Lyrical Geniuses

We all know the songs. The ones we cheerfully sing along to and then, lo and behold, discover that the words aren’t what we think they are. It may be when we’re reading liner notes. Or doing karaoke. Or it may even come through the wisdom of a friend who gently points out that our version of the song is incorrect. Musical life as we know it comes to an end. I recall many such instances. In high school, a girlfriend happily sang “You Can’t, Huretha” instead of “You Can’t Hurry Love” (which, quite honestly, didn’t sound too strange. It’s just that nobody had heard the name ‘Huretha’ before). One of my boyfriend’s buddies disdainfully pointed out “it’s ‘make-up,’ Kira, not ‘mink coat,'” during “Money For Nothing.” And then there’s my husband, who repeatedly chanted, almost zombie-like “Arizona Hippie” rather than “I Don’t Know Anything” by Mad Season. The phenomenon can even extend to bands. One night at a Van Halen concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater, my college friend enthusiastically cried out “Cat Scratch Fever!” as the lengthy musical intro began. “Uh, wrong concert,” we told her.

But as I learned over Thanksgiving weekend, when it comes to the males in my family singing— and I use that term loosely—Bon Jovi, I take the misinterpretations a little bit more personally.

We were turning into our favorite drive-thru coffee shop near my in-law’s house on the way to the beach Saturday morning, listening to one of my all-time favorite CDs, “Slippery When Wet.” The beginning of “Livin’ on a Prayer” swelled through the car, conjuring up many happy images of concerts past.

Suddenly, my husband Mo belted out “Johnny used to work on the docks…”

I tried to conceal my horror.

“It’s Tommy,” I quietly informed him.

“Tommy?… I always thought it was Johnny.”

“The song’s only been out about 25 years…I can understand how it would be kind of confusing,” I replied.

Having recently returned from the East Coast—even flying into and out of Newark— he then proceeded to ‘sing’ “Tommy” at least eight times in his best New Jersey accent.

I bit my tongue.

Later that afternoon as we were waiting for the ferry to take us home, I walked along the dock with my four-year-old, holding his hand as we looked for starfish and crabs. Sunny and crisp, it was a delightful maritime stroll. As we walked along, I heard him singing quietly.

“What are you singing?” I asked.

“Oh…living on the land….”

Again, I tried to conceal my horror. After all, he’s four.

“It’s actually “livin’ on a prayer,” I casually told him.

“Oh…living on the land…”

I didn’t pop the CD in the rest of the weekend.

My conclusion? Bon Jovi CDs are best reserved for things like solo road trips, girls’ weekends and pre-concert gatherings. And beware: the Arizona Hippie—and his offspring— lives.


5 thoughts on “Lyrical Geniuses

  1. This post was buried deep in my emails. I just got to it a few minutes ago. I am rolling on the floor with laughter! Tears are streaming down my face!! Thank you for sharing! I needed a good laugh. 🙂

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