Blowin’ in the Wind & Monday Greens

1 Feb

blowin in the wind
Thanks to Steve who posted this on FB. (More of John Macpherson’s Close to Home ‘toons here.) A man once played Blowin’ in the Wind as he drove his 5 year old to school. When it ended the boy mused a while before saying, “I like Bob Dylan, dad, but why are the ants his friends?”

That’s a mondegreen, a kind of aural malapropism. Where the latter are mistakes of speech, mondegreens are misheard songs. Jem recently posted – with her permission of course: he’s a very caring dude – his partner Lou’s mondegreen on Lennon’s Across the

Universe. Instead of Jai Guru Deva,  she’d always heard Kangaroo Days.  Which IMO is better. John was always at his best with a straight-from-the-shoulder style uniquely his – and always below par with that devotee godswallop. (In fact you get both Johns in that song, which opens with the splendid images are flying in like rain into a paper cup  – a gritty northern “cup”, that is, the u’ hard and short.)

But back to Dylan, whose own mondegreen of the Beatles’ I Wanna Hold Your Hand may have changed – I kid not – the course of music history. One night circa 1964, as the four played cards in a New York hotel, there was a rap at the door: Mr Tambourine Man himself on the threshold unannounced, their very first in the flesh encounter. Within minutes he was rolling a joint, an activity hitherto unseen by the Liverpudlians, whose leisure chemicals ran more in the direction of alcohol and dexedrine. Their mystification mystified Dylan. “But what about that song of yours? You know .. ” He leaped into the air to come down with a crash on “I get high! I get high!

An embarrased John was obliged to explain that the words were, in fact, ‘I can’t hide. I can’t hide‘. But from that night on the Beatles were daily tokers. Could Revolver and Sgt Pepper be entirely contingent on that meeting? Well, no – they hung out with Keith Richard for god’s sake! – but it’s a great story all the same. And the true bit is that his own mondegreen did  have Dylan turning the Beatles on.

Speaking of whom, my daughter Fran once stopped me, mid rendition of the Fab 4’s Baby You Can Drive My Car. A big fan, she wasn’t gonna stand for any more I want any favours; I’ll start to scream.  “Those aren’t the words”, she said witheringly. “It’s I wanna be famous, a star of the screen “. Which thrilled me to bits. My teachers had derided our musical heroes. At Spurgeons Homes one carer – not a sexual abuser but a real bully with refined tastes in humiliation – had assured me, on one of his good days, that when I grew up and had children they’d know all about Beethoven and Mozart, but would never have heard of the Beatles. Sometimes, being proved wrong only serves to prove you right on a higher plane …

9 Replies to “Blowin’ in the Wind & Monday Greens

  1. My Dylan mondegreen was when I was learning Mississippi and I heard “The City’s just a jungle, Margate’s the place”: I thought, “Bob, you’ve never been there”.

    • Nice one Tony – I have! I’m told there’s a website dedicated to Dylan mondegreens, but I haven’t yet found it

  2. Our famous family mishearing is our daughter Alex’s lusty rendition of that old spiritual favourite ‘Goats pellet on the mountain’

    … and then of course there’s always ‘Gladly – my cross-eyed bear’ which, according to Google, seems to be more well known than the original hymn. Perhaps this is a lesson the Tories have tried to emulate with the ‘Living Wage’?

    Our son-out-law based his exhibition in the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art on the disjunctures of information transmission and sharing; see @

    There’s also further ample opportunity for my own mondegreens as I wade through transcribing 20 hours of research interviews – very tempting to include some of my first mishearings in the transcripts. No wonder so much research goes in for counting stuff1

    • Both corkers, Paul. Hymns are a good source. Our so-called national anthem too: my mother wondered as a little girl why George VI would want people sending him Victorias (plums). And this is off-topic but … I’d wonder as a lad what the big deal was about a green hill without a city wall. No hill I’d ever seen had a city wall either.

      Thanks to Doug for the piece you provided a link to. I hadn’t known the origin of the term mondegreen!

  3. Reminds me of Kenny Everett and his weekly piss-take on the stars of the time, specifically The Bee Gees and ‘Massachusetts’, reworked as Kenny Everett pretending to be one of the brothers singing ‘Massive Chew Sets’. Appropriate! Which then made me look back with some nostalgia – and plenty of guffawing – at this take on Rod-‘don’t I love myself?’-Stewart: Never knew what happened to Rod in this phase but still love all The Faces stuff (not to be confused with the Small Faces who I am too young to remember).

  4. I can’t help but think this storm Imogen that’s currently battering the south west of Britain was by way of a mondegreen predicted by John Lennon in 1971 when he chillingly warned ‘Imogen there’s no Devon.’

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