I don’t know where I heard or read it, but a mother was telling the story about her young son riding in the backseat of her car asking this question after hearing the famous Simon and Garfunkel song on the radio. “Did he?” asked the boy. “Did what?” she replied. He answered with the obvious question, “Did Parsley save Rosemary in time?”
“Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” is a chorus from “Scarborough Fair,” one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, but if you are not a cook or an older eater, the lyrics can throw you. One of the most fun websites is called www.kissthisguy.com named appropriately after one of the most misunderstood lyrics of all time. For those who don’t know the famous Jimi Hendrix song, the song lyric from “Purple Haze” goes ” ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky.” But, like many, I misunderstood the lyric as it made sense. Someone doing acid decided to kiss this guy.
John Fogerty, of one of the greatest rock bands – Creedence Clearwater Revival – had a field day with misunderstood lyrics. His creative license to sing stretched the lyrics into unusual directions when he performed his songs. The most famous malapropism is “There’s a bathroom on the right.” This lyric is what most people heard, but what he was trying to say is “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” But, his music was so good, we did not care as much that we did not understand what he was saying.
Misunderstood lyrics even hit the Rolling Stones. One of my favorites is from “Beasts of Burden” when Mick was clearly heard to say “I”ll never leave your pizza burning.” Then there is the song “Jumpin Jack Flash.” This song is so hard to understand, when Whoopi Goldberg starred in the movie of the same name, her character had to listen to this Stones’ song for a clue to a password. After listening umpteen times and with more wine in her, her character blurts out “Mick, what in the f–k are you saying?”
Bon Jovi did not escape being misunderstood on occasion. Their anthem of the 1980’s “Livin on a Prayer” had a line that was heard by more than a few – “It doesn’t make a difference if we are naked or not.” This was likely his female audience having dreams about the lead singer, but I digress. My wife would be in the category.
Let me close with my two favorite misunderstood singers – Elton John and Elvis Costello. I think both are terrific performers and songwriters. Elvis Costello is more easily misunderstood as he has some very interesting lyrics on occasion. On some of his songs, I just had to get the CD out and see what the name of the tune was. “Oliver’s Army” is a great song, but I had a no idea what he was singing about at first. Then, there is “Watching the Detectives” as I ranged from watching with the dead girl to who knows what. Now, it is appropriately used by the “History Detectives” show as their theme song. And, if you really want to get confused listen to “New Laced Sleeves.”
Elton John has written some of the best music of all time and partnered with Bernie Taupin who wrote the lyrics to most. Their songs are classic and, if you ever go to an Elton John concert, you will witness several generations of family members singing his songs word for word. His is one of the most amazing concerts I have ever seen. It is good that everyone learned Taupin’s lyrics, as it is very hard to glean them from Sir Elton. You may say that I am all wet, as we all know the lyrics of their songs by now, yet when you heard them for the first time, you definitely had to pull out the album insert. This was before the internet. so we could not easily do a search. I will leave you with a few and let you match them up with the actual lyrics:
“Levon likes to warble like a clown.”
“She’s got electric boobs, a mohawk too…”
“Your cat can’t pee in the penthouse.”
“Hold me closer Tony Danza.”
Check out this website, if you have not already. I am sure you will find several lyrics you have heard differently than those intended by the author. And, the answer to the boy’s question, Parsley did save Rosemary in time. She was about to get run over by a bus on the way to Scarborough Fair and Parsley saved her in the nick of time.