Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Earworms and Overalls

I have what is referred to as an earworm and it’s getting a bit ridiculous. Sometime last week I got this lovely 80’s classic from my younger days stuck in my head and I just can’t shake it:

Sorry about the quality but it’s actually almost exactly what it looks like in my brain as it plays over and over and over and over again.

As the days go by it’s starting to effect my life. I’m fantasying about my husband in overalls. I’m seriously considering buying a red dress and I keep telling everyone, “Ah come on let’s take off everything!”

It’s getting quite hard to concentrate when Toora Loora Toora Loo-Rye-Aye is playing over and over at volume 10 in my brain. The song and video has even infiltrated my now overall clad dreams. I’ve listened to, “It’s a Small World” and other craptacular earwormy songs to try to push it out of my brain but it keeps skipping it’s way back into my head.

This event has left me with many more questions than answers. For one, why are they singing about a girl in a red dress when everyone in the video is wearing overalls? And is this the song I am going to feebly shout that they, “play it one more time, Sam” from my walker in the old-folks home? Yes, Sam will be at the same old-folks home as me, or at least I will think he is there.

Well, I have to go dance in the street now. Poor old Johnny Ray, I hope he doesn’t divorce me when I change my name to Eileen.

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for over a week? What did you do to shake it? Should I buy overalls or a red dress?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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76 Comments

  1. Poor old Johnny Ray
    Sounded sad upon the radio, he moved a million hearts in mono.
    Our mothers cried and sang along and who’d blame them.
    Now you’re grown, so grown, now I must say more than ever.
    Go Toora Loora Toora Loo-Rye-Aye
    and we can sing just like our fathers.

    Come on Eileen,
    I swear (well he means) At this moment you mean everything,
    With you in that dress my thoughts I confess verge on dirty
    Ah come on Eileen.

    These people round here wear beaten down eyes
    Sunk in smoke dried faces they’re so resigned to what their fate is,
    But not us, no not us we are far too young and clever.
    Remember Toora Loora Toora Loo-Rye-Aye
    Eileen I’ll hum this tune forever.

    Come on Eileen, I swear, well he means
    Ah come on let’s take off everything,
    That pretty red dress Eileen (Tell him yes)
    Ah come on let’s, ah come on Eileen, please.

  2. My sister once sang The Teddy Bear Picnic to me right before I went on a week long trip to visit my inlaws.

    That f’ing song was in my head the entire trip — and it’s creepy!

    If you go out in the woods today
    You’re sure of a big surprise.
    If you go out in the woods today
    You’d better go in disguise.

    For every bear that ever there was
    Will gather there for certain, because
    Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

  3. What is the one post that could make me log on here for the first time, um, ever? A post about Dexy.

    I had this song stuck in my head for literally two months. We even learned it in my band. Before that was A-Ha’s “Take on Me”.

  4. I don’t have the attention span to have a song stuck in my head for more than a day or two. After that, it switches to a new song. Right now, its O Fortuna. But, recently, its been Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Butterfly by Smile.dk.

  5. This is the song that never ends
    yes it goes on and on my friend.
    Some people started singing it,
    not knowing what it was,
    and they’ll continue singing it forever
    just because…

    This is the song that never ends
    yes it goes on and on my friend.
    Some people started singing it,
    not knowing what it was,
    and they’ll continue singing it forever
    just because…

    This is the song that never ends
    yes it goes on and on my friend.
    Some people started singing it,
    not knowing what it was,
    and they’ll continue singing it forever
    just because…

    This is the song that never ends
    yes it goes on and on my friend.
    Some people started singing it,
    not knowing what it was,
    and they’ll continue singing it forever
    just because…

    etc.

  6. @5ive: And then find yourself singing “row row row your boat” under your breath for two hours straight….

    Similarly, my first name is “Marilee”, which sounds very similar to “merrily”, so I find myself singing “merrily we roll along, on the deep blue sea” quite often.

    I’m not vain – the song really IS about me!

    @MiddleMan: Teehee. You’re welcome! ;)

  7. Avoids the urge to rickroll the lovely people at Skepchick no matter how appropriate it might be.

    I tend to get music stuck in my head quite a bit, whether it’s an annoying pop song that I end up over hearing as I walk into HMV, or an occasional movie/TV theme. The two most memorable moments are probably polar opposite experiences

    The first is Erasure’s Little Respect that, as Scrubs can testify, will murder your brain. Only solution I could come up with was to actually buy the greatest hits, and force feed myself the song in its entirety. It’s when I catch glimpses of songs that it gets me worst.

    The second was an entirely different and beautiful moment. I saw UP three times in one week, when it opened, and ended up with the entire “Married Life” sequence stuck in my head.
    The problem is, that sequence of the film forces me to uncontrollably start crying everytime I heard that section of the music when Ellie dies. Not great if I was in the street and a tear started to form. Could usually control it in public, but still not a terribly manly confession.

  8. Those that are a certain age will nearly punch you if you start singing DNA’s remix of Suzanna Vega’s song “Toms Diner” at them. The most earworm-y part of it is that you dont even need to know the lyrics. You can just get the “duh-duh”s stuck in your head for weeks at a time.

    Duh-duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh-duh duh-dut-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh

    I am sitting
    In the morning
    At the diner
    On the corner

    I am waiting
    At the counter
    For the man
    To pour the coffee

    And he fills it
    Only halfway
    And before
    I even argue

    He is looking
    Out the window
    At somebody
    Coming in

  9. I live with this problem every single day of my life. I hate overhearing other people’s radios because no matter what it is, it will get stuck in my head for days if I’m not prepared. It’s one of the primary reasons I have an iPhone. If one song gets too bad I can listen to a few others, and then (and this is the important part) stop listening in the middle of something.

    I actually literally lose sleep because of crap like this. Every night. For as long as I can remember.

    Any suggestions for getting a new brain?

  10. Oh I also have a friend who has a weakness for a particular TV theme song, that has become such a problem for him people that know him use it as a threat.

    There’s a voice that keeps on calling me
    Down the road, that’s where I’ll always be.
    Every stop I make, I make a new friend,
    Can’t stay for long, just turn around and I’m gone again

    Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
    Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

    Down this road that never seems to end,
    Where new adventure lies just around the bend.
    So if you want to drive me for a while,
    Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style.

    Maybe tomorrow I’ll want to settle down,
    Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

    So if you want to join me for a while,
    Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style

    Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
    Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

    Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
    Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

    There’s a world that’s waiting to unfold,
    A brand new tale no-one has ever told.
    We’ve journeyed far far and know it wont be long;
    We’re almost there, and we’ve paid our fare with our hobo song.

    Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
    Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

    So if you want to join me for a while,
    Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style.

    Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find what I call home, Until tomorrow, you know I’m free

  11. I much prefer the Save Ferris remake of that song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCzWPBR30Nk

    The Save Ferris version happens to be my regular earworm song. I often find myself singing that one in the datacenter while plugging away on servers during the day. Very much on key and rather loud, from what I’m told.

    Sure, that’s amusing, but you don’t understand. Esther Mofet is my nom de plume… I’m really a middle-aged white guy.

    I also often have Pink Floyd stuff running through my head — of which, Us & Them seems to be most common — but I don’t mind that so much.

    I’m not doing the overalls thing. That’s just crazy talk.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on some servers.

  12. I’ll occasionally wake up in the morning with a song looping in my head, with no idea what triggered it. I suspect that my brain is picking up 100.7FM (The River) at night.

    This morning, it was “Magic Power” by Triumph. I don’t even recall ever liking that song.

    There do seem to be some songs that are harder for me to shake than others. “Come on Eileen” is definitely up there. Also “Groove is in the Heart”, “Oh Yeah” (Yello), “The Lovecats”, “There She Goes” and, unfortunately, “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

  13. I’ve found the only reliable way to get rid of an earworm is to replace it with another one. You just have to accept that you’ll be stuck with a song in your head for the rest of your life.

    So you may as well pick the songs. I just dumped Gary Numan and ‘Are Friends Electric’. Before that it was the Flying Lizards version of ‘Money’.

    Right now I have 4 Non Blondes and ‘What’s Going On?’. I haven’t decided what the next song will be. Possibly the Cult’s ‘She Sells Sanctuary’.

  14. I’m not going to read any of the comments above because just from a brief skim, I can tell you are all being jerks, trying to infect me :)

    When I need to get something out of my head, I set my brain’s jukebox to ‘Scentless Apprentice’ by Nirvana. It works pretty well.

    Fuck, now ‘Come on Eileen’ is starting up in my brains!

    Like most babies smell like butter! *dur dur dur dur dur dadadadada dur dur* His smell smelled like no other! *dur dur dur dur dur dadadadada dur dur*

  15. I get the “Captain Planet” theme song in my head constantly. It stays for months. Recently, I’ve also had “Gaeta’s Lament” from Battlestar Galactica in there–a week and a half later, and now it’s been replaced by “Come On, Eilieen,” so thanks for that :-P

    Worst would have to be when I had the, what, thirty second theme song to “American Dad” in my head over and over and over while I tried to take an organic chemistry final. Felt like Seth MacFarlane was yelling in my ear for two hours, and I blame it on a lower-than-expected grade.

  16. So @joeharbison logs in and the answer to the question for me is a song sung by Joe Harbison (and Alex Johns)… which I get rid of by another song sung by Joe Harbison (and Alex Johns).

    Because this Skepchick loves her some Tense Kids.

  17. Of course, now I have “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” by Weird Al stuck in my head.

    When are you cosmic cowboys
    Gonna get it through your heads?
    I’ll be mellow when I’m dead
    I’ll be mellow when I’m dead
    I’ll be mellow when I’m dead

  18. I wonder about the effects of a cover of a song on an ear worm. Here’s Save Ferris cover of “Come On Eileen:” Perhaps they will cancel each other out; however, I am not sure why you would want to do since “Come On Eileen” is such an awesome song.

    Edited for Clarity

  19. When I get a song stuck in my head, I usually track down some New Kids On The Block. That tends to drive out everything: the song stuck in there, any other songs that I may have heard that day, conscious thought, parts of my childhood, friends in the vicinity.

  20. I just wish that the earworms that infect me would at least be songs I LIKE. My sister emailed me from her phone with pictures about her vacation in W. Virginia…..and today I found myself whistling John Denver. Years ago (when the movie was released)I was home from work for the weekend, and my girlfriend was watching “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”…….Later on that week, at work in a dark, cold, and monotonous environment……”I love the night life, I got to boogie…On the disco round..Oh yeah……AAAAAAAaaArGhhhh!

  21. I’ve discovered this interesting phenomenon recently – my daughter has a music box that we put on when she goes to sleep, and I’m used to hearing its repetitive tune through our baby monitor as she goes to sleep, which is a bit low-end and generates quite a lot of static hiss.

    I now find that if I have /any/ quiet background static, that tune pops out of the hiss and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a bit Battlestar Galactica, really. If I listen /hard/, it goes away, but it has given me interesting insight into how much of my sensory input my brain is just making up as it goes along (“Oh, yeah, that’s background static, I know what that’s like, no need to really convey it accurately, I’ll just feed that scratchy tune into his consciousness”).

    Oh, and just get the T-shirt: http://www.proprinttransfers.co.uk/images/I%20came%20on%20eileen.jpg

  22. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOw3w-00Jqw

    Well oh, Lukey’s boat is painted green,
    Ha, me boys!
    Lukey’s boat is painted green,
    The prettiest boat that you’ve ever seen,
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!

    Well oh, Lukey’s boat’s got a fine fore cuddy,
    Ha, me boys!
    Lukey’s boat’s got a fine fore cuddy,
    And every seam is chinked with putty,
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!

    Well I says “Lukey the blinds are down”
    Ha, me boys!
    I says “Lukey the blinds are down”
    “Me wife is dead and she’s underground”
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day

    Well I says Lukey “I don’t care”
    Ha, me boys!
    I says Lukey “I don’t care”
    “I’ll get me another in the spring of the year”
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!

    Oh, Lukey’s rolling out his grub,
    Ha, me boys!
    Lukey’s rolling out his grub,
    One split pea, and a ten pound tub,
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!

    Well, Lukey’s boat’s got high-topped sails,
    Ha, me boys!
    Lukey’s boat’s got high-topped sails
    The sheet was planted with copper nails,
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!

    Lukey’s boat is painted green,
    Ha, me boys!
    Lukey’s boat is painted green,
    It’s the prettiest boat that you’ve ever seen,
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!
    A-ha, me boys a-riddle-i-day!

  23. @Metagnosis: I can completely relate in a visual context.

    I live in a valley so there are mountains all around me and every time I take a trip to the coast my brain creates false mountains when I look out at the ocean.

    That “emptiness” is so foreign to me that I can’t quite except a horizon view without them
    :-P

  24. I’m stuck in a 3 day meeting about vaginal ring contraceptives…they keep playing Beyonce “single ladies”…As a homosexual, “If I like it I still won’t stick a ring up it”.

  25. Ive had Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” stuck in my head for a over a month once. I made a point to get it stuck into everyone else I could finds brain so that it would leave me alone, that seemed to work. now I do my best not to listen to it even though it’s an amazing song because I don’t want to be tormented by it again

  26. I’m blessed with near earworm immunity. I occasionally get an annoying one, but more often it’s a benign infection that I actively encourage. Posting about it online has been a surefire cure up to now.

    o/~ Look at my horse, my horse is amazing…

    Oh, yeah!

  27. I would walk 500 mile,
    And I would walk 500 more,
    Just to see you-u-u-u,
    Doin’ that thing you do-o-o,
    Breakin’ my heart into a million pieces,
    Like you alway do-o-o.
    No one told me life was gonna be this way,
    Today is gonna be the day
    That they’re gonna throw it back to you,
    Whoo hoo hoo hoo,
    Who let the dogs out,
    Whoo hoo hoo hoo….

    And on it goes ’til Indian Love Call comes on and my head explodes like the Martians.

    POP!

  28. @Elyse: and them Tense Kids sure love you.

    Also, there’s a song called “Run to Your Grave” by the band The Mae Shi that is probably the biggest earworm I’ve dealt with in the last year. The band’s something of an acquired taste, but at this point I cannot hear the word “run” without having this song stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

  29. I once had the horrible song “flavor of the week” stuck in my head for two weeks straight. By the end of it I was ready to start killing people. I forget what got it out of there but I have totally forgotten the entire song in an attempt to inoculate myself against it happening again.

  30. I’ve had this song stuck in my head before too. In fact I used to get a recurring dream where Gary Busey would wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me who sings that song Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I would then explain to him that was the name of the bad, and the song was Come on Eileen. He would then ask me if I was sure and I would sing a short verse with him. He would then thank me and try to leave out my window. I would ask him to just use the front door.

    He showed up many times in my dreams. To bad I don’t get that as my recurring dream any more. Now I’m stuck with an insanely boring dream about fixing elevators.

  31. @Anthony: Dude, that’s seriously odd!

    I recently had The Derelict by Abney Park stuck in my head such that whatever anyone said to me, my mind followed it with “Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum”. Today, I woke with Jupiter’s Child by Steppenwolf.

    I wonder if those ear candles are rated for worm removal …

  32. For the last week I have had two separate earworms in my brain. They now seem to have conjoined to become the most irritating song ever known to mankind. It’s a bizarre mix of the theme song from the Dukes of Hazzard, and Ca Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand. The two don’t even sound alike. I’m really not sure how they’ve managed to mix into song!

  33. I find the earworm phenomenon to be amplified for the last thing you hear before running or some other exercise.
    I was running one time and passed two old men standing at a crosswalk. One said to the other “. . . I don’t like to belch too much” right as I passed. No idea what he was talking about but the sound of him saying that got stuck in my head so bad, I can still hear it almost 15 years later.

  34. @B Hitt: I could totally see how a stressful event or something like exercise would cause a song or other audio event to have a more staying power in the brain. The body is in alert mode, it hears a song and files it in the “warning” or “important for self preservation” file of the brain.

  35. @faith: Nice! No one ever says classical music for their earworm. But I can relate. I’ve had the Scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th stuck in my head for years and it comes out at odd times, especially if I am walking briskly, cause the beat is perfect for a brisk walk.

    “We Built This City” by Starship was stuck in my head for about a year. ARGH! Worst. Song. Ever.

    Then it was “Closing Time” by Better Than Ezra (the entire year of 1997). Unfortunately, I worked in an office that had top 40 radio on all day and this song (and “My Heart Will Go On”) was played about 10 times a day. My co-worker (a girl from Puerto Rico) made fun of this song by saying “closin’ tyne” repeatedly, so much so that when I hear it today, that’s how I sing the chorus.

    @Metagnosis: I came on Eileen!!! Awesome.

  36. @joeharbison
    Those may be my two favorite songs from the 80’s. “Take on me” turns me on in a way that no nonsensical song sung by godless foreigners should.

    @MarkHall
    Sometimes you make me want to build a model of the Eiffel tower out of Belgian waffles.

  37. One of my works offenders (totally unprovoked):

    Dashing and daring,
    Courageous and caring,
    Faithful and friendly,
    With stories to share.
    All through the forest,
    They sing out in chorus,
    Marching along,
    As their song fills the air.

    Gummi Bears,
    Bouncing here and there and everywhere.
    High adventure that’s beyond compare,
    They are the Gummi Bears.

    Magic and mystery,
    Are part of their history,
    Along with the secret,
    Of gummiberry juice.
    Their legend is growing,
    They take pride in knowing,
    They’ll fight for what’s right,
    In whatever they do.

    Gummi Bears,
    Bouncing here and there and everywhere.
    High adventure that’s beyond compare,
    They are the Gummi Bears.

    Gummi Bears,
    When a friend’s in danger they’ll be there,
    Lives and legends that we all can share,
    They are the Gummi Bears,
    They are the Gummi Bears,
    They are the Gummi Bears!

  38. Dammit, Amy, now I have “Come on Eileen” stuck in my head… and thanks to Phish, it’s cross-pollinating with Gummi Bears! Soon Eileen will be bouncing here and there and everywhere, and Johnny Ray will be partaking of the magic and mystery that’s part of his history!

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