October 28, 2009

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 make out, and sometimes the words you "hear" 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 a bit and you will find bazillions of hilarious examples.

However, does anyone else find it annoying 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.

[Re-run warning: Yep, sorry, this is another oldie. But I'll be back from vacation soon with more new posts!]


  1. Every bit as funny this time around as it as the first time.

    My favourite is Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Baking Carrot Biscuits" (Taking Care of Business).

    A friend of mine used to sing "Canada Dry" for Kind of a Drag by (I think) The Buckinghams.

  2. when i was a kid (yeah, like 7yr old!) my DAD told me that it was "bathroom on the right" and sang it that way every time it was on the radio. I blame him for everything :)

  3. That Pearl Jam song (well, and some of their others)...I can't understand a stinkin word he says! Not even to make it up in an amusing way!

  4. Hey, my son used to chant/sing the prayer to the Virgin like this:

    Hail Mary, full of grapes! Blessed art thou among women and blessed be thy Fruit of the Looms!

  5. And the ever popular Blinded By the Light...wrapped up like a douche..."

    Yeah...I'm pretty sure most people thought it was a feminine hygiene product but didn't know why anyone would sing about that.

  6. This reminds me of the Friends where Phoebe thinks the lyrics to Elton John's Tiny Dancer are "Hold me close, young Tony Danza."

  7. I'm still trying to figure out a few of the old songs! Probably never will :-)

  8. I am trying to keep from guffawing as I sit here at work.

    Here's my contribution:

    "I wanna new cat, I wanna new cat too!"

    Actual lyrics: I wanna make it, I wanna make it witchoo ("with you").

    Last year, my kids listened to this song constantly while doing their homework.

  9. I've recently been sent some of these, retitled for aging baby boomers.

    "There's a Bathroom on the Right" makes perfectly good sense when you put it that way, and next to "The First Time Ever I Forgot Your Name" (Saw Your Face), "I Can't See Clearly Now", "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Walker" and the like.

    Reminds me, too, of the games for aging Baby Boomers that went around a while back.

  10. I was trying to pretend this is a fitness post, but my imagination's not that good...

  11. Heh...I ran into this at the Moby concert I went to friday night. I don't look up lyric sheets as I find often what I think the words are mean more to me than what they really are. There is the odd song though that just makes no sense at all - In Moby's song "Why does my heart feel so bad?" it sounds like the woman singing is singing the saying "Eeeeeeeeee poppadom!". Yup made no sense to me either, but made me smile nonetheless.
    When I actually saw her face (and Moby-squeee!) I was fascinated to find out she was singing the words "keys open doors".

    That makes SO much more sense!

  12. "Go tell a duckie." Back in the summer of '69 there was a song with the lyric "oh, Heather honey." To me we were to tell the aquatic wildfowl.

  13. My little cousin used to think the lyrics to dirty deeds were "dirty knees, thunder jeep!". She's a rough and tough girl who likes to ride 4-wheelers and get dirty so it made sense to her.

    Another friend of mine swore the lyrics to "rock the casbah" were "rock the cashbox", I think there has since been a parody about this common lyrical misunderstanding.

  14. From my friend: "Wake me up and pour me cocoa." (Wake me up before you go-go.)
    But my favorite, courtesy of my dad, "Bright golden curls stolen from a cheap Israeli." (White gold and pearl, stolen from the sea, she is raging." From "Running To Stand Still" by U2.)

  15. Thank you for re-runs. I hadn't seen this before. You and the commentators had me laughing so hard my guy had to come over and see whatsup. Then he was laughing, too. (It good to exercise the funny-bone...therefore, this is totally fitness related).

    I named my first son Tommy. I was asked why that name. I said I was listening to a song on the radio (which I know now is by the Cranberries...I'm musically out-of-it...I don't know who does what, nor do I see many videos).

    Anyway, they kept singing "TOMMY! TOMMY! TOMMY-ME-ME!!" I really liked it and said, "That's what we should name the baby if it's a boy!"

    They got a good laugh at my expense and told me the words were "ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE-BE-BE!"

    I'm still keeping "Tommy."

  16. was laughing out loud when a client came in and I had to share what I was laughing about! That Manfred Mann one always gets me! What ARE the real lyrics?

  17. I thought "The bathroom on the right" referred to one of your many pit stops cross country.

    As for Madonna, she's been touched a whole lot more than 31 times and probably hasn't seen virgin territory since listening to Meat Loaf on 8 track tape.

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


  19. I gotta try that site because I still don't know a one word that Axle Rose said in "Paradise City", and James Brown? Fuggedaboudit!

  20. My favorite is my sister singing in church "The Lord is missin'" instead of "The Lord is risen"...

  21. My son is still mad at me for "ruining" The Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Zephyr"....after he caught me singing to it " I call you on my cell phone...I call and call - you're not home" I truly did think that is what it said. Now we call it the "cell phone song"

  22. LOL! I am so guilty of making up my own lyrics! I even have the nerve of sticking with them after I know what the real words are!

  23. Good for a laugh. I had not seen this one before.
    I can't think of a a song though.

  24. My brother-in-law, when he was little, used to go around singing, "Ma-cho, ma-cho maaaaaan ... I wanna beat ... a macho man ..."

    Extremely funny coming out of a four-year-old.

  25. Don't forget Bang a Gong - Get it On by T. Rex. . . "your doodie's sweet and you're my girl"

  26. Here's my fav from some friends and I:

    "apple pie cheese, boots with the fur" /
    instead of "apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur"

    Flo Rida - Low

  27. My son asked me if I had ever heard the song "Barbara Ann" and I said no...until he played it. I am 36 years old, when I heard this song as a kid I thought they were singing "Bob a wren" - doh. Great blog ...loved it.

  28. Blinded by the Light is full of them.

    Not just "wrapped up by a douche", but also the line that follows, "another roller in the night" or "a marauder in the night", as you prefer (which of course got new life after the release of Potter Book 4).

    I would probably listen to Eddie Vedder mumble his way through anything.

  29. I can't believe nobody else has yet mentioned the Stevie Nicks classic:

    "Just like the one-winged dove, sings a song, sounds like she's singin'..."

    I'm pretty sure it was literally over a decade before I realized that the dove had WHITE wings. Duh.

    I am proud to say I got "deuce" instead of "douche" (although I still don't know what that's supposed to mean), but I thought it was followed by "you know the runner in the night." I surely did not know that runner.

  30. Oh, and I love Jon Carroll's modegreen archive. I wrote him after discovering it and asked why he doesn't have any more recent columns, and he tells me people just aren't coming to him with new ones anymore.

    But surely new ones exist. (I totally cracked up at Gina's son's namesake! Tommy, indeed.)


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