The other day Dale and I were riding in the car and Helen Wheels came on the radio. As we were unpacking the groceries we had purchased Dale was singing (as he so often does, it’s lovely) and I noticed that he wasn’t saying Helen Wheels, he was saying L.A. . . . something. So I asked him – do you know the name of that song? And he said, sure, L.A. Wheels. Ummmm. Nope.
And that conversation got me thinking about misheard song lyrics. There are whole websites devoted to the topic and it’s so easy to get accurate lyrics now anyway. Not like when I was a kid and I would record from the radio on my tape player and then play it and pause, play it and pause, as I wrote down all the lyrics until I had them memorized. Ahhhh yes.
Today I will share with you three stories of misheard song lyrics from our family archives.
1. Kyrie by Mr. Mister. I loved loved loved this song when it came out in 1985. I listened and listened but couldn’t figure out what the heck they were saying. I ultimately decided it was give me a laser which was, of course, ridiculously incorrect. Still, it made for a lot of laughs and not just back then because just the other day one of my dearest college friends texted me and reminded me of this one as she had just heard it on the radio. Back in 1985 she thought they said, give me a lay, sir. At least my version was clean.
2. Surfin USA by The Beach Boys. This one is a Dale story. And, let’s face it, when it comes to Dale and misheard (or mis-sung) song lyrics, we’ve got some great ones. I mean, you don’t sing in a rock ‘n roll band for 45+ years and not blow the lyrics now and again. Surfin USA is my favorite of his, though, because, while the line is huarachi sandals, too, he sang it wear out your sandals, too. Ummmmmmm. No. It would take a lot of surfin to wear out your sandals. Just saying.
3. Hakuna Matata from The Lion King. Hannah was 2 in 1994 when this movie landed in her life and she adored it. Really really. She sang Hakuna Matata at the top of her lungs and was utterly adorable. Especially when she sang Phil lost my feet instead of philosophy for that line, it’s our problem-free philosophy. The first time she did it I cracked up and I kept cracking up every time after. We didn’t know anyone named Phil and I don’t know what might have happened to his feet but she was convinced those were the words.
Do you have any stories of misheard song lyrics? If you do I’d love to hear them!
If you wrote a post for this week’s Three Things please share it below, too.
This is a great post! I especially love the memory of also recording from the radio to my tape player and sitting with my ear pressed against it while trying to decipher lyrics. Good times! Some of my misheard lyrics were in the Carpenters’ Close to You. They were actually singing “sprinkled moon dust in your hair”, but I swear it was “sprinkled walnuts in your hair”. It gives a completely different feel to the song!
In Holland we call mishearing songs “mama appelsap”, after lyrics in a Michael Jackson song that is commonly misheard here. If the English original is too hard to make out, we tend to hear Dutch and that can be hilaric. There are lots of “mama appelsap” songs all over the internet. It’s really funny, but you can never unhear it again.
Like with “Traveling in a fried-out Kombi” in Down Under from Man at Work, we hear “ik zat alleen in een vuile kameel” which translates as “I was sitting alone in a filthy camel”. And in River Deep, Mountain High, Tina Turner sings “and it gets sweeter, baby”, but we hear “en ik heb spillebenen” (I’ve got really skinny legs).
The song Alane from Wes is even worse, it’s not Dutch, but we can hear silly Dutch phrases in every sentence.
I think next time I hear Hakuna Matata I will also hear “Phill lost my feet”;-)
My mom thought the Police were singing “we are spirits in the hot cereal”.
Great post, Carole! Like Bonny, my sister and I used to listen very carefully (over and over again) to our tapes to try to get the lyrics just right. It didn’t take a tape recorder, though, to know that my mom was getting it all wrong when she thought Eric Clapton was singing “way down south” instead of “lay down Sally.” 🙂
Robby H says
Today’s post has been, educational? Seriously, it was Def Leppard and so it made since the song was, “Hell On Wheels”.
My husband, the former college DJ, and I disagree on lyrics from time to time. Surprisingly, he only has a slight edge over me. But my hearing is better.
Hysterical! Years ago I would always play a CD by Eros when I was driving. I can’t remember the exact line now, but Colin (a toddler at the time) would be in the back in his car seat singing loudly “hot pockets in LA.’
Haha! Great stories! I gave someone a page-a-day calendar one year that was full of misheard lyrics — 365 times. 🙂
Mine was Kind of a Drag by the Buckinghams – I sang Canada Dry for way too long
Mary K. in Rockport says
That was fun! My mistake was the BeeGees’ Stayin’ Alive which I thought was “day in the life” until derided by my children.
I can’t remember what I used to say but I know it wasn’t “Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone” 🙂 There was a commercial a couple of years ago with this and that’s when I finally got it right.
I am sitting here laughing so hard and I am most certain I have done this at least a million times, but for the life of me I cannot remember a single phrase. Hahahaha! Great post!
To this day I still sing my daughter’s version (as a 3 year old) of The Lion King’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight –
And can you feel the love tonight? How it’s laid to rest
It’s enough to make kings and noma-nons believe the very best
As always Carole, great post!
My favorites are an old song by The Lovin’ Spoonful called “What a Day for a Daydream,” which my mother thought was “What a Day for a Freight Train,” and how a neighbor thought the line from”Blinded by the Light” which goes “revved up like a deuce” was “you need a douche.”
Good times. I love this kind of thing.
I remember my first! At about 4 years old, when singing, “oh tidings of comfort and joy” from the Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, I thought they were singing, “oh, Tiny” and were singing about my Tiny Tears doll. OK, now I’ve dated myself!
My favorite goes way back to around 1970 or 1971. My girlfriend’s mother was driving us to the City (NY) for a day of shopping and the show at Radio City Music Hall. As Mrs. C. was driving, Neil Diamond’s new song Cracklin’ Rosie came on the radio and she sang along “Cracklin’ Rosie peed on board…” and we all burst out laughing…she was only slightly embarrassed!
When my brother was little, he was convinced that Burt Ives was singing “Frosty the Snowman with a child up his nose” (instead of “was a jolly happy soul). I still laugh when I hear that old song!
Jeannie Gray says
Ooh! I LOVE misquoted song lyric stories. I dated a few musicians back in the day & one of the bands had a few songs they purposely sang wrong. They sang Sick Mouse instead of Brick House (I’m showing my age here!) And Grand Funk’s American Band was sung…. “We’re coming to your town, we’ll slap your daddy around…” To this day, I can not sing the proper lyrics.
My 2 or 3 year son old swore it was I Shot the Geriff (not the sheriff.) We asked him what a geriff was & he replied that he didn’t know but it got shot! Cracked me up. Also made me worry about his hearing abilities. 🙂
The same son, many years later made me listen to Slip Knot so much that I began listening to it on my own. I’d bet my life that in the song Liberate they are singing “ripe bananas” not “liberate my madness.” I had it playing on my i-pod at work one day & I was accidentally singing along, out loud. All the kids (I work with mostly 18 – 22 year olds) laughed so hard when they heard me singing ripe bananas. They still tease me about it but they’re also impressed that an ‘old lady’ is listening to Slip Knot. 🙂
We sang a song in church with the line, “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” My sister thought it was ” this little eye of mine…” We still laugh about it 40 years later!
I love hearing all the misheard lyrics.
I had a friend in college who was the queen of them. My favorite of hers is the Robert Palmer song: I’ve got a bad case of loving you. She always sang as: I’ve got a backache from loving you.
Cracked us up every time.
I always get all the lyrics right. Always.
What a fun post, Carole! My favorite lyric malapropism is from my mom – Johnny Mathis’ Winter Wonderland is still one of her (and my) favorite holiday songs. and now she knows it’s “conspire by the fire” instead of “perspire by the fire”. Her original version certainly makes sense, but the real lyrics are definitely a lot more romantic!
One of our family legends is that when I was three years old, I told my mom after church one day that I really liked it when they sang the “cookie song.” It took a while for my mom to figure our that I was talking about “Gloria in excelsis Deo” — I thought they were singing “Oreo” instead of “Gloria.”
Love the post! My daughter Gracie had her headphones on listening to the Monkees, “I’m a Believer.” We’re on a road trip and we hear our four year old belting out, “Then I saw her face! Now I’m gonna leave her!” So much fun to find out all the lyrics we’ve rewritten!
christi in ma says
mine is from Toto’s Africa
for 20+ years I’ve been singing “there’s nothing that 100 men on Mars could ever do-ooooooo”
this is a fun post with great comments!!
There is a name for this phenomenon: mondegreen. (It took me awhile to remember the term.)
Lydia S says
Oh gosh I could talk about this ALL DAY, and thank you for the laugh! I have a great app called Shazam which picks up whatever song is playing and gives you all the details, including the lyrics. PJ was also 2 when the Lion King came out- we were ALL about the Lion King- bath robe, house shoes, toys, bed sheets etc. It really had a great sound track.