Monday Monday; no, wrong Mamas & Papas song

I’m listening to the Coverville podcast a few months ago, as I usually do a couple times a week. Brian was doing the Mondegreen episode, a term that, if I had heard it, I had forgotten. The definition, which I stole from somewhere: “Misheard lyrics (also called mondegreens) occur when people misunderstand the lyrics in a song. These are NOT intentional rephrasing of lyrics, which is called parody.” There are whole websites devoted to this issue.

The last song on the show, not only had I gotten wrong for years, but have SUNG it incorrectly when performing with my sister.

The correct lyric is:
stopped into a church
I passed along the way
well, I got down on my knees
and I pretend to pray

Yet all these years, I had been hearing:
and I began to pray

To be fair to me, many other people of my vintage heard it the same way. I know this because I asked a number of them. And it is noted as a common error in Kiss This Guy, named after a misheard line from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze: “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”

I never misheard that Hendrix lyric, or this line from California Dreamin’ offered up by Am I Right?
Misheard Lyrics:
You know you’re preaching like the Pope.
Original Lyrics:
You know the preacher likes the cold.

But the one I DID mishear I’ve thought about a number of times since. Seems that the fact that the verse has three verbs in the past tense (stopped, passed, got) tunes the ear for a fourth (began) rather than a present tense verb such as pretend. They COULD have sung “pretended” and I don’t think it ruins the scansion. Here are the complete lyrics.

BTW, what linguistic tool is being used when you speak in present tense about things that happened in the past? “So I go to the store. I see item I want. I buy it.” Past action, but present tense verbs.

Anyway, HERE is a version of the hit song that only went to #4 in the US charts in 1966 by the Mamas and the Papas, and HERE is another. The song is attributed to John Phillips and Michelle Gilliam.

John eventually married and divorced Michelle. John performed this version on his album Phillips 66, which was released posthumously in 2001; he would have been 75 today. Michelle Phillips is the remaining survivor of the Mamas and the Papas.

What lyrics have YOU misheard, and how did you finally figure it out?

0 thoughts on “Monday Monday; no, wrong Mamas & Papas song”

  1. I always thought it was “began”, too. I think I’ll pretend that I thought that because of the whole verb thing, too (but I didn’t consciously—must’ve been an unconscious realisation, right?).

    A song I recently realised I always mis-heard was “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand (written by Laura Nyro). I thought the lyric was “I was raised on the love of Jesus” but it’s actually “I was raised on the Good Book Jesus”, which makes no sense—except that the next line makes sense with the real lyric, not my misheard one: “Till I read between the lines”.

    But I also remember in the days of vinyl it was common to put lyrics in the liner notes (well, usually on the sleeve), but sometimes THEY were clearly wrong. I can’t remember if I ever saw any incorrect lyrics included with a CD, but I probably did. But now with digital downloads (legal only, of course…) we have to rely on the Internet to find the correct lyrics. Uh, oh… 😉


  2. Well, it SHOULD be ‘began.’ Count me together with you! I had no idea I’d been singing it incorrectly all these years.

    Another song’s lyrics that tend to get confusing is CCR’s Bad Moon Rising. The chorus is:
    Don’t go around tonight,
    Well, it’s bound to take your life,
    There’s a bad moon on the rise.

    I’ve heard people sing “There’s a bad moon on the right.”
    I’ve even heard a parody of the entire last line; “There’s a bathroom on the right”!


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