I love singing. I always have and am fairly certain I always will. I had the pleasure of singing in my school (for the Queen, no less) as well as playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and various other scary performing challenges in my youth.
These days, my singing is carefully restricted to the privacy of my car or house; generally when I’m completely alone. On occasion, when cleaning at home, I will make Les suffer through my singing until he finally loses the will to live and retreats to his shed for a bit of peace and quiet. And a break from listening to Miranda Lambert…again.
Despite my love of music and my insistence on singing wherever I go, I am aware that there are many, many song lyrics I tend to bumble through during riotous versions of some country classics because I don’t actually know what the proper words are. And these are not just songs that are new to me. I can go for years not knowing the exact wording of a verse or chorus without ever finding time to work out what the person is really trying to say. Until now.
|How I think I look in my car.|
During my recent Tuscany trip, I spent an evening sitting on the deck with Les, drinking wine and laughing maniacally as I Googled the words to some of the tunes I listen to on a regular basis; finally working out what I *should* have been chanting all this time. Some of them were pretty close and others, well…not so much.
There are many instances of where I’ve simply gotten a single word mixed up due to the accent of the artist (normally country musicians from the South of the States) and I can understand how I go wrong there without any issue.
For example, Miranda Lambert sings, in Hurts to Think, about ‘looking for affection at the bottom of a bottle again’. *I* thought she was singing about looking for affection at the bottom of a bottle of Gin and, latterly, at the bottom of a bottle of Jim (as in Jim Beam). Although I got the wording wrong, I was in the right ball park and the song, at least, still made perfect sense. It makes no difference WHAT she was drinking; just that she was drinking SOMETHING.
|What I thought Miranda had been singing about all this time.|
In ‘State Lines’ by British country duo, The Shires, the line *I* sing is: ‘When you roll your eyes da da….cornucopia…da da Mason Dixon line’. As it turns out, what *they* sing is: ‘When you roll your eyes like a COOL NEW YORKER, driving across the Mason Dixon line’ And this makes SO much more sense in a song about different states and driving and stuff.
The whole ‘cornucopia’ thing was, quite frankly, mental. It is a vastly under utilised word in modern song writing, though.
One of my favourite lyrics from when I was younger and tended to listen to Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and various others, was from the Hendrix classic, Purple Haze. Where Jimi sings ‘excuse me while I kiss the sky’, me (and countless others) would sing ‘excuse me while I kiss this GUY’. I was happy to live in a time where one of my heroes, who I assumed was straight, was kissing men and then recounting the experience in his songs. More power to him, I thought, but alas, no. I still think my line is better and so I’ve refused to change it.
|'excuse me while I kiss this guy...' You know...or not.|
My fondest recollection of a family member making a similar mistake was when my young cousin, Colin, would sing his favourite Christmas carol; ‘Away In A Manger’. Instead of the line ‘no crib for his bed’, oor wee Colin would sing ‘no crisps for his bread’. I thought it was extremely sweet that he was so concerned about Jesus’ dietary requirements. I mean, who the Hell wants to live in a world without crisps? Not me, that’s for sure.
Leslie has a few unique misheard lyrics of his own, but his are not quite as tame as mine. In the Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton duet ‘The Long Run’, the chorus starts; ‘we’re just too selfish, I guess…’ It absolutely does NOT go: ‘We’re just two silver sha**ers’, which is what Les tends to sing.
I now find it impossible to hear to the song without thinking of that line. I’d always sung the right words before, but it is amazing how well the alternative line fits and how hard it is to listen to the song now without thinking of the couple as some sort of sex crazed oldies.
Although I generally put my misheard song lyric ability down to the difference between my accent and the singer of the song, one of my longest running wrongly worded tracks is by Scottish band, Hue and Cry. Basically, I have no excuse here as their accents are exactly the same as mine. I’ve been listening to the band for the best part of 20 years and only rectified the song lyrics to one of their biggest hits a few weeks ago. It’s amazing to finally know what Pat Kane’s been on about all these years. The words in my own version of the song aren’t even actual words. Not in English, anyway. Klingon, maybe…
Actual Version: You said, you recall about seven years ago now. You said that you were so tough. And I loved it, oooh. Loved you for putting me down in a totally new way. Down with the bad old, sad old days. Get away now.
Gonna withdraw my labour of love. Gonna strike for the right to get into your heart. Gonna withdraw my labour of love. Gonna strike for the right to get into your cold heart. Ain’t gonna work for you no more…’
Suz’s Version: ‘You said, da da da da da da da da da da. You said that you were so tough. Now loving, oooh, loving a putting you down in a (indecipherable word) new way. Down West, that old, sad old days. Get away now.
Hip Hop, my labour of love. Gonna fight for the right to get into your heart. Hip hop, my labour of love. Gonna fight for the right to get into your cold heart. Ain’t gonna work for you no more.
And this is why I don’t write songs. It’s hard to believe it’s taken nearly two decades to research the correct words but, what can I say, I’ve been busy. It really does make so much more sense now as I was always a touch confused about the whole hip hop reference in the song.
One of my favourite albums at the moment is Pageant Material by American country star, Kacey Musgraves. In her song ‘Dime Store Cowgirl’, she recounts a list of things she’s done and places she’s been, before telling us that, despite all her achievements, she’ll always be a country girl.
In the first line, she sings ‘I had my picture made with Willie Nelson. Stayed in a hotel with a Pope’. The first few times I listened, I was so impressed. I mean, getting your picture taken with a legend like Willie Nelson is one thing, but staying in a hotel with the Pope? Well, that’s just another level.
As it transpires, Kacey hasn’t spent the night with the Pope at all. Well, not that she’s telling us about, anyway. What she *has* done is stayed in a hotel with a POOL. And that’s not nearly as exciting, is it? However, at least Frances is unlikely to be stripped of his Pope clothes now (I’m sure those are a thing) or inundated with angry calls to the Vatican Hotline (also a thing) from mortified Catholics demanding to know why he’s been spending time with a young musician in some dodgy motel in Arkansas.
I also often struggle with American artists (Beyoncé springs instantly to mind) as there are words in some tracks that I honestly don’t know. Twirling on them haters is not something I was previously familiar with; nor was anything do to with slaying that didn’t involve dragons (I live in Wales). I’m pleased to say I am now fully up to speed on these new terms and it’s been very educational. I’m trying to include the new words in my every day speech.
I listen to a LOT of country music, so most of my song lyrics include lines about getting drunk on Tequila or beer; having your heart broken or driving along dirt roads in big trucks. Phrases such as ‘that’s all she wrote’ was alien to me as a way of saying someone was done with something, and the fact that ‘tick tock’ seems to be a popular country way to refer to the time, so I’ve gradually got to grips with these. References to brands, such as PBR, Dos Equiis, and host of others, have had to be googled.
I’m sure if I was a popular singer/songwriter, Americans would have some issue with my turns of phrases, such as ‘I’m off tae the pub’ (I am now departing for the public house); that glass o’ wine’s muckle’ (that’s a rather large glass of wine), or ‘lookit how peely wally I am’ (I don’t have much of a tan, do I?). As the saying goes, we’re divided by the same language. Also: how terrible would my songs be?
Anyway, rather than pointing out how incredible stupid I am (which I believe I’ve achieved with some aplomb), I was more amused at how I manage to go for so many years not knowing what I’m singing and without my favourite tracks making any sense. Now that I’ve started to remedy this, I’m enjoying my car singing so much more. I am now singing the previously missing lines much louder than the other ones and frightening other drivers as they pull up next to me at traffic lights.
What are your favourite misheard lyrics?
*That’s a *touch* dramatic, but I do think about it every time I listen.