The one thing about technology today is you don’t have to lean into the transistor radio to understand lyrics of your favorite songs.
Nowadays, the lyrics of nearly every major song from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are online, and decades later, I’m shocked by what the real words are.
It can’t be as bad as a lot of today’s new music, offering lurid details about sex and murder. For many of today’s songs, it’s better to get the lyrics wrong.
It’s been a rude awakening for me as social media technology displays the real lyrics. The words just don’t match what I thought they were as I’m singing in my car driving down Harlem Avenue. (Yes, you may have seen me and thousands of other baby boomers driving with songs blaring loudly, our heads bopping like we’ve gone off the deep end).
Was I that whacked out when I heard them the first time? Or do rock singers from my generation mumble a lot?
Here are some of my favorite lyric screw-ups:
In the first verse of the Grass Roots song “Midnight Confessions,” I was always singing “your soft tail macutcheon; babe; brings out a need in me nobody hears, except …”
What’s a “soft tail macutcheon”? I don’t even know how to spell it. But that’s what I’ve been singing for 44 years. The real lyrics are: “Your soft gentle motion babe; brings out a need in me that nobody hears, except…”
Of course, if my mom could understand those words, she might not have let me buy that transistor radio with the little plastic earphones, for $5.
Even when the lyrics are the names of the songs, I couldn’t get them right. Like the 1969 song by the Sir Douglas Quintet which starts out: “Well, she was walking down the street, looking as fine as she could be.”
And then the chorus comes in “Shinabouwamover. Shinabouwamover.”
The real lyrics are “She’s About a Mover,” which makes even less sense.
Even the Christmas songs are like that. I wished I had a relative named “Majoula” who was very generous in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Maybe she’d give me a turtle that could fly? Of course, it was “My true love gave to me,” not “Majoula gave to me, two turtle doves …”
One of the most famous is Manfred Mann’s 1977 song singing “Blinded By the Light,” a Bruce Springsteen re-do, with the garbled lyrics, “wrapped up like a duzin in the rubber of the night.”
What the heck does that mean? It makes more sense than the actual lyrics, “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.”
No wonder our parents thought we were all on drugs.
Email me your favorite lyric screw-ups, and if they are PG, I’ll run a few.
Off the Grapevine
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