David Carroll’s News & Notes: She’s Got A Chicken to Ride

David Carroll

As you may know by now, I love rock ‘n roll oldies. Those are the songs I grew up listening to. Now, all these decades later, there’s almost always some song from the 60s, 70s or 80s blaring from my car speakers, and I’m trying to sing along, even if I don’t know the words.

Many singers of that era kept us guessing. For instance, if you thought Johnny Rivers was singing “Secret ASIAN Man,” (Secret Agent Man) I was right there with you.

During my radio days, I got numerous requests for the Buckinghams’ “Canada Dry,” (actually “Kind of a Drag.”)

It even goes outside of music. In fourth grade, I had a pretty good handle on The Lord’s Prayer, but another kid would recite, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Howard be thy name. He was surely among many who wondered, who is this Howard guy?” The only one I knew was Howard Cosell, who seemed a bit out of place in that prayer.

John Fogerty, the lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, was actually from California but he adopted a Louisiana bayou drawl. That’s why we thought he was saying “Who’ll Stop Lorraine” and “Have you ever seen Lorraine.” We later learned he was actually singing “the rain,” which was surely a relief to Lorraine.

Michael Jackson was loud and clear when he sang “Rock With You” and “Rockin’ Robin” but he kept us guessing about “Billie Jean.” He sang, “Billie Jean is not my love,” but some of us thought we were hearing “The bitter jeans of my love.” He went on to sing, “the kid is not my son,” but we misheard it as “the chair is not my son.” That made sense to me.

When I hear Abba’s “Dancing Queen” I think my misheard version might be more commonly sung than the real thing. With their Swedish accent, it sounded like they were singing, “See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen.” Actually, they’re singing, “See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen.” Or ARE they?

Some of us like to sing the wrong words anyway. Who among us hasn’t mangled Merilee Rush’s beautiful “Angel of the Morning” by belting out, “Just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby.” That’s way more fun than the correct lyrics, “Just touch my cheek.”

Back in the static-filled AM radio days of the 1960s, my top-40 DJ friends tell me that listeners used to request “So Mad” instead of “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave.

Even the Beatles weren’t immune to our mangling of lyrics. That’s why many record buyers were shocked to see “Ticket To Ride” on the label. We thought they were singing, “She’s got a chicken to ride.”

We still couldn’t hear in the 1970s, when Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” sounded more like “It’s a family of bears.” That’s also the decade when Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It” sounded like “Looks Like Tomatoes.” (Others thought he was singing, “Looks Like We Mated,” which seemed logical at the time.)

The group Queen, with Freddy Mercury on lead vocals, created a high school gym bleacher-pounding anthem with “We Will Rock You,” which included the chant, “You’ve got mud on your face, you big disgrace.” That didn’t keep us from shouting, “You’ve got mud on your face, your big disc brakes.”

Kenny Rogers’ number one hit “Lucille” was widely misunderstood. Although Kenny sang, “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, four hungry children and a crop in the field.” Our AM radio speakers made it sound like, “You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel, four hundred children…”

I’ll close with one of my 1980s favorites, sent in by parents of small children. They entertain the kiddies by playing the oldies during long car rides. In the 80s, Boy George sang “karma karma karma karma karma chameleon.” The tots interpreted that as, “come a come a come a come a come a to me, Leon.”

What are your favorite misunderstood songs? Send your stories to me at, and we’ll share some laughs together.