Misheard Lyrics of the 1970s: Child Logic

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A recent surf into a 1970s internet radio station made me aware of how I misheard lyrics as a child, and how I forced square lyrics to fit into round holes. Growing up, I wondered why songwriters were so eclectic with their lyric choices, only to find as an adult that it was my eclectic brain doing the listening and talking.

I convinced myself that my concocted and cockeyed lyrics somehow made sense, which led me to realize that there are many times in life when we bargain with ourselves.

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The Carpenters
The Carpenters

The first song that passed through the radio station was The Carpenters‘ version of “Rainy Days and Mondays,” written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, which was a radio hit in 1971. I’m sure you can hear Karen now, singing about how she gets down in the dumps when it’s a rainy day, or a Monday:

What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong, feelin’ like I don’t belong
Walkin’ around, some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down
Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me

Except in my version, Karen didn’t think it was nice to know somebody loved her. Karen thought that a supreme higher-power was supporting her, because here are my misheard lyrics:

…Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Master knows somebody loves me

Hey, it works. Think about it. A supreme higher-power, the “master,” is aware of someone who cares about Karen, and in my book, that’s all that mattered. I was convinced that the master, being the be-all-and-end-all of the universe, supported Karen’s companionship with her anonymous, unnamed partner. Ding for me in the positive column. (What did not work for me was Karen being enslaved to someone, which is why I rearranged the “master” storyline in my head. Even as a child I wasn’t able to bargain with myself that being enslaved was fair game.)

Next on the playlist was Rupert Holmes’ “Escape,” with the subtitle of the more familiar “The Piña Colada Song.” Rupert had a smash hit with this in 1979, and anyone alive in that year will remember the heavy, heavy rotation of this song on the radio airwaves.

“The Piña Colada Song”

In the song, Rupert has grown tired of his lady, and while she sleeps, he reads the personal column of a newspaper. He spots an ad by someone who is seeking kinship for the same things in a very particular order: Piña Coladas, rain, someone anti-yoga yet who is smart, and who also likes to make love at the chime of midnight in the sand. So Rupert takes action:

I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean.
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine.
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad.
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad.

In my version, Rupert has an unfortunate speech impediment, and can’t pronounce the word “spied”:

…So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad.
And though nobody spawed it, I thought it wasn’t half bad.

Nobody spied his ad, in a vernacular unknown to humankind in 1979.

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But wait. This song has a happy ending, therefore my bargaining with myself that Rupert stating that nobody spawed his ad was not true at all. Someone indeed had spawed his ad, because as he waits in the meeting location of O’Malley’s (a friendly-sounding Irish pub, or a meat locker—take your pick), his kinship arrives, directly sent from the ad: his own lovely lady. Can you imagine? It was all just a miscommunication problem between this couple. They really do have a lot in common.

In the further realm of bargaining with oneself, there’s Meat Loaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” written by Jim Steinman. Meat Loaf was fresh off his stint of appearing in both the stage and film versions of “The Rocky Horror Show” when his Steinman-penned album Bat Out of Hell was released in 1977. In the song, Meat Loaf is advising his companion that he wants her, and he needs her, but he’s never going to love her. So, having two out of those three things isn’t bad. Right? He expounds:

Meat Loaf
Meat Loaf

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m cryin’ icicles instead of tears

In my world of 1977, there could be a vast difference between crying and tears:

…But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m cryin’, I suppose, instead of tears

Crying is for someone who’s really spent from the work put into the relationship. Tears is just, well, tears. Worked for me.

The last song that played through my recent internet surf was The Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together.” A couple in real life for many years, The Captain (whose real name is Daryl Dragon) and Toni Tennille had a radio smash with this ode to love in 1975.

Written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Toni Tennille sings to her partner to stop, keep strong, that no matter who might flirt with him, she’s there for him, and that even if the other ladies are talking trash about Toni, she’s going to be thinking of him, and advises him to hear with his heart, and that she really loves him. Really loves him. Even with her caustic sarcasm, she loves him:

The Captain and Tennille
The Captain and Tennille

Young and beautiful
Someday your looks will be gone
When the others turn you off
Who’ll be turnin’ you on
I will, I will, I will

In my world, Toni doesn’t know sarcasm. In my world, Toni is full of positivity and light:

…Young and beautiful
Someday you’ll look so divine

Maturity will bring divinity, and that worked for me.

The Captain and Tennille, who were married for 39 years, divorced in 2014. Love did not keep them together. Hypocrites.

If I had the advantage then of now-commonplace videos, I would have seen the singers’ lips moving and figured it all out. But only having the radio, my mind bargained itself into believing what I thought I was hearing. Sometimes we do the same thing in the adult world; wouldn’t it be great if it were still so innocent?

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Margaret McAleese is a playwright. Her produced plays include Black Mayo, Salley's Garden, Captured, Air Tight, Seven Sisters and There's a Girl in Boston. Her essay "From Haystacks to Handbrakes" is a past winner of the annual "My Brooklyn" writing festival. Margaret has also contributed as a writer for a 24 Hour Novel project and two 48 Hour Film Projects. A native New Yorker, she now lives in a renovated mill along a New Hampshire river, and every day is astounded that the view out her windows is no longer a brick wall ten feet away. Available at her Web site and @MaggieMcAleese.