees had many a mistake from their falsetto ball squeezing high notes quavering out the words in such pain induced squeals, no one understood a word, hence:
How Deep is Your Love: “and you come to me on a submarine” (on a summer breeze)
More than a Woman: “Bald headed woman, bald headed woman to me, baby”
Stayin’ Alive: “It’s alright, it’s ok, you make love the other way” (you may look the other way).
Then there are a multitude of song sins, one of my all time favourites has to be Bob Dylans Blowin’ in the wind: “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind”. Profound.
The image of the Sixties and flower childrens swaying… Blown away by the image left with the line sung by one sadly deluded in the ear department, who sang, “The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind” rendering the song almost un-listenable to me now.
Everyone has heard the much maligned Hendrix “S’cuse me while I kiss the sky” turned into the unforgettable “S’cuse me while I kiss this guy”. Perhaps, he would not turn in his grave, just a huge grin, such was his gentle sense of humour.
But how about the Police, named in a BBC poll as the band with the most mondegreens ever?
With the fine line “A year has passed since I wrote my note” from Message in a Bottle” reduced to “a year has passed since I broke my nose.”
What worries me is, do these people not listen to the whole song? Why would that line fit in? Where does that go with a message in a bottle? I often think of these things when I read such news items. Have these people no access to the internet to look up the correct lyrics?
But then I think, most of these songs are from a bygone era, a time when there was no internet to speak of and the people that sing these mondegrams have sung them for so long now, they ARE the lyrics. Why look them up?
Have you heard them, at a party or at home? Singing away when they think no one is listening? La la-ing to themselves maybe in tune, most of the words right and then, out it comes, a right corker…
“The girl with colitis goes by” in the middle of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (the girl with kaleidoscope eyes). What can you do but laugh.
I have to admit, there is a certain someone not a million miles from me, that I have often remarked to how I will write a complete book of their own lyrics to songs they have sung along to, such is the howling heap I have been reduced to when I hear their version of the lyrics belted out.
Perhaps a new marketing slogan by Oasis could be adapted with one of their singles with the line: “you’re gonna be the one at Sainsbury’s” (you’re gonna be the one that saves me – Wonderwall).
Maybe too, you would like to post on Clue Cult’s facebook wall today, any misheard lyrics you know of, or some of your own to make us chuckle? I dare you!
I have to finish, sadly, with the classic Ken Li, from the X Factor. A classic version of Without You, by the much missed Harry Nilsson, where unfortunately the lady concerned just learned it by listening to the song. There are subtitles for those of you not converse in this particular form of English ;)
I bid you good day, and happy listening!