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Published: Sunday, 8/26/2007

Misheard lyrics bring hoots of laughter from friends

BY L.A. JOHNSON
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Fayme Reinhart first heard her husband utter the woman s name when they were newlyweds, back in 1982.

The only girl I ever loved is Donna Wayne/ Looking for a brand-new start, he sang.

What did you say? she asked.

He repeated the line.

I can t believe you said Donna Wayne, said Ms. Reinhart, 48, of Richland, Pa.

She broke into uproarious laughter and kindly told him: The lyric is The only girl I ve ever loved has gone away/ Looking for a brand-new start.

Then and only then did Tom Reinhart, 54, realize he had been singing Rhythm of the Rain wrong all of his life, but even today he jokes with his wife, I ll always love Donna!

I ve never let him live it down, she says.

The aurally challenged not only walk and sing among us, they are us. Cotton swabs and earwax removal systems won t help. Misheard lyrics afflict us all.

As a 13-year-old at summer camp, Justin Luzar remembers hearing a friend sing Strong man s oatmeal instead of Stroke me/ Stroke me, to Billy Squier s The Stroke.

We all looked at each other like, Did he just say what I think he said? and then simultaneously busted out laughing, says Mr. Luzar, 38, of Scott Township, Pa. We then mocked him mercilessly for the rest of the summer.

Poor enunciation, unfamiliar or foreign words, and utter inanity are reasons some song lyrics perplex so many, says Gavin Edwards, a Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor who has compiled four books of misheard lyrics, Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy and Other Misheard Lyrics, He s Got the Whole World in His Pants and More Misheard Lyrics, When a Man Loves a Walnut and Even More Misheard Lyrics, and Deck the Halls With Buddy Holly and Other Misheard Christmas Lyrics.

I don t think today s lyrics are more confusing [than those of previous eras], but I think enunciation has gotten much worse among rock singers, he says. I think many but not all rappers have crisper diction, so maybe the trend is heading the other way.

When two prime-time TV game shows aired this summer, NBC s The Singing Bee and Fox s Don t Forget the Lyrics song lovers could turn their song lyric knowledge into prize money.

I think it shows that song lyrics are our lingua franca, even when we don t know what the singer s saying, says Edwards, whose most recent book is, Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton s Little John?: Music s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed.

Sylvia Wright coined the term for misheard lyrics mondegreens in a 1954 Atlantic magazine article. As a girl, Ms. Wright thought the lyrics to a folk song were They had slain the Earl of Moray/ And Lady Mondegreen. The correct lyrics are They had slain the Earl of Moray/ And laid him on the green, Edwards explained in one of his books.

One day as a kid in the early 70s, Richard Borden found his basketball practice was going to prevent him from hearing the weekly radio music countdown list. So, he asked his mother to listen to the radio and write down the song that reached No. 1 on the singles chart.

When he got home, he found a notepad upon which his mother had written, Ain t No Mountain Hyena, instead of Ain t No Mountain High Enough.

Still makes me smile when I hear that song and sing, Ain t No Mountain Hyena, to it, says Mr. Borden, 45, of Cranberry Township, Pa.

In another inaudible tale from the 1970s, Patty Iriana recalled playing a Pictionary-type game on the blackboard in algebra class.

A classmate drew a picture of a ghost talking on a telephone.

When nobody could guess what the answer might be, and thinking he stumped us, he revealed the answer to be Death I Hear You Calling by Kiss, says Ms. Iriana, 44, of Forest Hills. We just laughed.

It s Beth I Hear You Calling.

Like many who crooned to the Young Rascals Groovin , Debbie Meyers, 49, of Pittsburgh, thought the lyrics spoke of some fantastical trio in which, Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie instead of the correct Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly.

Mocking laughter and chortling at one s friends and loved ones is a recurring theme with misheard lyric stories.

At the tender age of 4, Jessica Tacka loved to sing along with the radio, especially to Sade s Smooth Operator. However, she thought the words were Oola gorilla/ oola gorilla instead of smooth operator/ smooth operator.

We got a laugh out of it so we never bothered to correct her, says her mother, Denise Tacka, 53. Instead, it s one of those embarrassing family stories we love to re-tell, to which a now [24-year-old] Jessica exclaims in exasperation, I was only 4!

Certain, special songwriters consistently manage to confuse almost everyone who has ever heard their songs. Multiple readers submitted these misheard lyrics. Exactly why the song titles didn t provide lyrical clues remains a mystery.

There s a bathroom on the right, instead of There s a bad moon on the rise from Creedence Clearwater Revival s Bad Moon Rising.

How s about a date? instead of Eyes Without a Face from Billy Idol s song of the same name.

Bald-headed woman, instead of More Than a Woman from The Bee Gees song of the same name.

I ll never leave your pizza burnin instead of I ll never be your beast of burden from the Rolling Stones Beast of Burden.

Dirty Deeds, Thunderchief and Dirty Deeds in the Thunder Jeep instead of the correct Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap from the AC/DC song of the same name.

No discussion of misheard lyrics could be complete without mention of Elton John.

He and his long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin could have a platinum-plated shrine in the Misheard Lyrics Hall of Fame for all the weird and wonderful lyrics they ve confounded the world with lo these many years.

There are too many lines in too many songs to name them all, but some of their songs with some of the most misheard lyrics on the planet include Bennie and The Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Philadelphia Freedom, and Rocket Man.

With all the Internet lyric Web sites, people can learn the right lyrics to almost any song, but many don t. And many continue to sing the wrong lyrics even after they ve learned the right words.

People got lyrics wrong even when they owned albums that had lyrics sheets, which is as it should be, Edwards says. If you like your own mishearing better, I think you should stick with it: It makes the song your own.

For more misheard lyrics, go to www.kissthisguy.com. To find song lyrics, go to www.lyricsdepot.com or www.lyricsdownload.com. To hear song snippets: www.allmusic.com.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. L.A. Johnson is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact her at: ljohnson@post-gazette.com.



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