I recently heard that the iconic 1960s rock song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was supposedly meant to be called “In the Garden of Eden” but the songwriter was so, shall we say, not quite all there when he first sang the song that it was transcribed as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”
I always wondered what “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was supposed to mean. I assumed it was a villa in Italy. It’s nice to have that mystery finally cleared up.
I don’t know if that’s a true story or not, but it certainly is understandable. People not only often hear songs incorrectly, but they also occasionally perceive lyrics incorrectly too. I know I do.
Take Billy Joel’s “The Piano Man.” Remember the lines “and they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say ‘Man, what are you doing here?’” Up until about a year ago, I thought people were putting actual bread in his tip jar. It made perfect sense (to me).
I pictured Billy sitting at one of those huge grand pianos in a dimly lit bar with a bunch of inebriated customers putting balls of wadded up bread (possibly from appetizers) in the tip jar instead of cash. I could just imagine the kind of social clods who would do such a thing — the women with big hair and dressed in trampy, tight low-cut gowns and the men with shirts open to their stomachs so everyone could see the gold medallions on their hairy chests.
I was shocked to discover the bread Billy was talking about was money and a wee bit embarrassed when my friends laughed at my stupidity, but only a wee bit. After all, they were laughing with me, not at me. Yeah, right.
This was hardly my first misperception. I have a vague memory of a song my dad used to listen to about being somewhere in paradise and for years and years and years, I thought it was a song about a pair of dice. I can’t remember the tune or anything else about that particular song, but I do remember picturing two enormous die underneath a couple of swaying palm trees whenever Dad played it.
Then there’s “Home on the Range.” To this day I’m not sure if “seldom is heard a discouraging word” means that the word “seldom” is considered a discouraging word on the range or if people rarely talk nastily to each other out West. These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.
I’m not the only one. A lot of songs are misunderstood, according to several internet sources, although it’s most often a case of mishearing the lyrics, not being completely in the dark about what is going on. Such as Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Apparently quite a few people out there in listening land think the lyric “Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer,” is actually “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.” I bet Tony Danza likes that.
Then there is the line from Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Many people hear “kicking your cat all over the place” instead of “kicking your can all over the place.” That one I don’t get. Who would sing about kicking a cat all over the place? Ever hear of animal cruelty? No way would someone sing about that.
And who knew people were hearing “Then I saw her face, now I’m going to leave her,” instead of “Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer,” by the Monkees. It’s nice to know I’m not the only confused person out there.
It’s all about perception, which we each have our own unique take on. Like my dad always said, “Billions of brains, and each one is different.” Which means that just about every single song written is open to interpretation, along with everything else under the sun.
Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll meet Billy Joel and will have the opportunity to ask him about the lyrics to “The Piano Man.” Won’t some people go all red in the face if it turns out I’m right about the bread in the jar?
But I’m not one to gloat. Instead, I’ll be gracious and suggest to my chagrined friends that we spend the evening listening to “Home on the Range” and debating its meaning.
Or maybe I’ll just suggest we watch something on Netflix. That sounds a lot less draining.