Botching the Lyrics

By Greg Schwem | August 26th, 2022

‘This long cool woman’s in a bad nest,’ croons humorist Greg Schwem

man singing karaoke Ruslan Huzau Dreamstime, for article on misheard lyrics - misheard song lyrics. Greg Schwem likes to sing along to songs, but he admits to botching the lyrics, turning a classic rock song into a puzzling reprised version.

Like many of us, humorist Greg Schwem likes to sing along with his favorite songs, but he admits to botching the lyrics, turning a classic rock song into a puzzling reprised version.

I consider myself “a closet rock star,” meaning I belt out songs at the top of my lungs, but am too ashamed to do so publicly, even at a karaoke bar.

Part of my fear stems from knowing I am botching the lyrics to most songs on my fantasy setlist. In college, a frat brother, between fits of laughter, stuck his head into my shower stall to inform me the lyric to the Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze” was “’Scuse me, while I kiss the sky.”

It was NOT “’Scuse me, while I kiss this guy.”

I was both embarrassed and disappointed; I thought Hendrix was making a statement.

Botching the lyrics, with apologies to The Hollies

woman with microphone - photo by Ruslan Huzau, Dreamstime, for article on misheard lyrics. Greg Schwem likes to sing along to songs, but he admits to botching the lyrics, turning a classic rock song into a puzzling reprised version.These days, my gym workouts include whatever classic rock playlist I find on Spotify. Invariably, that list includes The Hollies’ classic, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.” I have been reprising my version of this song since it debuted in 1972 when I was 10 years old. But it was just recently I decided to Google the lyrics and compare my rendition to that of lead singer Allan Clarke.

The results were so heinous that my frat brother would have had to pull a chair up to the shower in order to correct me. Below are my lyrics, with parentheses denoting the correct words when appropriate. I began strongly enough:

Saturday night I was downtown
Workin’ for the FBI.

From there, my version goes off the rails.

Sittin’ in the last of Bat Man
(Sittin’ in a nest of bad men)
With the bottles piling high
(Whiskey bottles piling high)
Fool lovin’ boozer on my left side
(Bootlegging boozer on the west side)
Full of people who are doin’ no wrong
(Full of people who are doing wrong)
Just about to call on my free man
(Just about to call up my DA man)
When I heard this woman sing a song.

Appearin’ fortified made me open my thighs
(A pair of 45s made me open my eyes)
My temperature started to rise
She was a long cool woman in a black dress
Justified in a beautiful song
(Just a 5’9, beautiful tall)
With just one look, I was a bad man
(With just one look, I was a bad mess)
‘Cause that long cool woman had it all.

I saw her headin’ to the table
With a tall, walkin’ big black cat
(Like a tall, walkin big black cat)
A trolley sat a whole bunch of people
(When Charlie said I hope that you’re able boy)
’Cause I’m telling you she knows where it’s at
Well sullenly we had a sunrise
(Then suddenly we heard the sirens)
And everybody started to run
A jumpin’ out of doors and tables
When I heard something I shouldn’t have done
(When I heard somebody shootin’ a gun).

Well the deed was palmed in my left hand
(Well the DA was pumpin’ my left hand)
A machine was a holdin’ my right
(And a-she was a-holding my right)
Well I’m told it was a skit
(Well I told her don’t get scared)
’Cause you’re gone off this bed
(’Cause you’re gonna be spared)
I gotta be forgiven, if I want to spend my living
With a long cool woman in a black dress

Repeat whatever you think the chorus is.

I apologize to all Hollies, including Graham Nash, who left the group before “Long Cool Woman” hit the airwaves, only to become a key member of one of my favorite groups, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Even after 50 years, their version of Joni Mitchell’s classic, “Woodstock” sounds amazing to me.

Particularly this phrase:

We are startups, we are colder
We’re in fear of all our fathers
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

Or something like that.

Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad and the recently released The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian, available at Visit Greg on the web at

© 2021 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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