Submitted for your approval: songs of yesteryear that stuck into our skulls like a construction worker Krazy-glued to a steel beam, traversing space and time from then and there to the here and now. Mister Boomer recalls these melodies of his past that can occasionally haunt his waking moments to this very day. He has crossed into … the Earworm Zone.
It happened again just this past week: Mister Boomer walked into a store that was playing oldies on the sound system, and one of the songs he dreaded hearing back in the 1970s, and had finally forgotten, was playing. It was deja vu all over again as, for the rest of the week, Mister B has been flashing back to that song in his head — an earworm of the first degree.
Earworms are a known scientific malady that affects both men and women; they are tunes that get stuck in our heads, playing over and over again until we can’t hear ourselves think. Mister Boomer’s personal exploration and analysis has pinpointed three main features that most of his earworms possess: a simple melody, especially with a hook; sing-songy “moon in June” rhymes; and they are highly repetitive. Of course what makes matters worse is the subject oftens dislikes the song that becomes an earworm.
Unlike the 1960s, the 1970s were overflowing with annoying songs playing on the radio. Yet not every annoying song becomes an earworm. Here are some that did for Mister B. Maybe you’ll find a few that infected you the same way.
The song in question that got Mister B on this subject was Please Come to Boston. Written and sung by Dave Loggins, it was released in 1974. From the start it was annoying, but the more it played on the radio, the longer it stuck in Mister B’s head. Despite its insipid lyrics and a practically non-existent guitar line, it was the raspy singing of Dave Loggins that rattled his brain with loops of: by a cafe where I hope to be working soon. Just when the song had been flushed from memory, here it was again.
Determined to erase this anguish from his auditory system, Mister B set out to flood his brain with memories of other earworms that taunted him in his boomer years. The overload would, in his theory, build to a crescendo like the musical interlude of The Beatles’ A Day in the Life until, reaching its zenith, a plethora of earworms would come crashing down in pieces, a musical Humpty Dumpty too broken to reassemble.
The mid-1970s were especially fertile ground for Mister B’s earworms, probably because there was so much popular music that he disliked. Afternoon Delight immediately comes to mind. Singing like they were at a concert for kids, the Starland Vocal Band cobbled together weak harmonies with a sexual subject that caught some people’s attention. Skyrockets in flight? Mister B would rather dismiss the fluff piece, but there were times it lodged into the nooks and crannies of his cranium where it was not welcomed. In terms of earworm infections, though, it was a mild case that usually went away on its own.
Minnie Riperton had her only big hit in 1975 with Lovin’ You. Rhyming lovin’ you with dream come true was hardly what made it memorable. Rather, it was Ms. Riperton’s supernatural range that propelled the song up the charts. But one person’s awe is another’s shriek as her high notes transformed into an earworm that Mister B thought would be more suited for dogs than human beings.
Moving up the ladder was My Ding-A-Ling. Written and first recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1952, the song came to most boomer’s attention when Chuck Berry released his version in 1972. This awful ditty was an affront to the novelty genre, let alone sung by one of the heroes of rock ‘n roll. Nonetheless, it became Mr. Berry’s only number one hit on the U.S. Hot charts! How scary is that? (At least he had several number one hits on the R&B charts.)
In 1972 Seals & Croft released Summer Breeze. On the surface it appeared to be a song that was easily ignored. Yet the absurdity of blowing through the jasmine of my mind was enough to trigger a not-so-easy-to-dismiss earworm.
There were dozens of others, of course, but the one Mister B can recall as the granddaddy of them all, his first major earworm, was Hitchin’ a Ride from 1969. Why would anyone pair a song that possessed lyrics about hitchhiking because you have no money for other transportation with a carnival-like melody? Vanity Fare did just that. The song begins with what sounded like flutes or a calliope to Mister B, but in actuality were two recorders. Wonderful. Now the sound of medieval instruments were echoing through Mister B’s auditory chambers.
This song, however, had help in becoming Mister B’s sound nemesis. The very year the song was released, Mister B was on vacation with his family, seeing the U.S.A. in their Chev.. er, Ford, when a late-night break for some food at a truck stop on some dark interstate became an episode of The Twilight Zone. Paneled walls and a counter full of truckers, waitresses who asked, “What’ll ya have, honey,” and a jukebox blaring the hits of today completed the scene. Only said jukebox didn’t play many different selections. Rather, one t-shirt and jean patron kept returning, dropping in quarters to replay the same song, over and over again. Ride, ride, ride, hitchin’ a ride. Mister B could not wait to get out of there. But back in the car, trying to catch some sleep alongside Brother and Sister Boomer, cutting through the hum of the tires on the pavement, Mister B heard the unmistakeable sound of those recorders. He had entered the Earworm Zone. From time to time the song resurfaces, but no longer holds the same power over Mister B it once did. Hopefully no one will play it in his vicinity any time soon.
So, did Mister Boomer’s experiment work? Once the smoke cleared and the dust settled, he said a lone voice remained among the synapses. “I’m staying here with some friends and they’ve got lots of room,” the voice sang, smugly and confidently. “No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!” exclaimed Mister Boomer.
What earworms did you love to hate, boomers?