Hey, non-songwriting Singer, your ad-libs make it clear that you could never be a Lyricist!

This is about lyrical ad libs, not the practice of Melisma so very hated here on the SDMB (and rightfully so).
I’ll lead with an example that some people will actually be familiar with, then I’ll go into the obscure example that really set me off and inspired this Thread.

In the song “New York, New York” Frank Sinatra sings

an ad-lib that was hated by the actual lyricist of the song, Fred Ebb, whose lyrics as written were:

As much displeasure as it may have caused the songwriter, I don’t actually think Sinatra’s ad-lib is too terribly bad- he certainly could have done worse.
The example that inspired this Thread, the example that makes me want to hunt down the singer and plead “Why? WHY???” could possibly be at the top of the list of worse ad-libs ever.

At my job there’s a customized satellite service that pumps in a music mix that I listen to over and over, every day. Included in this mix is a version of “Route 66” performed by Betty Roché (the display just says her name, I don’t know if this was when she was with Duke Ellington or not).

I would love to link to a recording of the song, but it doesn’t seem to be on YouTube and my Google-fu is weak trying to find it anywhere else.

She’s got some bizarre lyrical ad libs thrown in here: an inexplicable medley into “The Ballad of Frankie and Johnny”, and a spot where she breaks out singing “horSES, horSES, horSES!”. This bizarre stuff doesn’t bother me too much, but there are a few spots where she gets ridiculous.

The second time she sings the line

she changes it to

um . . .
Betty, just because San Francisco is in California doesn’t mean it is synonymous with California. If someone needs directions from Chicago to San Francisco and you direct them by way of Route 66, they’re going to come back to you really pissed off. Route 66 won’t take them anywhere near San Francisco!

Then during the outro she sings a few lines that I’m sure she must have thought were really clever (but they weren’t):

First of all, these are bad lyrics. Just plain bad.
But on a deeper level they completely tarnish the majesty of the narrative!!!

This song is about Route 66. It’s about how Route 66 is the single greatest American cross-country drive that God ever gave man on this Earth!

Yes, I know that as a literary device a part can be used as to represent the whole. In fact, I think that there is an extremely strong case to be made that the entire narrative of the song “Route 66” is meant to praise,pars pro toto, the U.S. Highway System. Even taking that interpretation, to casually throw in a few other highway routes during the outro (with hackneyed juvenile rhymes) completely undermines the device.

Add to that, U.S. Highway 65 is hardly song-worthy, and U.S. Highway 61, if you’re going to mention it at all, should have an entire album devoted to it. Of course, no real thought was put into choosing 61 and 65- it’s just that they rhyme with “fun” and “alive”. What’s the matter? No, “Feel like you’re in Heaven on Route 67”? I suppose we should thank her for stopping when she did.

If anyone can offer an example of worse ad-libbing than Betty Roché’s “Route 66”, I will be impressed- and, appreciative of the warning, I will avoid listening to anything that could be so bad as to be worse than this.

Nitpick: Frisco is a town in Texas. No idea why she or anyone else would think it was in California. Maybe she got it confused with Fresno? :slight_smile:

Also a town in Colorado, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Utah (plus Frisco City, Alabama).

Yes, “Frisco” is definitely rolleyes-inducing when used as a nickname for San Francisco, but is it the worst crime she commits in this song?

Well, the worst ad-libbing I can think of is at the end of the song “No Time” by the Guess Who, but the singer (Burton Cummings) is actually the co-writer. It starts around 4:50. (Note: The Guess Who recorded two versions of this song. I think the one linked above is the original 1969 version on Canned Wheat, but I’m not sure.)

That is amazing. I came in here to mention Burton Cummings. Not specifically for “No Time” but just in general. Almost every damned Guess Who song ends with him trying to ad-lib his way along as the song fades out.

I hate the Guess Who for this very reason.

I don’t know if this is technically ad-libbing, but at the end of “Soul to Squeeze,” Anthony Kiedis starts singing nonsense words instead of lyrics for two lines. And then he goes back to singing regular lyrics. I have no idea why–it’s not scatting, it’s as if he had a mini-stroke in the middle of the song and started spewing out word salad and then popped back into normal.

It’s just two words. Six letters. But it completely subverts the entire meaning of the song:

In the Counting Crows cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” Adam Duritz sings, “They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot… Why not?”

Why not? *Why not?? * Really?

Well, he wrote lyrics, but **Jim Morrison’s **ad-libbing in Roadhouse Blues, complete with some *ersatz *scat-singing - well, it’s all kinds of fail. Chu-chonk-a-haw-honk, indeed. He’s such a self-serious blowhard poet in most of the Doors’ songs that hearing him try to pull that off is sad…in a schadenfreude sorta way.

well, except scat sing, dude. :dubious::D;)

In Nazareth’s version of “Love Hurts”, they sing:

Love is like a flame
It burns you when it’s hot

Okay, so maybe not the greatest metaphor of all time, but a burning flame has been used in this way before.

Then Cher came along and did a cover, and sang:

Love is like a stove
It burns you when it’s hot.

I’m pretty sure that love is nothing like a stove. Unless love was self-cleaning. Then you’d have something.

I’ve hated that change since I first heard it, and I naturally blamed Cher. Because blaming Cher for anything is easy and fun. But then I found out that she was singing the original lyrics, and it was Nazareth that changed them and replaced the stove with a flame.

I just want to say to the songwriter, “Dude, how lame do your lyrics have to be if freaking Nazareth feels the need to improve them?”

Ha! Excellent twist on the topic!
The lyricist there was Felice Bryant, who together with her husand wrote many great songs. Still, I always thought the impressive thing about “Love Hurts” is that I manage to like it despite the truly horrible lyrics- I can even manage to sing along in earnest.
(My favorite version was always the Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris version. “Stove” all the way, baby!)

I like Janis Joplin, but in Me And Bobby McGee, there is a line that originally went:
“Looking for the home I hope she finds”,
but Janis changed it to:
“Looking for that home, and I hope he finds it”
That doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t fit the melody!

Nice reference to the greatest Dylan album…

She’s not a “non-songwriting” singer, and I’ll reserve judgement on her, but Melanie’s version of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” has an odd change in it…

The original goes

*Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you
When you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you
Whereas Melanie’s cover version goes

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who is gonna hang a name on you
And when you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you

Adding the “and” to line 3 makes that line a dependent clause (?) that just hangs there by itself, referring to nothing. The Stones’ version makes more sense to me because line 3 completes line 2.

Actually, “stove” makes more sense than “flame” in that context. A stove is sometimes safe to touch, but it can burn you “when it’s hot.” A flame is always hot.

The Thread didn’t really take on any life of it’s own until people chose to share despite that criterion being unfulfilled. So, speaking as the OP, I’m happy to hear any examples anyone wants to share.
I would be gratified, however, if someone would express agreement on how ridiculously horrible the Betty Roché “Route 66” ad-libs are. :smiley:

Also curious if anyone else knows it. I hear it about 20 times a week because it’s on the mix at work. Yet, I find it to be ungooglable. The arrangement is actually quite nice- a good take on the song- but the ad-libs ruin it.

Here’s a good ad-lib by a non-songwriter. When Bobby Troup told his wife he was going to write a song about Route 66, his wife immediately blurted out “Get your kicks on Route 66!”

Is the Betty Roché one about the only jazzy female version there is? And does she sound vaguely like Billie Holiday? I have heard that one, but never noticed that change. Yes, it is atrocious. I think I have heard alterations nearly as bad, but I can’t think of any now.

I’m not sure I get the problem with “that home, and I hope he finds it.” It’s not like it’s referring to a specific house . Honestly, “I let her slip away/looking for the home I hope she’ll find” is grammatically a bit clunky.

Speaking of otherwise good songwriters who screwed up someone else’s lyrics, when Bono stole “Helter Skelter”, he made it make even less sense.

Good contradiction from U2:
“I can’t live with or without you.”

Bad :
“You ain’t no lover but you ain’t no dancer.”

Love is like exigence, you get too much, you get too high, not enough and you’re gonna try.

You get points for remembering the original lyric better than I did, but I don’t get how you think its grammar is worse than the Joplin version. And her lyric still doesn’t fit the melody at all - she has to tack on the “it” after the line is already over. It comes out like:

Looking for that home, and I hope he finds


Don’t know if it’s the only jazzy female version, but you’re probably thinking of the same version I was describing. I’d compare her voice to Ella Fitzgerald before Billie Holiday though, so it’s possible you heard a jazzy version by a different artist.

U2’s only recorded version of “Helter Skelter” is a live version, am I correct?
I had always interpreted that line as a flub rather than an ad-lib. If it was a studio recording when he could do multiple takes to correct mistakes, then I’d think it was an intentional change to the lyric. As a live version, I’m inclined to think he just screwed up.

(Incidental U2 “Helter Skelter” related anecdotes: I once performed “Helter Skelter” introducing it “This is a song that U2 stole from Charles Manson. We’re stealing it back!” Another time I performed “I Saw Her Standing There” with the introduction “This is a song that Tiffany stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back!” Both those introductions were well received by the audience. Bono’s intro is a great target for ridicule!)