Misunderstood Songs

The thread about Ridiculous Lyrics that Deckham started has shown that some songs don't really have ridiculous lyrics as such, but that people have not understood what the lyrics mean and what the song was meant to convey.

So here is a thread about songs that were very popular in their day, and people think they understood them, but didn't really.

And not only that, if they had understood them, they would have been scandalised given the morals of the times the songs appeared.

Here is a selection I can suggest from different decades of the last century:

Cotton Eye Joe (1930s)
Jambalaya (1950s)
Lola (1960s)
Turning Japanese (1980s)

I could explain them here but that would be too easy. Some are more famous than others and no doubt they will be explained early, For the others, or if you haven't heard them before, it is too easy to refer to Google: use your grey matter to hear the lyrics and turn them 180o to find what the songs really mean. That will be more rewarding for you.

And of course the thread is open for other nominations. But just to be clear: we are not talking about songs whose lyrics are obscure; or difficult to understand; or particularly suggestive or otherwise controversial.

We are talking about the most difficult thing to do in popular culture: hiding the meaning in plain sight.

The other condition is that the songs have been mainstream hits at the time. This is to prove that they fooled most of the people most of the time.
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Comments

  • a couple for the junkies out there.

    Mr Brownstone. ....GNR
    Comfortably Numb.....Pink Floyd
  • GiventoFly74GiventoFly74 Group Captain










  • GiventoFly74GiventoFly74 Group Captain
  • Smack my Bitch Up - The Prodigy

    I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be allowed to post the video here.
  • Born in the USA turned me off Springsteen for about 25 years as I misinterpreted it as rampant patriotism.
  • Cuddly Toy sung by sweet Davy Jones & The Monkees.


  • Sameolds2010Sameolds2010 Everything is awesome

    Born in the USA turned me off Springsteen for about 25 years as I misinterpreted it as rampant patriotism.

    George Snr had a similar if more positive experience
  • DeckhamDeckham Going down swinging
    Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - pretty famous one.
    Ring My Bell
    Rosie - Jackson Browne
  • Every breath you take.
  • DeckhamDeckham Going down swinging
    Is 'Hit me with your Best Shot' euphemistic, or am I reaching?
  • Kira said:

    Every breath you take.

    Beat me to it - a song written from the perspective of an infatuated borderline stalker.
  • wimmera1wimmera1 You know I'm right.
    Not so much misunderstood as not understood.
    And if you like the song but don't know what it's about, you may not want to find out.

    Brick - Ben Folds Five
  • Hey Ya - Outkast

    Is actually a really depressing song with negative views about being in a relationship.
  • wimmera1 said:

    Not so much misunderstood as not understood.
    And if you like the song but don't know what it's about, you may not want to find out.

    Brick - Ben Folds Five

    Yeah I remember hearing that in an interview a few years back. Sheesh!
  • alex.f.94alex.f.94 MODERN STALKING.

    Kira said:

    Every breath you take.

    Beat me to it - a song written from the perspective of an infatuated borderline stalker.
    a kid at school died of a terminal illness and we had an assembly/ remembrance for him

    they played this song

    just shook my head.
  • DeckhamDeckham Going down swinging
    Does Mac The Knife fit here?

    There's quite a lot of songs that have a tempo or air that belies its content.
  • edited November 2016
    Deckham said:

    Does Mac The Knife fit here?

    There's quite a lot of songs that have a tempo or air that belies its content.

    Interesting question, but I think not. It is quite famous, but the lyrics do not indicate the opposite of what they suggest. Also, the music conveys a sense of dread.*

    As for tempo or air belying content, I suggest the "O Lucky Man" soundtrack by Alan Parsons (ex-Animals). It sounds all happy and jolly but the lyrics are dark. I particularly commend the song "Justice". I did not include this in my original post because it was not a mainstream hit.

    *I am assuming you are referring to "Mack the Knife" from Brecht's Threepenny Opera. If there is another song "Mac the Knife" then the above is not relevant so in that case please provide more information.
  • Westing WuckmanWesting Wuckman Has delusions of belting kants
    Deckham said:

    Does Mac The Knife fit here?

    There's quite a lot of songs that have a tempo or air that belies its content.


  • alex.f.94alex.f.94 MODERN STALKING.

    Deckham said:

    Does Mac The Knife fit here?

    There's quite a lot of songs that have a tempo or air that belies its content.

    Interesting question, but I think not. It is quite famous, but the lyrics do not indicate the opposite of what they suggest. Also, the music conveys a sense of dread.*

    As for tempo or air belying content, I suggest the "O Lucky Man" soundtrack by Alan Parsons (ex-Animals). It sounds all happy and jolly but the lyrics are dark. I particularly commend the song "Justice". I did not include this in my original post because it was not a mainstream hit.

    *I am assuming you are referring to "Mack the Knife" from Brecht's Threepenny Opera. If there is another song "Mac the Knife" then the above is not relevant so in that case please provide more information.
    surely you dont predate the jazz era Albert? Every jazz artist seems to have done a cover of Mack the Knife haha
  • No, of course I don't, but am struggling to see the subtext of your post.
  • alex.f.94alex.f.94 MODERN STALKING.
    edited November 2016
    subtext is that Im pretty sure Deckham is referring to the plethora of jazz covers of the song, which do not have a sense of dread about them and are quite jovial sounding- if you are focsing on lyrics, then i agree, lyrics dont indicate anything other than what they suggest, but the sound of the song is almost completely contradictory to those lyrics, which on first listen would give a wrong impression/ understanding

  • edited November 2016
    OK thanks. I was thinking about the original version - or covers that stuck to that spirit.

    I must confess that I, just like the original Albert Thurgood, am not a jazz enthusiast.
  • GRRGRR
    edited November 2016




    Yeah I know it's the performance that's misunderstood rather than the song, but....more Ella please.
  • DeckhamDeckham Going down swinging
    alex.f.94 said:

    subtext is that Im pretty sure Deckham is referring to the plethora of jazz covers of the song, which do not have a sense of dread about them and are quite jovial sounding- if you are focsing on lyrics, then i agree, lyrics dont indicate anything other than what they suggest, but the sound of the song is almost completely contradictory to those lyrics, which on first listen would give a wrong impression/ understanding


    ta, Alex.
  • Kira said:

    Every breath you take.

    Beat me to it - a song written from the perspective of an infatuated borderline stalker.

    Borderline? Pretty full on, I would have thought.
  • DeckhamDeckham Going down swinging
    Well, here's one outta the blue, so to speak, and tagging on to the 'belies air' flavour -

    Rock-a-bye-baby....
  • GRRGRR
    edited November 2016
    Back on track, Randy Newman has a talent for pairing ironic and unsavoury lyrics with pretty tunes. I must have listened to this gorgeous melody a hundred times before I actually attended to the lyrics and had that WTF moment. I'd just assumed it was about the expression of a universal free spirit or maybe about a nice afternoon on a yacht or something, I hadn't realised it was a slave trader's spiel. Great song though, from a wonderful album.



    In America you'll get food to eat
    Won't have to run through the jungle
    And scuff up your feet
    You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
    It's great to be an American

    Ain't no lions or tigers
    Ain't no mamba snake
    Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
    Ev'rybody is as happy as a man can be
    Climb aboard, little wog
    Sail away with me

    Sail away
    Sail away
    We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
    Sail away
    Sail away
    We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

    In America every man is free
    To take care of his home and his family
    You'll be as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree
    You're all gonna be an American

    Sail away
    Sail away
    We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
    Sail away
    Sail away
    We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
  • GRRGRR
    edited November 2016
    .
  • alex.f.94alex.f.94 MODERN STALKING.
    Another one by Sting/ Police that seemingly gets overloooked as an incredibly creepy song is Dont Stand So Close to me



    I think the chorus is pretty innocent sounding and people just zone out of the lyrics in the verses, which revolve around a teenage student lusting over her older teacher/ her older teacher battling his desires to root her

    VERSE 1

    Young teacher, the subject
    Of schoolgirl fantasy
    She wants him so badly
    Knows what she wants to be

    Inside her there's longing
    This girl's an open page
    Book marking, she's so close now
    This girl is half his age

    VERSE 2

    Her friends are so jealous
    You know how bad girls get
    Sometimes it's not so easy
    To be the teacher's pet

    Temptation, frustration
    So bad it makes him cry
    Wet bus stop, she's waiting
    His car is warm and dry

    VERSE 3

    Loose talk in the classroom
    To hurt they try and try
    Strong words in the staffroom
    The accusations fly

    It's no use, he sees her
    He starts to shake and cough
    Just like the old man in
    That book by Nabakov (refering to Lolita)






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