Attack of the Earworms!

It’s usually between 3 and 4 am, when my various aches, pains and the need to pee make me uncomfortable. I wake up and some rinky-tink music slithers into my brain …

“Now that I’m old, Don’t wear underwear,

Don’t go to church, And don’t cut my hair…” 

I know I’ll have trouble getting back to sleep.

I almost always listen to music, but the holidays this year seemed to awaken a flurry of earworms that weren’t Christmas carols. I can get away with humming or just enjoying the seasonal songs most of the time, but once the season is past, “Jingle Bells” is passe.

“I’d heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?”

“Well it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

And of course, given the season and the politics, I even come away from watching the TV news with a new one.

“Jesus was a Capricorn
He ate organic food
He believed in love and peace
And never wore no shoes

Long hair, beard and sandals
And a funky bunch of friends
Reckon may just nail Him up
If He come down again.”

I’m not sure what triggers them, but earworms sneak into my brain and lurk there for a long time. Sometimes they’re active, popping up like a Whack-a-Mole from the blue and into my consciousness. One can lie dormant for days, weeks, even years, then slither out again to annoy me.

It might be something that I was listening to recently, but usually it’s a long-buried lyric and tune whose source I can’t even account for. How ever they’re triggered, the difficult part is figuring out how to get rid of them. I’ve tried to play other music to drown them out, but sometimes that just adds another worm I need to fight off.

My musical preference is pretty varied. As a kid in Texas it was early rock ‘n roll and country. College in Oklahoma emphasized the country and added Hendrix and Iron Butterfly. Time in Arizona, Georgia and Alaska contributed quite a bit of folk and soft rock to the mix. Finally, landing in Colorado dragged in some classical and bolstered the John Denver genre.

“He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year
Coming home to a place he’d never been before …

But the Colorado Rocky Mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight
Is softer than a lullaby
Rocky Mountain high
Rocky Mountain high …”

Of course, one feature of earworms is that they often consist of trite or over-used lyrics. Seldom are they profound music, or even classical. If profound thoughts come from profound music, I suppose my thoughts are, possibly, less so.

I don’t know where the ear worms go when they disappear, but I do know they’ll be back sometime when I least expect them. Apparently, it’s a small world in my head …

“It’s a small world after all
it’s a small world after all
it’s a small world after all
it’s a small, small world”

(Heh, heh, heh. Enjoy your earworm!)

Additional information:

Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, It’s A Small World

Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

Kris Kristofferson, Jesus Was a Capricorn

Jimmy Buffet, I Wish I Had a Pencil-thin Mustache

John Denver, Rocky Mountain High

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