Opinion: Remember that time you mangled the lyrics to a song?

Girl in headphones listening to music in the town at sunset music tile headphones tile / Getty Images

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across this post by a friend: "So, all this time, the Beach Boys were singing 'Barbara Ann,' not 'Boberan.' I always wondered who would name their daughter Boberan. Turns out no one would."

It immediately triggered a memory of a feature story I wrote years ago titled "Twisted Tunes." Back in the day, we asked readers to send in examples of mangled song lyrics. It could be their own mistakes or things they'd overheard.

I looked through the newspaper archives and found the piece, which was published in The Chattanooga Times in 1992. Boomers, take note. Most of the songs were from your era. Below is a section of excerpts from that 30-year-old article, followed by some modern-day examples of Twisted Tunes.


We received 15 letters on the old Credence Clearwater Revival song "Bad Moon Rising." Many think the lyric "there's a bad moon on the rise" was - brace yourself - "there's a bathroom on the right."

Darlene Coogan writes that her boss, dentist Stephen Sims, often tells of an acquaintance who butchered the Beatles classic "Ticket To Ride." One day Dr. Sims heard the friend sing, "She's got a chicken to ride, and she don't care."

Jennifer Bradford of Chattanooga says that she believed for years that the Bee Gees hit "More Than a Woman" was "Bald-Headed Woman." (It helps if you imagine this lyric in Barry Gibb falsetto: "Bald-headed WO-man. Bald-headed WO-man to me.")

Red Herner says he has a friend, a UT law school graduate no less, who thought the Rolling Stones were singing, "I'll never be your pizza burning" instead of "I'll never be your beast of burden."

Gurtrude Calton of LaFayette, Georgia, writes that her daughter learned songs by listening to the radio. One day the child was crooning along with a 1950s-era classic, "I only have eyes for you, dear," while blithely singing the words, "I only have ice for your deer."

Lisa Flint of Chattanooga writes that she was on a return trip from Atlanta when her mother, Jeanne Flint, decided to sing along with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." But instead of singing, "Billie Jean's not my lover," she sang, "Belly chains on my lover."

Jeff Styles, a local radio personality, writes that he used to think that the line "How my poor heart aches" in the song "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, was actually "I'm a pool-hall ace."

Donna Carter overheard a roommate singing along with Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville." The friend sang, "Blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a Pop-Tart." Instead of a pop top. (Don't you hate when that happens?)


After this trip down memory lane, I asked the students in my feature writing class at UTC to interview their friends and family (and to jump on social media) to come up with a few more modern examples of Twisted Tunes.

Here are some of the funny ones:

Mikaila Rummage of Chattanooga said: "My brother, when he was 6 years old, thought Bon Jovi sang 'You give love a Band-Aid!' instead of 'You give love a bad name.'

Gabe Jacob Ling of Chattanooga said he thought "Dirty Deeds" by ACDC said "Dirty deeds done for sheep" instead of "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap."

Tyler Davis of Chattanooga said, "When I was little, the old song that played 'Secret Agent Man' sounded like 'Secret Asian man.'"

Oren Kagan of Boston said he constantly twisted the lyrics of the Dire Straits song, "Money for Nothing." The line is 'Money for nothing and your chicks for free," but he heard, 'Money for nothing and your chips for free.'"

Tracy Vipond of Nashville said she misunderstood Queen's "We Will Rock You." She said, "The line is 'kicking your can all over the place,' and I heard 'kicking your cat all over the place.'"

Kat Finney, a UTC student, said, "My experience with ABBA's 'Dancing Queen' was confusing to me for a long time. The line is 'dancing queen, feel the beat of the tambourine' and I always heard 'dancing queen, feel the beat of the tangerine.'"

Catherine Corcoran, a UTC student, likes to play rock 'n' roll classics for the children she baby-sits. Two of them, ages 3 and 6, sing along to Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero" but substitute the words "Juicebox Hero." Similarly, they changed the line in Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" to "put another dime in the juicebox, baby."

Email Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.