What are they saying?

Lyrics can be a troublesome thing.

Sometimes, you just cannot understand the words at all. A classic example of this is the Kingsmen classic, Louie, Louie. First of all, Jack Ely was far from the microphone with his neck stretched which added a roughness to his voice making it hard to understand what are pretty innocuous lyrics that led the FBI into a two-year investigation of trying to figure them out. Second, the lyrics to the song are in something of a pidgin English making it hard for a listener to “logically” follow the words.

Other times, the words may be slurred to the extent that a listener may hear something other than what is sung. Jimi Henrix’ “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” falls in to that category.

There are times that you do hear, phonetically, what is being sung, but the music phrasing makes it hard to understand what the lyrics mean, such as in Dorothy Moore’s fantastic 1976 hit Misty Blue. To move some words around to make the point, I could never figure out if Ms. Moore meant “Good baby, listen to me” or “Baby, listen to me good.” An extremely minor point in a great record, but it always tripped something in my mind whenever I heard it .

Then there are times when there are words that sound the same but the timing of the song suggests the incorrect one. The opening theme of the 1960’s animated TV show, Top Cat, is one such case. Right after the beginning it sounds as though the lyrics are “Whose (belonging to TC) intellectual close friends get to call him TC.” If you have ever seen the show, you know that none of TC’s friends are intellectual. TC is the only one of the bunch. What they are really singing is this:

Who’s (who is) intellectual. (Period. Full stop.)

Close friends get to call him TC.

No big deal, but it does make things confusing.

And don’t get me started on those angelic choirs such as used in Disney movies in the ’50’s that are totally unintelligible.

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