Tuesday, May 26, 2009
What they’re singing about
I’ve always had a hard time understanding American songs, or any song sung in English. When I was a kid, a popular song by Swedish rocker Jerry Williams called “Did I tell you” to me translated into “delateljo,” which in Swedish, of course, doesn’t mean a thing.
I once bought the sheet music to Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” because a friend insisted there was a line in there that said “a star called Othello.” I claimed something else – perhaps it was “stark, old bordello,” I can’t remember – but it turned out we were both wrong. McLaughlin was singing about a dark, cold hotel room.
“We’re in America, man,” turned out to be Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American band” and the weird song about a woman’s “Hawaiian eyes” turned out to be “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles (and while googling it, I found out this is a very common misconception).
When I was younger (in Sweden) and people referred to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” I always thought the song was actually called “I am the tiger.”
My boyfriend, sorry – husband – now listens very carefully to me singing along to the radio in the car to see if he can get a chuckle out of my interpretation of popular songs.
He got the biggest laugh out of me singing along to “mama’s got the squeeze bugs, daddy never sleeps at night.”
“The what?” he asked, almost pulling the car over.
“The squeezebugs,” I declared. “You know, when people squeeze you really hard. The people who will never stop hugging you.”
Albie laughed even harder now.
“No, that’s not it. They are singing ‘squeezebox.’”
Me: “Well, what the heck is a squeezebox? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s an accordion. She’s playing it… in and out… see?”
Me, now with arms folded across chest: “I like my lyrics better.”
Turns out, of course, that Albie is correct. “Squeezebox” was recorded by The Who in 1975. Apparently, it can also be slang for vagina, and the band at the time was trying to find out what they could get away with in the recording studio.
The other day I was driving home from work and heard a popular song from the 60s that I eagerly sang along to. Then I stopped and said to myself “wait just a minute! Is it supposed to be ‘hang on, stupid, stupid hang on!’ or ‘hang on Snoopy, Snoopy hang on!’?” Again, turns out it was neither. The song by The McCoys released in 1965 actually goes “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.” It was written for singer Dorothy Sloop, who used the nickname “Sloopy” on stage.
All I can say now is, thank God for the Internet. Otherwise I would never have known what people are actually singing about.