Monday, 26 April 2010

Music & That One Irritating Line…

We have a word for that misheard lyric (the mondegreen) and a word for that song you just can’t get out of your head (earworm).

So do we have a word for that line in a song that just screams out to you as wrong? I don’t mean a double negative, that’s quite common, just a line where the lyricist has had to torture the English language to get the thing to rhyme or fit in with the tune?

I have two examples; coincidentally they were both on the radio this week. First up, it’s ‘I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love’ by Carole Bayer Sager, which contains the line:
”Too many times I’ve seen the rose die on the vine,
Somebody’s heart gets broken, usually it’s mine….”
Roses grow on vines? News to me, I always thought they grew on stems…

And then there’s ‘Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)’ by Looking Glass, which has this little offering:
”They say ‘Brandy, fetch another round’,
She serves them whisky and wine…”
Mmm, I’m fairly sure when sailors get home from a long voyage, a crisp chardonnay or cheeky pinot grigot isn’t exactly what they are pining for….

Anyone have any other examples?

Update: Some great examples submitted, as follows:-

Macheath with Squeeze and 'Up The Junction:
"This morning at four fifty
I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator
Where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter"
Mrs Erdleigh with 'Jailbreak' By Thin Lizzy:
"tonight there's going to be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town"
Mac The Knife with Toto's 'Africa:
"The wild dogs cry out in the night,
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company"
And Kevin B submitted a sublime Ian Dury lyric which, while not quite fitting the sescription, deserves a mention for sheer...well, I don't know what!
"Had a love affair with Tina,
"In the back of my Cortina,
"A seasoned up Hyena
"Couldn't have been more obscener."
Hope you all have earworms now. I know I do!

32 comments:

Macheath said...

This morning at four fifty
I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator
Where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter
Within a year a walker
She looked just like her mother
If there could be another

(Squeeze; Up the Junction)

One of my favourites, but endearing rather than irritating - by their own admission, they were all pretty clueless at the time about how babies were born.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Actually I think hard-nut gardening types do refer to rose-buses as vines.

Just saying.

Uncle Marvo said...

Rose buses?

Gawks.

I don't know any of this modern music.

Bucko said...

I cant think of an example like that just now, but on a similar note, I wish someone would tell songwriters that "Emotion" does not rhyme with "Ocean".

Kevin B said...

On the not irritating but certainly stretching the English language to, (beyond?), breaking point front is the great Ian Drury with Billericay Dickie:

"Had a love affair with Tina,
"In the back of my Cortina,
"A seasoned up Hyena
"Couldn't have been more obscener."

English poetry at its best.

Mrs Erdleigh said...

I think my favourite is Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak, 'tonight there's going to be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town'. Hmmm ... I wonder exactly where that might happen.

Stu said...

La. A note to follow sol.

'Nuff said.

Private Widdle said...

Spandau Ballet's "True":

Initially, we get:

"Why do I find it hard to write the next line?"

Errrr....because you're crap when it comes to writing lyrics?

Later:

"Oh, I want the truth to be said"

Not "told"- "said". Meh.

Later still:

"Take your seaside arms and write the next line".

Thus demonstrating why he really wasn't much cop when it came to those tricky lyrics...

Uncle Marvo said...

Oh, all right then:

ANYTHING by that irritating droning whining depressing Morrisey from the Smith's days. Or now, even.

Or most of Bob Dylan. The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind. Is it bollocks.

Or maybe Yusuf. When did they ever carry peas by train?

Or how about Fat-Bottomed Girls You Make The Rocking World Go Round? Only if they fart in unison, and in the same direction, I should expect.

cornyborny said...

A generic one that is, I guess, a quasi-mondegreen (quasi as I know what the actual lyrics are in each case): whenever I hear a song with "up high" in it (and there are a lot) it becomes "a pie" in my mind. Takes all the intended profundity right out.

It's my own fault for studying linguistics.

Beast from Hull said...

Cornyborny: whenever I hear a song with "up high" it becomes "a pie" in my mind.

Q.Where do they weigh pies?

A."Somewhere over the Rainbow"

cornyborny said...

Exactly! And the quintessential example, no less. I hate that lyric!!

Mac the Knife said...

Toto: Africa -

The wild dogs cry out in the night

As they grow restless longing for some solitary company

I know that I must do what's right

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

I seek to cure what's deep inside,
frightened of this thing that I've become


That Kilimanjaro line really does require some glottal gymnastics... :)

Oh, and the whole thing sucks anyway...

Mr Potarto said...

Live and Let Die:

"But if this ever changing world in which we live in"


In which we live in??

Rightwinggit said...

Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir,
so that every mouth can be fed.
Poor me, me earholes alight.

Mike said...

'I wanna be adored' Stone Roses. Great song, unbelievably good song writter and performer. My issue is that the first time I heard this song was in a doggy club in Madchester, about 17yrs old, it hadn't been released in the MSM so the DJ must have had it on a white label and I smoked my first joint. Anyhow I wanted to be a doored but didn't know what one was or how to become a doored which my friends found hysterical, I did not :(

Mike said...

and yes the devil is in me, now ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rightwinggit, for reminding me of this great advert from my youth.

Mike said...

another great ad
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93KrnZ0UJQk&feature=related
should have been on the apple post still

Anonymous said...

Squeezing in redundant modal verbs to fit the metre really annoys me. There are lots of examples (I'm often annoyed) but the one that comes to mind is:

Napoleon did surrender

(And they get a pass since this is not their native language.)

I also nominate 'Napoleon' as the new word you're looking for. And try mailing Mark Steyn - he's the master at this kind of thing.

Mike said...

anon do you mean like 'to be, or not to be'? init

Mike said...

that line realy pisses me off. make your f ing mind up Shakey, I hate mumbelers

Mike said...

mumbelers isn't a word at all, people who mumble

JuliaM said...

"...endearing rather than irritating - by their own admission, they were all pretty clueless at the time about how babies were born."

Heh!

"Actually I think hard-nut gardening types do refer to rose-buses as vines."

Do they? I've never heard them referred to that way over here (though it does seem to be something the US gardeners do). Mind you, my green thumb doesn't really extend to much more than houseplants.

"...on a similar note, I wish someone would tell songwriters that "Emotion" does not rhyme with "Ocean"."

Oh, indeed!

"La. A note to follow sol.

'Nuff said."


Agh! Now I have that song in my head!

JuliaM said...

"Thus demonstrating why he really wasn't much cop when it came to those tricky lyrics..."

I do love SB, but most of their lyrics, while sounding awfully profound, are mainly just gobbledegook.

"Or maybe Yusuf. When did they ever carry peas by train?"

Heh!

"..whenever I hear a song with "up high" in it (and there are a lot) it becomes "a pie" in my mind."

Yes! And as Beast from Hull points out, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' is the main culprit...

"In which we live in??"

There's some discussion and disagreement over whether the line is actually 'In which we're livin'..' which would resolve it.

JuliaM said...

"Thank you, Rightwinggit, for reminding me of this great advert from my youth."

Ahhhh, me too! :)

"Squeezing in redundant modal verbs to fit the metre really annoys me."

Oh, yes. That's another crime.

Mike said...

anything that Palin says irritates me. oh and some other people:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR3eUjD6y6o&feature=channel

Uncle Marvo said...

It is indeed "in which we're livin'". Scouse twat.

I thought the Ears Are Alight first line was "Wake up in de mornin', baked beans for breakfast."

Good old Des.

Edwin Greenwood said...

There's also the inverse of the mondegreen where you suspect that the printed lyric has been bowdlerized. Like much of the world I don't believe for a minute that Free actually sang "Let's move before they raise the parking rate".

And despite the lyric being crystal-clear on the digital remastering, part of me will always be convinced that what Madonna originally sang was "Like a virgin, fucked for the very first time".

There's another one which I can't quite pin down, and I have mislaid my copy of the album. On one track on Graceland, Paul Simon is singing about some woman with whom he has an ambivalent relationship. The lyric printed on the sleeve says "... the way you combed your hair into a parting...". Which doesn't scan cleanly, for a start, and what I always hear is "...the way you combed your hair and farted ..."

David Gillies said...

Isn't the canonical example of this Alanis Morissette's Ironic, in which essentially every example she gives is just coincidence, rather than irony, which is a sort of meta-irony in itself?

She's got form: there's a rather good song of hers called Wunderkind which is almost ruined by her pronouncing it as ONE-der-KINED.

What about Toto Coelo and I Eat Cannibals Part I. Just cannibals? There's a sort of Russell-esque self reference paradox here: who eats the cannibal who only eats himself, or something like that.

JuliaM said...

"There's also the inverse of the mondegreen where you suspect that the printed lyric has been bowdlerized. "

Ah, I'd never heard of that one! I'll be looking out for those now.

"Isn't the canonical example of this Alanis Morissette's Ironic, in which essentially every example she gives is just coincidence, rather than irony"

Good catch!

Angry Exile said...

Bit late to this, but the one that always makes me want to punch the radio is Don't Stand So Close To Me by The Police.

He starts to shake, he starts to cough
Just like the old man in that famous book by Nabokov.


If it's that hard to find a rhyme for "Lolita" why not just re-write the fucking song?

WV: dioeday - also sounds like a Police lyric. Beginning of Synchronicity, wasn't it?