Bette & Rosie ... You Hear What You Want To Hear

in #music2 years ago

Are you only hearing what you want to hear?

Sometimes we mishear what people say. More frequently, though, we misunderstand what they mean and such miscommunication can, and often does, create a lot of problems.

She's Got ... What!?

In 1981, I was 13 years old and my family owned a horse farm outside of Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. Every day, our barn need to be mucked out and my older brother and I spent countless hours doing just that. To make shoveling shit less of a burden, we'd play music on a radio. I can still recall it almost perfectly: Originally, I suspect, it had been white but over the years the plastic had completely yellowed with age. It had a big dial in the front and a nearly useless antennae that made tuning an exercise requiring a degree of luck bordering upon magic.

Anyway, one day a then-current hit song began to play. It was catchy and so I started to sing along. I was interrupted by my older brother, "What are you singing? Those aren't the words, you dufus." A heated argument ensued which eventually devolved into pushing and punching. For those too young to remember, in the Olden Days, our music-making-machines were "live only" and so you might have to wait days for a song to re-play so as to resolve such a dispute.

In any event, I was 100% confident in my interpretation of the lyrics and so I awaited, not-so-patiently, for the song to play again so I could stick it to my stupid brother. Well, I wouldn't be recounting this story if things had worked out the way I'd planned, would I?

I was sure she had "... better days aside." 

As it turned out, she had "... Bette Davis eyes."

Who thought the choreography for this video was a good idea?

I was shocked. I'd been absolutely certain. And who the Hell was Bette Davis?

As the lyrics of some of my other favorite songs became available on the Internet, I was in for a number of similar semantic surprises. And, I'd be willing to bet, I wasn't alone in my multiple misconceptions. 

Here's a mega-hit from Neil Diamond. I love this song and, obviously, so do a lot of other people. Listen to the whole song so that it's fresh in your mind. (If you don't follow the directions, you'll ruin the effect and the entire point of the article ... I'm talking to you @cryptogee). 

OK, done? Good.

Now, what was that song about? 

Well, it's pretty obvious: It's a man serenading a woman, "Cracklin Rosie." Two lovers romantically entwined, engaged in prolonged lovemaking. An anthem to the object of a man's love, and his lust. A tribute to tryst, if you will. 

Not so.

"Cracklin Rosie" is the cheapest bottle of "rosé wine" that can be purchased in the General Stores of Indian Reservations in Northern Canada. On such reservations, unemployment, poverty and substance abuse is endemic and there are, typically, more men than women as many of the latter have departed for the cities. 

And so, the guys with no girls go down to the General Store to buy a "store bought woman" and wile away the hours around a "cracklin" campfire, getting drunk with the only companion available. To break up the monotony, some will periodically jump aboard a passing train and party alone in the back of an empty freight car. 

So here's the song a second time, this time with the lyrics included. Now that you know what the words really mean, listen again to see how such insight changes your reaction to what you're hearing:

(I hope the fact that I may have just shattered a number of cherished childhood memories won't adversely effect the value of your upvote.)

All this begs the question: If the words of a mega-hit we've all heard a million times could be so dramatically misconstrued, what else might we be misunderstanding? If you didn't understand Neil Diamond, are you sure you understand me? Or others? 

Chances are that "Confirmation Bias" (hearing what we want to hear, instead of what's actually being said) is causing some huge errors in judgement about one another, the imputation of meaning that was neither said nor implied. Whether modern-day politics or blockchain governance, matters of controversy are notorious for causing people to jump to conclusions, of reading their own beliefs and biases into what others are trying to say.

Perhaps most distressingly, such skewed perception not-infrequently results in allegations of moral turpitude. But not everyone with a mustache is Hitler, and surely not every person with whom you disagree is trying to usher in the next age of fascism.  

Perhaps we need to spend less time reading between the lines, and more on the lines themselves.  



Confession Time: In the comments section, come clean about the lyrics that YOU'VE mangled over the years. And, if you claim that you've never done it, know that I will attach a fitting response to your comment:

Liar, liar pants on fire,
Nose as long as a telephone wire.  


All images are linked to source, are QuillFire originals or are modifications of images in the public domain. Videos and images may also be parodies/educational analyses of original works, and therefore rely upon applicable exemptions from copyright. 

You guys know the QuillDrill. Be verbose ... but articulate.

And remember ...

Go Love a Starving Poet

For God's sake ... they're starving!



Who hasn't botched a few lyrics? I used to think "and the cradle will rock" by Van Halen was "and the cleo will rock." I had no clue what that might mean, but I was sure that what's David Lee Roth was singing.

And I loved Bette Davis Eyes. Even though I had no clue who Bette Davis was. The raspy voice of Kim Carnes was sexy as hell, and I've have given anything but a tire iron for one chance to glare down her, um, vocal chords.


I was going to mention her raspy (sexy) voice as a potential explanation for my confabulation but I didn't want to have to label the post NSFW. Once you get going on those kinds of paragraphs, they have a way of becoming chapters. :-)


You have my permission to make it a quickie!

Funny I was playing Bette Davis eyes on my way home. It was really hard to get the lyrics back then. Although some cassette tapes included fold in lyrics along with the cover. But my question is. Is she really a spy? You may think I have a wild imagination. I still think that there are conspiracies and secrets messages in songs.


You're right about the lyrics being largely unobtainable ... and I loved it when they started to include the lyrics in cover folds. Respecting the lyrics to that song ... they're bloody awful so it's a good thing I didn't understand most of what she was saying. As I mentioned to @prydefoltz (she's a poet):

"Off your feet with the crumbs, she throws you" ... "and she know just what it takes to make a pro blush" ... "all the boys think she's a spy ..."


If you wrote that ... I'd sue you for Doggerel & Battery.


Mondegreens!! Mis-heard song lyrics!!! You've touched upon a beloved topic.

Didn't know this: "Cracklin Rosie" is the cheapest bottle of "rosé wine" that can be purchased in the General Stores of Indian Reservations in Northern Canada.


"They ha’e slain the Earl of Murray, And they laid him on the Green." Miisheard as "They ha’e slain the Earl of Murray, And Lady Mondegreen."

Hearing is a two-step process. First, there is the auditory perception itself: the physics of sound waves making their way through your ear and into the auditory cortex of your brain. And then there is the meaning-making: the part where your brain takes the noise and imbues it with significance. That was a car alarm. That’s a bird. Mondegreens occur when, somewhere between the sound and the meaning, communication breaks down. You hear the same acoustic information as everyone else, but your brain doesn’t interpret it the same way. What’s less immediately clear is why, precisely, that happens.
***The worst:
“Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann
Misheard Lyric: “Wrapped up like a douche, another rumor in the night.”
Actual Lyric: “Revved up like a Deuce, another runner in the night.”
You can google the most common mondegreens -


Ha, a great comment ... that second link is worth anyone's time. I now feel much better about "better days aside."



I was sure Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC was actually Dirty Deeds and the Thunder Chief.
Point well taken on hearing what you want to hear though. Kids are pretty darn good at that too!


They're wrong and you're right ... it is, "Dirty deeds and the thunder chief." I have your back. :-)


Dirty Deeds, done with sheep!

@redpossum & @blueeyes8960,

OK, perhaps I stand corrected. Using a bit of deductive reasoning: It would indeed, be a "dirty deed" if "done with sheep." :-)


This is great @quillfire. I actually have a new appreciation for Cracklin Rose. Obviously thought is was about a boy and girl (younger self talking) hooking and deciding to leave everything behind. The video is great.

I know there are songs that I didn't know the words to, but having brain failure at the moment. Only one comes to mind and I wasn't a kid. Is Big Empty by Stone Temple Pilots. The part which says 'conscience laden' I had thought it was something else. When I could look up the words and found out what it really was I corrected it when I sang. Wish I could remember what I put in there. Yet there is a song I can't sing right unless I have the words in front of me. Weird Al got into my head. American Pie now always comes out as This Here Anakin Guy (The Saga Begins) "Oh my my, this here Anakin guy
May be Vader someday later - now he's just a small fry"


Hi Try.

I love American Pie and I love Weird Al. But I'm scared to go listen to his version lest it re-write my memory banks. My curiosity, though, will probably get the best of me. :-)


Look at you sneaking a moral to the story at the end there. ;) I'm sure I am plenty guilty of confirmation bias myself, so thanks for the reminder to take myself out of the equation sometimes to at least attempt to be more objective.

I am also totally guilty of misunderstood song lyrics. Often I hear a catchy tune and think I really like it, only to really listen to the words later on and be appalled at what I was shaking my hips to. Though in my family the most epic instance comes in the form of a class groovy tune...

As kids we heard this song and thought she was saying "Gopher in my heart". Thus, to this day any time this song comes on you can watch three gangly white chicks get funky and sing the wrong lyrics, but have an absolute blast for about 4 minutes! If you ever invite me to a wedding where the DJ takes requests, know this will 100% be my choice. ;)


You know, I played the song and inserted "Gopher in my heart" in the appropriate places. And guess what ... it doesn't change the meaning of the song at all!!!



You obviously don't read enough horror novels...😉

Haha, just kidding. In all fairness it does not actually change the meaning of the song, but I was too excited in my own biased mind not to share our silly little family anecdote.

Better Days Aside ... haha ... what does that even mean? Still giggling.

And yes we can't help but understand things from what we "think" we already know. It is truly unavoidable but we can make a practice of assuming positive intent. That is ... assume the speaker did not mean to offend or offer anything negative. Even when the speaker did indeed mean to offend, understanding that people can only come from where they were before, might allow someone to react with positive intent in response and turn a situation around. Gentle redirection and humor tends to help.

PS. In my day we had more options. There was Baby Duck and Pastel Pink and Pastel Passion. I got a funny story about the latter:)


Congratulations @quillfire! You have completed the following achievement on the Steem blockchain and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

You got more than 5000 replies. Your next target is to reach 5250 replies.

You can view your badges on your Steem Board and compare to others on the Steem Ranking
If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

Vote for @Steemitboard as a witness to get one more award and increased upvotes!