If you’ve always wondered why John Fogerty sang, “There’s a bathroom on the right” in that famous Creedence Clearwater Revival song, then this article’s for you.
Most of us have our personal tales of myth-heard song lyrics — and those of us who don’t simply won’t admit it. Use of language may be one of the defining aspects of humanity, but, well…when it comes to musical stylings, it can sometimes be hard to understand even our nominal mother tongues.
So here’s to everyone who’s ever wondered why the Weather Girls and Ginger Spice extolled the virtues of Raisonettes (the real lyric: “It’s Raining Men”), or why Jimmy Hendrix excused himself while he kissed that guy (“excuse me while I kiss the sky”). And that CCR thing? It’s actually “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
Rock and Roll Myth-fires
As a genre, rock and roll probably has the highest proportion of myth-heard song lyrics. Aside from the examples mentioned above, there’s REM’s “Losing My Religion”, which to some listeners suggests, “let’s pee in the corner…let’s pee in the spotlight,” while in fact Michael Stipe is singing, “That’s me in the corner…”
If you’re amused by the idea, like so many are, that Toto sings, “I left my brains down in Africa…” in their song “Africa” — so sorry, the lyrics are really “I bless the rains down in Africa.” And no, in that Beatles song, she didn’t have a chicken to ride: she had a ticket to ride. Now do you see why she don’t care?
It’s easy to blame the oft-experimental nature of rock music for myth-heard song lyrics, but the softer country-and-western genre also has its examples. For example, many first-time listeners are convinced that Garth Brooks has friends in Las Vegas, when in fact he’s got “Friends in Low Places.”
Even the great Kenny Rogers has some people wondering how, in the eponymous song, the faithless Lucille and her poor husband managed to produce four hundred children before she left the man (and no wonder). But really, it’s “four hungry children and a crop in the field,” which is trouble enough.
Anthems and Such
Even the most patriotic of songs aren’t immune from the plague of myth-heard lyrics. We Americans have been bemoaning the difficulty of singing our national anthem properly for 200+ years; after all, the melody’s based on an old English drinking song, and the language itself is archaic and hard to keep track of.
Plus, we’ve gotten used to singers massacring the anthem at baseball games and other social events. Is it any wonder, then, that some of us think the first line is “José, can you see…”? And if many kids, like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, wonder what a “donzer lee light” is, well…can you blame them?
Oh, and by the way — we Americans don’t have a monopoly on this mangling of nation anthems. Some of our friends to the north think their anthem goes, “O Canada, we stand on cars and freeze!” While this seems appropriate, the true myth-heard song lyrics are “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”