June 06, 2008

Take Me To The Closet, Bub

If you listen to music while you run (or any other time, but let's pretend this is a fitness post) you have probably encountered this phenomenon:

The song lyrics are difficult to hear, and sometimes the words you "hear" in fact sound quite silly. But you rack your brain for alternatives and it still really sounds like those are the actual words! Later you discover what the real lyrics are, and of course your goofy version was totally wrong.

Cranky Fitness does not pretend to be the first to discover the humor in "mondegreens," or misheard song lyrics. Google the phrase and you will find bazillions of hilarious examples.

However, does anyone else find it irritating that most of these collections are based on the premise that the listener actually thought the silly lyrics were the real ones?

Isn't it funny enough that the Creedence Clearwater lyrics "There's a Bad Moon on the Rise" sound so much like "There's a Bathroom on the Right" that you could almost swear that's what they were singing? Do sensible adults really have to pretend that they believed a song that hit Number 2 on the Billboard charts was written about the location of a restroom facility?

Or that Jimmy Hendrix was asking his listeners, back in 1966, to "Excuse me while I kiss this guy?"

Seems more likely that people heard funny words and thought: "Doesn't it almost kinda sound like they're saying ______? Wouldn't it be funny if those were the actual lyrics?" Yet it remains a tradition that we act as though we once were certain the goofy lyrics were authentic.

(So I'll concede the "when I was seven years old I thought..." sort of stories are a lot more credible. I thought lots of silly things myself when I was a kid. But even some of these sound a little fake sometimes).

But let's put aside the question of whether these mishearings are truly misunderstandings. Some of the collections you come across from various sources (like here or here) really are quite amusing.

For example, do you remember any of these classic lyrics?

Madonna's: "Like a virgin, touched for the thirty-first time."
(very first time);

Eurythmics: "It’s all right, babies come in bags"
(Baby's comin' back);

Robert Palmer's: "Might as well face it you're a dick with a glove"
(addicted to love);

Cher's: "Gypsies, Chimpanzees"
(Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves);

Maria Muldaur's: "Midnight after you're wasted"
(Midnight At the Oasis);

Joni Mitchell's : "A gay pair of guys put up a parking lot"
(They paved paradise and put up a parking lot);

Or the Eagle's : "I'm looking for a lover who won't blow my brother, she's so hard to find."
(my cover, not brother)

(Note: the "corrected" lyrics in parentheses may not be entirely right either, as I didn't bother to look 'em all up).

Alas, an effort to turn this into a more intellectual scholarly discussion of misheard song lyrics turned up nothing the least bit researchy. Well, except this totally incomprehensible study. (Seriously, I have no idea what the hell that was supposed to be about).

So what are some of my mishearings? Unfortunately, most of mine aren't that funny, or else they are entirely too common. For example, the Bee-Gees song "Bald-headed woman" came on at the gym the other day, but tons of us hear it that way, not as "More than a woman." Likewise, I'm not the only one who hears the Savage Garden tune "I Want You" as referencing a poultry-flavored soft drink, Chicken-Cherry Cola. I couldn't even figure out what the heck the real lyrics were.

I do have a tune on my iPod in which a woman enthusiastically implores her man to "Take Me To The Closet, Bub." However, she doesn't sound nearly sultry enough to be suggesting a furtive sexual encounter surrounded by coats and umbrellas, so I suspected those weren't the real lyrics. Yet even trying really hard to make sense of the words, it took weeks to finally hear them as "Take Me to The Clouds Above."

And there's a line in a song called "Poison" in which the singer is talking about how tempting having sex with her lover is:

"Your mouth, so hot; your ware, uncut;
"Your skin, so wet; black lace, on sweat"

I guessed I was probably hearing that wrong--would she really comment on the fact that her boyfriend had an uncircumcised penis? And would she use the rather old-fashioned sounding "ware" as a euphemism? But it kept sounding like that's exactly what she was saying. I finally had to look it up online to find out that "your ware, uncut," was actually "your web, I'm caught."

Dang, I shouldn't have looked. I liked the uncircumcised version better.

So obviously I'm not very good at funny mishearings--I'm hoping you all can do much better--either ones you misheard yourselves, or other funny ones you've come across.

In the meantime, here's an amusing video, and you don't even have to like Pearl Jam to enjoy it.


  1. "your ware, uncut," was actually "your web, I'm caught."
    COMEDY GOLD, Crab. I could never top that and, much to my chagrin, most of the music up in herre lately hath lyrics like:

    Please dont bite your friends! please dont bite your friends.

    and there's no mistaking those lyrics for anything funny (please dont FIGHT your friends? Im sure that's a Yo Gabba song which is coming...

    (Oh that I were kidding)


  2. I listen to The Crystal Method on my iPod and the other day I was singing it as I hear it: "Get Busy Time!" My husband busted out laughing and said it's supposed to be "Get Busy Child!" So now whenever he wants me to hurry up with chores etc. he'll say "Get Busy Time!"

  3. Mizfit, I bet kids music is even funnier though, when the accidental mishearings result in dirty lyrics (which they so often do). Maybe you don't have a dirty enough mind!

    And Colleen, I heard it that way too! It really does sound more like Get Busy Time.

  4. I consistently mishear the lyrics of Bananarama's Venus (I'm your Venus) as 'I'm your penis'.

    One of my sister's friends swore the lyrics to Jefferson Starship's We Built This City (on Rock n' Roll) were actually 'milk and cereal on bowling balls.' Yeah, she was a weird one.

  5. Sheesh, things don't even have to be set to music for me to mis-hear them...
    Just goes to show how important those enunciation lessons really are!! ("cause it damned sure can't be my hearing!!)

  6. LOL! Crabby, I think the worst part is that the song is actually called "Busy Child" - you would think I would have noticed but I rarely pay attention to that stuff! Too funny - I'm glad you heard it that way too! :)

  7. I was convinced that "Oh, Heather honey" was "Go tell a duckie." (Hit in summer of 1969. I'm too lazy to look up the artist.)

    I mishear lyrics all the time. Normal speech, too. I walked though a department store and heard a radio station advertise a contest where the prizes included one of 10 Air Canada trips to the neutral zone. I was sorry I couldn't find the contest to enter.

  8. Go Tell a Duckie sounds like it would make a great song, Leah, especially since you were still a kid in '69.

    And I want a free trip to the Neutral Zone too! (I wonder what they were really saying?)

  9. Whoops, my earlier comment didn't get posted.

    Xenia, those are great ones! And bag lady, I "hear" ya on the fact that no one enunciates, 'cause it couldn't be that we're getting older.

  10. The first time I listened to Blackmore's Night's 'Ghost of a Rose'

    I misheard the words

    "The valley green"


    "The phallic dream"

    Freud would have had a field day...

  11. OH I do this all the time! Except I usually hear cleaner lyrics first and then am appalled when the dirtier version makes it way to my conscious. But by then I'm too attached to the song to give it up so I just sing along and mumble the bad parts. The worst example is a Pitbull song that's popular now - half's in Spanish & half's in English - and I was singing along to the Spanish part with this "you are one cool mango." Anyone who knows Spanish will now fall off their chair laughing. The rest of you will have to google it (Pitbull - Gangsta) and then fall off your chairs. But be warned, the tune's pretty catchy:)

  12. That's why I like listening to opera in the original language--in Italian or French I can understand an average of one word in ten; English translation only gets me about two words in ten.
    The song from (the sixties? the seventies?) "I shot the sheriff" still sounds like "I shocked Sherry, but I did not [mumble mumble]-y" even now that someone finally told me what it says. I heard about this song "I shot the sheriff" for years without knowing I'd ever heard it.
    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  13. "Blinded by the light, revved up like a douche bag of a Roman in the night".

    I've looked up the real words several times, but I can never remember or understand what the hell they're saying.

  14. Funny, funny! The video had me laughing, especially when he sang, "Make me fries!"

    I don't have any exciting misheard lyrics to share; I'm so upset. The latest incorrect lyrics that I sang were "do-ah love" in place of "good love." It's more fun to sing it my way. :)

  15. Okay, I had to comment again...my husband and I first met when we were working in a music store and I completely forgot about this until now. We often had people come in and sing music and ask us to figure out what it was. One guy came in and said I'm looking for the song "Snap my Pic-ture!" and he kept singing it...then we realized he was asking for "Slap my B**** Up!" He turned really red when we found it for him! But he totally still bought it.

  16. What happened to the Fitness part of Cranky Fitness?

  17. @charlotte - BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Ten cuidado con el fuego!!!!

    love it!

  18. The video is hilarious.. much like Benny Lava was. I totally cracked up with weak, mumbly "I don't know all the words... yet"

    Thanks for the laughs.. everyone!

    Next Cranky Fitness recipe?: Baking carrot biscuits.. every day. (BTO - taking care of business)

  19. The Monkees did a reunion album in the 90s and one of the songs on this album was about an unethical journalist who caused someone to commit suicide, and one of the lyrics was "Your copy kills, your copy smells".

    Many Monkee fans, including me and my sisters, consistently misheard every instance of "copy" in that song as "coffee". We used to call it "the killer coffee song".

  20. Half my family lives in Ireland and we talk on the phone a lot, so I can understand most songs (when I was little, they'd say something to me, and I'd have no idea what they meant due to differences in slang, accent, and rate of speech).

    Although the Bloodhound Gang's "Bad Touch" confused me, mainly because I was too naive to "get" the dirty references so I assumed I misheard them.

  21. OMG!! That was hilarious because it is soooo true! You know the Enrique Iglesias song, "Bailamos",
    well I always heard:

    "By the Balls-let the rhythm take you over by the balls"

    instead of:
    "Bailamos - let the rhythm take you over Bailamos"
    (Bailamos means dance in spanish)

    LOL!! And my hubby & I have an ongoing debate on the Boy George song, Karma Cameleon. I always that he said:
    "Come, come, come Comedian" like he's calling over a comedian or something.

    And if it wasn't for your post I would have never figured out its Karma Cameleon (hey...I didn't know the title, OK)

  22. You, and many of your readers, have very twisted (to say nothing of sisters) minds, Crabby McSlacker!

    Dr. J

  23. Crabby, you are a riot. I'm sitting here chortling at my desk when I should be working.

    One of my all-time favorites is a friend who thought the Village People's In the Navy was actually, "Hand grenade me."

  24. These are all too funny!

    I'm still giggling over "Snap my picture" and "let the rhythm take you by the balls" and "your coffee smells" and a bunch of the other ones.

    And coincidentally, whenever I hear the Village People I'm also thinking something along the lines of "hand grenade me!" (I never did acquire a taste for their music).

  25. Great video :)

    Sometimes the incomprehensible nature of the lyrics makes them famous.
    Like Weird Al Jankovic's parody of that Nirvana song, Smells like Team Spirit.

    What is this song all about?
    Can't figure any lyrics out
    How do the words to it go?
    I wish you'd tell me, I don't know

  26. "Wake me up and pour me cocoa" ("Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham) from a friend.

    "Through the years, I'm kept just standin' here. My place has fire drills. Y'know I'm cryin' boo-hoo hoo hoo hoo." (Me, listening to "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. I still have no idea what the real lyrics are.)

    And, my favorite, from my dad: "Bright golden curls stolen from a cheap Israeli." ("White gold and pearl, stolen from the sea, she is raging." U2, "Running to Stand Still.")

    On the radio they were talking about getting guns off the streets, and I thought they said getting NUNS off the streets! I pictured a group of nuns in full habits roaming the city streets, rapping the knuckles of innocent passerby with rulers.

  27. Oh,and Naomi? It's "Wrapped up like a deuce, another runner in the night."

    I have no idea what it means,lol!

  28. That video is funny. So many songs are like that! Half the time I'm singing the wrong lyrics without realizing it. But, its usually the wrong lyrics which are so much more creative:)

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. Naomi and Azusmom, as it was explained to me, a Deuce is an old hot rod. The lyric is actually "REVVED up like a Deuce" Hope that helps.. sorta. ;)

  31. I have a different problem with this. I was raised speaking French, so to be fully honest I had little or no idea what the lyrics were to all the US/UK music I listened to.
    Well, now I do speak English, and every so often, a song comes on that used to be on my teenage playlist, and lo and behold, the lyrics are:

    -A- lame
    -B- filthy
    -C- both

    Pretty embarassing the sutff I use to listen to...

  32. For the Blues Traveler song Hook, I used to think the lyrics were "The heart brings you back" and I liked the song a lot. Well, come to find out it's "the hook brings you back" and the other lyrics are "it doesn't matter what I say as long as I say it with inflection" - and it's all about it doesn't matter what the lyrics to the song are because people aren't going to care (or understand) anyway. And here I was thinking it was a romantic song. Hah!

  33. Weird Al cracks me up, Merry. And because he's all about the lyrics, you can actually understand what he says!

    And I love the "cocoa" version of that song Azusmom, because the "go, go" thing was just SO lame! Wake me up before you go go???? (And love the idea of Nuns roaming the streets with rulers.)

    Thank you Hilary, I've never understood that steve miller song. (But now you've got me wanting carrot biscuits).

    Alice--I've got a lot of non-English music on my playlist for exactly that reason. If I can't understand the words I assume they're a lot classier than they probably are.

    And Leth, that's pretty ironic!

  34. Humorist Dave Barry put out a whole book on this subject back in 2000 called:
    Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs

  35. When I was little (no, really!) I was sure the Eurythmics line, "Sweet dreams are made of these," was actually "Sweet dreams are made of cheese." Even then, it struck me as odd, but since the next line was "Who am I to disagree?" I figured the cheese was some weird artistic reference I just didn't get (and wasn't supposed to disagree with, because hey - the song said so, right?).

  36. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a huge Weird Al fan; I've even seen him in concert! Many times I've heard his parodies before hearing the original songs, and I think his versions are much better. (Check out All About the Pentiums, his parody of All About the Benjamins, which I had never heard prior to that.)

  37. My pot was just eaten...WTF??
    Sorry for a repeat if the other does show up...

    I mishear things all the time...From the radio, tv, those talking to me, everywhere...Sometimes it is embarassing, sometimes it is hilarious!!

    My biggest lyric mistake cracks me up because it is my favorite song ever and my dad is a cop. It's from The Eagles, "The warning sound of police men rising up through the air." when in reality they are, "The warm smell of colitas rising up through the air."
    Ahhhh, the worries that it gives me listening to them drive and get high at the same time...

  38. The only one I can think of right now is an old Christmas carol. I heard "Later on we'll perspire as we dream by the fire" It is actually "conspire". I think I like my version better though.

  39. kenny rogers: 400 children dropped dead in the field...you picked a fine time to leave me, lucille.
    "...400 children AND A CROP IN THE FIELD..."

  40. OK, I thought it was "Revved up like a Deuce" because I know what a Deuce is, and that made sense! Remember Little Deuce Coupe by the Beach Boys?

    But I was totally shocked about 20 years ago when I found out that Bruce Springsteen wrote the song, until I looked at the liner notes I thought he was covering Mannfred Mann, which seemed really odd, The Boss really doesn't do covers so much.

    I could never understand though when there is a relevant song title and also the lyrics "heard" just make absolutely no sense that people wouldn't stop to think that maybe they are hearing something wrong. I would make the effort to look them up, even before the internet made it easier (and people still mess them up when they post them!).

    When the title is Bad Moon Rising, wouldn't you think people would get a clue?! I always heard it as "There's a bad moon on the rise". I didn't know about the bathroom thing for years. But John Fogerty was always mushy mouthed, and I love his music. I saw Creedence in concert when I was 12, with Booker T and the MGs, it was awesome!

    I suppose lyrics are an interesting audio Rorschach test.

  41. crabby, i can ALWAYS count on your for a good laugh!

  42. I was just singing this song to my niece yesterday and it occurred to me that if papa left and in his place was a gnome, life *could* have been a whole lot different. And if my niece's papa had left and a gnome was in his place, she'd actually have a father-figure.

    From the Temptations:
    "Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
    Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
    (And when he died) All he left was a gnome."

  43. mimi -- I think that's "4 hungry children" not 400 children. :-)

  44. Mimi - you cracked up the Bag Lady!!!! 400 children dropped dead in the field....
    I'll never listen to that song the same way again!!

  45. omg - can't believe i STILL had it wrong. ha!

  46. That "Poison" song is actually by Alice Cooper! Glad I'm not the only one who mishears men's voices for women! For ages I thought "Another Girl, Another Planet" was sung by a woman too.

  47. nikki, I didn't know he wrote that! I was actually listening to a cover version by a gal (with I suspect more of a cheesy dancebeat than the original). But that would explain some of the weirdness of the lyrics, particularly the reference to lace.

    And I love all these terrific mishearings!

  48. LOL...great post. Love the video!

  49. By Huey Lewis..."I want a new Truck" (I want a new Drug) Hey , I think it is perfectly normal for a guy to want a new truck to make him happy!

  50. I don't have any profound comment to make; I just wanted there to be 50 comments on this post.

    What can I say. I like even numbers :)

  51. Secret Asian Man (Agent)
    this was a pretend one

    Everyday I get confused...Dufours Magic Bus (everyday I get in queue, too much magic bus...I think) I really thought this.


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