November 14, 2006

Has anyone else ever gotten a song stuck in their head for several years?

Posted by Spike

When I was on my mission in Poland ten years ago, I was sitting in a McDonald's* when I heard the song '74-'75 by the Connells playing in the background. In case you have never heard the song, it's a quiet, mournful, sentimental song of a guy singing about his high school class and classmates. It has an infectious melody, the kind that you find yourself singing. I'd never heard this song before, but the next day I found myself singing the 5 words of the song that I could remember. It was a little annoying. The next day, it was still in my head. And the next day. And the next day.

When I get a song stuck in my head, the usual solution is to listen to other music until it's gone. However, Mormon missionaries such as myself weren't allowed to listen to music of that sort (unless you overhear it in a public place, like McDonald's, which is how I heard the cursed song in the first place). I was, therefore, unable get the tune out of my head. I tried listening to classical music, with no success. Consequently, I found myself humming this song several times a day for two entire years.

When I got home from my mission, one of the first things I did was to listen to that song, just so I would know more than 5 words. (shockingly, I discovered it only has about 16 words, so I was most of the way to having it memorized on that fateful day in McDonald's). The second thing I did was to never listen to that song again.

A few years later, I was in a department store where they had a TV showing music videos. They showed a video of a song that was, like 74 75, haunting, melancholy, and infectious. When I got home that night, I once again got a little piece of that song stuck in my head. The line was "what if I was not your only friend in this world." I tried to figure out what song it was with no luck. No longer being a missionary, I had a little more success getting this song unstuck by drowning it out with other music. But it still popped into my head once every few days for about six years. I tried searching for it by looking up the line I remembered on Google, but without success. Then about 3 months ago, I learned a useful thing about Google, which is that you can search for exact quotes by using quotation marks.** It's called "Last Stop: This Town" by the Eels. I then found the video on Youtube and watched/listened to it about 500 times. Its a great song. Haunting and sad. From what I understand, the guy who wrote it had a sister who has just killed herself, so he kind of wrote it to her. Anyway, I recommend it.

Supposedly, when you stop thinking about something consciously, your brain keeps working on it, which is why an answer to something you had been wondering will sometimes come to you. ***

*yes, they do have McDonald's in Poland, although they do not serve sausage biscuits; they serve hamburgers from the moment they open at 6:30.

**Ok, ok, I admit it. I am stupid, because I am the last person in America to realize this. I knew you could do it on other search engines, and in fact, I consider myself an expert at using the legal search engines, Lexis and Westlaw. I just didn't know Google could do it. And in fact, I assumed they couldn't because they always give me that nasty prompt saying that other Boolean operators, such as "and" and "or" are unnecessary when I use them.

*** Sorry this is not too funny. What do you think I am, Hollywood?


Anonymous said...

Adam, it is funny you should bring this up, because it has been a sore spot with me for the last few days. You see, my dear husband thinks that it is ok to listen to hard core rap music as long as the bad words are edited out. some of them really are catchy and go through my mind for several days at a time. unfortunately the edited words don't stay edited when my mind replays them. we won't mention who that bad husband and worse wife are. we shall just call them "cameron" and "miranda."

Anonymous said...

ADAM! NEWSFLASH: This will revolutionize your life. When you are in Google, if you put a minus (-) before a term, it excludes all the results that contain that term. This is awesome for when you are looking for the second or third most common usage of a word. It works on Ebay too. Once you master the trick, it comes in handy all over the place. For example, if you are serching for Ninja stuff, you would put in: Ninja -kawisaki (that way you get ninja stuff but not stuff about the motorcycle called a ninja) Or if you are searching for slingshots, but you don't want to know all about Nike's stupid golf clubs called the slingshot, you go: Slingshots -golf -clubs -nike See what I mean?

Now since my examples involved Ninjas and Slingshots, I think everyone is going to be able to figure out who this post is from....


kaff said...

Adam Its always nice to hear from you. And Cameron thanks for the help!

Anonymous said...

JC Penny. It's not JC Penny's. And it's not Nordtrom's or Kroger's. It is however, Smith's, Macy's and yes... McDonald's.

patrick said...

Cool songs, strange videos.

Its good to know that my subconscious keeps working on stuff long after I've given up. It somehow makes me feel more productive.

Adam said...

JC Penny. It's not JC Penny's. And it's not Nordtrom's or Kroger's. It is however, Smith's, Macy's and yes... McDonald's.

Thanks for the tip (corrected).

Anonymous said...

Wow, anonymous grammar police, you really need to lighten up. It's Adam's first post in months and all you can do is point out an incorrect apostrophe. You must be really smart to know about all of the correct places to put apostrophes. Too bad you can't spell. It's not JC Penny. It's JC Penney. HAHAHAHA!

Adam, you are funny and I liked this post. I hope you write more often.

Anonymous said...

PS Adam, please don't feel obligated to correct it in your post. Nobody really cares that much. JC Penny, JC Penney, JC Penney's, they're all the same.

Lisa M. said...

Poland. What a place to spend your mission. I'd love to hear more about it.

I hate getting songs stuck in my head.

It happens ALL the time.

Adam said...

thanks for jumping to my defense, anonymous. but really, it's ok.

lisa m, i would be happy to tell you about poland in general and my mission in specific in excruciating detail. maybe i will post about it.

A Payne said...

That song is completely unfamiliar to me. I was a missionary in Venezuela 10 years ago. When I came home every commercial had some funny words at the bottom of the screen, something like www. I was like, what the heck is this?! The other thing I totally missed was the huge comeback of John Travolta. The last thing I had seen of his was Look Who's Talking and then suddenly he is in half the movies on the shelves at Blockbuster. I said out loud to my friend, "When did John Travolta become a mega star?" The guy looking at movies next to us looked at me like, what rock have you been living under?!

patrick said...

Actually, its Macy*s. Hey, Anonymous, get your starpostrophes right. Sheesh.

Th. said...


I have zillions of songs like that.

This is not the reason my wife loves me.

Not not not.

Rachel said...

Adam the same thing happened to me on my mission. We were in McDonalds, and the song playing...Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum. Next eighteen months I was constantly humming, "When I die, I'm going to go to the place that's the best..."

Janell said...

I find humming "Hall of the Mountain King" for a minute gets any song out of my head, but doesn't lodge itself in my brain.