My Mondegreens

Poor heart? Not when you hustle like this!

Often times when I’m at work a song will come on, and usually everyone starts singing or humming along to it. I usually just “skat” the lyrics while putting things away on the shelves.

Its scary when you think of how many jobs you’ve had and the same songs keep following you from retail job to retail job. Recently I’ve come to the realization how often we take it for granted what is actually presented to us in the music pumped through the store’s speakers and how we automatically know the words.

Usually you will hear “Hotel California” a million times and wonder if your job has become your own version of the Eagles illustration of hell. Then you have some songs that remind you of happier times and some songs that remind you of when you were a kid.

However, last Winter I was working with some really cool people and we started talking about songs you misunderstood the lyrics to at one point in time or another; often called a Mondegreen. I kicked off the conversation with a song by the Clash.

I explained every time Rock the Casbah was played on the radio, I heard, “Rock the asphalt! Rock the asphalt!” Every time the song played, I relished in the thought of a rock band who was so cool, they had to hold their concerts on an asphalted playground because there wasn’t enough room in the gymnasium for those who wanted to hear them play. (As a kid, I associated “asphalt” with “playground” because of the recent construction of our middle school and how they designated playing boundaries.) What “dance-punk-rock” band wouldn’t want to have a rock concert on a school playground decorated by tether ball poles and four square outlines?

Another song frequently played in many places I’ve worked is by Sting; Every breath you take. When I was in grade-school and the song would come on the radio, I only half heartedly listened because Sting wasn’t the Monkees or any of my other favorite bands.

When it would play, I would hear, “I’m a pool hall ace, with every step you take…” As we all know, the lyrics actually are “my poor heart aches…”  Here I am listening to the radio, thinking this guy is so lonely, he started hanging around pool halls perfecting his game. I had visions of some guy in a modernized version of a 50’s leather biker coat, aviator glasses, possibly with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth; sipping a green bottled beer while playing pool by himself. I imagined he was so good, no one wanted to play pool with him any more. By the end of the song, I was rooting for the woman who deserted him. Who wants to date someone who hangs out at seedy bars and hustles people out of their hard-earned money?

Sadly one day in my twenties someone burst that bubble with the actual lyrics.

After the co-workers and I had our go around game of Mondegreens it was time to clock out, say good-bye and start another day in the morning…hopefully with new Mondegreens.

What songs do you often mis-hear? What were some of your favorites? What do you and your co-workers do to pass the time?


9 thoughts on “My Mondegreens

  1. My brother always thought that Brian Setzer Orchestra “Jump and jiving” was “drunk and driving”. Me, I’m perfect. Okay, or I just can’t think of a good example.

  2. I don’t know about rooting for the woman; old movies have taught me that there’s nothing cooler than being a pool hall ace…

    I always thought it was, “The heart brings you back, I ain’t telling you no lies,” in that Blues Traveler song. I still catch myself singing it sometimes when the song comes on the radio.

    • If the pool hall ace is Paul Newman, yes.;) Somehow, it still has “danger” written all over it for me. You know…the second part of that lyric is what I always thought it was too! Your lyric is much sweeter than the original, just gotta say. 🙂

  3. “…because Sting wasn’t the Monkees” I laughed at this which is awkward because I’m a librarian at work. Also the Spanish version of “Hotel California” from The Big Lebowski always tricks me… until the chorus.

    My favorite mondegreen is from “Love Me Girl” by Yeasayer, who has a song called Mondegreen, the lyric is “don’t give up on me” but I swore they were singing “get a bone on me” which is strange because the song is not sexual in the least.

    • HA HA HA! Thank you so much for this “bicycle”! Read your comment from my phone and had the hugest grin on my face! So glad you laughed out loud…and thank you for doing it in the library!!! You made my day! Will definitely check out the Spanish version of “Hotel California” for sure, sounds lovely actually!

      Will also have to check out “Love Me Girl”…ha ha ha! Have to now since the title is Mondegreen! Hee hee hee…you crack me up!!!

  4. I think the mondegreens aren’t a bad thing. I believe that all forms of art, music, poetry, paintings, movies, etc are open to interpretation. And they mean something different to everyone. I think that’s the way it is supposed to be. Great post though!

  5. since you believed my friend’s hard disk catching fire story (usually no one does, even though it’s as true as fire and hard disks are), i’d like to share another pained memory in this context with you. it was 2 o clock in the night before my bachelors degree final exam was starting. the kid next door, no doubt newly introduced to pop rock, played “sacrifice” by elton john eleven times consecutively. after a point all i could think of was either CO CO HAAAA (cold cold heart) or worse SACRRRIFAAICE NO SAACRIFAAAAICE IT’S NO SACRIFAAAICE AYE O playing incessantly inside my head and a helpless urge to break something right away…it was literally years before i could make myself actually check the lyrics and listen to the song at one go without feeling sick.

    by the way your blog kicks ass 🙂 . my regards.

  6. It’s so funny, I was asked back to my old company last year, and as I started to run into people that I used to know that didn’t know I was back, I gave them the Hotel California – You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.

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