This is the Life: Earworms hard to get rid of

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I have a feeling that I’m going to regret bringing up the subject of earworms. The mere mention of a song makes it possible that the tune will end up on an endless, looped track inside my head.

To explain, earworms have been the subject of several Randy Bachman programs on CBC Radio. The reference is to tunes that burrow their way into one’s ear, then flourish in the deep recesses of the brain. The effect is so insidious that one is left to wonder if the particular thread of musical notes will ever find an escape. They do, but only to be replaced by another.

When do you know you are seriously afflicted? On the weekend I was sitting on the couch, laptop computer on, well, my lap and I realized the song that was rolling through my head, over and over and over, was Beethoven’s A Song of Joy. Not a piano or philharmonic interpretation of Ode to Joy, but the Miguel Rios 1970 unlikely pop music hit. 1970?

Yep, I had to look it up. And the really weird thing is that I might not have actually heard that particular version since that year. I remember some things about 1970 really well. I was 16 and in the summer took my first flight, jetting from Calgary to Miami with a friend. We spent two weeks with his relatives in West Palm Beach, then flew to Sidney, N.S., for another two weeks on Cape Breton Island, then took the train across Canada, taking a two-week break in Aurora, Ont. On a miserable wet summer day we laid around in our bedroom loft in Sidney, listening to hits like Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime (“when the weather is high, you can chase right up and touch the sky”), Draggin’ the Line, by Tommy James (“Makin’ a livin’ the old hard way, takin’ and givin’ by day by day”) and Ride Captain Ride, the irrepressible tune by Blues Image (“Seventy-three men sailed up from the San Francisco Bay”).

In Florida, we beat the heat one day by watching a rock music show on television that featured Rare Earth performing Get Ready, an 18-minute epic blend of rhythm and blues and rock and roll, one that I still play regularly on my iPod. Drums were a theme in our Aurora stay and I only recently gave away my Sandy Nelson albums. It was there that I discovered Buddy Rich.

Perhaps I just have a brain that music tends to stick to, but it seems that once it’s in, it never gets out. Reading about the winners in this year’s Grammy Awards, I felt chuffed (one of those great, puzzling English words — it can mean pleased or displeased, delighted or annoyed, satisfied or disgruntled — that seems to suit the earworm topic) about how two of my favourite songs from last year, and perhaps two of the only songs I know from last year, won Grammys.

I have become a fan of Gotye and Fun, mainly on the strength of their singles hits, Somebody That I Used to Know and We Are Young, respectively. I made the mistake of listening to both on my iPod on Grammy night and for the next two weeks all I heard bouncing around inside my head was the wonderful, theatrical voice of Nate Reuss (“So if by the time bar closes and you feel like falling down, I’ll carry you home … tonight”).

Nate Reuss stuck with me until Miguel Rios finally took over. And now, as I write this, the mutton-chopped one-hit wonder Mungo Jerry and his goofy, joyful ode to summertime is revving up, much like the motorcycle sounds that some clever producer inserted into the recording. It will stay, no doubt, until another song manages to edge out In the Summertime.

Everybody now. “Sing along with us, dee dee dee dee dee. Da da da da da, yeah we’re hap-pap-py. Da da da dee da doo dee da dee da dee da da.”

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.