when song lyrics are different than what you were singing

I’ve misheard many lyrics. Rock singers tend to be unintelligible. I’m not so invested in music that this happens often to me, but there’s been a few times when the real lyrics to a song ruin the meaning for me. Obviously this just happened to me again recently, hence the blog.

The one I could always quote was R.E.M. “Man on the Moon”. This is what I heard:

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing out there to see
There’s nothing to do

Which to me meant, if you believe they put a man on the moon how could you possibly think there’s nothing to do anymore but complain about how boring life is. Get off the floor and stop whining you wuss.

Then I found out the real lyrics:

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Screw you, R.E.M. That just ruined the only thing I liked about that song. Those lyrics mean nothing to me.

This morning I’m listening to The Killers “All These Things That I’ve Done” which I’ve always had a thing for because it’s a good catchy song. And there’s this one part that really gets me every time:

I wanna shine on, in the hearts of man
I wanna mean it from the back of my broken hand

I have no idea what they meant by that, but to me it was how I saw myself as a writer. I’d be fine if I never got published. I’d be fine if I had a small run and people were mildly entertained by my stories.  But I would be touched if people loved my stories. I’d cry if a stranger named me one of their favorite authors. And the second line, well, I have carpal tunnel. Not exactly a broken hand, but at my worst it meant I couldn’t type. So for me it meant putting my best into my writing despite the pain.

And today I find out that I most likely misheard the lyrics.  Most website including MTV have the lyrics listed as thus:

I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand

What does that even mean? I can’t find any official posting on their page. The song doesn’t appear in Rockband or Guitar Hero as far as I could tell which I would hope had official lyrics.

I want to meet Brandon Flowers (singer of The Killers) just so I can ask him what the hell he’s saying. In the meantime, here’s the one live version where I could stare at his mouth movements during the line. I think he’s singing the words from my interpretation.

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5 responses to “when song lyrics are different than what you were singing

  • Deborah the Closet Monster

    Gah! I misheard “Man on the Moon” as you did, and am similarly miffed at the actual lyrics.

    I frequently listened to “All These Things That I’ve Done” while running in Japan, but never really paid attention to the lyrics very closely. I’m mystified similarly by both sets of lyrics you include above.

    Another piece of this post that jumped out at me was not really understanding what some lyrics mean, but being moved by them nevertheless. I’ve been listening to the Scrubs soundtrack endlessly this week, and have come to realize that one of my favorite songs has lots of lyrics that don’t make any sense to me. That’s nevertheless made up for by the ones I do:

    Everybody’s got a hold on hope
    It’s the last thing that’s holding me

    (If it turns out I’ve misheard that, I don’t know what I’ll do!)

    • vin

      best not look it up then. What gets me is that I even signed up at The Killers fan forum and looked through the lyrics, but no one can point to an official lyric guide. There are a multitude of phrases in that song that are heard in different ways.

  • Ghost Writer

    I used to think a line in a song lyric was ‘bridge of doom today’ when infact it was ‘bridge of Toome today’ the Toome being a real place. It’s from a very obscure (not pop) song that was about a real event. Also there was a song lyric that I thought was ‘Closer Jack, if you do what Mommy says, you won’t come back’ when it really was Grocer Jack, is it true what Mommy says, you won’t come back?”

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