Answer Man

Blinded by the light? The word you’re looking for is ‘deuce’


Q: I’d like to follow up on your recent column about cover songs that outshone the originals. I’ve been told that the chorus from Manfred Mann’s “Blinded by the Light” is one of the most misunderstood lyrics of all time. No one I speak with seems to have heard it the same way! “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a ...... ” ??

G.F., of Glen Carbon

A: Oh, great, another chance for the Answer Man to totally embarrass himself. Like so many other fans who had no idea what Manfred Mann was mumbling about, I admit that for years I thought he was singing, “Wrapped up like a douche into the rumor of the night.” I had no idea what it meant, but it seemed no sillier than the rest of the lyrics.

Hey, it’s a legitimate mistake, all right? If you look up an analysis of the song, you’ll find that when Mann, a South African native, decided to cover the Bruce Springsteen song, he changed the wording of the chorus from “cut loose like a deuce/another runner in the night” to “Blinded by the light — revved up like a deuce/another runner in the night.” Unfortunately, his pronunciation was so bad that the “v” sound in “revved” was unintelligible, so many guessed “wrapped.” Making matters worse, his lisp turned the “s” sound in deuce to “sh.” Hence, people heard “douche” much like I learned on two recent European trips that a more native pronunciation of Budapest is Budapesht.

OK, if you’re finished laughing, I’ll tell you what this semi-autobiographical song is apparently all about. “Blinded by the light” may refer to the sheer excitement and energy of being a teenager. At that time in life you feel “revved up liked a deuce,” which is a 1932 Ford (remember the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe”? Deuce is slang for the “2” in 1932). Finally, “another runner in the night” was Springsteen paying tribute to deuce coupes drag racing at night along Ocean Boulevard in Asbury Park, N.J.

For a complete parsing of “madmen drummers bummers,” “teenage diplomat” and the rest of this symbol-filled song, consider

▪  Major “Twist”: While we’re on the subject of hit songs, an astute reader recently called me out on a fact I included in that same cover-song column.

In discussing Whitney Houston’s 1993 megahit “I Will Always Love You,” I said that Dolly Parton had taken the same song to No. 1 on the country charts both in 1974 and again in 1982, making her the first star to hit the top twice with the same song. And that was true for the country chart. However, the caller reminded me that long before Parton reached the peak twice with the same song in country, Chubby Checker did it twice with “The Twist” on the pop chart — first for one week on Sept. 19, 1960, and again for two weeks on Jan. 13, 1962.

Next time, I’ll try to be more specific.

Today’s trivia

What famous painter turned his monogram into a butterfly, which he would use as an actual element in his paintings rather than just an add-on signature?

Answer to Friday’s trivia: As if the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna weren’t magnificent enough by itself, it also boasts the oldest zoo in the world still in existence. The Tiergarten (Animal Garden) Schönbrunn was constructed in 1752 on order of Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor and husband of Maria Theresa of Austria. It served as an imperial menagerie at the couple’s modest 1,441-room summer residence outside the city. Since then, it has become one of the most respected zoos in the world and now houses some 700 animal species, some of them endangered. On Aug. 7, 2016, the zoo saw the birth of Fu Feng and Fu Ban, naturally conceived giant panda twins. This year, the zoo celebrated the completion on a new giraffe complex. The zoo welcomes more than 2 million visitors each year.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer