Stapling the Vicar to Damon Runyon

My apologies if this title has already been used by someone. The plagiarism is unintentional.

Last year, Anthony Harradine gave a talk, Simplify, the slides of which I posted to launch the (currently sleeping) GitS series. Harradine’s talk included an excerpt from a hilarious routine by Peter Kay, on misheard song lyrics, what are known as mondegreens. So, Sister Sledge’s

Just let me state for the record

is morphed by Kay into

Just let me staple the vicar

Of course with many pop songs, even favourites, the lyrics are only understood in approximation.

This all came to mind some time later, when I was driving, listening to Alice Cooper’s Department of Youth. It’s a formulaic but very good pop song from the 70s, an innocent anthem of rebellion:

Half-listening, a lyric popped out (at 1:25):

Damon Runyon …

Damon Runyon?

Damon Runyon was an American newspaperman and short story writer from a century ago. He wrote very funny Prohibition stories of gangsters and their girlfriends. Runyon’s stories became the basis of the famous musical Guys and Dolls, but the stories are much better. 

In any case: Damon Runyon? It’s hard to mishear “Damon Runyon”, but what would he be doing in a song supposedly sung by disenchanted teens forty years later? I couldn’t imagine what the lyric was that I had misheard.

Once home, I looked up the lyrics to Department of Youth. The lines are

But we’ll make it through our blackest hour
We’re living proof
And we’ve never heard of Billy Sunday
Damon Runyon or couth

We’re the Department of Youth …

So, I had heard “Damon Runyon”, correctly, as “Damon Runyon”.

What’s “Runyon” doing there?* Maybe Alice Cooper just liked the sound of the name. Or maybe he’s a Runyon fan. God only knows.

Anyway, Department of Youth is a very good, and now puzzling, song.

*) And similarly, Billy Sunday, who was a baseball player then preacher from even earlier than Runyon.

2 Replies to “Stapling the Vicar to Damon Runyon”

  1. Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier, named after one of his uncles and Damon Runyon.

    I love his music. A great artist. A living legend.

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