In the 1980s, a friend of mine was in a cover band. (Wasn’t everybody in a cover band in the 80s?)
So he’s at the mic one night, and a woman comes up to him between songs and asks that the band play “Slow Motion Walter And The Fire Engine Guys.”
“Sorry,” my friend says, “we totally don’t know that one.”
“C’mon,” she insists. “Everyone knows that song.”
He looked at her blankly and repeated that he didn’t. “But if you hum a few bars...”
And she did. And he realized he did know the song after all because she was clearly humming the first few distinctive power chords of Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water.”
The fact is, as long as songwriters have been hanging words onto tunes, people have been getting them wrong. It’s hard sometimes to figure out exactly what was said, especially in these days when liner notes aren’t always part of the package (like when the package is a little white rectangle just a few inches square). So what’s a music lover to do?
If an Internet connection is handy, the answer to your lyrical questions are just a few keystrokes away. Lyricsfreak.com is a kick-ass repository of answers to all your questions, with a database of bands from ABBA to Zurdock and all the lyrics to all the songs, and even some good biographical information to back a lot of it up. The site is clear, easy to use and free.