Misunderstood Lyrics: 38 Funny Things You Didn’t Really Hear

Whether it’s a Freudian slip or rubbish radio quality, here are the most misheard lyrics that have been mangled by the general public.

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Misquoted song lyrics
Illustration: uDiscoverMusic

We’re all unreliable narrators, that’s why when asked to recall what you did last Tuesday, or the lyrics to Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s ‘Blinded By The Light,” the result is a jumbled mess of false memories and misunderstood lyrics like these: “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche when you’re rollin’ in the night.”

While Bruce Springsteen, AKA The Boss, first recorded the song, it wasn’t until Mann covered it that “Blinded By The Light” revved to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and spawned a hilarious ode to female sanitary products.

Blame it on particular pronunciation or the general population’s selective hearing, whatever the case may be, we’ve all been guilty of perpetuating misunderstood lyrics to some of the biggest hits in music history. In fact, it’s so common there’s even a technical term for it: mondegreen.

In a 1954 piece for Harper’s Magazine, writer Sylvia Wright spoke of one of her favorite verses in Reliques Of Ancient English Poetry, a 1765 book of popular poems and ballads. It began with the lines, “Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands / Oh, where hae ye been? / They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen.” Except there was no lady to speak of, Amurray was slain and they “laid him on the green.”

While most people don’t belt out ancient English poetry in the shower, they have misconstrued Jimi Hendrix’s sexual orientation on the iconic hit “Purple Haze” with “Scuse me while I kiss this guy” among many other offenses.

This issue spans both sides of the pond, according to data from Spotify. While Mann and Hendrix are among the most misheard stateside, 28 poll respondents in the UK are under the impression that Annie Lennox believes “Sweet Dreams are made of… cheese” in the classic Eurythmics song.

Coming in a close second is Elton John. You can chalk this up to the Americans, who believed the opening track on John’s 1971 album Madman Across The Water, “Tiny Dancer,” was really an ode to the sitcom star Tony Danza. (An episode of Friends probably didn’t help matters.) Just a few years later on his hit “Bennie And The Jets.” people mistook his sartorial observations “she’s got electric boots, a mohair suit” to be “she’s got electric boobs, a bowl of soup.”

Elton John - Bennie And The Jets (Official Music Video)

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Whether it’s a Freudian slip or just rubbish radio quality, here are some other songs with misheard lyrics that have been mangled and otherwise distorted by the general public.

Taylor Swift – Blank Space

Misheard lyric: “All the lonely Starbucks lovers”

Taylor Swift isn’t wistfully recalling unrequited love over lattes but talking about her old flames.

Actual lyric: “Got a long list of ex-lovers”

The Rolling Stones – Beast Of Burden

Misheard lyric: “I’ll never leave your pizza burning”

Sadly, Mick is not pledging never to burn your crust, but rather pledging never to be a pushover.

Actual lyric: “I’ll never be your beast of burden”

Beast Of Burden (Remastered 1994)

Click to load video

Journey – Open Arms

Misheard lyric: “So here I am with broken arms”

This early 80s power ballad has often been misheard as a painful injury.

Actual lyric: “So here I am with open arms”

Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror

Misheard lyric: “And no Mrs. could have been any clever”

It feels a bit ironic, but this line from Michael Jackson often gets misheard in a variety of ways.

Actual lyric: “And no message could be clearer”

Eagles – Hotel California

Misheard lyric: “On a dark desert highway, cool whip in my hair”

Is this Don Henley’s ode to the desert… or desserts?

Actual lyric: “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair”

ABBA – Take A Chance On Me

Misheard lyric: “If you change your mind, Jackie Chan, I’m the first in line, Jackie Chan”

It’s possible that the Swedish pop superstars were huge fans of the martial arts action star, but it’s unlikely that they knew about him in 1977, when this song was written.

Actual lyric: “If you change your mind, take a chance, I’m the first in line, take a chance”

Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind

Misheard lyric: “In New York, concrete jungle, wet dream, tomato…”

It’s not a surrealistic rap. Instead, this chorus is an ode to one of the most celebrated cities in the world.

Actual lyric: “In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh… ”

The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations

Misheard lyric: “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, she’s giving me her citations”

The misheard song lyric here makes you wonder: Are The Beach Boys excited about female flirtations or a woman’s rigorous commitment to formatting abridged material?

Actual lyric: I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, she’s giving me excitations”

The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations (Official Music Video)

Click to load video

UB40 – Food for Thought

Misheard lyric: “I’m a prima donna, dying in the dust. Waiting for the manna coming from the west.”

Is UB40 speaking of a high maintenance ex-pat dying for exported moisturizer or an indictment of politicians’ refusal to relieve African famine?

Actual lyric: “Ivory Madonna, dying in the dust. Waiting for the manna coming from the west.”

Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Misheard lyric: “Mama say, mama say, mama applesap”

This one is a Dutch mishearing, but it’s so interesting we couldn’t help but include it. Apparently, Dutch children have misunderstood the ending of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” as another kid asking for apple juice. The joke name has since become the language’s official name for the phenomenon.

Actual lyric: “Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa”

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Misheard lyric: Various words like skittle, beetle, etc.

Kurt Cobain’s abstract lyrics were never the easiest to understand, but this line from one of their biggest hits is probably the most misunderstood.

Actual lyric: “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido.”

Eminem ft. Rihanna – Monster

Misheard lyric: “I’m friends with the mustard under my bed”

Once you hear it as this condiment, you may have trouble hearing it any other way.

Actual lyric: “I’m friends with the monster under my bed.”

Macy Gray – I Try

Misheard lyric: “I blow bubbles when you are not here”

Macy is not merely bored but devastated when her lover is away.

Actual lyric: “My world crumbles when you are not near”

Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

Misheard lyric: “It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not”

This striving 80s hair metal anthem refers to self-motivation rather than nudity helping you to achieve your goals.

Actual lyric: “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”

Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer

Click to load video

N’Sync – It’s Gonna Be Me

Misheard lyric: “It’s gonna be May”

“It’s gonna be May” is just one of the many ways that this song title, sung by Justin Timberlake, has been misunderstood over the years, leading to a meme or two each year on May 1st.

Actual lyric: “It’s gonna be me”

Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams – Good Times Theme Song

Misheard lyric: “Good times, hangin’ in a chow line”

Even to the most trained ear, the song lyrics here can be tricky, so much so that it inspired a skit by Dave Chappelle on his eponymous TV show. After testing quiz show contestants on their knowledge of Black culture, they’re all stumped by the lyric in this catchy TV theme song from the 70s sitcom.

Actual lyric: “Good times, hanging in and jiving”

ABBA – Dancing Queen

Misheard lyric: “See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen”

It’s hard to imagine the bright and sunny Swedish pop stars ever singing lyrics so deranged, but plenty of folks have misunderstood it that way.

Actual lyric: “See that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the Dancing Queen”

The Smiths – Ask

Misheard lyric: “Because if it’s not love, then it’s the bum, the bum, the bum, the bum, the bum, the bum, the bum, that will bring us together”

Morrissey has always been mum on the subject of his sexuality, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating on the topic and this misunderstood lyric only fuels the fire.

Actual lyric: “Because if it’s not love, then it’s the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, that will bring us together”

R.E.M – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite

Misheard lyric: “Calling Jamaica”

Michael Stipe is renowned for his ability to provide a tough-to-decipher lyric, but this may be one of the most misunderstood lyrics he’s ever sung.

Actual lyric: “Call me when you try to wake her up”

Blind Melon – No Rain

Misheard lyric: “I like to keep my teeth extracted”

This misheard lyric from the 90s classic sounds painful, but is instead just incredibly depressing.

Actual lyric: “I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today”

Deep Purple – Highway Star

Misheard lyric: “She eats coleslaw every day”

Coleslaw isn’t exactly known as a food you eat in the car, but that hasn’t stopped folks from mishearing this Deep Purple gem.

Actual lyric: “She stays close on every bend”

Eddie Money – Two Tickets To Paradise

Misheard lyric: “Two chickens in a pot of rice”

To be fair, two chickens in a pot of rice isn’t a bad thing, but Eddie Money’s promise of two tickets to paradise sounds more enticing.

Actual lyric: “Two tickets to paradise”

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

Misheard lyric: “There’s a bathroom on the right”

A friendly bit of direction or a dark portent? This often misunderstood lyric comes from one of Creedence’s most famous tunes.

Actual lyric: “Bad moon on the rise”

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising (Official Lyric Video)

Click to load video

The Beach Boys – Help Me, Rhonda

Misheard lyric: “Well, since you put me down there’s been owls pukin’ in my bed”

Both sound like pretty horrible situations, but the correct lyric for this Beach Boys classic at least doesn’t involve a bird in Al Jardine’s house.

Actual lyric: “Well, since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head”

The Rascals: Groovin’

Misheard lyric: “Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie/Groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon”

This Young Rascals classic tune is much more chaste than this misheard lyric might suggest.

Actual lyric: “Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly/Groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon”

Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back

Misheard lyric: “I like big butts and a can of limes”

It’s possible Sir Mix-A-Lot enjoys limes, but that’s not the lyric he’s rapping on this pop rap classic.

Actual lyric: “I like big butts and I cannot lie”

The Clash – Rock The Casbah

Misheard lyric: “Rock the cash bar, rock the cash bar”

Many folks are unfamiliar with North African architecture, so it’s unsurprising to know that this is one of the most misunderstood lyrics of the 80s.

Actual lyric: “Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah”

Madonna – Like a Virgin

Misheard lyric: “Like a virgin, hey/Touched for the 31st time”

It’s hard to imagine mishearing this one, considering the content of the song, but plenty have done so over the years.

Actual lyric: “Like a virgin, hey/Touched for the very first time”

Starship – We Built This City

Misheard lyric: “We built this city on sausage rolls”

There are probably plenty of cities that would make the claim that they’ve been built on a culinary speciality, but that’s not what Starship was singing about here.

Actual lyric: “We built this city on rock ‘n’ roll”

Toto – Africa

Misheard lyric: “Ain’t nothin’ that a hundred men on Mars could ever do”

It would be strange to go from Mars to Africa in the span of a song, but many have misunderstood this lyric from Toto’s biggest hit.

Actual lyric: “There’s nothin’ that a hundred men or more could ever do.”

The Beatles – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Misheard lyric: “A girl with colitis goes by”

Colitis is a deeply unpleasant medical condition and, thankfully, something The Beatles weren’t singing about when they put together this psychedelic classic.

Actual lyric: “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes”

Bee Gees: More Than A Woman

Misheard lyric: “Bald headed woman”

One of the most enduring songs from the group, this often misheard lyric first emerged on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Actual lyric: “More than a woman”

Bee Gees - More Than A Woman (Lyric Video)

Click to load video

Adele – Chasing Pavements

Misheard lyric: “Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing penguins, even if it leads nowhere?”

To be fair, chasing penguins would also likely lead nowhere, but this Adele classic is instead about pavements.

Actual lyric: “Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements, even if it leads nowhere?”

Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now

Misheard lyric: “I can see Deirdre now/Lorraine has gone”

Johnny Nash’s iconic song doesn’t feature any names specifically, just the general idea that happy times are here again.

Actual lyric: “I can see clearly now/The rain has gone”

Robert Palmer – Addicted to Love

Misheard lyric: “Might as well face it/You’re a dick with a glove”

Robert Palmer’s classic song has been misunderstood in many ways over the years. Needless to say, we can’t print them all here.

Actual lyric: “Might as well face it/You’re addicted to love”

Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love (Official Music Video)

Click to load video

Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind

Misheard lyric: “The ants are my friends”

Bob Dylan’s unique accent has made for a good number of misunderstood lyrics over the years. This is just one of the most famous.

Actual lyric: “The answer, my friend”

TLC – Waterfalls

Misheard lyric: “Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls”

Unless we missed something in the music video, the TLC lyric is more about general waterfalls as opposed to a guy named Jason.

Actual lyric: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls”

Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire

Misheard lyric: “Ohh, dyslexics on fire”

A dark mishearing of what should be a fun and sensual lyric from Kings of Leon’s big hit.

Actual lyric: “Ohh, this sex is on fire”



  1. DD

    January 6, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    ‘Freedom 90’ (George Michael)
    “Went back home, got a brand new face for the poison MTV”
    (“The boys on MTV”)

  2. Bill Dallier

    January 8, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    How about Slow motion Walter, that fire engine guy. Sung to the chorus of Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple.

  3. Simon Clatke

    January 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Who you gonna call? Those bastards.
    Ray Parker Jr.


    January 8, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    dudley moore singing strawberry fair..was last line shan’t be round tomorrow,the donkeys ‘pinched all the strawberries or… shan’t be round tomorrow,the donkey’s pissed on the strawberries? still can’t make my mind up


    January 8, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Dudley Moore singing Strawberry Fair.. the last line… does he sing,Shan’t be round tomorrow,the donkey’s pinched all the strawberries… or shan’t be round tomorrow,the donkey’s pissed on the strawberries.. still cannot tell which he sang

    • jan daizeil

      January 9, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      I think you`ll find that was Anthony Newly Graham.

  6. Suzanne

    January 9, 2017 at 6:29 am

    For Prince’s Little Red Corvette” I heard “Pay the rent collect”. And Rolling Stone’s Heartbreaker with your 44″ became “Heartbreaker with your bowling ball”.

  7. Rene Mikkelsen

    January 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Whitesnake’s (or Bobby Bland’s) “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” can easily become “Anal Love In The Heart Of The City”….

  8. Elwood

    January 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Everclear , Santa Monica , ” I am still living with your goat”

  9. Sweeters

    January 10, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    My mate was always convinced that the Isley Brothers’ Summer Breeze had the lyric “Blowin’ through the jazz men in my mind”. He plain wouldn’t accept any talk of jasmine.

    • JulesRules

      February 25, 2021 at 7:30 pm


      If I’d never seen this comment, I’d still be thinking it’s the jazzman in my mind!!

  10. scott

    January 10, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    I always loved the Steve Miller song…….Big old jed had a light on

    • BOBBY

      March 23, 2018 at 1:45 am


  11. Katherine Byrd

    January 15, 2017 at 1:05 am

    Sand in the clouds.

  12. Jeff Logan

    May 25, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Don’t forget to “Fire all of your guns at Watson” before you explode into space….

  13. Tommy

    July 20, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    The holes in your stocking they are calling me a fool,real lyric,the whole town is talking.It hurts me by Elvis Presley.

  14. Jon

    July 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    If you don’t kick your feet, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding, if you don’t kick your feet!

  15. Bob

    July 22, 2017 at 3:48 am

    And nobody ever heard
    ” my ears are alight”?
    Desmond Dekker and de aces, mon…
    ( the Isrealites)

  16. Sharon Gray

    December 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Billy Gray, best guitarist ( should be included in your list) (from Ypsilanti, MI)

  17. Terry Lewis

    January 7, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    UB40 – I gotta one inch head (One in Ten)

    • Chris Pampling

      March 19, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      … another on a lead…

  18. Thomas

    January 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Bryan Adams – summer of 69. The opening line ‘I got my first real sex dream – played it till my fingers bled’

  19. John Piper

    January 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Louis Armstrong. “What a wonderful world” Is full of mis-heard lyrics. For example :- “Icy trees of green” ” The Brian Blessed day the dogs says goodnight”

  20. Monica

    January 14, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    When I was a kid I thought the Raspberries song “Go All the Way” was “Please Go Away”. He was just holding the “o” in go for a really long time. LOL!

  21. Sandra

    January 14, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    The Earl of Murray not “Amurray”

  22. Ian

    January 14, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Madonna and Last night I dreamt of lumbago

  23. rik wheatley

    January 14, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Doh! Think you better do some research of your own there, Charlie.

  24. Dennis

    January 14, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady”
    “Dude loves guzzling gravy”

  25. Rick

    January 14, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Dylan hearing “ I get high “ in I Want To Hold Your Hand “, and me hearing “ But If you go carrying pictures of Jim around“ , in Beatles Revolution. Thought John was referring to James Paul McCartney✌️✌️✌️✌️

  26. Brian Stanbrook

    January 14, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    Bohemian Rhapsody – “spare him his life from these pork sausages”.

  27. Daisy doo

    January 14, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Why does it always rain on me is it because I was born near sella field,

  28. Ray

    January 15, 2018 at 1:12 am

    To my embarrassment I thought lady ga ga was singing cheery pie cheery pie instead of read my poker face

  29. Jeff

    January 15, 2018 at 6:12 am

    I am an ultimate KISS fan and thought Gene was singing “I was born outta man pus” ….during GOD OF THUNDER

  30. Brian Pell

    January 15, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Wow some great examples there.
    I’m amazed that no-one included “He’s dancin’ with the chicken slacks” from “Twistin’ the Night Away” by Sam Cooke. It should be “chick in slacks” of course…

  31. Doug Legere

    January 15, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Tom Cochran , if I had a rocket launcher I sang if I had a rocking lawn chair.

  32. Rob Dickinson

    January 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

    A friend thought SLF were singing Trevor’s a lobster’ and not Alternative Ulster.

  33. Bryton

    January 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Swing and a miss. Please don’t try…iyou know what? It’s easier to just point out that you’re dumb

  34. Dogarde

    January 16, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    With reference connection to another comment:
    “Small cup of wotah!
    PAPAYA in the FIGHT!”

  35. Dogarde

    January 16, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Actually thought Eric Burdon was singing, “MONORAIL” when I was young.

  36. Gregster

    January 16, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    ELO “Strange Magic” I hear “strains my dick” listened a thousand times, and I think regardless of what the official lyrics say, he is singing “strains my dick”!! Just an F U to the censors.

  37. Art

    January 17, 2018 at 12:07 am

    Barry Mcguire’s ” Eve of Destruction” Think of all the hay there is in Red China “

  38. Heidi

    January 17, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    My best friend’s mother was outraged in the 1970’s that the K C and the Sunshine Band’s song “Keep it Coming Love” was allowed on the radio. She thought he kept singing “Keep it common law”.

  39. Andrew Rodgers

    January 18, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Buzzcocks, Fast Cars ‘Sooner or later you’re going to listen to Darth Vader’ is actually ‘Sooner or later you’re going to listen to Ralph Nader’.

  40. martin

    January 18, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    there are no idiots here, Sir, so please don’t express yourself this way.

  41. Andy Davies

    January 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    What about :- I’m your penis, I’m your fire, I’m your desire.Was it bananarama?

    • Lee

      January 19, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      First by shocking blue then many years later bananarama

  42. Mickey

    January 22, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Eric Clapton, She no like, she like, she no like, croquet.

  43. Brian

    January 30, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Must have taken several minutes to make up all this garbage.

  44. AMillado

    March 21, 2018 at 12:38 am

    “I’m not talking ’bout the linen…” = “I’m not talking ’bout movin’ in…”

    From “I’d Really Like to See You Tonight” by England Dan & John Ford Coley

  45. Frank Landsman

    March 21, 2018 at 3:18 am

    Roger Meddow Taylor’s “Drowse”
    The brighter sun and the easy oles (on all Spanish and Latin American guitar chord sites) for “The brighter sun and the easier lays” (original lyrics).

  46. Jamey Vegas

    April 16, 2018 at 2:34 am

    The Romantics – Talking in Your Sleep

    My version “IQ the secret sensor key”

    Real “I hear the secrets that you keep”

  47. JSkar

    April 16, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Louie, Louis
    Nuff said!

  48. John Aughinbaugh

    April 16, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Instead of “Our Lips are Sealed”,I thought the Go-Gos we’re singing,”Honest,Cecile”.

  49. Catowner

    January 9, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Goodbye Groovy Tuesday. (I was a child, OK?) Also, Bob Marley: “Pajamas! Pajamas!”

  50. steve

    January 16, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    Blinded by the Light again

    “sent my anus a curly wurly”

  51. Joshua C

    September 16, 2023 at 1:29 am

    OneRepublic: All the right moves

    All the right boobs in all the right faces

    is actually

    All the right moves in all the right faces

  52. Ali tabooger

    November 18, 2023 at 12:48 am

    “It does not really matter if we make it or not”-the actual lyrics you fudge Packer’s fans.

    I mean, you must be Packer’s fans–cuz I doubt any Patriots are making that mistake, LoL.

  53. Phantom Marquis

    February 11, 2024 at 6:47 pm

    Using the Bugs Bunny variant of the word, “strategy,” the Blind Melon lyric is actually, “I like to keep my cheating ‘stragety’.”

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