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06 July 2010

Is the Church Singing the Wrong Words? (Is It More Than a Feeling?)

Continuing yesterday's observations, I thought of another song that people will sing along with, sometimes at the tops of their lungs. With this song, they typically don't just get the words slightly wrong, but butcher them so badly that they're unrecognizable. (Hey, that doesn't make sense, because if someone butchers the lyrics, the lyrics weren't recognizable in the first place...)

Boston's More Than a Feeling... What better song for an example?! Follow along with the YouTube video beginning at 44 seconds while you read the misheard lyrics (a compilation of my favorite ones with a few words of my own mishearings in there).

Misheard Lyrics:
It's more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
Well, I hear that on Sundays (more than a feeling)
I think you’re dreaming (more than a feeling)
Just living it up on the world.
I see the Mary Ann walkin' away.

(We can only hope that someday the clothing and hairstyles of Boston in this video will come back into style.)

Sounds reasonable enough, right? The words don't make complete sense when you put them all together, but taken individually they're okay, and they sound right to the ear. But play it again and read these:

The original lyrics:
It's more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
'Till I see Mary Ann walk away
I see my Mary Ann walkin' away.

To recap, let's look at each line, comparing wrong and right:

Wrong: It's more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
Right: It's more than a feeling (more than a feeling)

No problems so far...

Wrong: Well, I hear that on Sundays (more than a feeling)
Right: When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)

Hmmm... Not even the same number of syllables. But I figured out why this line is easy to get wrong. Most of us listen to the lead vocal, but when the backing vocals come in (on this line in particular), our ears tend to stop following the lead vocal and instead gravitate to the vocals that are meant to support the lead vocal. That could be its own topic -- sometimes the Church unwittingly stops listening to the Lead Vocal and begins to follow the background vocal. Still the same song, similar theme, but the message gets completely lost.

Wrong: And I think you're dreaming (more than a feeling)
Right: I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)

Wow, change a couple of words and the sentence means the exact opposite. "I think you're dreaming," instead of me beginning my own dreaming.

Wrong: Just living it up on the world.
Right: 'Till I see Mary Ann walk away

Okay, now. This one is over the top. I don't even have commentary good enough to talk about this contrast. It's like, "Eh? How in the world could you mistake one for the other? They don't even sound alike."

Wrong: I see the Mary Ann walking away.
Right: I see my Mary Ann walking away.

If you said the first line about your girlfriend Mary Ann, it would be completely callous and impersonal, and people would think you're a jerk. However, the correct line takes the word "my" and wraps up the reason the song was written in the first place.

Beautiful song, great and memorable melody, the name Mary Ann intact in both the wrong and the right versions. One version, however, really doesn't communicate much. When we know what the lines really say, though, the song begins to make much more sense.

Have you noticed that when you've known the words of a song one way all your life but then discover that the real words actually say something else, the "magic" seems to go away? You're stuck with a tendency to sing words that you know are wrong, but they "feel" right. When you do that, however, you can't sing those words in good conscience, and sometimes the tendency is to just stop singing and listen to the CD/MP3.

Rats. No obvious parallels to the modern Church...

By the way, just for fun, feel free to share the words you always thought More Than a Feeling said, or post other misheard lyrics the way Pat did yesterday.

"More Than a Feeling" written by Tom Scholz, copyright 1976 Epic Records / 2006 (?) Sony Music


Connie said...

Mondegreens. This will be a great series to read!

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