Back in 1954 writer Sylvia Wright proposed a new word: mondegreen, meaning a mishearing or misinterpretation of a word or phrase in a poem or a song. Her idea for the name came about because when she was a child her mother frequently read to her from a book of poetry, and one of her favorites was a specific Scottish ballad that referred to the murder of an Earl by his enemies “and they laid him on the green” — in other words, put his body on display as a warning to other enemies. But Wright had always thought the line was “and the Lady Mondegreen.” So she had always thought that two people had been murdered.
One of my oldest friends used to tell how back in the day her Mother had thought that the Bee Gee’s hit from 1977, “More Than a Woman,” was actually “Bald-headed Woman.” And I’ve written before about how I had completely misunderstood a lot of the lyrics of the song Doris Day was most famous for singing.
I listen to music a lot. I have literally thousands of playlists, and I like to have background music when I’m writing, or working, or doing just about anything. Particularly in my writing playlists, some songs appear again and again. There are some songs that I think of as themes for some of my characters, for instance. Others just really go well with certain kinds of subplots. And the song is one that is currently in my draft NaNoWriMo 2019 playlist, which I’ve been fiddling with for a bit over a week.
Sometimes I like a song really well, but there are a few of the lyrics I’m not sure of. You can’t hear some words as clearly as the others for various reasons. For instance, there is a song that has been in a bunch of playlists for two or three years, now, “Dancin’ with the Devil” by Lindsay Perry. And I like the song quite a bit, but there is one line that I’m slightly unsure of. In the chorus there’s this sentence, “Cause there’s nothing much more for me to do, but go dancin’ with the devil in these old soled shoes.” Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me.
Except, I’m not sure what “old soled shoes” means, exactly. I mean, all styles of shoes have soles, and it the soles are old, one presumes the entire shoe is old, right? It’s just a weird phrase. There is a brand of children’s shoes called “Old Soles” but they are children’s shoes (and expensive), so not really in keeping with the rest of the song where the character portrayed in the lyrics is at the end of their rope because they made a deal with the devil that has turned sour as those deals always do.
I kept thinking that I must be misunderstanding her, so I finally decided to see if lyrics to the song were posted anywhere.
They are. But it soon becomes clear that every site hosting them is copying them from a single site where a fan with really bad hearing has made a guess at the lyrics. I say this because there are lines that are quite clear and unmistakeable earlier in the song that this attempt at transcription gets wrong. For instance, the line in the song “It was the devil in disguise with his hazy eyes, I should’ve known better from all his lies.” But the web lyrics render it as “He was the devil in disguise with his eyes of ice. Should I know better from how is last” Which makes absolutely no sense at all.
Plus there are other, worse mondegreens later.
The line I am slightly uncertain of they render as “go dancin’ with the devil in its handsome shoes” which I know is wrong, because, for one, everywhere else in the song the devil is referred to as he/his, not it. And frankly, I can’t imagine how anyone could get handsome out of the phonemes there.
Well, I’m not completely sure I’m right about that one bit of lyric, so do I really have a right to judge someone else who thinks it’s something that, to me, makes no sense at all?
Maybe you can hear it better than me.
Lindsay Perry on Sonny’s Porch / Dancing With The Devil:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
As Michael pointed out when we were walking home from this morning’s brunch, this week has been full of a lot of going out with friends.
I met Katrina a few years ago when we were both on staff for Conifur. Since she was living in Oregon, we only got to see her when she came up for a staff meeting, or at the con itself. Though several times she also came up to attend Writers’ Night.
She moved much further away for a while, so many of us were very sad. But now she’s nearby, again, and she brought her guy, Terry, up to Seattle to see the sights, hang out, and so on. We met them, the Oxfords, and the Jared, at one of our favorite local eateries, Palermo. Where we had a fabulous brunch and a long visit.
It was a weirdly productive weekend, by which I mean that it was productive, but not necessarily on the projects I had hoped to make progress. I certainly did not expect to come out of the work party with plots for two more stories about a character that was originally Mark & Kristin’s one-off! I was only going to write one, count it, one sequel to Chuck’s unexpected tale answering the question “what ever happened to…” but then, before I finished that one, an entire plot for an amusing Christmas Ghost story starring the character popped in my head, insisting on being written right now…
(Some plots do that. They’re not so much like a beautiful Greek muse inspiring you to artistic greatness as they are an extremely manic man leaning over you going “Write about me! Write about me! Write about me now or I will bloody well go away and you’ll go out of your mind trying to remember what I was!!!” So I wrote that story, and I guess there was something to it because it’s up for an award, now.)
Anyway, I had tried to circle back to the original idea for the one, count it, one, story I had intended to write about this character, and I had made some progress. I wasn’t trying really hard because there are other tales that I would rather be finishing. But then, at the meeting, while we were talking about other plotlines entirely, Chuck reeled off an alternative situation, and the next thing I knew, we were all talking about what sorts of things would happen to this character in this situation. And then Keith suggested a title. And suddenly, I knew what the plot really was for this new story (which takes place after the one, count it, one, story that I meant to write) and I knew I better write all of it down before I forgot it.
Then, we all walked up to Golden City for dinner, and while discussing something else entirely (again), someone said another title for yet another story for this character.
And as soon as they said it, I had a plot. And even better, it’s one that crosses over with another character, one I created and love writing stories for but haven’t had a new plot for in a while.
So I have gone from planning to write the one story about the character, to having written one different story about him, and I have three more in some sort of progress.
I’m not crazy. Just very slightly mad.
Meanwhile, I often put together playlists for either particular stories I’m working on, or for characters I write a lot. And I had mentioned this awhile back to Jared. Specifically that I was trying to put together a playlist for a character that he created, but that I have two stories in progress for. Which made him put together a playlist that he sent me (which prompted me to send him mine). I teased him that I thought his was way too emo, and asked how anyone could write while listening to all that downer music. He became resolved to create a different playlist, one that I could not describe in such derogatory terms.
He sent it earlier this week, and I’ve been listening to it. One of the songs he put on the list was “Original Sin” recorded by Taylor Dane for the Shadow motion picture soundtrack. And while I was humming along, I realized that I hadn’t heard the song in a very long time. I was surprised to discover that the soundtrack does not seem to be in my iTunes library. But I was quite certain that I had it, and that I had included at least this one song from it in some other playlists.
It took me about a minute to find the compact disc of the album hiding in the dusty shelves (I don’t touch the discs anymore, because I thought I’d put them all into my iTunes library). This makes me realize I need to go through those shelves and figure out which other music hasn’t been digitized.
It also makes me want to make a smart playlist that pulls out things that haven’t been listened to in a long, long time.
But I’ll do that later. Maybe tomorrow night after work.