Ben's Logarion ☪

topics:
Humanities
id:
33d5c29e-eec1-4c8a-bd2d-239eec83dd08

Misheard Lyrics

Today I put my playlist on random, and up came "Even If and Especially When", an early album by the Screaming Trees that over time I've come to consider one of their best works. Compared to the albums that followed, this one sounds a bit more raw, and it's a bit noisy, but it stands out stylistically.

In particular, I have been impressed by the lyrics of some of the songs on this album. The song that came on this time was "You Know Where It's At", one of my favorites on the album. The thing is, I don't usually tend to listen to lyrics that closely, so over the years that I've listened to this album, I only considered the lyrics as having a vague aesthetic value, which maybe they do.

Be that as it may, I thought I might gain some new insight into this old album by reading the lyrics and maybe attempting to analyze them. The best place to start was Google, since most lyrics have been written down already, there's no need for me to try to decipher them. As everyone knows, decoding lyrics by ear is often very difficult and sometimes impossible.

In this particular song I found an interesting case. The lyrics were available on many sites, but the first line was obviously very wrong. It said, "The winds are fake but you're over there"... this could just be a case of vague or nonsense lyrics, but I wasn't expecting that. By ear I think anyone could tell that he really says, "The winds of fate put you over there"...

Looking at the rest of it, I thought likely the issue was no human had transcribed the lyrics, but rather it had been done automatically by software. Since I study Persian poetry, I'm keenly aware of how human understanding affects reading, especially when multiple readings are possible, which is often the case. A computer generally can't decide what makes sense and doesn't make sense, though a lot of things are possible now with big data and sophisticated algorithms. In this case I assume the transcription software was just listening for words by sound alone.

I gave it a careful listen through, and actually the lyrics appear mostly correct. Perhaps just the first stanza has been most wrongly heard, like so:

Winds are fake but you're over there
Didn't sit here long inside my stare
In this pale blue sky you saw the error
Strange to see how your vision narrows

Lines 1 and 3 seem the most wrong of all, and so my corrected hearing is this:

Winds of fate put you over there
Didn't sit here long inside my stare
In those pale blue skies you used all [ye/the] arrows
Strange to see how your vision narrows

An unspoken thing
In your ears it rings
Y'know where it's at now

If you've time for one inspection
You took off in the wrong direction
And nobody wants to hear
Like so many did when their days were clear

An unspoken thing
In your ears it rings
Y'know where it's at now

Something died when you said goodbye

Hardly time for one last look
[Givin'/Given] up on what we took
It's no good unless we stand face to face
So long my friend

An unspoken thing
In your ears it rings
Y'know where it's at now
Y'know where it's at now

Something died, when you said goodbye

Words that I really couldn't be certain about I put in brackets with the two best candidates I could pick up on by ear. Line 3 fo the first stanza was particularly perplexing, and obviously not what Google said it was. We are aided by the fact that "arrows" and "narrows" rhyme, making it more plausible. However, though I heard "ye", I found it hard to believe that was the intended word. It was so audibly close to "the" that I decided I had to just put them both and let someone else decide.

For a moment I did reflect on the irony that "the" used to be written "ye" at some point in English, but that was merely typographic and it was meant to be pronounced "the" anyway. Whether "ye" with the modern "y" sound is actually a word or not, I don't even know. The next question would be, if Screaming Trees did use "ye" really in this song, was it used seriously or in jest?

Anyway, I decided to post my version of the lyrics online just so they'd be somewhere. Google wouldn't return any results with "winds of fate" for this song that I could see, so maybe I'm the first to transcribe them!