Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Eternal Suffering Of Ear Worms Unrequited

For the longest time--years, in fact--I had a song stuck in my head.

It was one of those cases where I could remember a bit of the rhythm, but not well enough to hum snatches for other people. The music I could remember was layered heavily, not exactly something you could hum, precisely because it would have required thirteen vocal cords and a telepathic chorus.

And, frankly, if I had a telepathic chorus, I'd be too busy getting rich and taking over the world to worry about identifying ear worms. Anyway.

The snatches I could remember were just spitting distance from hummable. Close enough to encourage me to try to look for answers, but not close enough to turn the look of deep pity on the face of someone I was asking for help from into a look of recognition. Frankly, I have no singing voice, unless you're judging me from a position of very low to nonexistent standards. I'm known for my musical ability in much the same way as Michel Foucault is well-regarded for his best-selling series of Christian children's novels.

I could remember just enough of the words to attempt to google for it, but not enough interesting words to get useful results. Perhaps two or three in a row. A lot of hip-hop songs came up, for some reason. The song I had in my head was not hip-hop. It was a little folk, a little pop, maybe. I thought it sounded vaguely grunge, possibly like something from MTV's Unplugged.

After a few years, I was beginning to think I'd heard some unreleased Meat Puppets b-side.

The song refused to die. It would come back randomly, drift in and out of my life. The broken fragments of a dream would leave me humming it when I woke up, lasting long after memories of the dream itself would fade. The song would pop into my head as I was driving somewhere, in the middle of a road trip from nowhere to some other piece of nowhere. I'd catch a bit of it wafting through me during a flight to Denver, or while barbecuing with friends on some golden summer afternoon.

After a while, I became resigned to not knowing what the hell it was. It was just a part of me, inescapable and recurring. I figured eventually it would go away or I'd become that crazy old bastard in the retirement home who sat in the corner with a football helmet on, humming fragments of made-up songs about dicks.

One day late last year, probably right around the time I decided to mostly give up drinking, I was sitting on a friend's porch, waiting for the summer heat to die down enough that we could go inside into his non-air-conditioned house full of antique radios and cats and watch a movie about rock stars who karate-punch rubber Satans in the face.

Somebody made a joke about Gordon Lightfoot just as a friend walked by. My friend sang a few bars of MY SONG.

Holy shit! I jumped to my feet and yelled for him to repeat himself, probably wobbling somewhat due to pounding too many high gravity IPA's in direct sunlight. He did, and I asked him what it was.

Sundown, Gordon Lightfoot.

I went home. I googled the song. And it wasn't it, not quite. But I found out a band had covered it: Elwood.

Bingo. Three year ear worm solved.

It was a moment of immense satisfaction, like lancing a boil the size of a football or ditching a ten year train wreck of a relationship. It was the Hindenburg disaster filmed in reverse.

Sometimes you just can't give up on something, no matter how minor. You can back-burner it, but if you just wait it out, good things will happen. Except when they don't. In that case, pretend I wrote some equally uplifting advice here instead.

And here's that movie about rock stars who karate-punch rubber Satans in the face.

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