My mother would have you know it is no secret i have a particular condition common among many children. She, in her sage possession of wisdom, aptly refers to it as “selective hearing.” I, however, call it forgetfulness, and claim it to be a side effect of an over-full hard-drive of a brain. But if you’re betting, i’d encourage you to put money on my mother’s diagnosis. Moms do have that knack for being right, even when we mere mortals want them to be anything but.
As further evidence of this, i have a tale to divulge to all ye gathered here concerning this precise malady of mine ears. Recently, in a conversation with my father, i uncovered some disconcerting news which highlighted, most evidently, this very ability i posses to only hear what i want to hear. He recently returned from chaperoning a service trip wherein the workers were predominantly high schoolers. On said trip, the members of his crew were particularly fond of singing one of my all-time-til-the-day-the-sun-implodes-favorites, “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. When i delightedly exclaimed my approval of such a song to fixate upon, my father agreed – and then uttered a sentence that would change my life forever:
“Yeah! But they had to change one of the lyrics.”
Bamboozled, i retorted that this song was only mildly sexual, and all allusions to such illicit activities were done in such euphemism even the most conservative of teens couldn’t be offended. Despite, of course, the bizarrely pseudo-raunchy music video.
To this, he replied that the line in the fifth verse had to be changed from what i thought was “I caught a trucker out of Philly / Had a nice long talk” to “Met a trucker out of Philly / shared an ice cold coke.”Still insisting that talking was always a good, productive, if sometimes irritating thing, i questioned why the line had to be changed.
A trip down googling lane later, the scales fell from my eyes. The actual lyric is:
“Met a trucker out of Philly / had a nice long toke.”
It was then my forty-something father had to explain to me, his almost-twenty-years-old, Seven-Sisters-School-Attending daughter, that this was not a thick-accented-way of saying “talk,” but rather a reference to smoking marijuana.
It’s not that the song holds any less value for me now, or that i’m passing some kind of judgement on the gentlemen who wrote such lyrics. Really, it is mostly just hilarious to me that i could so completely not get a reference to weed – that such a not-subtle reference would have to be spelled out for me by my father.
But here’s the thing: i’ve started to question now just how many lyrics i have mis-heard in the course of my lifetime. Sure, there are songs like “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, where NO ONE CAN POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND A WORD HE IS SAYING after the title lyric. Because, surely, the line is not “wrapped up like a douche who is a runner in the night.” Yet i take small comfort in this one-hit-wonder’s mumble-confusion.
And really, i wouldn’t be fretting at all over such a silly mis-hearing except, well … it happened again. Within twenty-four hours. In unrelated circumstances.
The subsequent day i went to work, put up with more crappy tippers and said twelve Hail Mary’s for not spilling any more drinks, and came home to collapse into bed. Whilst allowing myself to decompress from the day (a.k.a., wasting hours on tumblr) i chose to listen to my most recent musical obsession: Julia Nunes. Most particularly, i was jamming out to “It’s Raining Men” originally by the Weathergirls, and (obviously) covered by Julia Nunes. (I have no shame in my musical tastes).
While singing along i found myself stumbling on a lyric that had never once occurred to me to be anything other than what i had first heard when the song first befell my sixth-grade-ears. For, though the song is about letting yourself get totally wet as men rain down from the heavens, i had in all my innocence, invented a line that somewhat assuaged rampant female sexuality. (Because oh! The horror at such a thought!). In the bridge of this song, i always thought the line went:
“God bless Mother Nature / Jesus needs a woman too!”
Wrong. Again. As Julia Nunes has a little more enunciation (and less rain sound effects) than the original, i heard with all clarity the actual lyric:
“God bless Mother Nature / She’s a single woman too!”
Again, my love of the song has not at all abated. For this song, it’s probably grown – and my understanding of it is considerably less muddled. But twice! Twice! In twenty-four-hours! I’m starting to wonder if my mother’s diagnosis of my hearing impediment is not just confined to my “forgetting” to do the dishes or clean out the litterbox, but a plague upon the house of my brain. How many songs will i continue to mis-hear, continue to improperly sing, before this madness ends? Surely the cataclysmic fate of the world hangs in the balance of Jesus needing a woman and sharing a toke!
The only cure i see in my future is, well, furthered embarrassment. I suppose i shall only continue to naïvely mis-listen and subsequently mis-speak-sing. Still, i shall bear this burden with pride and refuse to sing quietly, even when such lyrics are written only in my brain. And if it means having a few talks outside of Philly or raining men because Jesus and Mother Nature have been a little too procreative in the weather department, so be it.
current jam: ‘good morning sunshine’ alex day (lord knows it could be ‘good morning moonlight,’ save that i double-checked the lyrics before posting this!)
best thing: orange juice and diesel in a suit.