I think I read somewhere that if you have an earworm—a song that will not get out of your head—it’s a sign of something. High copper buildup in your tissues. Psychosis. Something. Maybe you remember from Carl Hiaasen’s SKINNY DIP how the Captain, the crazed ex-governor-of-Florida swamp man, suffered earworms performed by weirdly disparate musicans, for example: “Midnight Rambler”—Eydie Gorme and Cat Stevens. (Terrific book.)
But what does it mean if you have an earworm all the time? Every day? I’m thinking of having a brain scan. This is my lifetime affliction, along with thick ankles and a taste for Pop Tarts.
When I was younger the earworm was always something loathsome that was top-of-the-pops, like “Afternoon Delight” or “Muskrat Love.” Sometimes it was a great song that became loathsome through DJ abuse.
These days, though, my earworms can be bearable songs. It’s just that they get old. As the Captain says, “frankly I’m ready to shove a saw-off down my throat. One blessed hour of silence … would be welcome.”
It really doesn’t qualify as an earworm unless you find yourself humming along with the track in your sleep. Or, if it comes on the radio in the car, you fail to scream loudly and change the station, but instead sit there, experiencing a not-entirely-unpleasant sinking sensation, saying to yourself as the familiar sounds paralyze your fight-or-flight response, “Well, it really is a good song,” and then bursting loudly into the chorus, hating yourself, yet feeling weirdly complete, like a brainwash victim actually feeling rewarded for being unable to run away.
Let’s see…contributing to the cycle of torment as best I can remember it…
Specific Beatles songs: “Blackbird,” “I Will,” “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “In My Life,” “Ob-La-Di,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Norwegian Wood,” which last I don’t even like. And yet, stuck in the brain. I think because it’s in ¾ time. I rather love waltzes in rock music; the whole idea is headtwisty.
Which reminds me of whole-album earworms I have wished on myself by playing the CD in the car too much, such as LYLE LOVETT’s debut album, specially ¾-time “Waltzing Fool,” Lovett again, ROAD TO ENSENADA, The Chicks, FLY, They Might Be Giants, FLOOD and everything else before they chose to get loud, and Sheryl Crowe, TUESDAY NIGHT MUSIC CLUB, ditto.
But there are earworms I don’t feel I deserved:
Katy Perry, “Dark Horse” –this week’s head-to-wall-banger
Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”
Sam Smith, “Not the Only One” interchangeably with “Stay With Me”
(Those two Sam Smith songs had the distinction of driving the latest girl singer ballad out of my skull, which I think I would still like if I could just remember it, since Smith’s syrupy ballads bumped hers off the air before I had time to learn to hate it.)
Creedence, “Down on the Corner,” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” “Heard it Through the Grapevine”
Norah Jones, “Don’t Know Why I Didn’t Call”
Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago”
Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl”
Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
John Legend, “All of Me”
Death Cab For Cutie, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”
and the all-time winner, outstripping even “Muskrat Love”
Jimmy Buffet, “Margaritaville” wins the shoot-me-now award
Earworms “Walking on Sunshine” and “It’s Raining Men” I earned fair and square because they are also the titles of two of my upcoming books. I’m considering naming my next book Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies just so I can have a choice of several hours’ worth of earworms, instead of something that replays every two and a half minutes, 24/7. Yes, even in my sleep. That sawed-off is looking awfully good right now.
You may thank me sincerely in the comments below for not embedding YouTube links in every one of those song titles.
Or … name your latest earworm.