There are a lot of aspects about rock 'n' roll music that are up for interpretation. Lyrics — as in the actual words a songwriter put to page and copyrighted — are not one of them.

Even if a songwriter sings something different in concert, it's the recorded version — the one that gets played on radio stations and turntables all around the world — that fans typically latch onto and learn the lyrics from.

No musician is safe from the phenomenon known as misheard lyrics. Sometimes it's a matter of poor enunciation, other times it boils down to simply hearing it a particular way and not being able to "un-hear" it after.

So if you've ever discovered, after years of singing the lyrics one way, that it's actually something entirely else, please know you're not alone. The possibilities are frankly endless, but below we've gathered 50 examples of oft-misheard rock lyrics. Some are perfectly understandable mistakes, others are just plain hilarious.

1. ABBA, "Dancing Queen"
From: Arrival (1976)

There's nothing to suggest ABBA is against citrus fruits, but the lyric to "Dancing Queen" is not "feel the beat on the tangerine" — it's "feel the beat from the tambourine."


2. AC/DC, "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
From: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)

There's more than one way to mishear the title lyric to "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" — "dirty deeds and the thunder chief" (or "jeep"), "dirty deeds and they're done with sheep" among them.


3. The Beach Boys, "Help Me, Rhonda"
From: The Beach Boys Today! (1965)

What do the Beach Boys have to do with owls? Basically nothing unless you count the sometimes misheard lyric from "Help Me, Rhonda:" "Well, since you put me down there's been owls pukin' in my bed." It's actually "Well, since she put me down I've been out doin' in my head."


4. The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
From: 1963 Single

There is an entirely separate list that could be made of '60s songs that were incorrectly assumed to be drug references, but we'll save that for another time. Here is just one example: the bit where the Beatles sing "I can't hide" in "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was often confused for "I get high." (So often, in fact, that even Bob Dylan, famous for his own muddled enunciation, reportedly thought the lyric was "I get high.")


5. The Bee Gees, "More Than a Woman"
From: Saturday Night Fever (1978)

The thing about the Bee Gees is that it's really easy to get swept away in their irresistible falsetto harmonies, leaving less attention for the lyrics. Take, for example, "More Than a Woman," in which some listeners have mistakenly thought the title lyric was "bald-headed woman."


6. Black Sabbath, "Paranoid"
From: Paranoid (1970)

What is it with metal songs being misinterpreted as pro-suicide anthems? Some have heard the lyric "I tell you to enjoy life" in Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" as "I tell you to end your life." (This would not be the last time Ozzy Osbourne was accused of releasing a self-harm related song. In the '80s, he faced a lawsuit which claimed a teenager had taken his own life after being inspired by the song "Suicide Solution.")

If you or someone you know is in distress, help is available 24/7 via the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.


7. Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind"
From: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

It's sort of a longstanding joke in rock 'n' roll that Bob Dylan's singing is difficult to understand, particularly in live settings. It's possible that this can be traced all the way back to one of his most iconic songs, "Blowin' in the Wind." Dylan sang that the "the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind," though some people heard "these ants are my friend, blowin' in the wind."


8. Bob Marley, "Stir It Up"
From: Babylon by Bus (1978)

Some people lose a lot of their accent when they sing, but not Bob Marley. His Jamaican cadence came through strongly in his music, and there might not be a better example of this than with 1978's "Stir It Up." Some listeners heard "stir it up, little darling, stir it up" as "cereal, little darling, cereal."


9. Bon Jovi, "Livin' on a Prayer"
From: Slippery When Wet (1986)

You know, considering "Livin' on a Prayer" appeared on an album titled Slippery When Wet (which was inspired by an unclothed stripper in a shower), it's not unreasonable that some fans mistook the line "it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not" for "it doesn't make a difference if we're naked or not."


10. Bryan Adams, "Summer of '69"
From: Reckless (1984)

According to Bryan Adams himself, the title "Summer of '69" is in itself an innuendo to the sex position. So it makes some sense then, with that in mind, that listeners have mistaken the line "I got my first real six-string" for "I got my first real sex dream."


11. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"
From: Green River (1969)

John Fogerty has gotten so used to hearing people mistake a certain line in "Bad Moon Rising" — "there's a bad moon on the rise" sounds like "there's a bathroom on the right" — that he will sometimes sing it that way. "Not only does it not bug me, I sing that myself nowadays," he said to a New York radio station in 2021. "Have fun with it! People were mishearing the words, as we all do, especially in rock and roll with singers who get excited and kind of rush their words."


12. The Clash, "Rock the Casbah"
From: Combat Rock (1982)

To be fair, the word "casbah" isn't used often in rock songs, so you might be forgiven if you're someone who misheard the Clash for saying "cash bar" in this 1982 song. (Full disclosure: the writer of this piece was one of those people for many years until she learned otherwise.)


13. David Bowie, "Sound and Vision"
From: Low (1977)

This one is a little out there, but once you hear it the incorrect way it's hard to get it out of one's brain. Some eccentric listeners have heard the title lyric to "Sound and Vision" as "salmon fishing."


14. Deep Purple, "Highway Star"
From: Machine Head (1972)

When one thinks of road food, coleslaw isn't necessarily on the list. But some people have heard the lyric "she stays close on every bend" in Deep Purple's "Highway Star" as "she eats coleslaw every day."


15. Dire Straits, "Money for Nothing"
From: Brothers in Arms (1985)

Maybe don't listen to Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" when you're hungry — you might end up hearing it as "money for nothing and your chips for free" instead of "chicks for free."


16. Eagles, "Hotel California"
From: Hotel California (1976)

Here's another snack-related misunderstanding: the correct lyric in Eagles' "Hotel California" is "on a dark desert highway / cool wind in my hair" not "cool whip in my hair."


17. Electric Light Orchestra, "Don't Bring Me Down"
From: Discovery (1979)

Many, many people have listened to ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" and wondered who this Bruce character is. The truth is: it's no one, it's not even a real word. "When I was singing it, there was [a] gap in the vocals, so I just shouted out 'groose,'" Jeff Lynne told Rolling Stone in 2016. "It was a word that came to my head."


18. Elton John, "Tiny Dancer"
From: Madman Across the Water (1971)

This lyrical mixup likely has something to do with an episode of Friends in which Phoebe Buffay incorrectly sings Elton's John's "Tiny Dancer" with the lyrics "hold me close young Tony Danza." Years later, when HBO hosted a Friends reunion, John played along with the joke and sang Phoebe's version of the song for social media.


19. Elvis Presley, "Suspicious Minds"
From: 1969 Single

We're not really sure what it means to be "caught in a trout," but this is what some people have heard in Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" instead of the correct "caught in a trap."


20. Europe, "The Final Countdown"
From: The Final Countdown (1986)

The lyrics to Europe's "The Final Countdown" took inspiration from David Bowie's "Space Oddity," which would explain the line "we're headin' for Venus." That makes those who have mistaken the line for "we're working for peanuts," incorrect.


21. Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"
From: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

In fairness, the way Annie Lennox pronounces the title of this song comes across less like "this" and more like "these," which would explain why some listeners have heard it as "sweet dreams are made of cheese." (This joke has been extended into pro-cheese T-shirt form.)


22. Fleetwood Mac, "Say You Love Me"
From: Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Christine McVie is not "begging you for a little sip of tea" in 1975's "Say You Love Me." She's actually "begging you for a little sympathy."


23. Foo Fighters, "Pretender"
From: Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)

"One of These Things (Is Not Like the Other)" is the title of a song that appeared in the very first episode of Sesame Street in 1969 and has been a staple segment ever since. It also happens to be the line people mistake for "what if I say I'm not like the others" in Foo Fighters' "Pretender."


24. Guns N' Roses, "Paradise City"
From: Appetite for Destruction (1987)

There are several other ways to hear the opening line — "take me down to paradise city" — to this 1987 GNR track. Among them: "very nice city" (how boring) and "prairie dog city" (sounds adorable).


25. Jefferson Starship, "We Built This City"
From: Knee Deep in the Hoopla (1985)

There's a lot of people who don't care for Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City," one of the most prominent hits of the '80s. Maybe part of it is because they mistakenly were hearing the line "we built this city on rock 'n' roll" as "we built this city on sausage rolls."


26. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Purple Haze"
From: 1967 Single

The correct lyric in Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" is "'scuse me while I kiss the sky," but because Hendrix's singing style was such that his words almost melted into one another, it came out sounding more like "'scuse me while I kiss this guy" to many people.


27. Johnny Nash, "I Can See Clearly Now"
From: I Can See Clearly Now (1972)

In his 1972 hit, Johnny Nash sings "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone." But some have heard it as something a little more personal: "I can see clearly now, Lorraine has gone."


28. Journey, "Open Arms"
From: Escape (1981)

There's a pretty big difference between welcoming someone with "open arms" and "broken arms" — Journey is definitely describing the former option in this Escape hit.


29. Kiss, "Rock and Roll All Nite"
From: Dressed to Kill (1975)

In this 1975 track, some people hear Kiss singing "I wanna rock 'n' roll all night and part of every day." But what fun would only rocking out for a portion of the day be? The real lyric is "I wanna rock 'n' roll all night and party every day."


30. Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love"
From: Led Zeppelin II (1969)

Over the course of their career, Led Zeppelin did include a few vehicular references in their songs, but to set the record straight for those who have misheard the beginning lines to "Whole Lotta Love": Robert Plant is singing "you need cooling," not "you need coolant."


31. Madonna, "Like a Virgin" 
From: Like a Virgin (1984)

When you think about it, it wouldn't make sense for Madonna to be singing "like a virgin, touched for the 31st time," as some people have misheard — that negates the definition of virgin. The correct lyric, of course, is "like a virgin, touched for the very first time."


32. Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "Blinded by the Light"
From: The Roaring Silence (1976)

First, it must be stated for the record that the party ultimately responsible for the lyrics to "Blinded by the Light" is not Manfred Mann's Earth Band, but Bruce Springsteen. But it's Mann's 1976 version that caused confusion. They edited the lyrics slightly, changing "cut loose like a deuce" to "revved up like a deuce," but the way singer Chris Thompson delivered the line made it sound like "wrapped up like a douche." "It wasn't written like that, and I screwed it up completely," he told Record Collector in 2006. "It sounded like 'douche' instead of 'deuce,' and because of the technical process – a faulty azimuth due to tape-head angles – it meant we couldn't remix it." Oh well, it was a hit anyway.


33. Metallica, "Enter Sandman"
From: Metallica (1991)

Metallica's "Enter Sandman" is supposed to be chilling — that's why the lyrics are "enter night, exit light." But some people have heard it as "enter night, eggs and light," which is decidedly less eerie than the real lines.


34. The Monkees, "I'm a Believer"
From: More of the Monkees (1967)

The Monkees meant well when they recorded the Neil Diamond-penned "I'm a Believer" — the lyric is supposed to go "Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer." But some, more pessimistic people instead heard "Then I saw her face, now I'm gonna leave her."


35. Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
From: Nevermind (1991)

Kurt Cobain wasn't exactly the clearest singer in the world. With "Smells Like Teen Sprit," the chorus has yielded some interesting lyric interpretations. The original and correct is as follows: "With the lights out, it's less dangerous / Here we are now, entertain us." But some heard "With the lights out, it's Las Vegas / Hear me all now, entertainers," or maybe even stranger, "Here we are now, in containers."


36. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, "You're the One That I Want"
From: Grease (1978)

John Travolta's enunciation in "You're the One That I Want" is actually quite excellent, but if you're notalready familiar with the song, you might end up like other listeners who could have sworn the first line in the song went "I've got shoes, they're made of plywood," and not the correct "I've got chills, they're multiplying."


37. Pearl Jam, "Jeremy"
From: Ten (1991)

Eddie Vedder's voice is instantly recognizable among '90s rock fans, but that doesn't mean it was always perfectly understandable. Case in point: "Jeremy" from 1991's Ten. In the chorus, Vedder sings "Jeremy spoke in class today," not "Jeremy's smokin' grass today."


38. Pixies, "Monkey Gone to Heaven"
From: Doolittle (1989)

The primary lyric to Pixies' "Monkey Gone to Heaven" is, of course, "This monkey's gone to heaven." But if you're not paying that much attention or you missed the song title, it can be heard as "This donkey's gone to Devon." (Devon is an area of southwestern England, known for its beaches, cliffs and harbor towns.)


39. The Police, "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around"
From: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

According to polls, this Police song contains one of the most regularly misheard pop lyrics. As the title suggests, the lyric is supposed to be "you make the best of what's still around," but many people have mistook it for "you make the best homemade stew around." Still a pretty uplifting message, though.


40. Queen, "We Will Rock You"
From: News of the World (1977)

Anyone who thought Queen's "We Will Rock You" included a lyric that goes "kicking your cat all over the place" clearly is unaware that Freddie Mercury would never do such a thing to a feline — he reportedly had 10 of them as pets: Tom, Jerry, Tiffany, Dorothy, Delilah, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar, and Romeo. The line is "kicking your can all over the place."


41. R.E.M., "Losing My Religion"
From: Out of Time (1991)

"That's me in the corner / That's me in the spotlight, losing my religion," Michael Stipe declared on 1991's "Losing My Religion." But some listeners heard something much more unusual: "Let's pee in the corner / Let's pee in the spotlight, losing my religion." No, thank you.


42. Robert Palmer, "Addicted to Love"
From: Riptide (1985)

Yet another mind-in-the-gutter mishearing. "You know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love," Palmer sings, but that second part has sometimes been mistaken for "you're a dick with a glove," whatever that means.


43. The Rolling Stones, "Beast of Burden"
From: Some Girls (1978)

The Rolling Stones did have a lyric about pizza in their 1969 song "Monkey Man," so maybe that's why some listeners heard the lyric "I'll never be your beast of burden" in 1978's "Beast of Burden" and mistook it for "I'll never leave your pizza burning."


44. Rush, "Tom Sawyer"
From: Moving Pictures (1981)

The correct lyric in Rush's "Tom Sawyer" is "a modern-day warrior," but some have mistaken it for "Monday warrior." So maybe give this song a spin next time you're back at the office fighting those corporate demons after a weekend off.


45. Steve Miller Band, "Jet Airliner"
From: Book of Dreams (1977)

The way Steve Miller delivers the line "big old jet airliner" is so smooth that some people have confused it for other things, like "big old Jed had a light on," though we're not sure who that is.


46. Stevie Nicks, "Edge of Seventeen"
From: Bella Donna (1981)

When Stevie Nicks wrote "Edge of Seventeen," she had never even heard the call of a dove, but she'd taken inspiration from a menu that described the "white-winged dove" that "sings a song sounds like she's singing ooh." But when she sang that in lyric form, it sounded to a lot of people like "one-winged dove."


47. Stone Temple Pilots, "Creep"
From: Core (1992)

Maybe it's because of the way Scott Weiland sang it, or maybe it's because the preceding line has the letter "R" in it a few times — "think I'll start a fire — but some listeners have mistook "Bobby's got a gun" for "Barbie's got a gun" in Stone Temple Pilots' "Creep."


48. Toto, "Africa"
From: Toto IV (1982)

Toto's "Africa" continues to permeate pop music culture today, some 40 years on from its release. Let's take a look at the chorus for a moment, which features the following lyric: "There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do." But some listeners have heard this as "There's nothing that a hundred men from Mars could ever do." Which begs the question: if they were men from Mars instead of regular Earth men, would that make a difference to Toto?


49. U2, "Mysterious Ways"
From: Achtung Baby (1991)

This one requires some background explanation, bear with us. There once was an orca whale named Shamu, who was captured in 1965 and sold to SeaWorld San Diego where she became a major star attraction. Chaos unfolded, however, in 1971 when she attacked a Sea World employee. Shamu ended up dying a few months after the incident. Most of that has absolutely nothing to do with U2's song "Mysterious Ways," except for the fact that some listeners have mistaken the line "she moves in mysterious ways" for "Shamu the mysterious whale."


50. Van Halen, "Panama"
From: 1984 (1984)

Given David Lee Roth's stage presence, you'd be forgiven if you've ever mistakenly sung the title to this Van Halen song as "Animal" instead of "Panama." Close enough.

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Gallery Credit: UCR Staff

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