Famous Songs with Mistakes

David Bowie – The Jean Genie

Bowie was an exceptional musician in every sense of the word and he surrounded himself with musicians of a similar calibre. Although his later bands were composed of slick session musicians, it is the Spiders from Mars that best attained that indefinable synergy for which all bands strive. Nowhere is this best exemplified than in the song The Jean Genie, when they completely screw up the beginning of the song’s first chorus yet sail through as if nothing had happened. Around 00:38 you can even hear Bowie say, ‘Get back on it’, probably because the musicians were about to stop and do another take.

The Who – The Real Me

John Entwistle regularly tops lists of the greatest bass players of all time, and The Real Me is one of the reasons why. However, the bass line on this song was not the original one.

Once Entwistle had recorded his regular bass line, the rest of the band (probably Keith Moon) asked him to do another take for fun, encouraging him to “take the piss”. Entwistle rose to the challenge, improvising a ludicrously complex and salient bass line which left his band mates open-mouthed with the off-hand virtuosity of his playing. Needless to say, this “piss-take” bass part was instantly swapped for the other once Entwistle returned to the control booth.

The Mamas and The Papas – I Saw Her Again

This marvellous slice of mid-1960s’ feel-good pop contains a whopper of a mistake at 02:45, when the vocals come in early, stop, and then begin again. Although songwriter, John Phillips, claimed it was intentional, he was not believed. Paul McCartney later said of the song, ‘No one is that clever’.

Crosby, Stills and Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

This is less of a mistake and more an incident of pure serendipity. At 04:33 Stills sings “hey” three times, but this was not intentional – he had sung the word in different places on three different takes of the song, and it just so happened that they sat perfectly together. Stills was unsure of using it, but Crosby and Nash persuaded him otherwise, and it would be difficult to imagine the song without it now.

One mistake the band DID make was sitting in the wrong order for the cover of their first album (they sit Nash, Stills, Crosby). The mistake was immediately noticed, so next day they returned to recreate the cover – only to find the clapboard house outside which they had posed had been demolished overnight, so they were forced to go with the original photo.


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