Perhaps more than any other art form, songwriting is open to interpretation. Even when playing someone else's music faithfully, an artist will typically bring something new in the delivery. But sometimes artists set out to make deliberate changes. Typically, those changes are reserved for the music, while the lyrics are left alone, but every once in a while, an artist -- either deliberately or through sheer carelessness -- will alter the lyrics. On certain occasions, it's great, and I'm doing that article next week, but today, let's explore the five times artists changed lyrics in a way that deserves derision, scorn, and abuse!
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Because I have to get all that hate out before there's room for love.
5Bon Jovi Covers the Beatles After Suffering Apparent Brain Trauma
Hey, do you hate Bon Jovi? I do. Why? Well, only because they suck, but as much as I hate them, I also recognize that it's a little too easy to make fun of them, blaming them for every awful '80s junior high school memory when Slippery When Wet ruled the radios.
People used to do this to their hair on purpose.
Sure, their music was uninventive, their lyrics were unimportant, and they brought not one new or lasting idea to music with the entirety of their catalog, but they were a solid bar band. Just rock 'n' roll. "Don't hate us for playing to stadiums full of tone-deaf New Jerseyites, we're just a bar band that made good!" I will accept that defense, but it's also what makes this entry so unforgivable. Many years ago, I was apparently taking a break from my usual New Year's activity of having lots of hot sex with everyone, and I watched Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve like all cool people with too many dates.
And what a treat. Bon Jovi was covering "Helter Skelter" by the Beatles. A solid bar band covering one of the loudest songs by one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time. An institution. And they botched arguably the most famous lyric:
"You may be a lover, but you ain't no dancer" BECAME "You ain't no lover, but you ain't no dancer"
Wow. So whereas the Beatles were cheekily saying, "Honey, you may know how to f*ck, but you don't know how to dance," Bon Jovi is moronically saying "Baby, you're not a lover, oh, and also, you are deficient in dancing. So there are two things wrong with you, really. Both f*cking and dancing. On both counts I'd have to say you are sorely lacking. Also, I'm going to go ahead and use the "but" conjunction to combine these two similar things even though that makes no grammatical sense."
If you're going to play a famous song by the most famous band of all time and you claim to be a bar band steeped in classics, maybe learn the words before going on live TV before millions.
Also, it's all well and good to make fun of Bon Jovi, but in their defense while they totally screwed up covering the Beatles, the totally nailed covering U2 screwing up covering the Bealtes.
4The Ataris Lamely Attempt to Alter Don Henley to Seem More Hardcore
Hey, remember the Ataris? I don't. I had to have someone remind me. By the way, if you're trying to remind someone of the Ataris, a good clue is "Hey, remember that band from 10 years ago that sucked who covered Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer"?
Anyway, there's a lot of '80s music that still holds up without holding the taint of the decade. And there are songs that are clearly born of that decade and yet still wonderful pieces of music. Henley's "The Boys of Summer" is in the latter category. All the programming and studio whiz-bangs don't take away from the solid song construction, evocative lyrics, and sensational (and demanding) vocal performance.
What did the Ataris do? Well, they stripped it down, rocked it up, and didn't sing it as well. That's inoffensive enough. It's a solid hard pop rock arrangement, and as mentioned, it's a demanding vocal. But then they did something truly offensive -- not because it was so awful, but so pointless:
"Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" BECAME "Out on the road today, I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac"
It seems like referencing the Grateful Dead just wasn't badass enough for this boy band with a distortion pedal. It's like they held a band meeting and said, "Hey, let's cite Henry Rollins' old band instead and I'll make a little troublemaker face when we get to that part at two minutes and 59 seconds in!" Quick tip: If you want to be badass, maybe don't cover solo material from the Eagles' drummer/singer in the first place. And if you do, leave the words the hell alone.