May 8th, 2014

Baffled By the Lyrics

Surely you remember the Manfred Mann mid-70s hit “Blinded By the Light.” It’s a pretty nifty song, with an earworm-inducing hook.

But the rest of the lyrics are unintelligible. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s so catchy. But no, that second line is not “wrapped up like a douche”—although it sounds for all the world like the lead singer is saying exactly that:

The actual lyrics are here, but knowing them won’t help a lot in figuring out what the song is about. The song is about the song, that’s what it’s about.

But I didn’t know, until I did some research for this post, that it was written by Bruce Springsteen and performed by him on his very first studio album. When he sang it, that second line of the chorus was “cut loose” instead of “revved up.” His version didn’t just have a few different words, though, as you’ll see; the tone was very different, too. The same armature was there, but the clay he built up around it made a figure that’s almost unrecognizable.

This was back when Springsteen was considered a contender in the “who’s most like Bob Dylan?” sweepstakes:

Springsteen’s answer as to what the lyrics were about was, “the rhyming dictionary was on fire.”

[NOTE: Here's a funny song by Loudon Wainwright III about what it was like to be one of those Bob Dylan clones, what he calls Dylan's "dumbass kid brothers." The verse in question starts at 1:23:

Some more trivia about "Blinded By the Light"---when former-Anita-Hill-bashing David Brock wrote his political right-to-left "change" book, he borrowed from the song to title it Blinded By the Right.]

14 Responses to “Baffled By the Lyrics”

  1. Tom Ellis Says:

    Ok – since we a going over old songs.. All of us oldsters who grew up in California in the 50′s knew exactly what he was talkin’ about – “revved up” or “wrapped up” like a deuce… another runner in the night! A ’32 Ford coupe with a flathead V8 & three 2 barrel carbs – out on old county road every friday night. But, how a Brit/S.Africaner knew about em we’ll never know.

  2. Yancey Ward Says:

    Yes, that lyric is one of the most misheard in all of music. Even though I have always known the word was “deuce” and not “douche”, I literally can’t hear the Manfred Mann version any other way than “wrapped up like a douche”. I have always suspected Mann muffs the word “revved” deliberately to give exactly that mishearing.

    Even though I am a huge Springsteen and Dylan fan as performers, they have written and recorded the two songs that were covered in probably the most superior versions versus the originals- Blinded By The Light by Mann, and All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix.

  3. M J R Says:

    The Number One mis-heard lyric of all time, EVAH:

    “There’s a bathroom on the right”


    “There’s a bad moon on the rise”

    from “Bad Moon Rising”
    by Creedence Clearwater Revival [John C. Fogerty & Co.]

  4. vanderleun Says:

    I always thought it was Jimi Hendrix and “Scuse me while I kiss this guy!”

  5. parker Says:

    As far as MM is concerned, Pretty Flamingo was their high point with an honorable mentio to Do Wa Diddy and their cover of Mighty Quinn. One of my favorite groups of the time was the Zombies. Such beautiful vocals and a multitextured instamental backing.

  6. Tonawanda Says:

    I have never ever considered that the word was anything other than “douche,” although I have also never ever understood anything else, other than the melody of the song, the most salient thing.

    Does anyone play anything at 2014 weddings, birthday parties, celebrations, anniversaries, manufactured in the past 25 years?

    I truly do not know, being an old guy. I am a clueless oldster, just making contact in a peripheral way, wondering about the dynamic of contemporary music.

    If one listens to the 60′s channel on Sirius, one of the most amazing things is the clarity and subtlety of both the lyric and melody, although they are significantly and culturally different from the 40′s music.

    The 70′s music is intriguing in its own way.

    In the 80′s and beyond, popular music became absurd, not in an intentional way.

    Electronic music and tech is not popular but is alluring and may produce great things. As a normal human, I do not have the experience to have an intelligent opinion, just a sense of things.

    Younger people can immerse. Even Beethoven is remote in the immediacy though not the quality. Such is the affect of time.

    It doesn’t matter. My heart wants younger people to see what they are giving up. Roger Simon, an amazing man, recently (implicitly) counseled for folks not to speak about what they are giving up.

    He is probably right and I am probably wrong. I hope I am wrong.

    Eric who posts is a person I admire and encourage. I want his activist approach to be practical.

    My experience with non-Leftists (as am I), is that they do not even get close to understanding how things actually are, to their objective credit.

  7. steveha Says:

    Of course it is “revved up like a deuce”. “Deuce” is short for “deuce coupe”, a popular hot rod of the 1960′s.

    One problem is that very likely the singer’s voice was run through a device called a “sound-level compressor” (often just “compressor” for short). A sound-level compressor attempts to limit the dynamic range, by making the quieter parts louder and the louder parts quieter, so that everything is at the same sound level. Then the recording engineer has a consistent level for the vocals, making for a better mix.

    The problem is that a sound-level compressor uses power as an approximation for loudness and the two are not the same. Because of the way human hearing works, broad-spectrum sounds will have higher loudness than narrow-band sounds of similar power. In other words, if you play a CD that has a single pure tone, then play random noise (“white noise”), the noise will sound louder even if they measure exactly the same power.

    Why does the above matter? Because sibilants are broad-spectrum (they sound more like white noise than the rest of speech) so sound-level compressors overemphasize them. The compressor equalizes the power, but sibilants are then over-emphasized. Recording engineers call this problem “essing”.

    Once I started paying attention, I found essing everywhere. It’s hard to un-learn to hear it. And the essing often happens before the reverb, so the sibilants get overemphasized and then reverbed!

    If you really want a clear example, listen to “No Mercy” by The Tubes (off the Remote Control album). “But down on the shop floor, they showed me no mercy” becomes “But down on the SSShop floor, they SSShowed me no merCCCy”.

    For a detailed discussion of why power is not the same thing as loudness, read this:

  8. Ymarsakar Says:

    mind control denpa hadow

  9. SteveH Says:

    God I hate that Manfred Mann song. Gee thanks Neo!

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    I had an earworm for it off and on all day yesterday, too, if it makes you any happier.

  11. Rick Caird Says:

    “Do Wah Diddy Diddy ” was my goin’ away to college song in the fall of 1964. That will always be Manfred Mann to me.

  12. Doom Says:

    Springsteen wrote that? Gah, I was better not knowing. I used to like the song.

    As to understanding? Don’t… try to logic it, just let it flow. It makes a sort of sense. Whether it is what the writer intended matters little to me. I don’t trust writers, always, to understand what they themselves mean either, or anyway. Songs, especially since the 60′s, though before and long before to a lesser degree, are end user items.

    I know, like writers of books, coded stuff was often put into songs. The thing is, if a code is so tight that no one understands… is it still code or just… nothing. Between those ‘in the know’ and the author – forgetting, or those same folk purposefully forgetting because they have since learned better (commy support perhaps, then after reading a bit of history losing all interest and cutting their traces back to the support of it at one time, for example), I have to wonder how many notions are just lost.

  13. Mac Says:

    I always knew it was “deuce,” and supposed that the meaning of deuce was the same as in the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe”. But I thought it was “ripped off”, which made no sense. I’m glad to have that cleared up. I always found the song annoying but this will make it slightly less so if I ever hear it again.

    By the way, for those like Tonawanda who tend to think pop music pretty much died 20 or 30 years ago: there are still people out there who can craft beautiful songs. They just don’t make it to big-time commercial radio, so you never hear them if you don’t look for them. An example that comes to mind right away is “White Winter Hymnal,” by Fleet Foxes. The lyric leaves a little to be desired, but then so did a lot of the ’60s and ’70s music (e.g. the song under discussion here).

  14. Mac Says:

    Here is a little light on the obscure lyric.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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