I’M NOT CONSCIOUSLY choosing something non-controversial to talk about this week, but will admit some weeks I just feel like taking it easy. So, I beg your pardon in advance if what I have to say is just boring. (I won’t use the phrase something that doesn’t matter at all, since that in itself caused some controversy last year.)
You know how sometimes a song gets in your head, and you can’t figure out how or why? That was happening to me, repeatedly, and while it wasn’t exactly keeping me up nights, I did find it curious that many days I’d find the same innocuous, unremarkable song running through my brain as I’d start on my bike ride home from work. Sometimes, rarely, I caught it as early as the elevator. But I had never noticed where it came from and hadn’t even been conscious enough of it to try and figure it out.
The song, I might as well tell you now, is “An Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night, which came out at the height of their popularity in late 1971 and peaked at #4 on the charts around the same time I got that first tape recorder for Christmas. The song isn’t a particular favorite of mine—their “Never Been to Spain,” which came out right after, is much better—and I don’t even like it really. I don’t dislike it. It’s just meh; or, to put it another way, Paul Williams wrote it. (Please don’t send this blog post to Three Dog Night or Paul Williams.)
But the question remained, if I don’t even like the song, why was I repeatedly finding myself singing along to it while cycling past buses on Market Street? What triggered it? I’m sometimes able to figure out where these earworms come from by rewinding the tape in my head, backtracking until I find the particular lyric (usually it’s a lyric) that started it off. This one eluded me.
By the way, the wonderful Oliver Sacks has a good book called Musicophilia:Tales of Music and the Brain that talks about all sorts of such phenomena.
Anyway, I wasn’t even trying to figure out where this particular nuisance came from when I caught it entering my head the other day. I logged out of my computer at work, and it made a little sound, two notes that exactly match the first two notes of—you guessed it, “An Old Fashioned Love Song”—and the earworm was launched.
This is the kind of story you can’t tell just anyone and expect them to feel as excited about as you do—I know, I’ve tried—but I was a little thrilled. It’s times like this I’m glad I have a blog.