Day 51. A song that you realized you’ve been mishearing the lyrics for years.

“The Ballroom Blitz” – (The) Sweet

BallroomBlitzI should put a warning on this post that there are some comments in here that aren’t suitable for kids under 13. However, since I doubt any 12-year-olds are reading the rambling musical remembrances of an old fart, I’m not too worried about it.

I think I may have mentioned before that I’m not really a lyrics guy. That said, it’s pretty rare for me to botch up more than a few words of a song. That’s because I either have a pretty good fix on what they are, or only know one or two words in the whole song. There’s usually not much middle ground. But, like everyone else, there are plenty of songs where I’ve botched up the words over the years. So I’m going to do a Top 10 list here in ascending order of screwiness (which correlates to descending number on the Top 10 list.)

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Most of these date a ways back, when I was more likely to have time to try to figure out the words and less likely to have an Internet where I can Google lyrics in seconds. As such, most of these correlate to when I had the mind of a 15-year old-boy. So, y’know, last week.

So here’s the list:

10. “Just What I Needed”—The Cars. “You always knew to wear it well/You look so fancy I can tell.” I heard the first part as “You always knew too very well.” This is a minor infraction, thus, #10.

9. “Athena”—The Who. There’s a repeated line in this one that goes “Just a girl? She’s a bomb.” When I was young my friend Mark had me convinced they were singing “She’s a whore.” We were of the age where “whore” was a scandalous word.

8. “My Best Friends Girl”—The Cars. There are a lot of Cars songs on this list. I attribute that to starting to listen to the album at an early age and it being the first album where I really tried to learn all the lyrics. Anyway, I always thought “When she’s dancing ‘neath the starry sky” was “When she’s dancing ‘neath the stormy sky.” This one is so ingrained, I’m still quite likely to sing it that way.

7. “Blue Jean”—David Bowie. “One day I’m gonna write a poem in a letter/One day I’m gonna get that faculty together.” I heard the last line as “I’m gonna get that f***ing thing together.” I was a little shocked they would play that on the radio. Then my brother set me straight.

6. “Bye Bye Love”—The Cars. Yeah, I know, another one. “I can’t feel this way much longer expecting to survive/with all these hidden innuendos just waiting to arrive.” became “I can’t feel this way much longer expecting to survive/with oddity and innuendos just waiting to arrive.” No, I don’t know how oddities and innuendo can be a package deal. And later: “Substitution mass confusion/Clouds inside your head/Involving all my energies/Until you visited.” These lines show up a couple of times in the song. The second time, Ben Orr sings it more forcefully and I could have sworn he said “Were f***ing all my energies/Until you visited.”

5. Domino“—Genesis. This song speaks a lot about disaster. In my world “The liquid surrounds me/I fight to rise from this river of hell/I stare round about me/Children are swimming and playing with boats” ended with “Children are swimming and playing with books.” I dunno, I guess in this post-apocalyptic future I saw a world where illiteracy runs rampant and the children have no idea what to do with a book. The fact that it came right after a line about swimming didn’t register with me.

4. “Africa”—Toto. I’ve touched on this before. The line “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” is stupid. So stupid, in fact, that for many years I thought it was “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leopress above the Serengeti.” Y’know, leopress. As in female leopard. It made sense to me that she would rise above the plain just before she attacked. Which is all well and good until you learn there’s no such word as “leopress.” It’s a “leopardess.” Somehow, I feel like my version still makes more sense.

3. “Pour Some Sugar On Me”—Def Leppard. Speaking of stupid, we have “Love is like a bomb, baby, c’mon get it on/Livin’ like a lover with a radar phone.” Um… what? Am I just living in a bag or does no one else know what the hell a radar phone is? And why would a lover have one? At any rate, when we were trying to figure out what he was saying (this was long before Google) we thought it might be “Livin’ like a lover with a red hard on.” We were 17. We were guessing. We were wrong. It still made more sense than “radar phone.”

2. “I’m In Touch With Your World”—The Cars. No, I’m not planning on doing the whole album. Just most of it. Anyway, there’s a line in this one that goes: “I’m a psilocybin pony/You’re a flick fandango phoney.” While I had no friggin’ idea what a psilocybin pony was, I was fairly certain that the second part was “You’re a big fat macaroni.” Given some of the other lyrics, I don’t think it’s too far out of the realm of possibility, actually. I also take some solace that I’m not the only one who screwed up the lyrics. A little later in that same verse, there’s a phrase “Everything is science fiction/And I ought to know.” In the demo, the line was “Everything you say is fiction.” Greg Hawkes, who was in the band, misheard it as “Everything is science fiction” and Ric Ocasek changed it for the album. If the band’s own keyboard player can’t make out the words, I don’t feel so bad. On the other hand, he had a lot going on during that song.

1. “The Ballroom Blitz”—Sweet. I’ve always known this group as Sweet, even if the singles say “The Sweet.” So there. When I was first introduced to this song at the age of 13, I had no idea what the hell they were saying. I had so many things wrong it’s comical. And I’m not talking a word here or there like the first few on the list. I’m talking full blown “where the hell did that come from?” wrong. Here’s the breakdown:

End of verse 1: “And the girl in the corner/let no one ignore her/’cause she thinks she’s the passionate one.” I thought it was “‘Cause she thinks she’s the passion that won.” I have no idea what she was winning, or that there was even a passion contest. (And what are the judging criteria?) Strike one (of way more than three.)

First bridge: “It was like lightning/Everybody was frightening” became “Everybody was fightening.” Yes, “fightening.” No “r”. An epic battle royal. This was not that last of the made-up words I attributed to the song.

Verse 2. This is where all hell breaks loose. I had no idea what they were saying and I was trying to make things fit. The real words:

Reaching out for something – touching nothing’s all I ever do
I softly call you over – when you appear there’s nothing left of you
And the man in the back is ready to crack as he raises his hands to the sky
And the girl in the corner is everyone’s mourner – she could kill you with a wink of her eye

My words:

Each and every someday. <Something something>’s all I ever do
I <something something something – something> there’s nothing left to do.
And the man in the back is ready to crack as he raises his hands to the sky (Yay! I got something right!)
And the girl in the corner is everyone’s warden – she can kill you with a wick of her eye

That poor girl in the corner. I pretty much had her wrong every way to Sunday. I don’t know what a wick of an eye is, how it could possibly kill you, or why she’d be a warden. She’s obviously talented in ways I can’t imagine.

And finally: “Oh yeah, it was electric, so frantically hectic.” Easy, right? Nope. Not for me: “Oh yeah, it was electric, sopranically hectic”

Yep, “sopranically.” More made up nonsense. I don’t know what I was thinking.

So, yeah. “Ballroom Blitz” was a train wreck. I’m not sure how or why I remember all these gaffes for this song. Perhaps it’s just that there were so many of them that every time I discovered another one that was just way wrong, it left one more mark on my brain. Perhaps it’s my mind’s way of humbling me when I get too big for my britches. Or perhaps I have a penchant for remembering stupid, useless things that are simply taking up space in my head for no good reason while I forget other, far more important things.

A betting man (or a passion-winning warden) would go with the latter.

See Greg Hawkes try to keep it all together…