Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy [Tall Drink of Nerd]
The year is 1985. My hair is feathered, my glasses are big and I am a scrawny, awkward teen. But on this warm September night, I’m cool, because I’m at the town dance with pretty much everybody in Haxtun. The lights are low in the high school gym. The paper streamers draped over the basketball hoops are the HHS colors of cherry and black. The DJ is totally whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
I’m dancing with a senior, which adds to my cool points and is almost unbelievable, as I am a first class nerd. We’re jumping and sweating and singing along with Eric Clapton. The entire population of the gym is belting out the lyrics, “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…” and then I yell out “OK!” My dance partner looks at me with a smirk on his face and asks: “What did you say?”
Awkward, and suddenly realizing I should be embarrassed, I don’t answer.
“You know that line is ‘Cocaine’? Right?”
Nope, I didn’t know that. At that age, I probably didn’t even know what cocaine was, aside from a reason for Crockett and Tubbs to shoot somebody in Miami. I ran home shortly after that little scene.
That was my first experience with publicly messing up a song lyric. It was pretty embarrassing. Now, at a distance of a few decades, I think that’s hilarious. That little dorky kid, finally letting go and having fun, yelling “OK!” while pumping her fist in the air. I couldn’t stop myself from being nerdly.
That certainly wasn’t the last time I heard the wrong thing in a piece of music. There are some songs where I believe that singers are actually messing with us, trying to get us to hear something funky and odd. I got in a huge argument in high school over the Lionel Ritchie song “Running With the Night” because I assumed he was singing about running with a knife. My friend could not convince me that the actual lyric was “Running With the Night”. Because how do you even hold a night? It just didn’t make logical sense. I still think I’m right about that one, even if Lionel wrote “night”, that’s just wrong.
I’m not alone is faulty hearing. When I first met my husband, we had the radio on and he was singing along with “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. He sang “I believe in Malcolm…where you from? You sexy thang.” I found that so adorable, that became one of our songs. It’s on our wedding CD.
The most modern song I hear wrong is 311’s “Come Original.” I swear, to the heavens above, that man sings “gummer in denial” instead of “come original”. Every time I hear that song, it sticks in my head like a tick because I can’t understand what a gummer in denial is. Does it involve not wanting dentures?
I’ve started to see these mumbly songs as a rorschach test of personality. Clearly I’m quite literal minded. Seen, the husband, is adorable. My friend, Kate, who thought the line “hunting the horny back toad” in Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was “licking a honeybacked toad”, obviously has a sweet tooth. When the lyrics don’t really speak to us, or when the singer has an affectation we can’t quite understand, our brain fills in the missing pieces to complete the picture.
Now, I love the story of me yelling “OK!” during Cocaine, when the entire song is repeating “cocaine” like 14 gajillion times. It’s a part of my mythology as a small town dork. When that song comes on the radio now, I crank it up and sing “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…OK!” just to celebrate that girl.
So what is your wrong song lyric story? Everybody has one and they always crack me up. Turn up the laughter in the comments.