Confessions of an ear-worm addict:
Ask me how I’m doing, and I’m liable to respond “Feelin’ Alright,” and for the next hour or so I’ll be hearing the song Dave Mason wrote for Traffic, usually the more soulful version of “Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker.
There is always song in my head — not any one, particular, annoying tune — just song.
Songs play in the background of my consciousness, mostly, but I’ll notice one here and there, and let it play all the way through.
“Sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through ...”
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”
“Sometimes I feel like I’ve been tied to the whipping post.”
OK, I’ll stop. Trouble is, I know a lot of song lyrics. Talk to me long enough, and you’ll remind me of a song. As I write, I remind myself.
The trigger can be a song actually playing somewhere.
In the cafeteria this afternoon, Pharrell Williams was singing “Happy.” I brought the song back to my desk along with my lunch and mentally “clapped along” while writing this story. Then, perhaps because of the rhythm of the computer keys, I switched to John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.” Go figure.
I take a break and walk down the hallway for a cup of coffee with a leisurely stride that matches the theme from the TV quiz show “Jeopardy.”
Some of my ear worms are TV show themes or advertising jingles, but mostly they are pop tunes. This fits with the research. People who like to sing, and I do, are the most afflicted by ear worms. Most are the inescapable pop tunes that saturate our lives.
I grew up with Motown R&B and have an entire catalog of Temptations, Impressions, Miracles, Four Tops and Supremes available in my mental jukebox, learned from the family stack of 45s, the car radio, the transistor radio, “Bandstand,” singing with my sibs while washing dishes every night.
Then came the album era, rock and folk: lying on the floor of my room with the headphones on, memorizing every lyric to every song on Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.”
The songs have always been there, but the depth of my ear-worm infection became clear a few summers back when I spent a week alone in a cabin by the Gila Wilderness and realized that, despite the bird song and the gentle rush of Willow Creek, I was providing my own soundtrack.
As I was coming to grips with it, the bubble-gum pop song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” appeared and wouldn’t go away.
I went through my mental jukebox of “sun” songs — played Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” Jonathan Edwards’ “Sunshine,” the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and a host of others before settling on the ultimate exorcism: the opening guitar riff of “Sunshine of Your Love.”
Cream — Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, the summer of 1968, working a game wheel on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey, next to another that gave away records and played Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” album over and over.
I could listen to “Sunshine of Your Love” all day long.
Sometimes I do.
Doing it right now.