5 Billy Joel, “Big Shot”
The greatest hangover ballad in history is also among history’s most often-misquoted songs. Waking up after a night that went way too late, Billy’s head is on fire, his eyes too bloodshot to see, and he’s lamenting his over-indulgences of the previous evening. Wondering why he couldn’t have just gone home instead of making a jerk out of himself, the only answer he comes up with is “because you had to be a big shot, didn’t ya?” Although he pronounces it “dintcha,” it’s impossible to understand how so many people in so many bars could think a “big shot ninja” was to blame for his indiscretion.
4 Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze”
Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix joined a long and sad list of brilliant musicians who died before their time at the age of 27. To this day, his legions of fans mistake the lyric “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky,” in his song “Purple Haze,” with “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.” Listening to Jimi fans botch this line is especially painful because at that point in the song, the background music stops, the lyric is isolated and the only thing you can hear is the jukebox player’s insistence upon a romantic encounter with a man who never existed.
3 Warren Zevon — “Werewolves of London”
OK. The botched lyric is the title of the song, so there should be no excuse. But Zevon does mention food a lot throughout the song, so it’s easier to forgive the litany of music lovers who insist his trademark howl is followed by “werewolves and onions.”
2 Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Blinded by the Light”
When people realize on karaoke night that they’ve been saying “wrapped up like a goose” instead of “revved up like a deuce,” the most common reaction is, “revved up like a deuce? That doesn’t even make sense!” Well, neither does “wrapped up like a goose,” but then again, the very next lyric is “and little Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly and asked me if I needed a ride.” So, at this point, just sing whatever you want.
1 Francis Scott Key: “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Written at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, the lyrics to what would become our National Anthem was put to the music of a traditional British pub song to antagonize our traditional enemy. Countless crooners from Christina Aguilera to Roseanne Barr have been left wondering, why did they leave out the “e” in “hail’d?” Why did they leave out the “v” in “o’er?” What’s a rampart, and why is it gallantly streaming? Maybe the reason you have to remove your hat when it’s played is to scratch your head at the lyrics to this song, which is one of the most misquoted, and mumbled-through, ever.