Long gone are the days when it was popular for artists to consistently put out full lyric sheets with albums. Instead of reading along and forming sophisticated, literary interpretations of our favorite songs, we're now left to freestyle. Yeah, there was probably never a time when every piece of music was released with lyrics plainly present, but I'd like to think it used to be easier. Mainly because I start to feel like an idiot when I read the lyrics and realize that my level of understanding is closer to this baby rapping gibberish than the actual artist.
In case you were wondering, there's a word for those lyrics you always substituted for the real ones. They're called mondegreens - at least they have been since writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954. The name comes from Wright's original misheard lyric from a Scottish ballad: "and laid him on the green" was switched out for "and Lady Mondegreen." Here's a random bunch of my favorite mondegreens that don't involve mysterious Scottish nobility.
Stevie Wonder - "Have A Talk With God"
Mondegreen: "When you feel your life's too hard, just go have a chocolate bar."
Actual lyrics: "When you feel your life's too hard, just go have a talk with God."
This may be my greatest and oldest mondegreen creation ever, and I continue to be proud of it. This one comes from long car rides with my family a long time ago. Excuse me for not knowing the title of the song, I was probably like 5. I maintain that this version is just as good, if not better, than the original. You can have your religion, I will be over here having spiritual experiences with food.
Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead"
Mondegreen: "Peas in your corn, peas in your corn, peas in your corn, with chocolate milk."
Actual lyrics: "Oche Fhil Eoin, Oche Fhil Eoin, Oche Fhil Eoin, N thiochfaidh m antiar."
I'll admit I stole this one from the internet. I'll also declare that anyone who spotted this sample from a 1952 Irish Gaelic-language song by harpist Mary O'Hara needs to chiiiiiiiilllll. Passion Pit went all out with the obscurity factor on this one, and I assume virtually no one got the lyrics right. Meanwhile, I am now thinking about those soggy, watery vegetables I used to get at school lunch.
Seals and Crofts - "Summer Breeze"
Mondegreen: "Summer breeze makes me feel fine, going to the Catskills in my mind."
Actual lyrics: "Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind."
If you're not aware, the Catskill Mountains are a small mountain range about a hundred miles from New York City. They were a favorite summer vacation spot for city-dwellers about 50 years ago, complete with an amateur entertainment circuit. Anyways, the urban legend I've created is that Seals & Crofts got their start in the Catskills and decided to pay tribute after years of small-time summer gigs. Turns out they're both from Texas. Fuck.
Alt-J - "Breezeblocks"
Mondegreen: "Please don't go, I need you so..."
Actual lyrics: "Please don't go, I'll eat you whole..."
Damn it, Alt-J. Write a normal love song without talking about drowning in bathtubs and cannibalism. At least keep the creepiness on a lower notch - I mean this is the last line of the song. You can't just throw in cannibalism and then mic drop. I'll keep my mondegreen, thank you very much. But if you're into incredibly weird lyrics, here's some really high guys explaining how to make an Alt-J song while eating rice cakes.
The Kinks - "Sunny Afternoon"
Mondegreen: "Blazing on a sunny afternoon."
Actual lyrics: "Lazing on a sunny afternoon."
I'm sure the Kinks did their fair share of drugs in the 60s and 70s rock & roll scene. However, I'm also pretty sure 'blazing' was not yet a colloquial term for smoking weed at the time. Here's to unintentionally labeling this one of the earliest stoner anthems.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "All Along The Watchtower"
Mondegreen: "So let us not talk falsely now, well I was gettin' laid."
Actual lyrics: "So let us not talk falsely now, the hour's gettin' late."
Hey, I'm sure this one is just as accurate as the actual lyrics. Jimi Hendrix was doing all types of things in the late hours of 1968. Who are we to judge?
Vampire Weekend - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
Mondegreen: "Is your bed made? Is your sweater on? Do you want a chai?"
Actual lyrics: "Is your bed made? Is your sweater on? Do you want to fuck?"
Holy shit. How did this just go from concerned parent to oddly distracted significant other. Why, oh why, Vampire Weekend, did you decide this was a logical sequence of questions? I don't know what to do. I should probably try to make an argument for chai being 'better than sex.' I'll work on that.
Needless to say, I have a rough history with mondegreens. It's a love-hate relationship. I really hope I'm not alone in this. To all my mondegreeners out there, keep on mishearing lyrics. I guess if you don't feel like being embarrassed and/or shocked, you can become a lyrics-website addict. But where's the fun in that?