Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lyric-al

It's always a surprise to see the name of someone you know in print, isn't it?

Remember the Carol Rumens' exercise on the triolet as part of the Guardian Poetry Workshop that I linked to a few weeks back? Well it turns out an old friend of mine (and someone whose name will be familiar to regular readers of Minstrels) has a poem that gets featured on the shortlist:

There was always a reason for fighting,
back when we were alive.
Whether with guns or in writing,
there was always a reason for fighting,
though death often seemed inviting,
we did our best to survive.
There was always a reason for fighting back
when we were alive.


Do also see this glorious double triolet by Christine Webb:

After that hour of sleep, you woke, and made
a little sound, between a cough and sigh.
The breathless nights were over: unafraid
after that hour of sleep, you woke, and made
no gesture of distress, but simply laid
your hands in mine. It seemed easy to die
after that hour of sleep: you woke, and made
a little sound, between a cough and sigh.

Revisiting that hour, as every day
I do, I find you waking from your sleep.
You never speak, but always look away:
revisiting that hour, as every day
lengthens your absence, I pretend you'll stay,
look at me, answer. Else why should I keep
revisiting that hour, as every day
I do, to find you waking from your sleep?

Glorious stuff.

***

And while we're over at the Guardian, I can't help pointing to a hilarious discussion thread on the Arts Blog asking for misunderstood lyrics. I posted a comment on the thread, but I can't help repeating it here, adding a few other notable (and may I say, extremely embarassing) instances of my getting song lyrics completely wrong:

1. The first few times I listened to Joni Mitchell's Judgement of the Moon and Stars (from the album For the Roses) I was convinced that the line went: "In the court they carve your legend with / a napoleonic jaw". In fact, the line goes: "In the court they carve your legend with / an apple in its jaw". I can't help feeling Ms. Mitchell missed an opportunity here. I think my version, with its suggestions of failed glory and subtle references to Eroica is so much more evocative.

2. Okay, so I'm slow, but for the longest time I was convinced that Aretha Franklin was singing "Hurry up easy street! / Find out what it means to me" - a message that I found both intriguing and engaging. When I eventually figured out that she was just spelling out the title of the song (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) - it just killed the whole thing for me.

3. Don't ask me why, but I always feel that what Metallica are really singing is "Whatever I'm made of", which, coming from a band called Metallica strikes me as being extraordinarily appropriate and clever. (What they're really singing is, of course, Wherever I may roam, but that's so boring).

4. For a brief period in the early 90's I was convinced, for some obscure reason, that the lyrics to Sounds of Silence went "The words of the prophets / are written on the subway walls / Tiananmen calls / Whispered in the sounds of silence". Logic soon told me that this was unlikely, given that the song was released almost a quarter of a century before the Chinese protests. Still, it always gave the song a political significance I felt it could do with.

5. This one I'm still unconvinced about. In Paperback Writer, did you know that the word before wife in the second stanza is 'clinging'? I always thought it was cleaning. I know 'cleaning wife' doesn't make much sense, but it made for such an effective contrast with "dirty story of a dirty man". Ah, well.

Oh, and I can't let this pass without mentioning two other variants that have left me scarred forever:

The first comes from a performance of Handel's aria 'I know that my redeemer liveth' that I happened to catch at an Easter service in a neighbourhood church some five years back (don't ask). The soprano singing the piece did a creditable job, except that in her East European accent e sounded like u, with the result that "In my flesh shall I see God" became "In my flush shall I see God".

The second is my all-time favourite Wierd Al Yankovic spoof - his rendition of American Pie as a retelling of the plot of Phantom Menace. So deeply ingrained is this thing in my head that I find myself singing along to the original Don McLean song, going:

My, my, this here Anakin guy
May be Vader someday later
Now he's just a small fry
He left his home and kissed his Mommy goodbye
Saying "Soon I'm going to be a Jedi,
Soon I'm going to be a Jedi."

Check out the full song here.

93 comments:

Tabula Rasa said...

they're called mondegreens -- there's whole websites devoted to them (such as this one).

Anonymous said...

congrats to your friend. did you bond over poetry?

n!

Just Mohit said...

Hmmm....i have been guilty of far worse. And talking of mis-heard lyrics, check out the video of mis-heard lyrics of Fall Out Boy at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LucfKdukf10

Perspective Inc said...

And now this version of 'american pie' is stuck in my head!

Big Wave said...

I've always been convinced that U2's One went "Take the pasta into the night". (Past out, clearly). And Metallica's Enter Sandman has this gruff "Dreams of war, dreams of liars" part that I can only hear as "Ginger walks, Ginger lies" and that left me mortally afraid of my best friend's practically comatose tabby.
The jury's still out on the Pappe song from Pyaar Ke Side Effects. Anyone?

km said...

The most-quoted mondegreen, of course, is from "Purple Haze". They may as well replace the original lyric in the lyric sheets.

Rookie said...

The "tiananmen calls" was awesome! Way more profound. Sound of Silence was one of those songs for which I actually looked up the lyrics.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of misunderstood lyrics, he's an hilarious example of misunderstood conversation:

I was in a Malaysian restaurant once when a stranger accosted me and said (what I thought was), "Have you seen Napolean?"
Me, confused: "Umm... no?"
Stranger: "No? ok." and he walked away.

Turns out, he was saying, "Are you Singaporean?"

Listen to the cadence of each sentence and you'll hear why I was so confused! Sorry for the off-topic post, but I just couldn't resist.

Revealed said...

Baby, if I could cha-a-a-ain the world

which I always thought was a really cool wish and I would so be impressed by a guy who did that :)

Cheshire Cat said...

You're lucky to have such a friend. It's like something out of Pessoa...

Anonymous said...

You're so fucking annoying and fruity, "Falstaff". Die of AIDS, arrogant homo.

Anonymous said...

Good for Aseem Kaul! Staggeringly talented, that guy.:)

m. said...

*embarassed cough*

i heard la isla bonita when i was in school, and couldn't figure out for the life of me why madonna sang:
"last night i dreamt of some petrol".

i discovered last year that it was "san pedro".

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