Posted by John Allen Small on Friday, July 8, 2011 Under: Pop Culture
Have you ever noticed how some things seem to lodge themselves in your brain to the point that you just can’t drive them away, even if you bang your head over and over against that big pecan tree in your backyard?
The worst part about it is that, more often than not, these unwelcome mental lodgers tend to be things you’re not the least bit interested in. Things you weren’t consciously thinking about, and maybe wouldn’t consicously think about even if your life depended on it. And suddenly – BANG! – there it is: frolicking across the fuzzy fields of your gray matter with all the grace and elegance of those tutu-clad hippos in Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.”
Music is a problem for me in that regard. Every now and then some tune will get stuck in my head and I simply can’t shake it; it follows me around for the rest of the day, blaring over everything else like that silly teenager in the lane beside you who’s got the volume control on his car stereo set at the threshold of pain. (Here’s an important tip from Uncle John, kids: If you’re out in the car and I’m here in the office and I can feel the bass line playing up through the floorboards, IT’S TOO @#%! LOUD!!!!)
Sometimes having a particular song revisit your thoughts throughout the day isn’t such a bad thing. I rather like it when I remember the song Melissa and I played at our wedding, for example, and I can hum “Amazing Grace,” “Greenback Dollar” or the main theme from “Star Wars” all day long.
But then there are those other times…
Back when I was in high school, it was usually the last song I heard of the radio before leaving the house or getting out of the car that stuck with me. And usually that was cool; any time Mr. O’Flaherty, my biology teacher, began prattling on about the sex life of flatworms (a particularly favorite subject of his, for reasons I’ve never understood nor cared to delve into), it didn’t take much to turn up the volume on my cerebral turntable and drown him out completely. And if it happened to be a song I particularly liked, the entire experience could actually be pretty satisfying – or, at the very least, would keep me from falling asleep in class.
But if the last song I happened to hear that day was something like C.W. McCall’s “Convoy,” well…
Now don’t get me wrong. I liked “Convoy” well enough when it first came out. I even went down to the old Belscot department store on the other side of town and spent a dollar of my hard-earned lawn-mowing profits on the 45. (And just admitting that I remember what a 45 was suddenly makes me feel a hundred years old…)
But, just like Yours Truly, the song got old real quick. The novelty disappeared as soon as every country artist in the world decided they had to release their own song about CB radios; the moment George Jones came out with a gospel CB tune entitled “It’s a 10-33, Let’s Get Jesus On The Line,” we knew the fad had just about run its course. (Come to think of it, I still have that 45, as well…)
And just try to carry on an even marginally rational conversation with “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck” echoing through the hollow of your mind all day long.
I’ve read reports from psychologists and sociologists who insist that the music in your head coan set the tone for the entire day. Personally I think there may be something to that.
Just by way of example: let’s say that, for some unearthly reason, the old Bobby Goldsboro song “Honey” somehow got stuck up there. Please understand that I’m not knocking the song; I’ll bet if you dig deep enough in the dusty bowels of my record collection, you’ll find – yes! – a copy of Bobby Goldboro’s “Honey.” (I don’t know that I should have admitted that…)
But I defy anyone to even try to have anything but a bad day with the story of the death of a young, much-loved wife bouncing around inside your subconscious. Trust me. I’ve tried it. It can’t be done.
And, be honest with yourself for just a moment: just what sort of a day can you really expect to have with “They’re coming to take me away, Ha Ha, He He, Ho Ho...” playing as background music?
Still, there are worse things than having certain songs get stuck in your head. One that comes immediately to mind is having the song that’s gotten stuck up in your head suddenly come leaking out from between your lips.
There was a buddy of mine back in high school. Kong McGillicudey was the token jock in our little social clique, a 6-foot-7, 350-pound defensive tackle who always sort of looked like the kind of guy who might eat his little brother for breakfast some morning. But there was a period during our senior year when, for the better part of a month, the song “I Feel Pretty” from “West Side Story” seemed to wander out onto the center stage of Kong’s mind every time he looked the other way.
Now I truly believe that “West Side Story” is one of the great musicals of all time, and I would be the first to admit that “I Feel Pretty” is a wonderful song. But you tell me: Is “I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright. And I pity any girl who isn’t me tonight,” the sort of lyric that should come issuing forth from the lips of a 6-foot-7, 350-pound defensive tackle?
I mean, there we were in the boys locker room after P.E. when suddenly ol’ Kong’s voice starts echoing off the tile walls: “I feel charming and disarming. It’s alarming how charming I feel, and so pretty I hardly can believe I’m real.”
It wasn’t a pretty scene…
Kong’s experience notwithstanding, I’m personally inclined to believe that the music playing inside our heads can be a pretty good indicator of what else may be going on up there.
The performers I enjoyed as a youth - country artists like Johnny Cash and Roger Miller, folk groups like The Kingston Trio, The Clancy Brothers and The New Christy Minstrels, and rock and pop bands like the Monkees, Styx, and the Electric Light Orchestra - still give daily performances upon my mental stage. My wife’s mental play list leans towards pretty much the same direction, though we’ve had some subconscious influence on one another; she’s given me a greater appreciation of the Statlers’ rich harmonizing, and I’ve convinced her that it’s okay to tap your toe to “I’m A Believer.”
With the arrival of our two children, I found things like, “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?” and “Go Go Power Rangers,” had (sometimes despite my best efforts) taken their place on the record shelves of my mind – sharing space with Beethoven’s Fifth, the soundtrack from “That Thing You Do,” and (of course) “George, George, George Of The Jungle, Strong As He Can Be…”
And you people wonder why I’m such a mess…
I got 'em back, though. My son Joshua grew up and bought the entire Beatles catalog when it came out on CD a year or two back. And his little brother William was just complaining the other day that HE couldn't get "They're Coming To Take Me Away" out of his head.
Heh heh heh...
In : Pop Culture
Tags: "pop culture" "music"