Thursday, 8 September 2011

Lyrical Vandalism

Like most people, I’ve spent my life getting the words wrong to songs.

Sometimes I do it deliberately to annoy my wife, sometimes I do it because I think the words I’ve put together suit the song better. Sometimes it’s for comic effect, but in the overwhelming majority of instances, it’s because I’m being a bit thick and haven’t been listening properly.

The first time that I noticed the entertainment potential of messing up the lyrics was at secondary school. At Saint Pius X, a Roman Catholic all boys school, we were often press-ganged into singing the praises of Jebus and his pals. I hated hymns. They all sounded the same and most of us were incapable of generating the required levels of rapture or enthusiasm demanded by the music teacher, memorably nicknamed Adolf Walsh. It was a grim old place to try and propagate bliss. The chapel was modelled on an above ground version of Hitler’s bunker.

The tiny bit of quiet sedition we engaged in to make the songs tolerable was to modify the text. As a form of rebellion it worked most effectively during the hymn, ‘The Spirit Lives.’

Simply changing the word ‘light’ for ‘shite’ gave it an entirely different emphasis.

The Spirit lives to set us free,

walk, walk in the light;

He binds us all in unity,

walk, walk in the light.

Walk in the light,

Walk in the light,

Walk in the light,

Walk in the light of the Lord.

Due to his unashamed zeal for all things musical and holy, Adolf always assumed that we were laughing because we realised we’d be going to heaven one day.

That aside, I usually get the words wrong to songs because of a lazy ear. In a blatant effort to try and keep my blog references as contemporary as possible, I’ll just mention that I thought that Hazel O’Connor was saying, ‘Will you adjust the lightbeam, say goodnight?’ on the song ‘Will You?’ and that Paul Weller was referring to an organisation called the ‘Eton Riot Force.’

It was only when I met and married a muso with an encyclopaedic knowledge of bands, obscure album tracks and most importantly, the correct words to their songs, that I came unstuck. Whenever I sang along to something on the radio, I’d receive a quizzical look followed by the question.

“What did you just sing?”

Apparently, in her 1999 hit ‘I Try’, Macy Gray is singing, ‘My world crumbles when you are not near’ and not ‘I wear goggles when you are not here.’

It gives my wife great satisfaction to put me straight, but a bit of me always prefers my version, so I just sing along more quietly.

Always having the radio on in the car means that a new generation of lyrical fucker-uppers is being nurtured and brought through steadily. My kids have shown great potential in their ability to change the emphasis and meaning of a song completely by cocking up one of the words. In ‘Dakota’ by Stereophonics, singer Kelly Jones is recalling the special memory of a lost love. He repeatedly sings in the chorus,

“You made me feel like the one.”

Not according to my kids. Their version is altogether crueller.

“You made me feel like a worm.”

The Kings of Leon are actually telling someone that, ‘You, your sex is on fire,’ but in our car, Caleb Followill is beseeching his cab driving mate,

“Joooeeee, your taxi’s on fire.”

In both cases, the modified lyrics get my backing and long may my little group of tiny song wreckers ply their trade.

1 comment:

  1. I'm quietly chuckling to myself over all the lyrics I have got wrong in the past!