The cuckoo lyric: how I messed up the words on ‘Nintendo’ and only realised this week.

Damnit. The lyric was always: “Your words come quiet, single file. / On one long roll of paper (in) Kerouac style.” That’s what it was meant to be, what I originally wrote and what was taped on the demo version.

But somehow in the album recording sessions, on this particular vocal take I randomly sang: “On one long roll of paper and Kerouac smiles,” and then somehow in my brain, that slipped into place like a big-arsed cuckoo and became what the lyric was. When we mixed, that was clearly the best vocal take and I pushed aside a nagging feeling something was odd about the words. Already by then I’d got too close – forgotten meanings and lost perspective – and I didn’t think about it again, even once I started singing the song live. I was singing the replacement lyric instead of the original one.

I only realised my mistake last week, during one of the final few shows of my UK tour, when something clicked back into place and I found myself acutely aware that all this time I’d been clinging to the wrong words. It was a particular shock because, for me anyway, they were drastically weaker words.

It’s a subtle difference and almost certainly you don’t give a fuck either way, especially since the sentence doesn’t remotely affect the underlying premise of the song. But for me the previous version was much, much better. “Kerouac smiles” conjures the dead poet looking down, in some way approving of the work – which is patently ridiculous and nothing like I’d want to say. It’s a bogus phrase too, slushy and romantic, at a point in the song where I’m trying to keep descriptively cool. “In Kerouac style” is simpler, sticks to the point and focuses on that image of a long roll of paper, which is what I wanted to get across.

So how did I get it wrong, and for so long? I have no fucking idea. What do I do about it now? Nothing – it’s too late. Sometimes, writing songs, that’s just how it goes. I’ll sing the correct version of ‘Nintendo’ from now on and, like a typo gone to press, hopefully nobody will notice.

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6 responses to “The cuckoo lyric: how I messed up the words on ‘Nintendo’ and only realised this week.

  1. My friend got quite upset when you accidentally sang “I won’t *love* you, I will kill you first” on 7 Hearts once. Changed the meaning of the song a fair bit!

  2. Chris, i admit that every time i’ve listened to the song i’ve secretly WISHED you were singing ‘Kerouac style’ and not ‘Kerouac smiles’ 🙂 Quick! Record a new vocal track and slip it out as an additional track on the download copies!

  3. … this is fabulous reading:) I love backstories; they always feel so… poetic.

  4. Kerouac style is definitely better and I’m pretty sure that’s what you sang on the last four dates.

    I’ll forgive you the ‘fresh caught lavender’ in Market Square at the Slaughtered Lamb. I’m sure another dead poet was looking down and smiling… well, laughing and pointing. 😉

  5. i’m afraid i always misheard the lyrics on excuses as ‘i spent all morning out in the cold survival shopping AND getting old’. it was only when i bought beatverse that i realised it should be “I’M getting old”. i sing along with my misheard version on purpose now, i’ve grown to love it.

  6. I was kind of disappointed to read this, actually. I love the ‘Kerouac smiles’ lyric; someone giving a wry, drunken smile, for me, works better than an ‘in the style of…’
    But y’know, that’s just me. Reader as the author and all that.
    Still my favourite album of 2010.

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