To celebrate this year’s Valentine’s Day, as piano learning platform we’ve researched the now famous love songs that began life with alternate lyrics or names.
Honouring the craft and process of writing a romantic piece of music, and acknowledging the journey a song takes during creation, here are ten famous love songs that nearly meant something very different. More love songs to play on the piano you can find in our courses.
‘Vampires in Love’ AKA ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ – Bonnie Tyler
‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ was a number one hit in UK, USA and Australia in 1983. Unknown to many is that Jim Steinman, one of the song’s composers, had originally titled the song ‘Vampires in Love’. He had planned for its inclusion in ‘Nosferatu’, a vampiric rock musical. Music fans may not find such spooky undertones from Steinman too surprising. He had worked on Meat Loaf’s aptly named ‘Bat Out of Hell’ six years earlier.
‘Scrambled Eggs’ AKA ‘Yesterday’ – Paul McCartney
Believe it or not, ‘Scrambled Eggs’ was the original title to Paul McCartney’s iconic ‘Yesterday’. In 1965 the melody for the song came to Paul in a dream. For fear of forgetting the tune as he woke up, he rushed to the piano and attached the first lyrics he could think of. They went: “Scrambled eggs, oh, my baby, how I love your legs…”. In the second verse, Paul, continuing the edible theme, apparently praised “cottage fries and his muse’s thighs.” These lyrics became a standing joke between the Beatles members, as the song itself rose to be one of their greatest hits. Currently, ‘Yesterday’ is one of the most covered songs in the world.
‘Sodomy’ AKA ‘Honesty’ – Billy Joel
Liberty DeVitto, Billy ‘Piano Man’ Joel’s bandmate, did not read music. He needed words in front of him in order to play and remember notes. To motivate Joel to write lyrics in order to ease this process, Liberty often decided to scribble down terrible lyrics – in turn encouraging Billy to come up with his own better version.
By this method, the famous lyric “Honesty, is such a lonely word” (1975) was first written as “Sodomy, is such a lonely word”. As the band continued to sing the word “sodomy” Joel decided it was time to come up with his own more serious alternative. Many years later, Beyoncé Knowles covered the song.
‘Mrs Roosevelt’ AKA ‘Mrs Robinson’ – Simon & Garfunkel
Mike Nichols, the musical director of the 1967 classic The Graduate, approached Simon and Garfunkel for inspiration for the film’s score. Paul Simon suggested a song he was working on at the time, a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt (aptly named “Mrs Roosevelt”). Simon agreed to change the name to ‘Mrs Robinson’ (the lead character played by Anne Bancroft) in time for production. In fact, you can learn this beautiful song, with Skoove’s Beginners’ Course 2!
‘Wings for Wheels’ AKA ‘Thunder Road’ – Bruce Springsteen
The original title for The Boss’s ‘Thunder Road’ was ‘Wings for Wheels’. Potentially more interesting however is that Mary (whose ‘dress waves’ in the second line of the song) was originally christened Angelina. By the time of the final version in 1975, the verses had been rewritten plenty of times, though the melody and general theme remained the same throughout. One of Springsteen’s defining songs, and arguably one of the best rock songs of all time, a handwritten lyric sheet of Thunder Road was recently valued at $37, 500.
‘Hey Jules’ AKA ‘Hey Jude’ – The Beatles
The ballad that inspired generation upon generation. There is no doubting that the number of people named Jude increased because of this song. However, the song was originally entitled ‘Hey Jules’. Paul McCartney wanted to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian (then aged five) while his parents went through a divorce.
‘Maniac’ – Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky
The inspiration behind ‘Maniac’ – featured in the 1983 movie ‘Flashdance’ – was a William Lustig movie about a serial killer based in New York. Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky, who co-wrote the song, wrote the chilling original lyrics: ‘He’s a maniac, maniac that’s for sure/He will kill your cat and nail him to the door’. Phil Ramone, who produced the soundtrack, ultimately came up with a more relevant and sensitive theme. A girl possessed with a passion for dance rather than serial killer.
Mind Games – John Lennon
John Lennon’s 1973 hit ‘Mind Games’ started out with different, more sanitised lyrics. In 1973, Lennon revisited the song, incorporating psychological references and moving sharply away from the hippie-ish tones of the earlier years. The original words: “I want you to make love, not war. I know you’ve heard it before” were replaced with the more complex “We’re playin’ those mind games together. Pushin’ the barriers, plantin’ seeds”.
‘Seventeen’ AKA ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ – The Beatles
The original title of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was ‘Seventeen’. When Paul and John wrote lyrics, one of them usually had a germ of an idea upon which the other expanded. ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was originally Paul’s song but John helped fill-in the gaps. One of McCartney’s initial lyrics was “She was just 17, she’d never been a beauty queen” which John laughed at and described “useless”. Lennon proceed to change it to “she was just 17, you know what I mean” instead. The song was the opening track on their debut album “Please Please Me”, released in 1963. The rest is history.
‘I am so bored with you’ AKA ‘I am so bored with the USA’ – The Clash
Inspired by his then on-and-off relationship with a girlfriend, Clash guitarist Mick Jones originally wrote ‘I am so bored with the USA’ as a love song, called ‘I am so bored with you’. For the first few months the Clash played the more relationship-inspired version at their concerts until Joe Strummer, the singer, misheard the words. They then formally changed the lyrics, deciding to address America’s social ills rather than Jones’ relationship troubles. The song was a key track on Eponymous, the band’s 1977 debut album.
These alternate versions of love songs are wonderful artefacts of music history. They show the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making music, and the dedication and perseverance required to make a truly great song. We at Skoove recognise this, and are keen to show that when it comes to either learning the piano or writing a song, a little bit of effort can go a very long way.
(The most romantic thing could also be the most crual thing in the world. Playing an instrument can help you to get over the first break-up blues. Fortunately as piano learning platform we have arranged a couple of bitter-sweet love songs, to help you along the way. Just check out our courses.)