MONDEGREEN: a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung
ORIGIN: from the mishearing in a Scottish ballad of “laid him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen”
During an author (Michael W. Clune, GAMELIFE) and editor (Dan Piepenbring, THE PARIS REVIEW) conversation this week, “mondegreens” were mentioned during a particularly insightful non sequitur. In this spirit I offer one of the very first WordBowl words as today’s #ThowbackThursday piece.
“Mondegreen” from Josh T, who does not cop to ever mis-singing “’scuse me while I kiss this guy” while listening to Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze
Audience applauds with assumption, un-syncopated shouts for the song not yet played, the song, his minor hit, as they head offstage, momentarily, encore expected.
His hit. “His”. “Hit”. White-knuckling through a shot at sobriety. For her. Ignoring his band’s murderous mutterings under collective held breath. No pussyfooting around with rehab, he sweat out the worst of it over a long week and even longer weekend — a rare break in the relentless road-e-o — at his uncle’s mountain cabin, just him and the wolves, howling. He returned with a stubbed-swollen toe, a shorn head, a sheaf of intelligible lyrics, and one soul-scraped song. For her.
First regrouping no one optimistic enough to call rehearsal, they pick-picked, loose talk and looser strings — guitar, bass, banjo — until they eased into a good worn groove. Cautious, he played the one his gut screamed, soul-sincere. He will never know — now that his nights do not end with sunrise confessions strewn among scattered ashtrays, clothes, bottles, bodies — whether his bassist innocently misheard or mischievously mangled the hook.
A laugh, a joke caught, carried from rehearsal to first performance, bassist belting out bastardized lyric, drummer echoing. An enthusiastic blogger at the sparsely populated show, Twittering. Blew up fast. Recorded on the cheap, released as a single in anticipation of an album. A freight train, his manager called it, an anachronistic term, but they grew up together in an anachronistic town, a place weighty with musical metaphor.
Now he has legions of far-flung fans, online friends and followers chronicling his sobriety, his pain, his redemption. Fairytale believers.
For her. Before either of them realized when she said she needed him off the bottle, she really meant she needed him off the road.
Booze he can manage without. Mostly. The road, though. The road is in his blood.
He swipes a beaded water bottle from an outstretched hand without looking. No need. At some point, recent, the crowds clustered backstage became men with grey beards, silver signet rings, glasses. Fewer females to spark accusations, but she is no longer around to provoke.
He chugs the water bottle like he once did Jack. Or Jim. Or Cuervo. His bassist towers over him, clanks a shot glass against his sweat-slicked skull, he swats at the string-taunt arm, they half-hug-back-slap, his bassist’s smeary face triumphant, they howl, drummer joins rat-tat-tippity-tap. The crowd’s dissipating claps resurge, crescendo.
They sidle onstage, coy. Bassist assumes the hunched-crane position, shoulder torqued, knees knocked, elbows akimbo. Himself, he stands still, pick in his mouth, awash in stage light, love.
He’ll play these sweet venues charging $25-cover-two-drink-minimum to people who shoulder-dance in their seats, the charity gigs, the beer battered dives, play, play, as long as they are wanted by even a handful of people who mouth the lyrics he — they — wrote. And maybe even beyond the wanting. They will ride the road to end.
A battered acoustic thrust into his hands. Collective sigh crests into feverish anticipation.
He strums the first familiar fractured chord. The crowd roars.
And a whole pot of home-brewed Cafe DuMonde Chicory Coffee
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