Islands in the Street: WTF Are They Saying Songs

Have you ever sung along to a song only to go “la la la” at times when the song, for once, wasn’t using “la la la”, “na na na” or “hum-diddy-do” to fill up space?  I’ve been doing this for ages, and only since the arrival of the almighty Google have we had a chance to figure out exactly what these artists are singing.  And how badly we’ve been goofing it up.

For my first example, I want you to think way back to Dolly “Double D” Parton and Kenny Rogers.  Even if you dislike country music, you probably know who these two are and some of the songs they are famous for – you know, like Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler.”  Well you would know unless you are twindaddy who I swear had never heard of this song before I brought it up.  How do you miss this song?  Know when to hold ‘em?  Know when to fold ‘em? It’s everywhere.  Please people, do inform him of this in the comments.  Thank you.

You know, THIS ONE.  Know when to walk away, know when to run.

You know, THIS ONE. Know when to walk away, know when to run.

But I’m not talking about “The Gambler”, cause most people, (except twindaddy) know the lyrics to that one.  Kenny Rogers also did a duet with Dolly Parton called “Islands in the Stream” back when I was a little kid.  I thought, for the longest time, they were singing “Islands in the Street.”  That made no sense at all.  Why was there an island in the middle of the street?  Then I realized it was stream.  And it still made no sense.  It’s a stream, why is there an island in the middle?  And wtf does that have to do with love?

Islands in your shirt . . . er stream, stream!

Islands in your shirt . . . er stream, stream!

Another song that has puzzled me for ages is “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen.  You know that line where he says “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche in the middle of the night”?  How do you get wrapped up like a douche?  That’s kooky and gross, Bruce.  No wonder you do this in the middle of the night.  Well, that’s what I thought until, to be fair, twindaddy pointed out that he wasn’t saying “douche” he was saying “deuce.”  The line was “revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.”  Oh, okay, well that’s so much clearer now, I mean wait a second.  A Deuce can be so many things, depending on whether we’re talking about the regular definition or the slang, but either way, the lyrics are still stupid.  Bruce is saying he is revved up by either A. a playing card, B. peace out, C. cool, or D. poop.  Let’s hope it’s not D.  Even the feminine hygiene product sounds better than that.

 Just for fun, here’s the video.  Bruce starts it off saying “We’ve never done this.  Hope we can do it.”  No comment there.  Just watch and see if you can understand ANYTHING this man is saying.

One of my favorite songs is Aretha’s Frankin’s well known anthem “Respect.”  But there are some lyrics I’ve never gotten until good old Google.  No, I understand the “sock it to me” although I’m not sure why she wants someone to sock her.  What I didn’t get was the last line of that famous chorus:


Find out what it means to me


Bee bee mee mee mee yeah!

Okay, so that was the way I’ve been singing it all this time. Turns out she was saying “Take Care, TCB.”  Great, so now I had to look up “tcb” which, according to the great Wikipedia means “taking care of business.”  Another interesting fact: originally the song was sung by a man who used respect as a euphemism for a woman putting out.  I have to appreciate the irony of taking a sexist song and making it an anthem for women’s liberation.  You go, Aretha.

Don't care if you do have a furry green muppet around your neck, you ROCK, Aretha.

Don’t care if you do have an enormous furry green caterpillar around your neck, you ROCK, Aretha.

One thing you might notice from these mixed up lyrics songs is that all of them are supposedly written in ENGLISH.  Whether the line is crazy or the singer just slurs the words, somehow it comes out as unintelligible as a foreign language.  The person might as well be singing in Spanish.  Speaking of, one of my on-the-ball readers, James, pointed out to me that the English translation of Macarena says that she is cheating on her boyfriend who is currently enlisting in the service.  Congrats, Mac, you actually made me have even less r-e-s-p-e-c-t for you.  That’s impressive.

I could tell you more about the meanings of famous songs sung in foreign languages that we have cheerfully been singing along with for ages, but I’ve already filled your heads with enough earworms to last a few weeks so I’ll save it for next time.

Hello?  Vienna Calling?  YES PLEASE.

Hello? Vienna Calling? YES PLEASE.

82 responses

  1. Thank you for uncovering the age old mystery of “Take Care, TCB”. I knew she was saying that, but I had no idea what she meant by it. As for Kenny Rogers, I know none of his stuff. I can’t stand country… sorry.

    1. THANK YOU! I mean, who cares about Kenny Rogers? Like I’m old enough to have heard that song. Ever.

      1. Zomg you two, that is the most OVERPLAYED song ever – it’s like this metaphor for life so people are always using it. WOW. 😀

        1. No…Who Let the Dogs Out? and the Chicken Dance are way more overplayed than a song I have never heard before, obviously.

          Also, I think YMCA might actually top the list of most over-played songs.

          1. Yyyyyyyyyymca! I love how all these straight yuppies sing this song not knowing what it’s really about. Still can’t believe you don’t know that song. I’m gonna get you the video.

          2. You can’t make me watch it.

          3. It’s old country. Of course I am.

      2. You are plenty old enough to remember this song, douchenipple.

          1. Oh, that’s right…you are just a babeh…

          2. Indeed. Besides, old countreh sucks. As does Kenneh Rogers…

          3. Word. Wait…wtf? Kenneh is the shiz!

          4. You are in so much trouble now.

          5. Wouldn’t you like to know? Ha!

          6. That’s why I asked.

          7. My lips are sealed.

          8. Um…man. No comment.

          9. I win!!

          10. Pfft. Only cause I’m too nice to say what came to mind.

          11. Yeah, you are too nice.

          12. Sigh indeed.

          13. As long as he doesn’t diss Aretha. Ain’t nobody dissing Aretha.

          14. R E S P E C T

  2. Maybe Islands in the streets means that speed bumps on the street, inspired by Dolly D.D. Parton? The weirdest song I heard was shared by merbear: Ylvis – what does the fox say…

    1. What’s funny is that song is supposed to be a parody of those overdramatic pop songs – yet has its own parodies on youtube. Wait, you guys aren’t getting the POINT.

  3. Did Twindaddy NOT watch the Muppet Show? Kenny Rogers sang the Gambler with them. As to Aretha singing “Take care, TCB”, I knew she was saying “take care” but I thought the rest was “of me me me”

    1. Sure, I saw the Muppet Show…when I was 4! I can’t be expected to remember that far back.

      As to TCB, I have known that one forever because I was force-fed oldies when I was growing up. Just not country oldies.

      1. How can you get through life having last seen the Muppet Show when you were four?

        1. It’s easy. I inhale. Then I exhale. I then repeat as necessary.

    2. You got farther than I did, C.K. And yeah, Muppet Show, twindaddy. Don’t tell me you haven’t recently seen the Muppets.

      1. I saw the Muppet Movie with Jason Segal and that was the biggest sack of suck I’ve seen in a while.

  4. I think Kenny Rogers may be better known for his plasticine face.

    1. That is rather hard to forget. How OLD is that guy now anyhoo?

  5. My whole life is mis-hearing lyrics. I’ve made a career out of butchering lyrics so bad that they make the songs unlistenable.

    I can give you a list if you want ….. I don’t know why anyone WOULD want it, but i have one.

    1. You have a list of misheard songs? Great – more blog fodder. I’m sure there are dozens more I continue to screw up. For instance, Manic Monday – she says she was kissing Valentino by a . . . crystal metalium stream?

      1. How about Macy Gray “I Try”:
        I try to say goodbye and I choke….
        Heard as:
        I try to say goodbye artichoke…

        Or Far East Movement “Like a G6”:
        Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6, like a G6, like a G6….
        Heard as:
        Now I’m feeling so fly like a cheesestick, like a cheesestick, like a cheesestick…

        Just a couple of them for you. I did a whole blog a few months back about how i can NEVER remember lyrics and just mumble my way through them. Great minds think alike 🙂

  6. While the Manfred Mann version we all know and love was “revved up like a deuce” (which is bullshit because they very clearly say “wrapped up like a douche”), the original Springsteen version of the lyrics was “cut loose like a deuce” (which he does say in your video you posted). That makes it even funnier if you think of cutting loose with a deuce (Number 2!), if you know what I mean…..

    1. Oh, right, I forgot that was the other guy’s lyrics. I know – I’ll change the lyrics to something just as incomprehensible. And wow, I’d forgotten how you used to not be able to understand most of what the Boss sang. Like, wtf, quit eating the microphone!

      1. Bruuuuuuce always gets way too into his singing. I remember when he did the Super Bowl a few years ago, he got so worked up over singing a few songs that it looked like he was out of breath and about to keel over at any minute. Or maybe he was just too old…

        1. I love his version of the song “War” (which td probably doesn’t know either) – but watching him sing it is painful. I’m certain he’s gonna have an aneurysm any minute.

  7. Ok, I hate country music, and I knew these. Which is probably why I hate country music. Country song written by a BeeGee=awesome. Not.

    1. Exactly my point. I don’t care for it either usually, but I knew that song cause who could miss it? Which is why, you see, I had to call twindaddy out on this.

  8. Nice TD burn!!

    1. He had to have known he had it coming. Know when to walk away, know when to RUN! 😀

      1. LMAO…

  9. Another one is Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me. I never knew what that one part said–sounded like Sheila, Sheila, Sheila, see you cryin’ or Jeela, Jeela, Jeela, see you cryin’. Of course, I suppose I could Google it, but that would be no fun. So instead, I’ll just keep singing whatever I want when it comes on the radio.

    1. I only remember “I waaaaant you to waaant me, I neeeed you to neeee me . . .” It is very surprising to see what the lyrics really are. I prefer “later on we’ll perspire” to “conspire” in “Winter Wonderland.” I mean, they are in front of a fire. It makes sense to perspire.

      1. Ha! I always thought of that, too. 🙂

      2. Perspire?!?! How lewd.

  10. For the longest time we all thought that Verve song was “Now the trucks don’t work, they just make it worse…” (trucks instead of drugs).
    Like, you’re really depressed and now your car won’t start either and that’s the final straw. The next line, “but I know I’ll see your face again”, presumably with the truck not working you’ll have to take a cab.
    Made sense at the time 🙂
    As the great English comic Jasper Carrot once said of Bohemian Rhapsody – “Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard”!

    1. Ha! Devil for a sideboard . . . Bohemian Rhapsody is in a category all its own.

  11. With God as my witness, I ALWAYS thought it was “wrapped up like a douche”. And yes, I had no idea what that meant. And no, it never bothered me.

    Even after Google informed me that in “Love Shack” she’s yelling “Tin roof,.,,rusted” I can’t hear it. Nope.

    1. Yeah I always was like, wtf is that chick saying? I thought it was Henrrrryyyy, busted!

  12. Why am I being brought into this? WTF……

    1. Oh I was just torturing your bro, not you. 😀

      1. Yeah, but you linked my post….

          1. Any excuse to get me to come hang out with you, eh?

  13. Haha okay so you officially educated me today. I had NO CLUE about the Aretha one. “TCB?!” Yep, gonna have to work that one into the daily jargon.

    1. I would TCB but I am ADHD and OCD.

  14. Islands in the street are a real thing. Those are the raised pavements or areas between lanes going in the opposite direction, sometimes with grass and trees. Rogers and Parton could have been just singing about road safety. Oh, and I don’t know The Gambler either, but that’s probably because I live outside of the country music country. All I know about Kenny Rogers is that one of my college professors kept saying that people always confuse him with Kenny Rogers. I think that’s the only thing I still remember from his class.

    1. I’m just wondering how you guys managed to escape it. I heard that song so many times it was like ARGHHHH.

  15. Oh, the joys of wondering where on earth singers learned to speak! I understand why so many choir conductors often are heard screaming “just what the hell were you singing? Have you not heard of consonants and syllables?” at their choirs…

    1. Do they really? That’s funny.

      1. Yup. Probably because if the choir are singing sacred music, then ideally the audience should understand that they’re singing a version of Psalm 42 and not, say, 50 Shades the Musical…

  16. “Revved up like a deuce” means revved up like a deuce coupe–a drag race. Once I knew what the lyrics really were, I thought that was an odd choice–deuce coupes were produced in the 30s…. 40 years before the song came out. ??? But hell, it’s Hollywood… who knows?

    1. Oh, huh. Yeah, I don’t think even Bruce understood what it meant.

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