Songs with Misunderstood Lyrics

imagesWe have all had those songs where we (or somebody around us) are singing our hearts out to a song, certain we know the lyrics, only to find out later we have been singing them incorrectly for years.  I like to find comfort, meaning, and solace in song lyrics and apply them to my life; but, sometimes, they are just fun and meaningless… especially when the words are nonsensical because you have been misunderstanding them.

I will not even mention the song that is talked about the world over, oh, guess I am now; the Elton John song about “Hold me close tiny dancer” where everybody claims the lyrics are “Hold me close Tony Danza”


When my older sister and I were young, you’ll be able to determine how young for those of you who know who Leif Garrett is; there was a song about a girl we used to sing:

“Sweet little Sheila, you’ll know her if you see her

Two eyes and a ponytail

Her cheeks are rosy, she looks a little nosey

Man, this little girl is fine”

However, the lyrics are actually:

“Sweet little Sheila, you’ll know her if you see her

Blue eyes and a ponytail

Of course, it is two blue eyes, silly girls, doesn’t everyone have two eyes?  Wouldn’t that be inferred?  Or was she a pirate?  It truly sounded like “two” to us, though.  For years, we sang it with two even after we figured it out.  We even had a little move where my sister would point her finger at my eyes; she nearly blinded me once.  Honest.


Another song from when I was fairly young was Right Down the Line, by Gerry Rafferty; however, when I was young, I had no idea who sang it.  Actually, I still don’t I just had to Google it.

There is a line in the song “When I wanted you to share my life” that I had always thought was “When I wanted you to shave my legs”; so, every time the sang came on, I would have a serious gag reflex.  I could never understand why he would want somebody to shave his legs and I would have to change the station.

Even now, as an adult, I have a hard time listening to the song; it is a Pavlovian type response.  Ick.


My older sister used to sing to Hall & Oates’ Your Kiss is on my List, but she would sing out, at the top of her lungs, off-key, “Your kiss is on my lips”.  I tried to explain to her that it was “list”, not “lips”; we would argue endlessly.  She could not fathom why a kiss, physical, would be on a list, or how it could be.

I would try to enlighten her by pointing out some of the other elements of the song and telling her she needed to take the entire thing in context.  She did not understand; she probably still sings it the same way.  Off-key.  At the top of her lungs.


When my girls were little, their biological father, the one who eventually left us because he “wanted to be a rock star” used to play guitar and sing in bars on the weekend.  He often had people over to practice; the girls would dance and sing into hairbrushes pretending they were microphones.

One of the songs they performed was Shake Your Foundations by AC/DC; there is a line that goes “Aye, aye, oh, shake your foundations”; however, my oldest daughter used to sing her heart out, “Aye, aye, oh, shake your Dalmatians”.


My nephew is a character; he was sometimes incredibly annoying as a child and often times really endearing.


He would sing all of the time; my parents and his parents listened to country music so he learned quite a few songs.  One of his favorites was Tim McGraw’s song Indian Outlaw, and he was always belting out the verse that should have been sung:

“I’m an Indian outlaw

Half Cherokee and Choctaw

My baby she’s a Chippewa

She’s one of a kind”

However, he sang it this way:

“My baby she’s a chickenwa

She’s one of a kind”

It was actually quite cute.


We were visiting for Easter one year; and since we lived 800 miles away, my children and my sister’s children did not get to see each other often.  The cousins seemed to be getting along together nicely as they gathered eggs in their Easter best; but my nephew must have tired of his good behavior.

My oldest and he were standing in the living room together; my daughter was trying to put on a little show of singing “I’m a Little Teapot”.  Every time she would get to the line “short and stout”, he would bend over in front of her face, change the lyrics to “short and dork” belting out the lyrics very loudly and laughing.

Now, in our family, the lyrics have officially been changed.


The song by Chumbawamba, Tub Thumping (Wow, I never knew the title until I just looked it up), is an interesting one…

I always sang the lyrics as:

“I get knocked down

But I get up again

You’re never going to keep me down

Wishing the night away”

My daughters were looking at me one day last year as I was singing the song aloud in the car; I was appalled when my oldest told me the line was actually, “p!$$ing the night away.”  I still cannot bring myself to say it; to me, it will always be, “wishing the night away.


Just a few quirky little things I was remembering today.

Sheila – Leif Garrett

9 thoughts on “Songs with Misunderstood Lyrics

  1. My biggest misunderstood lyric was Paul Simon’s Coat of Chrome. Kodachrome I think that is a common misconception. I can’t really parse words to a song I’m hearing because my brain is trying to parse everything that is happening musically, but I used to think that was the most weird psychedelic song ever and it turn out it was just about a camera. Your tone today is that of an ordinary person. Odd only because it is coming from you.

    • I know, Sir… that song was always so strange to me, too; I never really “got it”. It took me years to really accept those were the lyrics. Same with “Sister Golden Hair Surprise….” Does he really say that?

      Sorry for the pedantic tone… I will step it up. My mind was dull this morning. I just could not get my mind to move on until I got rid of that “stuff”.

      Always, Me

  2. I love the way music works on our brain. When i am in my low spots, my depressive brain *hates* music.

    I once had an argument in pencil written on a shared desk in my Spanish class. A fellow student in another period wrote the lyrics to Hotel California by The Eagles as “Warm smell of coleus rising up in the air”. Without knowing who we were writing to, we argued back an forth on the desk, calling each other idiots. Fast forward two weeks and I’m at a party, my best friend is chatting up some Freshman boys (I was a Sophomore) and this song comes on. The kid across from me starts singing the lyrics “warm smell of coleus” and I immediately start arguing with him.

    We ended up having a mad, passionate summer romance. I think it lasted all of two weeks.

    (The actual lyrics are, “warm smell of colitas” which writer Glenn Frey says means “little tails” or the very tip of the cannabis plant. Go figure.)

    I enjoyed this post and am glad to see you being pedantic. 🙂

  3. Also, my youngest son says Tubthumping is the anthem of depressed people. My response – “You mean I’m supposed to drink ‘a whiskey drink, a vodka drink and a lager drink’?”

    • I think that would be a good answer on some nights…

      Unfortunately, I used to do that to wash down a few Vicodin or some other prescription drug. Not a good mix for somebody with so many neuroses.

      Thanks for coming by tonight. Honestly. Me

  4. Do you remember the ELO song “Magic”? Way back when my son was about 8 or 9 (he is 45 now) we were driving late one night, The radio was on and I heard his sweet little voice from the backseat singing “Oh, Oh, Oh it’s my dick …..never believe it’s not so, It’s my dick” I nearly ran off the road! Needless to say we all sing it his way now!

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