Robert Cormack

3 months ago · 5 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Wash Like An Egyptian.

Why I get lyrics horribly wrong.

 

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I want to be on the Billboard Hot 100 with a single that has Korean lyrics.” Suga

I guess it all started (or became a serious problem) with John Lennon’s “I Dig a Pony.” I heard it as “I Did a Pony (you can penetrate anything you want),” an easy mistake since I was stoned, and it sounded like something Lennon would write. What about his book “Spaniard In The Works”? Or how he changed “Knowing She Would” to “Norwegian Wood,” to avoid being censored?

This was the sixties, afterall, and while conventions were changing, you couldn’t do network shows like Ed Sullivan singing “Knowing She Would.” Lennon came up with a brilliant alternative, which kept The Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s “nice boys” list (they appeared nine times).

The same can’t be said for The Doors. They were scheduled to perform “Light My Fire,” only the network (CBS)—and no doubt Ed Sullivan himself—took exception to the line: “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” They suggested Morrison sing “Girl, there’s nothing I require” instead.

Morrison sang the original lyric anyway, and the band was banned (I once thought The Band was The Banned).

Not smart if you’re trying to hear the lyrics which I thought were “I only got a kitchen desire, let me stand next to your fire.”

Okay, I get words wrong—lyrics in particular. I know you’re thinking dyslexia or stupidity, but it could be the result of my sitting too close to a stack of speakers at a Hendrix concert back in ’68. Considering the volume, and the fact that Hendrix tended to mumble (he hated his voice), can you honestly blame me for thinking I heard “I only got a kitchen desire, let me stand next to your fire.”

Same goes for “move over Rover.” I heard that plain enough, because someone was singing it next to me, and I wondered how good Rover was if Jimi was telling him (or it) to move over.

My interpretation of lyrics only got worse after attending a Cream concert. Imagine hearing “White Room” for the first time live. I couldn’t believe Jack Bruce just sang “tired starlings” which, in fact, he did, and, brother, even I couldn’t come up with a mondegreen for that.

Fortunately, this being the psychedelic era, and microphones being shit, nobody thought anything of groups like Iron Butterfly singing “In A Gadda Da Vida,” even if it was supposed to be “In A Garden of Eden.”

People expected “In A Gadda Da Vida,” and he couldn’t sing it without being stoned.

Douglas Ingle (who wrote it) admitted he was “too stoned” to sing the lyrics and he stayed that way for years. People expected “In A Gadda Da Vida,” and he couldn’t sing it without being stoned.

But I digress — as I did back then — getting lyrics all mixed up, and we actually did a gig back in ’69 where we didn’t know the lyrics to half the songs we played. We just screeched and mumbled, generally faked it, until we broke for intermission, and someone started playing “Sea Cruise” on the stereo. People got up and danced, singing along, and it was a lot easier than “White Room,” (which we’d just finished performing).

“White Room” is a strange song, and since we couldn’t Google song lyrics back then, we had to guess, and nobody guessed “Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes.” I thought it was “yellow fires,” and that’s what I sang, and nobody took it as a slight against Cream — or tigers.

It’s no worse than when I figured the second line of “Hotel California” was “Warm smell of colitis, rising up through the air.”

Actually, nobody cared much about anything (lyric-wise), until sound improved. Suddenly you could hear the words — or what we thought were the words. I’m still convinced Springsteen sang “Wrapped up like a douche, another rubber in the night,” which I sang in someone’s car, and got more frowns than when I first heard “Hey Jude,” and thought it was terribly anti-Semitic, until someone said, “Jude, you asshole, not Jew.”

It’s no worse than when I figured the second line of “Hotel California” was “Warm smell of colitis, rising up through the air.”

Of course, considering the time period, and the drugs consumed, we heard all sorts of stuff. I remember my friends and I listening to Marvin Gaye singing “Please don’t procrastinate, it’s not good to masturbate” and one guy thinking Gaye said, “It’s good to masturbate,” and we had to tell him to put his dick away before my parents came home.

Then another friend showed up with Steven Stills’s “Love the One You’re With.” We sat for hours trying to figure out the first line of the chorus. When someone said, “I think it’s ‘Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove’,” we told him to lay off the mescaline.

That had us talking about marriage and children since Jagger made it sound so easy.

We also mistook the Stones’ “War, children, it’s just a shot away…” for “More children, it’s just a shot away.” That had us talking about marriage and children since Jagger made it sound so easy.

Which brings me to my most embarrassing lyric mistake (outside of thinking America’s “A Horse With No Name” was really “A Horse With No Mane). I was coming off a long night shift, and I’d already had an argument with a guy over “Bennie And The Jets.” I heard “electric boots,” and he heard “electric boobs,” either of which made sense since the song didn’t.

Anyway, I was giving this guy a ride home, and the new Bangles’ song came on the radio. In my tired state, I was sure I heard “Wash like an Egyptian.”

“You silly twit,” this guy said to me, still pretty sure Elton was singing “electric boobs.” Now it was me making the boner of all misheard boners.

Wash like an Egyptian?” he laughed, and that carried on for weeks. Everyone on the loading dock thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. Soon, there was a sign up in the washroom that said “Wash like an Egyptian,” with a picture of a pharaoh in a bathtub.

“Get in here,” I remember the shipper saying to me one day. “Are you responsible for all this Egyptian shit?”

Suffice to say, I’d lost my credibility where lyrics were concerned. Loaders were walking in and out of trucks like Steve Martin in that stupid King Tut garb, singing “Wash like an Egyptian,” until management started wondering if we were more loaded than loading.

“Get in here,” I remember the shipper saying to me one day. “Are you responsible for all this Egyptian shit?”

“I made a mistake,” I said. “Nobody will let me forget it now.”

He stood up and came around the desk.

“Do you know what I am?” he asked.

“Besides a shipper?” I replied.

“Yeah, besides a shipper,” he said, and that’s when his hands flared out on both sides. “I’m one wild and crazy guy!”

I got up and left while he laughed his ass off.

Wash like an Egyptian!” he called after me.

I thought Freddie Mercury was singing “I’m just a little silhouetto of a man, scary moose, scary moose, will you do the fandango…

I left a few months later, enrolling at university, earning a degree in radio and television arts. I thought I’d earned my respectability back. Then, one night, I was listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I thought Freddie Mercury was singing “I’m just a poor silhouetto of a man, scary moose, scary moose, will you do the fandango…” (Oh, like the song makes any sense to begin with).

People wanted to drag me out to a karaoke place so everyone could laugh hysterically at me. The joke’s on them, though. They have no idea what I did to “Rock Lobster” and “Rock the Casbah.”

I messed those songs up like you wouldn’t believe…Shut up...like you’ve never mistaken a lyric before.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Robert’s other work at robertcormack.net

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Robert Cormack

Robert Cormack

3 months ago #2

John Ballem💻(jballem.com)

Awesome read! I used to play air-drums to In A Gadda Da Vida as a child. I didn't know the song was supposed to be titled In a Garden of Eden! 😄

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