I have a life-long affliction — apparently not uncommon — of having songs I hate pop into my head, where they reside for hours, sometimes days, at a time. In particular, I’m afflicted by really old songs from the 70s. Currently playing is one of my longest standing demons; the awful “Don’t Look Back” from the annoying Boston, the Beach Boys of guitars. I will admit that Boston’s first album was worth a brief teenage obsession, but the second album (from which “Don’t Look Back” is the title song) was dreadful. It was the Stephen Spielberg sequel of rock albums; take the money shot — all those harmonized guitars — double it, and leave out all the other stuff that made the first album good. And now, more than 25 years later, those guitars and those annoying lyrics buzz in my head like a tripped-over wasp nest for days at a time.
I’ve developed a defense mechanism against these unwelcome musical intrusions; I subvert them by editorializing them towards the ridiculous, after which they have a markedly decreased effect and frequency.
Here’s an example. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — particularly the chorus — is prone to pop into my head at random. It always starts with ‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night…. Those first four words are the worst — and not just because they change during later choruses (‘Cause it’s a thriller… and “That it’s a thriller…). I hate the way Jackson sings it. It sounds like Dit – dit – dit thriller….
My cure was to think of something else that sounds like Dit – dit – dit. That was easy — whenever The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island was flummoxed by something Gilligan did or said, he would flail his hands and bat his hat and say Dip – dip – dip… Gilligan! (Dit, dip; close enough.)
You know where this is going… I superimpose the two, so whenever the song invites itself into my consciousness I end up hearing: (Skipper) Dip – dip – dip… (Jackson) …thriller… . It isn’t long before the evil DJ in my head tires of this parody and stomps off to the demonic record library in search of some other treachery.
He’s out of luck if he picks “It’s You Babe” from Styx. I confess there were a few early Styx songs that I liked, but the ballads are cloying enough for me to permanently take Styx off the play list. I particularly hated vocalist Dennis DeYoung’s crystal-clear articulation on songs like “It’s You Babe.” The opening line of the song begins Babe I’m leaving… and those four syllables have been burned into my mind as if tattooed there by a gleaming diamond.
The evil DJ digs that one out occasionally and slaps it on, so out of the blue, and beyond my control, I suddenly get BABE I’M LEEEE-VEEEENG belting through my head. Fortunately, and ironically, my cure was to give Dennis DeYoung a really bad head cold. Now, when that record spins, I hear BABE I’B LEEEB-EEEEEG. Needless to say, the evil DJ tires of this quickly.
Recently, I’ve brought a double-whammy to this one. I’m reading Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris by New Yorker alumnus A.J. Liebling. For the past week, if the evil DJ tries to slip that one past me he’s met with Dennis DeYoung yelling AY-JAY-LIEBLING! That oughta shut it down for good!