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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Hunting the Horny Back Toad? (Lyrical Pareidolia Monday)

Posted by John Holbo on 08/06/07 at 09:56 AM

I found a nice cover of that old Elton John song, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”: done by somebody or other Faultline & Keene. (It’s on iTunes.)

So Belle and I tried to remember what we had thought the lyrics were as kids/what we half remember them to be now. We fell down on the chorus. You try. The first line is, obviously:

“So goodbye yellow brick road ...”

[feel free to leave your own pareidolic half-memory in the comment box]

Then it continues:

“In the bugbox society house.
You can’t blame me and my pen pal
I’m goin’ back to my cloud.”

I think it is better that way. More of a Flaming Lips thing going on.

I also messed up the first verse pretty bad. But we’ll leave it at that.

There must be examples of this happening in other forms of oral culture: Humorously mangled lines and half-heard lyrics. (What the hell did Shakespeare’s audience think the characters were saying before they could buy the book?)

Bernie Taupin’s actual lyrics here.


This post curiously reflects upon reception of oral culture, and evokes wonder about the continuance of orality.  What about oral literature that we now hold in the forms we have it?  What forms were these works in before they were finally written down?  How much change did they actually undergo?

Of course, these are old debates among academics who study works of oral literature in the fixed forms we now know them, but these witty thoughts on such a recent work (and one that we *can* find in written form, even from its inception) sparks very intriguing thoughts about the phenomenon of oral transmission and the older forms of oral culture that are now preserved from hundreds/thousands of years in the past.

By B. Hawk on 08/06/07 at 12:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Aren’t these things Mondegreens?  (Pareidolia, honestly.) Nice try on GYBR.  I had the LP early on, so I never cemented my mishearings as you did.  Oh well.

By Dave Maier on 08/06/07 at 12:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Mondegreens! Thank you. I knew people discussed them a lot. Didn’t know the name.

By John Holbo on 08/06/07 at 09:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

In the classic and evocative lyric by Tony Christie, the lines now read as:

So long, boy, you can take my place
I got my papers, I got my pay
So pack my bags and I’ll be on my way, to Yellow River.

were originally rendered:

Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.

Scholars are divided as to how the sense evolved.

There’s a Spanish joke about a tourist in London trying to buy a subway ticket to Oxford Circus. As he stands at the ticket office wrestling with “Oxafoorrd Ceercoos”, and meeting complete incomprehension from the clerk, another Spaniard walks up to the next booth, puts down his money and confidently says: “Ojos fritos". And goes off with his ticket.

By on 08/08/07 at 09:34 AM | Permanent link to this comment

rocker Win Butler is baffled by rock rival Wayne Coyne’s recent attack on his band, insisting the pair has only met once - and he’s a huge fan.  Flaming Lips frontman Coyne lashed out at Arcade Fire in a recent article, accusing the band of being “pompous” and abusing their crew.  He said, “I get really tired of their pompousness. We’ve played some shows with them and they really treat people like s---. Whenever I’ve been around them, I’ve found that they not only treated their crew like s---, they treated the audience like s---. They treated everybody in their vicinity like s---. I thought, ‘Who do they think they are?’ I don’t know why people put up with it. I wouldn’t put up with it.” He writes, “Wow, I can’t believe I am actually writing to defend my band’s ‘real’ personality… The only time we have ever shared a stage with the Flaming Lips was… at a festival in Las Vegas (over three years ago). I was really nervous to meet (Coyne) and I felt a little weird that we were playing after them. We traded a little hello, but he was a hard guy to get a read on. I can’t imagine a reason why we would have been pompous towards The Flaming Lips, a band we have always loved, on that particular night, all those years ago. Unless I was way more jet-lagged than I remember.

By Master of Puppets on 03/10/09 at 10:29 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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