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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh! "...And laid 'im on the green", right!

---I've been thinking more and more about Mondegreens lately; these being frequently and commonly misheard song lyrics. George knows the lyric that, misheard, gave the phenomenon its name, and I'll let him tell it...

A discussion on Pajiba a month or so ago brought back a lot of good ones, albeit without use of the term 'mondegreen':
"Slow Motion Walter, the fire engine guy" for "Smoke on the water, and fire in the sky",
"How's about a date?" for "Eyes without a face", &
"Dirty deeds and the Thunder Chief" for "Dirty deeds, and they're done dirt cheap".

And my own arsenal includes:
"You pay for taxis, the beer on the shore..." for "Newspaper taxis appear on the shore", from The Beatles' 'Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds', one of the few cases I've seen where the Mondegreen makes more sense than the actual lyric.

"Lovin' would be easy if you cannibalize my dreams" for "Lovin' would be easy if your colors were like my dreams" from Culture Club's 'Karma Chameleon'. I'd say in terms of meaning value, that's a tie.

"Dooo the calcu-lator!" for "Dude looks like a Lady", song of same name, Aerosmith. I thought it was a hot new dance craze, The Calculator. I wonder what that would look like.

I believe it was also George who misheard Falco's eternal "Rock me, Amadeus" as "Armadillos on the bus", and The Who's "Eminence front" as "Livin' in funk".

I bring it up at least partially because the business of finding a decent transcription of song lyrics online can be annoying/puzzling/impossible. I myself dig the hell out of songmeanings.net largely because it looks to me like these are only what the average fan thought they heard, and is no more an authoritative guide than anything else. Then, sober discussion of these lyrics is engaged by the fans.

Case in point: the lyrics to "Symptom of the Universe" from Black Sabbath's 'Sabotage' were submitted by someone named 'icy fire', and calls that first difficult line of the second verse exactly as I heard it in junior high:
" Mother mooch is calling me back to her silver womb..."
While I'm pretty damn sure that ain't it. Then again, what else could it be?

Well, commenter 'tasteofanthrax' sez:
"its obviously a love song of sorts, but some parts of it make no sense whatsoever. Also, the actual lyrics are "mother moon she's calling me..." not "mother mooch is calling me...."

Whereas 'killspy' thinks it's about birth, and does a couple of interesting contortions to get the more or less nonsensical lyrics to sync up with this:
"Seventh night...unicorn waiting in the skies.." Maybe one of those motorized carousel things hanging above cribs..I don't know."

I personally thought that the line was "seven thousand unicorn is waiting in the skies", which is even better for its crap grammar. Or was it "several" thousand head of unicorn? However many it takes, I guess.

The more commonly heard the song, the more multiplicitous the mondegreens. Steve Miller will probably never truly go away, perhaps if only due to a presence in advertising. His music is so simple, and his lyrics rarely diverge from that (although when he does, the results are hilarious: i.e. "grow the tree of wholeness in this desert laa-and..."), it makes a perfect match for pretty much any commercial.

However, whichever (one) airline company emerges from this era of cascade failure and endless mergers will still have trouble using "Big Jet Airliner" by Steve because it either sounds like someone's infantile recollections:
"big ole jet had a light on..."

Or something more sinister, in its obscurity:
"Leo, Chad and Delilah, don't carry me too far away..."

Matter o' fact, one of the better of Mr. Miller's mondegreens is from one of the places where he's trying to be Heavy. This is from "Fly Like An Eagle"
"Feed the babies
Who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin' in the street
Oh, oh, there's a solution...
"

And, yes of course it sounds like he says, "shoot the children with no shoes on their feet" in there. And I've always liked to dance around, waving my hands in the air impotently as Steve is forced to concede that while there might be a solution, he can't be called upon to say exactly what it might be.

There's a number of bands who are willfully obscure, like the Cocteau Twins, who may very well have been saying, "If there's Pepsi involved, Sugar Hiccup...Makes Joe Albertson tremble..."
And Broken Social Scene, who I think genuinely said, "But we gotta menstruate in disguise..."

(Actually, go check out what songmeanings has to say on the subject of the Cocteau Twins. It's hilarious, and none of it makes any sense, again because it's clear that all you're getting is what somebody thought they heard.)


Finally, there is the class of lyric where you know damn well what they're saying, you just know it would be funnier if...
"All of my love" became "all of my drugs", and
"I can't help falling in love with you" became "I can't help falling in love with Jews".

There's another one of those. I forget, right now, what it is. Anyway, discuss.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

In somewhat related non-sequiters...back when I was a line cook, I'd sing Aerosmith's 'Sweeeeeet Emuuuuuuuuuuhltion' when making a batch of sweet emulsion...and also 'Ch-ch-ch-chive talkin'...' when working with the aforementioned herb.
(I really am the star of my own show...)

9:04 AM  
Blogger George Popham said...

"They killed the duke of Mornay and Lady Mondegreen" was apparently a famous mis-hearing of some folk song that was supposed to go, "They killed the Duke of Mornay and laid 'im on the green."

My big favorite is "Cinnamon gum!" Instead of "Should'a been gone!" in the beginning of the crapulous song "Oh, Sherry" by Steve Perry. I still laugh out loud when the song plays in a 7-11 or something...

9:35 PM  
Blogger George Popham said...

oh, and don't forget "Bingo, Jed and Lionel" in place of "big ole'jet airliner.

Some Elton John songs I experience almost totally in Mondegreens. "Good bye yellow brick road, where the Dachau society growls, you can-can me to the penthouse I'm goin' back in my gown"

6:46 AM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

I was just looking under Cocteau Twins on songmeanings, again. I can't express how fucking funny that is: it's like a damned Mondegreen Generator.

I was specifically trying to find out what the line that sounds like "So many stars got communes..." actually is, and found something equally absurd: "So many stars take care of me".

On the few occasions where someone posts a comment, they're all about how clearly none of the lyrics are even close to being valid, and how Elizabeth Fraser rarely sings in understandable words at all...

So where was someone getting:
"Ebapheronia nella viefiolla befasonabra
Tiekeria-epepia tella phylonistesotna..." (which sounds like Lorem Ipsum, if you ask me) and

"Back you up
How messed I am
Back you up
I consider"
or

"Jesus Jenny Gemini
Has all of it criss-crossed
High electron power failing
Hit by degree"

And those are just the beginning.

10:49 AM  
Blogger dmarks said...

This one has made me laugh since I first heard the song:

"You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille...

With 400 children, and a crop in the field..."

5:43 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Absolutely. I thought that was what it said, too.

5:45 PM  

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