I’ve misheard song lyrics all my life, and over time those wrong lyrics have sunk into my system and become frozen in amber, and now I can’t hear the correct lyrics to save my life. Most of the mis-heard lyrics were absorbed when I was a kid or a teenager, for the most part. I know it sounds silly but these idiotic re-wordings have stayed in my head.
Example #1: “All Shook Up,” Elvis Presley. All my life I’ve been hearing “I’m itchin’ like a man on a buzzin’ tree” and “mah friends say I’m actin’ wide as a bug.” The correct lyrics are “I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree” and “my friends say I’m actin wild as a bug.” Except Presley doesn’t say “wild” in that song. Wild is a two-syllable word that Presley just flat-out doesn’t pronounce — he says “wide.” Yes, an idiotic interpretation. How exactly does a bug act when he’s “wide”? (Or “narrow” for that matter?) But there’s nothing crazy about itching as a result of being in the vicinity of a “buzzing” tree. The tree could be buzzing with mosquitoes or flies or gnats and you could feel itchy from that proximity.
Example #2: “(The Love I Saw In You Was) Just A Mirage,” Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. The song goes “We used to meet in romantic places / You gave the illusion that your love was real / Now all that’s left are lipstick traces / From the kisses you only pretended to feel.” My lifelong problem is that I never heard “are lipstick traces” — I heard “I miss Dick Tracy.” Now listen to these lyrics the Jeffrey Wells way, and you’ll understand why my life has turned out the way it has: “”We used to meet in romantic places / You gave the illusion that your love was real / Now all that’s left I miss Dick Tracy / From the kisses you only pretended to feel.”
Example #3: “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story, written by Stephen Sondheim & sung by Richard Beymer in the 1961 film. The guy who sang on Beymer’s behalf slightly misrepesented the lyrics when he sang “With a click / With a shock / Phone’ll jingle / Door’ll knock / Open the latch!” It’s not my fault but the singer’s that all my life I’ve been hearing “phono jingo / dorro knock!” I know for a fact that almost all singers deliberately de-emphasize the “ell” sound in songs because they’re hard to musically enunciate in a way that sounds “right.”