Ever since listeners were able to listen to songs, listeners were able to mishear them. Back in 1964, the FBI began a two-year investigation into the song "Louie Louie" to determine whether the lyrics were obscene. (The investigation concluded that the lyrics were “unintelligible at any speed,” and therefore could not with any certainty be declared obscene.) The semi-official term for a misheard song lyric is a 'mondegreen.' The name comes from a mis-hearing of the 17th century ballad "The Bonny Earl O'Moray," as explained by writer Sylvia Wright in a 1954 essay called "The Death Of Lady Mondegreen" in Harper's Magazine. The actual text is:
“Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And laid him on the green.”
Wright misheard the final line as "And Lady Mondegreen" and a legend was born. So, without further ado, here are the ten most hilarious (printable) misheard lyrics in rock.
10. Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love"
The mighty Led Zep kicked off their second album with this monstrous track, but many fans thought they were shilling for a popular flavored drink mix. Instead of "You need coolin', baby, I'm not foolin'," many thought Robert Plant was singing "You need Kool-Aid, baby I'm not fooling."
9. The Beatles, "Ticket To Ride"
Some misheard lyrics are so obviously nonsensical that everyone knows they mustn't be right, but the ear can be pretty insistent. That's why an awful lot of people think The Beatles sing not "She's got a ticket to ride" but "She's got a chicken to ride." Being that this song was written prior to the band's psychedelic period, it's unlikely that this was the intention.
8. Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb"
The original lyric for this dreamy ode to alienation and hallucination includes the line "There is no pain, you are receding, a distant ship's smoke on the horizon." A very common and fittingly abstract mishearing of this line is "There is no pain, you are receiving a distant chipmunk on the horizon."
7. The Killers, "Mr. Brightside"
You would think it would be difficult to mishear one particular lyric from The Killers' breakthrough single, but that's what happened to this writer and, judging by a cursory scan of search engines, many other listeners did too, in hearing "I'm Mr. Brightside" as "I miss the bright side."
6. Van Halen, "Little Guitars"
Sometimes not even David Lee Roth heard Van Halen lyrics correctly but when "Little Guitars” was released on Diver Down, the original lyric of "Catch as catch, catch as catch can. Anybody in their right mind could see…" was misheard en masse as "Etch-a-sketch, etch-a-sketch…"
5. Dream Theater, various
Vocalist James LaBrie's tone and pitch are impeccable but sometimes his diction can throw a curveball at those trying to decipher Dream Theater lyrics. A fun game is to try to learn all the words to every song on a new Dream Theater album by ear, then checking out the CD booklet later to see how close you got. A few fan favorites include "I was blinded by a pair of dice" instead of "I was blinded by a paradise" in "A Change Of Seasons," "Strike up your best X-rated posture" (oo-er!) instead of "Strike up your best angst-ridden posture" in "Just Let Me Breathe," and "Love is the first dancing turtle" instead of "Love is the first dance eternal" in "Metropolis Pt. 1."
4. Black Sabbath, "Paranoid"
The title track of Black Sabbath's 1970 sophomore album was panned by critics for the line "I tell you to end your life, I wish I could but it's too late." Only problem was, the line was actually the much more upbeat "I tell you to enjoy life," although the "I wish I could but it's too late" part was accurate, so the line was still a bit of a downer.
3. Train, "Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)"
This 2001 soft-rock mega-hit contained a line which really, really sounds like "And Van Halen is overrated." Officially, the actual lyric is "…and that heaven is overrated," but even after reading the lyric sheet it's hard to shake the lingering suspicion of the Van Halen line.
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"
This classic CCR track is notorious for the misheard lyric "There's a bathroom on the right" instead of "There's a bad moon on the rise." This particularly common mis-hearing is probably due in part to the slapback echo employed on John Fogerty's vocals, which tends to throw the ear off the trail a little bit.
1. Jimi Hendrix, "Purple Haze"
One of the most common misheard lyrics of all time, a great many people thought that the classic line “'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!” was "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy!" This one is so common that it was used as the title for a popular book on misheard lyrics by Gavin Edwards.