As you might recall from yesterday, we just added The Electric Prunes’ “Kyrie Eleison,” with all its pre-Vatican II Greek and Latin, to The Jukebox Hero Hymnal. According to James M. O’Toole’s book “The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America,” the very first ‘New Mass’ with parts spoken in the vernacular occurred in the United States on November 29, 1964. Still, it wasn’t until around 1969 that all Greek and Latin was discontinued, so the handful of folks who actually bought The Electric Prunes’ “Mass in F Minor” when it was released in 1968 were still familiar enough with the ‘Old Mass’ to understand what they were hearing.
Alas, the same can’t be said of today’s entry. By the time Mr. Mister released “Kyrie” in 1985, it’s safe to say that lots of people didn’t know what the heck it was lead singer Richard Page was saying. Over at Am I Right, a site which celebrates and shares mondegreens in music, some of the various misinterpretations of the chorus “Kyrie Eleison, down the road that I must travel” reported by listeners over the years have included:
- Carrying a laser down the road that I must travel.
- Bittery who lays upon the road that I must travel.
- Call me an angel down this road that I must travel.
- Can you even listen down the road that I must travel.
- Carrie Ann lays along the road that I must travel.
- Carrie in lace on down the road that I must travel.
- Carrying a raisin down the road that I must travel.
Oh well, a few misheard song lyrics is hardly the most irritating thing to come out of Vatican II, am I right?
As we noted in our last post, Kyrie Eleison is actually Greek for "Lord have mercy," and its inclusion in the song came from lyricist John Lang’s memories of singing the Kyrie as a kid while attending an Episcopal church. Once you finally find out what Page is singing in “Kyrie,” the song unambiguously becomes a prayer, a cry for God’s mercy from someone caught up in the struggle between the longing of the spirit (the soul) and the desires of the flesh (the soft machine)…
My heart is old, it holds my memories,
my body burns a gem like flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine,
is where I find myself again
Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light
“Kyrie” turns thirty years old this year, which I suppose makes the song an oldie, but the sentiment it expresses goes back way farther than that. For as long as we’ve faced trials, we’ve called out for the mercy of our creator. The instrumentation may change every so often, but the Kyrie Elieson remains constant.
“Answer me when I call, my saving God. When troubles hem me in, set me free; take pity on me, hear my prayer.” (Psalms 4:2, NABRE)
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