You don’t have to be a Leonard Cohen of this world to write a classic song. 2 Unlimited once wrote an upbeat anthem proclaiming the power of positivity with the word “no” 12 times in a row and it became a big hit. In short, lyrics are not the be-all and end-all of pop music. However, if you commit a cardinal sin with them, you can completely destroy a perfectly profitable melody.
You could have created a sound as overflowing with perfection as “Hey Jude” or something like that, but if Paul McCartney had changed the chorus to “Send Nudes” or some other inappropriate monstrosity, it might have killed the Beatles. So, it might be surprising to learn how close certain classic songs have come to such a calamity.
Below, we take a look at some iconic ditties and the lyrical tragedy that almost happened to them. From a faecal version of Queen’s Radio to a laughable version of Viz on Black Sabbath’s action hero, these are the songs that have gone from heaps of ashes to pages of history in no time. Enjoy.
Six classic songs that were nearly ruined by their original lyrics:
‘Iron Man’ (originally ‘Iron Bloke’) – Black Sabbath
There has always been a Laddish undertone to Black Sabbath that happily underlies the Satanism they were associated with. Nothing defines this aspect of “dumb boys from Aston” quite like the reality that rock hero “Iron Man” was almost called “Iron Bloke.”
These laid-back lyrics came to the fore when Ozzy Osbourne first heard the riff and thought it sounded like “a big iron guy walking around.” As such, he thought, “Well, why not put that straight into the lyrics.” However, he soon realized the whole thing sounded like a Vic & Bob skit and turned this metal man into something a little more formal.
‘Radio Ga Ga’ (originally ‘Radio Caca’) – Queen
It’s a quirk in human psychology that toddlers seem almost obsessed with poop, but it certainly provided some top-notch entertainment. In fact, it even served up one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, all thanks to Roger Taylor’s rather quick-witted tongue-in-cheek Felix.
Queen’s drummer was working on some rather unimpressive sequencing and when Felix heard him grumbling about the shit being offered on the radio he gave him a rather scatological chorus shouting “Radio Caca!” Obviously it was later modified to be a bit more radio compatible (perhaps ironically), and the rest is history.
‘Star Trek Theme’ – Gene Roddenberry & Alexander Courage
Imagine logging on to watch a new sci-fi series and being greeted with the following lyrics, originally penned by Gene Roddenberry: “Beyond/ The edge of starlight/ My love/ Is wandering in the flight of stars/ I know/ He will find in the starry confines/ Love,/ The strange love that a star woman taught.“Well, I’d bet you’d lose all faith in the moron behind that cluster.
Composer Alexander Courage naturally chose not to use them and decided that once the theme was completed he would never collaborate with Roddenberry again. He ditched words without meter and opted for a “long thing that…keeps going out into space…over a quick accompaniment”.
‘I Miss America So Much’ (originally ‘I Miss You So Much’) – The Clash
Do we really need another love song? This question was spoken but growled during the punk revolution. However, The Clash was never opposed to a typical pop structure and on this occasion Mick Jones followed the melody he crafted into an equally seamless pop culture chorus.
However, Joe Strummer found a way to make the song a bit more on point. He flipped it all over and exclaimed, “A Yankee dollar to the dictators of the world / In fact he give orders / And they can’t afford to miss a word.” You’re not much less in love than that – it’s just pure sharp political-punk.
‘Honesty’ (originally ‘Sodomy’) – Billy Joel
It’s crazy to think how much some songs have transformed. Billy Joel went from writing “Sodomy: It’s Such A Lonely World” to a song that sincerely cries out for honesty in an effort to make the world a better place. It’s like sitting down to write a crude comic and ending up with an essay on War & Peace.
“I think music itself is healing,” he once said. “It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It is something that affects us all. Regardless of our culture, everyone loves music. If you change this motive from “healing” to recovery, then you can apply it perfectly to the rescue work he did with “Honesty”.
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‘Yesterday’ (originally ‘scrambled eggs’ – The Beatles
Paul McCartney has rightly been considered one of the greatest pop songwriters of all time. The composer’s time with the Beatles is legendary, and when you look at his iconic catalog, it’s easy to see why McCartney is always the foreword of pop music. However, drafts of some of his most famous songs are in his canon, including “Yesterday”.
The track arrived at McCartney in the middle of the night but was not fully formed. A song that comes to you in a dream is a pretty towering moment in his career, and McCartney was determined to make the melody a song. As such, the singer used every lyric he could think of so he could compose the melody for the track. The original title of the song was therefore in fact “Scrambled Eggs”. McCartney’s original lyrics were: “Scrambled Eggs, Oh you got such pretty legs, Scrambled Eggs. Oh baby, how I love your legs.
The actual story of how the song went from “Scrambled Eggs” to “Yesterday” is pretty muddled by years and years of passing time. While at various stages Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Martin have all claimed to have played a role in the title, and there have been countless suggestions that a complete “Scrambled Eggs” song exists somewhere. in the internet ether, the truth is largely inconsequential.
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