Bob Greene

Bob Greene

The Linda Hennrick translations of lyrics in early Japanese versions of Alice Cooper albums have become legendary in fan circles due to the fact they are, to say the least, wildly inaccurate. Hennrick has often been unfairly blamed for this, but really it's due to the way Japanese lyric translations were prepared. This page is really about that process, for anyone interested, rather then Mrs Hennrick herself who, as will be come clear, worked under impossible circumstances to create what sometimes were highly amusing sets of alternate lyrics.

Doing a little research it appears Hennrick has now retuned to the USA but is still active in translating, now via the internet which likely makes her job much easier!

Below is a lengthy post from American Sickthing Steve Carter, a professional translator who lives and works in Nagoya, Japan:

"I don't know Linda Hennrick, but I do know a bit about Japanese translation, layout, and the printing industry. This post is LONG, so those of you who are bored to tears by this whole thread, please feel very free to hit delete.

When Warner Japan (or whoever) decides to issue a domestic Japanese version of an album, they open bidding for the project, and contract all the transcription, translation, layout, and printing to the printing company that offers the lowest bid. The printing company, in turn, farms out the transcription, translation, and Japanese liner-note blurbs to a bunch of freelancers, none of whom has any contact with the others.

Linda Hennrick -- lyrics transcriptionist extraordinaire -- is mailed a cassette tape dubbed from Warner's master tape. The tape Linda gets may have a scrawled handwritten label with the name of the artist and album title, or maybe just Warner's in-house serial number for the project -- "WPCP-3496" or some such. No album cover, no original liner notes, no context at all -- just an anonymous tape. Linda's job is simply to listen to the tape and write down the lyrics she hears. Linda, as a freelancer, is paid by the volume of output she produces. She might get a lump sum per album, a flat rate for each song, or maybe a certain rate per page. In any case, the more she cranks out, the more money she makes, so it's in her own best interest to whip out the transcriptions as quickly as possible.

If Linda has any questions -- assuming she cares -- she's shit out of luck. Her contact person at the printing company 1) can't understand conversational English, much less the subtleties and culture-specific references of American rock lyrics, and 2) knows that HIS contact at Warner can't understand English, either, and won't know the difference if some of the transcribed lyrics are wrong, and 3) is totally committed to meeting Warner Japan's obscenely short deadline so that Warner Japan will give them more work in the future, and is not willing to waste any time with frivolities like trying to nail down a possibly incorrect word here or there. He is also dead-set against letting Linda talk to directly to anyone at Warner Japan, because Linda might make her own deal with Warner Japan for future work, cutting out the printing company.

So Linda carries on, transcribing away, but not spending too much time on it because that would cut into her own income as well as slowing down the entire project and pissing off her client, the printing company.

Once Linda has finished her transcription, she faxes it back to the printing company -- misheard words, blanks, questions and all. The printing company then faxes Linda's half-assed transcription to a freelance translator. This translator has only Linda's transcription to work from -- no tape, no context. The translator's situation is a lot like Linda's -- the faster he works, the more money he makes. And if he has any doubts or questions about what Linda has transcribed, who's he gonna ask? He doesn't know Linda. His only contact is the guy at the printing company who is breathing down his neck to get him to crank out a Japanese translation as quickly as possible.

When the translator is done, he faxes his translation back to the printing company. The printing company then takes Linda's transcription, the translation, and the Japanese liner notes (written by one or more freelance copywriters), and proof reads everything for typos. No one in the printing company understands English, so they don't bother checking the transcription or the translation for errors of content. They do the layout for everything in-house, and ship the whole mess back to Warner Japan, along with the bill for the job. End of story.

A lot of this is abundantly clear from the English transcription and Japanese translation on an album like 'From the Inside'. The REAL first two lines of 'Nurse Rozetta' are:

I'm a shepherd for the Pentecost I got my scriptures and my wires crossed.

Linda transcribed:

I'm a ship for the pentecost I got my scriptures and my wires crossed.

The translator wrote (translated back from the Japanese):

I'm a ship heading toward the Pentecost I have my Bible and I've also laid my electrical wires.

It's pretty clear from this that Linda is mishearing the lyrics (and no one is checking Linda's transcription), and also that the translator is misunderstanding and mistranslating Linda's transcription (and no one is checking the translator's work).

Here's another one -- two REAL lines from 'Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills':

She's got her daddy's black Corniche
And her tennis pro by her side

Linda's transcription:

She got her daddy's black...
And a tennis pro by her side

The Japanese translation:

The Negro servant her father hired is on one side of her
And a pro tennis player is on her other side.

It's all like this. When Linda doesn't hear a word correctly, she guesses, and when she can't even make a guess, she just writes "..." instead. The incompetent translator doesn't know that "..." means a word is missing, tries hard to make SOME sense of Linda's mess, and ends up producing the garbage that Warner Japan passes off as the official Japanese translation of the lyrics. The process that "whatthat [a previous poster]" described might be true in cases where the original artist has some input in the project, but from what I've seen that level of care and conscientiousness is EXTREMELY rare. 99%+ of the time, there is ZERO communication between the artist, the Japanese record company, the transcriber, and the translator. Linda Hennrick may or may not be a piss-poor transcriber, we don't really know, and the translator is also less than ideal, but in my opinion most of the blame for this sorry situation lies with the greedy and incompetent project management of the Japanese record company.

I don't know who comes up with the Japanese song titles -- it's probably the Japanese translator, who has likely never even heard the songs -- but they are not always just phonetic representations in Japanese. "How You Gonna See Me Now", for example, is "Toki ga nagarete mo", which means something like "even if time passes". "The Quiet Room" is "Shizuka na heya", which means (surprise) "quiet room".

I hope this does more than just add to the confusion.
(Sickthing Steve Carter, Nagoya, Japan)