by Gavin Edwards
Illustrated by Chris Kalb
When the church choir sings, “Gladly, the Cross I’d Bear,” are you one of those who thinks the hymn is about “Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear”? When you listen to Top 40 radio, do you hear Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder bellowing, “Can’t find the butter, ma’am,” when in truth he’s singing, “Can’t find a better man”?
Then you are hereby directed to ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy. Edwards, an associate editor at Details magazine, chronicles some of the most famous misheard lyrics in popular music, such as the book’s title, whose more proper interpretation is ” ‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky,” from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.
Other choice examples include the Beatles’ ethereal “The girl with colitis goes by” (really “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), Led Zeppelin’s existential “And there’s a wino down the road/I should have stolen Oreos” (“And as we wind on down the road/Our shadows taller than our souls” from Stairway to Heaven) and the ever practical home-making ditty by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “baking carrot biscuits” (Takin’ Care of Business).
Who can forget the antiwar message of Cat Stevens’s “Right on the pea stain” (“Ride on the peace train”) or the urgent cry of Creedence Clearwater Revival, “There’s a bathroom on the right” (“There’s a bad moon on the rise”)? Who isn’t moved by Bob Mar-ley’s hauntingly beautiful “We will cook Maury Povich” (“We would cook corn-meal porridge,” No Woman No Cry) or Sinead O’Connor’s “I do know Mike Ditka” (“I do know Mandinka”)?
Not surprisingly, Edwards—who collected many of the examples from readers who responded to a column he wrote on the subject—dedicates the book to his parents, “who never took me to the doctor to get my hearing checked.” There is however at least one glaring omission: Rod Stewart’s ode to narrative breakfast pastry, “Every picture tells a story doughnut” (“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”). (Fireside, paper, $8.95)