Saturday 3 December 2016

A treatise on earworms

treatise noun
  1. a written work dealing formally and systematically with a subject.

earworm noun
  1. a catchy song or tune that runs continually through someone's mind.

So why do people keep blogs? Many are to document a particular interest; indeed I started mine simply as a way of documenting my rally racing efforts, although I have on occasion wandered off onto other subjects. Others use them as outlets for random outpourings, rants, daily diaries or a myriad of other things.

I often think of things that I consider broadcasting to the wider world but never get round to doing so. In fact many of my random thoughts occur on my daily 45 minute motorcycle commute between Milton Keynes and Northampton.

So I have finally decided to commit some of my more random musings to print (or pixels, or electrons or whatever).

So ear worms, what’s that all about? You know the thing, a random tune pops into your head and you just can’t shake it, no matter how hard you try.

Now I get it if you’ve heard a song on the radio or somewhere and it's catchy enough to stick in your memory but why is it I can almost always guarantee that some odd, if not downright bizarre tune will pop into my head when I’m heading home from work on the bike. Yet there is no music in the office and it’s not as if I’m listening to the radio like I would be if using the van, so where does it come from?

It rarely ever happens on my way in to work in the mornings so it’s got me a bit perplexed. And then there is the weird variety of tunes that crop up, not something that might be current and so likely to have been heard recently or even music I have in my own, admittedly diverse music collection. OK occasionally it will be something I almost certainly heard recently, not that old and still played regularly enough on radio, so they make sense unlike many others….

Recent highly bizarre examples include:

Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”.  I can’t remember the last time I listened to Rumours and yes it is in my old record collection but I haven’t had a record player for about 15 years and no I don’t watch Formula 1 (do they even use it for the theme anymore?). So why did it pop into my head as I accelerated down the slip road onto the M1 the other evening?

And one that cropped up the other week “Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree” yes the excruciating 1973 hit by Tony Orlando and Dawn (yes I had to Google that). Where on earth did that one come from? A tune I guess I haven’t heard played anywhere for at least 20 years.

Then there was the evening where it was “Teddy Bears Picnic” you know the one, “if you go down to the woods today…. etc. etc.” Jeez that was a very strange experience.

But the truly bizarre was the other day when I had a classical tune running through my head, I couldn’t for the life of me recognise it but sure enough the tune was clear in my head. I eventually worked it out some days later. When I first started buying records in my teens, I expressed an interest in classical music. A friend of my parents gave me some old records, including one of overtures. Now I last played that record in about 1975, so how the hell did a tune as obscure as Franz Von Suppe’s “ Light Cavalry Overture” find it's way into my brain whilst riding down the A508 on a cold, dark November evening?

As I said truly bizarre!

And last night? It was this little ditty from John Williams.....


  1. I've had Laura Mvula's "Ready or not" in my head all week. Admittedly we did see her last week but she didn't actually sing that one! But Teddy Bear's Picnic... That really is weird!

  2. The trouble with trying to remove an ear worm is that you simply replace it with your new tune.
    I have found success with The Pink Panther theme. Sing it ALL, and it should remove your earworm without replacing it.