Music in the 50’s: Oldies Misunderstood Lyrics

Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.

We’ve all seen those lists of misunderstood lyrics and they’re all pretty funny. This is not one of those lists. It’s not all that funny. It’s just a list of misunderstood lyrics. However! There is something special about it. This list features all oldies from the 50’s and 60’s. Fun, right? Let’s hope so anyway.

The first song is “Peggy Sue”, of course, by Buddy Holly.

I used to think it went: “Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy Sue”

That’s a lot of “Peggys”. But that’s what I thought it was, way back before I was a big Buddy fan.

The actual lyrics are: “Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Peggy Sue”

Better, right? Of course it is.

The next song is also by Buddy Holly: “Maybe Baby”

I used to think it went: “You are the one that makes me glad / Any other one makes me sad”

Okay, that’s valid. But it’s also wrong.

The actual lyrics are: “You are the one that makes me glad / And you are the one that makes me sad”

The actual lyrics fit the beat, but my misunderstood version leaves out a syllable. I don’t know what I thought happened to it.

“Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper

I used to think it went: “Chantilly lace upon her face”

Okay, what does that mean? It almost sounds dirty. But what I imagined was a girl wearing a veil made out of lace. I really did!

The actual lyrics are: “Chantilly lace and a pretty face”

I still laugh at my misunderstood lyrics every time I hear that song.

“Blue Suede Shoes” (Elvis Presley’s version)

I used to think it went: “You can knock me down, spit in my face / Say my name all over the place.”

But the actual lyrics are: “You can knock me down, step in my face / Slander my name all over the place.”

Not too bad of a misunderstanding, but wait til you see this next one:

I also used to think it went: “You can paint my house, steal my car / Tape my lips to an old fruit jar.”

Uh, wow, okay. That’s really wrong. I think I always knew it was wrong. I just couldn’t make out the real words.

The actual lyrics are: “You can burn my house, steal my car / Drink my liquor from an old fruit jar.”

Not as funny as taping someone’s lips to a jar, but it makes a lot more sense.

“Let It Be Me” by The Everly Brothers

I used to think it went: “Each time we make love”

Ooooh, uh-uh, honey! But give me a break. Buddy Knox says it in “Party Doll”. I guess I assumed that Don and Phil were pushing the censorship envelope again since “Wake Up Little Susie” got banned for less a thing. But it’s probably just my dirty little mind. Then again, there are a plethora of songs that mention making love from before I was even born. But this one isn’t one of them.

The actual lyrics are: “Each time we meet, love”

Hmm. Well I guess it could even be a song from Victorian times if that’s all it says. You know, like one of those songs they made you sing in your High School choir, like “True Lovers Farewell”. (Not to be confused with “True Love Ways”, of course.)

“At The Hop” by Danny and The Juniors

I think I made this next lyric up in my head simply because I didn’t know what he was really saying.

I used to think it went: “When the record starts spinnin’ you really start winnin’ at the hop”

My fuzzy reasoning was that the hop is so much fun, everyone who goes is a winner. All right, well, the actual lyrics are a bit more complex, at least to someone who grew up in an era with the Electric Slide as their only definable dance.

The actual lyrics are: “When the record stars spinnin’ you calypso when you chicken at the hop”

I guess those are dances? We didn’t have the hop anymore by the time I came along, and the bottom line is if I hadn’t looked the lyrics up, I would have never, ever deciphered that line.

“Charlie Brown” by The Coasters

So before I do this next one, I’ll admit that this is not a true misunderstood lyric, but rather what it sounds like to me. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching shows like “The Simpsons” and “Beavis and Butthead”. I don’t know.

It sounds like: “Who’s always writing on the wall? / Who’s always pooping in the hall?”

Of course, the 1950’s were not the 1990’s, and no song in the 50’s would talk about poop. But I just keep hearing it.

The actual lyrics are: “Who’s always writing on the wall? / Who’s always goofing in the hall?”

“Goofing”, not “pooping”. Obviously. But the irony is what a bad-boy Charlie Brown was back in the day. According to this song, he was a real delinquent! By the time I came along, he was just good ole, wishy-washy Charlie Brown.

“Rave On!” by Buddy Holly

I saved my favorite misunderstood lyric for last. Note that it was my aunt who grew up in the 50’s who misunderstood this lyric, and NOT me.

She thought it went: “Rayvonne! / It’s a crazy feelin’”

Basically, she thought he was singing the girl’s name: “Rayvonne”. Which kind of makes sense, really.

The actual lyrics are: “Rave on! / It’s a crazy feelin’”

Rave as in “rave reviews”. The dictionary defines it as “To give wildly enthusiastic praise for something” And in the song “Rave On!” he’s telling her to continue to “rave” about how much she loves him.

The phrase “Rave On” has become a regular mantra among Buddy Holly fans. It’s a little annoying after the 100th time someone says it to you, but would I complain? Sometimes, when I listen to the song, I imagine it’s a girl’s name, the way my aunt did when it came on the radio way back in the 50’s, for the first time. It totally fits.

Finally, as a bit of a bonus, I used to think Buddy Holly’s record label, CORAL, was “Corral”, like a corral where livestock is kept. My reasoning was that the label was named Corral because the music was mostly country-inspired. I guess I didn’t know that “Corral” has 2 “R’s” while “Coral” only has one. This, of course was a spelling issue, and was eventually cleared up. You’d have thought the bright coral label would have tipped me off sooner, but I never paid all that much attention to 45s until later, when I got interested in oldies.

Now that I think on it, I had the same spelling issues with the words “Holly” and “Holy”. I never remembered how many “L’s” which one had, and always reversed the two. Well, I never claimed to be a good speller!

The way we see and hear things. (This graphic is a parody, made with Photoshop)

Well, that’s it for now, thank you for reading this ridiculous post. If for some reason you liked it all that much, you can follow Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever on WordPress. You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82

Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island or by clicking the 88.1 FM link on, via the TuneIn app. or the  WCWP app on your iPhone or Android device.  You can also follow us on Twitter.

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One thought on “Music in the 50’s: Oldies Misunderstood Lyrics

  1. Dee,

    Really enjoyed this latest Grooveyard post. I knew they correct lyrics to all but two of the ones you covered. “At The Hop” always confounded me with the chicken thing. And “Maybe Baby” also had me thinking that Buddy just misspoke the lyrics. Thanks for clarifying. Here’s another one for you. What is the first verse of “Get A Job”?


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