Thursday, September 02, 2021

it's just another mondegreen

Just to continue the theme of misheard or garbled lyrics, I found myself humming a tune to myself in the kitchen the other day which turned out to be a song from Michael Jackson's Bad album, not something normally in my day-to-day listening habits but an album that my younger sister owned and played repeatedly when we were teenagers. The song contains an odd line which I'd always mentally rendered as follows:
You're just another Quatermain
That line in the original song is followed by a trademark "eeh-hee", which in itself illustrates part of the problem; Bad is the album where Jackson's (no, the other one) vocal tics became oddly intrusive and his pronunciation of certain words became, let's say, idiosyncratic and ripe for parody. Shamone, motherfuckers! 

Anyway, my assumption on hearing what I perceived to be the original lyrics was that Jackson was alluding to Allan Quatermain, protagonist of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, a book which I should point out I have never read but which is embedded in popular culture and has been filmed several times. I have a vague recollection of seeing Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone being boiled (not to death, obviously) in a giant cauldron in the 1985 film version, a film clearly designed to hoover up some of the Romancing The Stone and Indiana Jones megabucks, even down to featuring Stone as the sort of annoying shrieking blonde sidekick as Kate Capshaw portrayed in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. At least they didn't attempt to replicate Short Round. Anyway, the idea, I assumed, was to allude to the woman Jackson was presumably addressing (though in hindsight it may in reality have been a small boy, or a chimp) as being some sort of gold-digger, that being almost literally what Quatermain was in the book. 

Note also that the protagonist's name is spelt Quatermain rather than (as you might imagine) Quartermain. "Quarter-main" is how everyone pronounces it, though, rather than, say, "kway-ter-main", which would seem a bit ridiculous.

Needless to say the actual lyric is a good deal more mundane, it being just the title of the song, which is called Another Part Of Me. I should add that I haven't literally just worked this out, I took the trouble to check back in the late 1980s. Even when you know this Jackson's rendering of it is pretty extraordinary, though - listen to around 1:01 and 1:48 in the linked clip and you'll hear, at best, "another pwart o' me". Also needless to say is that others have heard different things (and also the same thing, as "Quatermain" does feature here), including "porno queen", "porter man" and "quart of paint".

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