Big Ol’ Chad: A Lesson on Misunderstanding


Two decades is too long to misunderstand something in your marriage.

Alone in the car for a long drive recently, I turned on the radio to find some music that would help me stay alert.

I landed on a classic oldies station (meaning every single song was something from my youth).

As I was singing along, I realized how much popular music in the 70s had been about sex. Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” was most definitely about sex. Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” is practically the theme song of every husband who is hurting because of a wife’s reluctance to fully participate in sex.

So there I was, driving past the Wisconsin Dells while thinking about sex and wondering if it would be okay to base a Christian blog post on a Cheap Trick song, when I heard a song that had me busting out laughing at a memory.

Big Ol’ Chad

It was 1977, and I’d gotten my first radio. I listened to it every night while I was in bed trying to fall asleep. One of my favorite songs had the line “Big ol’ Chad had the light out.” I didn’t understand it (Who’s Chad? What light? Why was it out?), but the song was catchy and I loved to hear it. Apparently, so did a lot of other people since it was played so often.

Every week, I studied the Billboard Top 10 list. I even charted the changes in the top 10 from week to the next. All the songs I listened to showed up–except for “Big Ol’ Chad.” How could a song that was played so often not show up in the top 10? It was odd. The other odd thing was that one song that was on the list for a long time was something I’d never heard before: “Jet Airliner,” by the Steve Miller Band.

Time passed and life happened. I forgot about the mystery of the top 10 list, “Big Ol’ Chad,” and “Jet Airliner.” Thirty years later (which was ten years ago now), I happened upon an oldies station. At the time, I was miffed to realize that I’d gotten to the age where my youthful music was considered a classic oldie. I reached to change the station, when the DJ (is the show host still called that?) announced that after the commercial they would play “Jet Airliner.” I was so excited. Finally! I thought. After thirty years, I finally get to hear this song.

After the commercial, the DJ said to sit back and enjoy “Jet Airliner.” This was it, after a thirty-year wait.

And through the speakers of my car, I heard it . . . “Big Ol’ Chad.” (Just a warning: the language on this link is not entirely clean.)

Finally, it clicked. My 40-something ears were able to hear what my adolescent ears never could: what I’d heard as “Big ol’ Chad had the light out” was actually “Big ol’ jet airliner.”

The song that was never listed on the top 10 and the song I never heard turned out to be the same song. (I’m not the only one who misheard lyrics in that song. You can see a list of the misheard lyrics here.) I heard the words, but my mind had turned them into something else.

So there I was the other day, listening to “Jet Airliner” and laughing hysterically at myself as I drove.

Hearing this song brought back fond memories of my adolescence and of my youthful hope that someday I might be able to figure out what “Jet Airliner” sounded like and why “Big Ol’ Chad” never cracked the top 10.

Why did I never make this connection? I’d assumed, and I’d never questioned. It didn’t occur to me that I was missing something obvious.

I never asked anyone to try to sing or hum “Jet Airliner.” I never sang “big ol’ Chad had the light out” to ask anyone if they knew the song. For thirty years, I let this mystery sit in the back of my mind instead of actively trying to figure it out. I never bought the record. I never looked for the music at the library.

I ignored it for years. When I finally figured it out, though, I was so full of joy. I finally understood. Now I get it!


I heard “Big Ol’ Chad Jet Airliner” immediately after hearing songs that made me think about the pervasive messages about sex and sexuality in popular music. Naturally, my mind made a leap.

The memory of my misunderstanding made me laugh–but how many times have I misunderstood something in a way that was a problem? How many times have I misunderstood something my husband said about sex?

One specific thing comes to mind–and it’s something other wives sometimes hear the same way I did.


Many sexually famished husbands will that say that what they are really missing in their marriages is intimacy. Not sex. Intimacy.

Big Guy used to say this all the time. “What I really want with you is intimacy.”

I heard the word, but my mind turned it into something else. When he said “intimacy,” my mind heard “sex.” “Intimacy” means an emotional connection, and I want that, too–but when he says “intimacy,” all he means is sex.

I assumed that intimacy was just code for sex–and that by sex, Big Guy meant a physical release.

I’d assumed. It didn’t occur to me that I was missing something obvious. I never questioned my understanding.

I never asked him to try to explain what he meant by the word. I didn’t explain what I thought or ask him to help me connect the dots.

I let this assumption sit in the back of my mind instead of actively trying to figure it out.

I ignored it for years. What finally made the connection was reading the words of both husbands and wives who described the emotional pain that resulted from a lack of sex.

Finally, it clicked. When my husband said “intimacy,” it was not code for sex. He really did mean intimacy in the same way I did–emotional connection and acceptance.

Intimacy didn’t equal sex for Big Guy any more than for me; rather, for him, intimacy resulted from sex.

Although sex hadn’t been the way that I experienced intimacy, I was delighted to understand what I had been misunderstanding. When I finally figured it out, I was so full of joy. Now I get it!

The Lesson

The fact that I misunderstood the lines of a popular song for three decades is nothing more than a funny and embarrassing story. Song lyrics have no actual impact on my life or my relationships. It is a low priority.

However, marriage is a high priority. Misunderstanding my husband’s word for two decades isn’t funny at all. It led to a lot of hurt. It took a lot of effort to overcome.

My marriage matters.

I no longer let assumptions and misunderstandings sit unexamined for long. When my husband says something that I don’t understand or that I don’t like, I ask him to help me understand. I tell him what I am hearing and ask him to help me connect the dots. When I say something that is important to me, I inquire about how Big Guy understands what I’ve just said.

Whether I’m in the bedroom or the car, when I’m listening to music alone, it really doesn’t matter whether I understand.

Marriage, however, lasts for many years, and it is not a solo adventure.

Understanding matters far too much to not pursue it–in the car, in the living room, and most definitely in the bedroom.

What is your husband saying that you might be misunderstanding?

Two decades is too long to misunderstand something in your marriage.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

10 Comments on “Big Ol’ Chad: A Lesson on Misunderstanding”

  1. Too funny! The 70’s were my adolescent/teen years, and yes, there were a lot of songs about sex. “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart and “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band are just a couple that come to mind. I never did figure out some of the lyrics to “Blinded by the Light”, and I am too embarrassed to admit what I thought they said.
    But you have to admit it was a great decade for music.
    Love your tie-in to misunderstandings with your husband. Important topic!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’ve decided that just about every song from then was about sex, and if I use that as the lens to interpret the lyrics, it explains far too much!

  2. Love this! And it reminds me of a guy in college we argued with, because he was absolutely sure that Paul McCartney was singing, “man on the run.” But your takeaway is perfect — that we need to avoid assumptions, communicate honestly with our spouse, and let that light bulb come on.

  3. I enjoyed this post!

    When I was 12, I had a similar lyric mix-up. Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ has a line which I thought was ‘I’m on a hoedown after you.’ (Okay, so Englishman Simon LeBon liked to sing about square dancing?) It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized the correct lyrics were ‘I’m on the hunt, I’m after you.’

    Incidentally, when the song came out, I was at the age where I was starting to understand the more ‘adult’ meanings in lyrics. The 80’s weren’t much better than the 70’s in that aspect!

    This was a very good comparison, Chris, to how we sometimes don’t hear our husbands accurately.

  4. Love the connection you made with what you “heard” and what was said. We’ve been married 46 years and I finally GOT IT this past year. 🙁 After separating for 5 years, we’ve been back together for two. 🙂 I’ve been in a wheelchair with MS for all that time and other things have occurred, for him too, that make physical sex impossible. Still have the longing, still want my husband, but this is not going to happen. I’ve heard that sex is primarily in the brain/mind. If that is true, it’s not very fullfilling. Never thought of myself as a slow learner, but not communicating made this a problem for 4 decades!!! Please talk to your spouse. Don’t live the remainder of your life regretting what you didn’t do and now can’t.
    Thank you Chris, Ruth, J, Shiela and all the men and women who DO talk about sex and HOW it is a God-given blessing. This certainly wasn’t the norm in our time,1970. Lol

    1. I’ve known several couples for whom intercourse was no longer possible–but they were still able to enjoy sexual intimacy in other ways. I hope you and your husband are able to figure out some good ways to enjoy being intimate together.

      Thanks for taking time to share your experience and encourage women not to carry regret along with them.

  5. My wife and I had a misunderstand for 25 years. I thought she did not want sex, and she thought I did not want sex. When I finally confronted her, I realized that I did not understand something 25 years earlier and never stopped to clear it up. Now, as a result of encouragement from one of you bloggers, I confronted my wife and she said she always wanted to please me sexually. Now we have the best sex ever, but currently PIV is not on the menu (for physical reasons, we are in our 70s). Yet we connect sexually every day sometimes twice or more, and spend sometimes over an hour each time making love to each other. It is so beautiful and comforting I can hardly describe it. I just wish I had had the courage to straighten out our misunderstanding long ago. (We have connected sexually again for one year and three months. Yeah!!)

Leave a Reply!