Beelzebub Had A Devil For A Sideboard and Other Misheard Lyrics

With the possible exception of deciphering the lyrics to 2Unlimited’s “No Limits” (it really loses its sparkle when listening to the 12″ extended remix. By Pete Waterman) it’s quite fun to decipher lyrics, mainly because there’s quite a lot of scope to get it wrong.

You have probably seen that there’s an entire website devoted to misheard lyrics which itself is named after a misheard Jimi Hendrix lyric ( Comedian Peter Kay does a funny routine about it too:

I was listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody the other day, and remembered that for quite a while I had an entirely different understanding of what the lyrics were. Quite why Beelzebub would want a devil for a sideboard and how impractical that would be if he wanted to store his crockery, glassware and tablecloths never really occurred to me, clearly. I never was great at deciphering lyrics. Indeed, when I was eight or nine years old and saw all those new wave and punk guys on Top of the Pops I could never understand a word, and just assumed they made it up as they went along.

Later, I thought that in Judas Priest‘s Living After Midnight, Rob Halford was sharing some cooking tips: “I come alive in a neon light / that’s when I make my food right” he says about 50 seconds in. (Listen now – he definitely says it). Later in the song he is clearly roasting a chicken or perhaps a nice bit of beef and telling us when to prepare the potatoes: “the joint starts firing / I begin”.

In U2’s Mysterious Ways, about thirty seconds in, Bono sings “You’ve been living on the ground / eating from a cat”. That’s just plain weird. And unhygienic.

As for Tom Sawyer by Rush? Perhaps the opposite problem: I think I know what most of the lyrics are – it’s just that I can’t make head nor tail of any of it. No wonder we all just play air drums to that song. It’s easier than learning the words.

Then, of course there’s Black Sabbath’s classic “Generals gather in their masses / just like witches at black masses” line. Ha! Clearly that’s wrong: no-one would rhyme “masses” with “masses” and get away with it surely? What’s that? They did? Wow….

You might lose a day and a half on KissThis, so to save you some time, here’s a top ten of favourites from me:

QueenBohemian Rhapsody: Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard

StarshipWe Built This City: My pony plays the mamba

Pearl Jam: Even Flow: Even Flow, it’s a lot like buttered rice

Duran Duran: Hungry Like The Wolf: I smell like a Cow, I’m Lost and I’m Found.

Toto: Africa: I left my brains down in Africa

Bob Dylan: Blowin’ In The Wind: The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind, the ants are a blowin’ in the wind.

Bon Jovi: Living On A Prayer: It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.

R.E.M.: Losing My Religion: Let’s pee in the corner, Let’s pee in the spotlight.

Arctic Monkeys: Brianstorm: JC Bajengas when the sun goes down.

Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This): Sweet Dreams are made of cheese

And who could forget The Police – So Lonely – which was played when Sue Lawley left TV news programme Nationwide (as it sounds like “Sue Lawley”).

Doubtless you will have your own favourites – if so, do let me know about it below…

PS. A future post will attempt something that may never have been done before. I will attempt to decipher the lyrics to a ZZ Top song which has plagued me for years.

Stay tuned…

Record #201: The Police – So Lonely


18 responses to “Beelzebub Had A Devil For A Sideboard and Other Misheard Lyrics”

  1. Jaap Avatar

    CCR – Bad moon rising: There’s a bathroom on the right.


  2. simonsometimessays Avatar

    Remember the Maxell cassette adverts?
    Desmond Dekker – Me Ears are Alight.
    The Skids – Into the Valley (peas sure sound divine)


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Of course! Excellent – wish I had remembered those when I was writing this! “I think that’s what he says…but I’d need to hear it on a Maxwell”
      Here’s the clip:


  3. chrisflinterman Avatar

    Oh, I like those! My favourites:
    Everything But The Girl: And I Miss You (I have mistaken it a long time for And I’m A Shoe)
    Michael Jackson: Annie are you okay (I always hear: Anny are you walking, are you walking Anny?)
    I had some more, when I remember them, I might share them…
    Nice article, love to read more! And thanks for the website!


  4. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

    You mean to say it isn’t “Annie are you walking”? Damn. Me too…
    Thanks for visiting – much appreciated


  5. Record at Random Avatar

    Great! I love these – “twisted lyrics” I believe Bruno Brookes used to call them. A few of my favourites:

    Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away (“…you take a piece of meat with you…”)

    Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up (“…there’s no reason to be a shit…”)

    DeBarge – Rhythm of the Night (“…just come with me and you can shake your boobs right away..”)

    I must check out that website…


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I like that Paul Young one. If only that’s what the lyrics actually were.


  6. JM Randolph Avatar

    Great post. Toys In The Attic: “real sour cream.” I think it’s supposed to be “real as a dream” or something. Thanks to my high school boyfriend, I always hear that.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I know the bit you mean. I’m not sure what it actually says, but I know I have sung along (incorrectly) to that song plenty of times….


  7. genxatmidlife Avatar

    My husband thought Joe Elliott was singing “I’ve got foolin’ for sale” in Def Leppard’s “Foolin’”. I always think of that when I hear it now.

    Of course, Beck’s “Loser” is always tough without the help of the internet. Still have to look that one up. And “Everybody Wants Some” by Van Halen… “I took a mobile light lookin’ for a moonbeam.” What?! I thought it was something about looking for a movie. Makes no sense either way.

    My weirdest are actual real lyrics that I was too young to understand, so they totally perplexed me. “She’s Leaving Home” — the line “She breaks down and cries to her husband, ‘Daddy, our baby’s gone.’” I could never figure out what a “husband-daddy” was. I pondered that one for almost a decade!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Yes – foolin’s lyrics are debatable.
      “At a time of chimpanzees I was a monkey” anyone? Great stuff from Beck – no idea what it might all mean though. Sounds cool however.
      And She’s Leaving Home is such a great song.
      Thank you!


  8. Ovidiu Boar Avatar
    Ovidiu Boar

    And let’s not forget a famous one: Bob Dylan mishearing Beatles’ “I can’t hide” (from I Wanna Hold Your Hand) as “I get high” and then automatically considering the fab four “potheads”, only to be surprised later that they haven’t ever done weed up at that point.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Of course! If even Bob Dylan gets it wrong, then I guess that makes it okay for all of the rest of us.


  9. ianbalentine Avatar

    I have 2. I had a friend in high school who swore Bon Scott was singing, “Dirty Knees and a Sunburned Cheek.” Many hours of hilarity at his expense. Second, “Blinded By The Light, wrapped up like a douche I’m gonna roll her in the night”


  10. Lee Cooke Avatar
    Lee Cooke

    What about Christopher Cross, and “all of his life he’s messed his trousers?”


  11. […] has a devil put aside for me,“ but people have misheard it as everything from „Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard“ to „The algebra has a devil put aside for […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: