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16 Rock Songs Almost Ruined By Their Original Lyrics

Four words: 'Tooti Frutti, good booty.'

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'Tooti Frutti, aw rooty' was 'Tooti Frutti, Good Booty'

By 1955, Little Richard had been recording major-label singles for four years, but none of them had taken off. Frustrated on a lunch break at Specialty Records, Richard started hammering the studio’s piano and wailing a raunchy tune he used to play at Southern clubs. The lyrics: "A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom! Tutti Frutti, good booty! Tutti Frutti, good booty!" Producer Bumps Blackwell knew Richard was onto something—he just needed to sex-down the words a bit. With the help of a local songwriter, "good booty" was swapped for a slang expression meaning “all right,” and the rest, as they say, is aw rooty.

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'Yesterday' was briefly 'Scrambled Eggs'

Before it became the most-covered song in history (4,000 recordings and counting), “Yesterday” was but a wordless tune that came to Paul McCartney in a dream. For months, Paul referred to the unfinished song as “Scrambled Eggs,” and played it with the hungry placeholder lyrics: “Scrambled eggs/ oh, my baby, how I love your legs,” before finally penning the words we know today. Lucky for egg-ficionados, Paul recorded the original version in 2012 alongside Jimmy Fallon, adding a bonus verse about waffle fries.

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'Mrs. Robinson' was originally 'Mrs. Roosevelt'

While filming The Graduate in 1967, director Mike Nichols turned his lonely eyes to “Sound of Silence” superstars Simon and Garfunkel, hoping to score a brand-new song for his movie’s soundtrack. Simon was too busy touring to write something from scratch—but he had been tinkering with a new tune called “Mrs. Roosevelt,” a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt and the glorious past. Nichols didn’t care that the lyrics had nothing to do with his film, so long as Simon agreed to change the title to “Mrs. Robinson.” Lucky for us all, he did. Learn the crazy backstories behind the most famous Sesame Street songs.

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'Iron Man' was nearly 'Iron Bloke'

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi had just written one of the great rock riffs of all time, but there remained a problem: the half-formed song needed lyrics worthy of its crushing electric backbone. Ever inspired, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne posited that the riff sounded just like “a big iron bloke walking about.” Sabbath ran with the theme but, for better or worse, refined the title. “Iron Man” was born.

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And 'War Pigs' was almost 'Walpurgis'

Given lines about “Witches at black masses” and “Sorcerers of death’s construction,” it may not surprise you that Sabbath sometimes turned to the underworld for inspiration while writing “War Pigs” (and, well, everything else in their catalog.) The title, in fact, nearly paid homage to the pagan holiday Walpurgis. "Walpurgis is sort of like Christmas for Satanists, and to me, war was the big Satan,” says bassist/lyricist Geezer Butler. "But when we brought it to the record company, they thought 'Walpurgis' sounded too Satanic. And that's when we turned it into 'War Pigs.’”

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'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' was originally 'Vampires In Love'

Bonnie Tyler’s wrenching ballad about “love in the dark” could raise the dead… at least, lyricist Jim Steinman hoped it would. As Steinman told Playbill, “I actually wrote that to be a vampire love song. Its original title was “Vampires in Love” because I was working on a musical of Nosferatu, the other great vampire story. If anyone listens to the lyrics, they're really like vampire lines. It's all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love's place in dark…”

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'Jessie’s Girl' was almost 'Gary’s Girl'

Rick Springfield’s career-making crush anthem is autobiographical. In his 20s, Springfield fell for a girl in his stained-glass class (we’ve all been there). The problem was, she was dating a dude named Gary. Rick became fast friends with both Gary and Gary’s girl, but when it came time to commit the incident to song, he realized the name Gary just “didn’t sing.” He ultimately changed it to Jessie, after Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Ron Jessie, who appeared on one of Rick’s favorite t-shirts.

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'Radio Ga Ga' was originally 'Radio Caca'

Queen drummer Roger Taylor was disenchanted with radio, but not nearly so much as his toddler son Felix was. Allegedly, Felix exclaimed “radio CACA!” one day while listening to a particularly bad bit of programming, inspiring his dad to write a damning song about it. Preferring not to get on the bad side of every commercial radio station in the world, the rest of the band helped rewrite the title and chorus to “Radio Ga Ga,” turning a condemning song into a praising one. One person who should be especially thankful for this edit: Lady Gaga, who says she took her stage name from the song, and might have had a very different life if Felix got his way.

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'Hey Jude' was originally 'Hey Jules'

When John and Cynthia Lennon separated in May of 1968, Paul McCartney felt especially bad for their five-year-old son, Julian. On a drive to visit Cynthia and Julian in the suburb of Weybridge, Paul composed a song in the car that he called “Hey Jules” in an attempt to comfort John’s son through his parents’ divorce. "I knew it was not going to be easy for him,” Paul said later, adding that he finally changed the name to “Hey Jude" because he thought “that sounded a bit better.” John must’ve loved singing this one.

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Pat Benatar rewrote 'Heartbreaker' to be less British

Pat Benatar’s breakout single was actually a cover. First recorded by English singer Jenny Darren in 1978, “Heartbreaker” was rife with British-isms like “from A to Zed,” and “[you’re a] moonraker” —British slang for someone so simple that they’d try to rake the reflection of the moon off a lake thinking it was cheese. Benatar successfully rewrote the lyrics to suit her American audience, never once mentioning fromage. (Here are both versions back-to-back, if you're curious.)

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest