If pharmaceutical companies really want their stocks to rise and profits to skyrocket, they will invent a pill that will block your brain’s ability to get an annoying, repetitive song trapped in your head. I’d be more than happy every month to fork over a double co-pay for that.
During rare times of silence between Other Bill and me, which is a nicer way of saying, “Whenever Other Bill exhibits the ability to keep his pie hole shut for more than three minutes,” he will often ask me, “What song are you singing?”
Because we are such a happy, loving couple (and the previous paragraph should prove that), if we don’t have a song in our hearts, we certainly have one in our heads. Usually this is a good thing, and it’s a good song. I will tell him the song in my head, and then he will tell me what’s in his.
There’s a thrift store we frequent some Saturdays, usually in the late morning. Because they have such a huge profit margin, this thrift store is capable of paying for satellite radio, and it is always tuned into a station that plays reruns of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 from the 70’s.
If you spent your teen years in the 1970’s, chances are you listened to “the countdown,” on the weekend. Also, if you were a teenager in the 70’s, you listened to a lot of pop song schlock. Disco was thriving in the seventies, and in order to have a hit, your song had to have a repetitive, meaningless but danceworthy theme. Because that’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, we liked it, uh-huh, uh-huh. That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, we liked it, uh-huh, uh-huh. We also liked shiny, flammable, suffocating nylon Nik-Nik shirts and baggy brushed denim pants with madras plaid cuffs. They were so baggy that you could put them on after you’d donned your platform heeled, patent leather checkerboard zip-up boots. Yes, I have pictures.
It was a bad, bad time for fashion and music, and it left many of us severely scarred with the inability to remove these lyrics from our heads even forty years later. Most of us, however, did move on to less ridiculous, safer clothing.
I have triggers. When we were in the thrift store Saturday, and Casey was introducing a song that “debuted this week at number thirty-nine by a Swedish group, two boys and two girls. The group is Abba, and the song? Fernando.” My first instinct was to run as fast as my ancient legs would propel me, out of the store and onto the street. You see, any song by Abba, KC and the Sunshine Band, and every Barry Manilow song except for “Mandy,” for some odd reason, will plant itself in my head like a fast-growing poison ivy vine, which will “itch” for sometimes 48 hours or more.
But I chose instead to stay inside, shopping for t-shirts of the humorous kind, hoping that Fernando would not pollute my head for days to come.
And luckily, it didn’t. I escaped unscathed and un-possessed by two boys and two girls from Sweden.
A day later, Other Bill and I were quietly working in the back yard on a project to prevent an area that had evolved into a hotspot of erosion. He was planting ground cover while I was building a brick border to re-route the water.
These are usually quiet times, where we are one with the dirt and other parts of nature. Suddenly, Other Bill, as his operating system compels him, broke the silence.
“What song are you singing?” he asked.
I understand this to mean not what song I am actually belting out, but have playing on a teeny unremovable LP turntable beneath my skull.
“I don’t know the title,” I said, “but Joan Baez is singing it.”
Then, just to be polite and reciprocal, I asked him, “What’s in your head?”
“Ah, so you were lulled in by Casey Kasem at the thrift store yesterday,” I said.
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
Before I could shovel out another trowel full of dirt, someone reached inside my brain, removed the Joan Baez album, smashed it to bits with a sledgehammer, and replaced it with the 45 of Fernando.
I don’t even know the words to Fernando. I don’t want to know the words to Fernando. I just want Fernando dead. All I know is, “There was something in the air that night, blah-blah-blah-blah, Fernando. There was something there blah-blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah-blah, Fernando.”
Two minutes after Other Bill’s song announcement, I said, “Goddammit!”
“What’s wrong?” he asked, ever concerned about my well-being.
“Now I’m singing Fernando.” I said. And it has now been playing in my head for almost 18 hours.
Sometimes if I am being annoying, and yes, naysayers, it’s true, there are times that this quiet, mousey, unassuming person can cross the line, Other Bill will ask me, “What was her name?”
That’s another one of my triggers. There is only one answer to that: “Her name was LO-la. She was a SHOW-girl. Blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah at the CO-pa. Copaca-BAAAAN-a. Music was blah-blah while the blah-blah was blah-blah at the COOOO-pa…”
I want to kill Other Bill when he asks that question, and I think I could get off with a justifiable homicide defense. “Copacabana” is my all-time worst stuck-song nightmare, and he knows it. It can play for months. And starting right now, no doubt, it will, just because I have written it here for your entertainment and my torture. I might have to start cutting myself.
So after I was possessed by Fernando, I tried really hard to go back to the Joan Baez song, but that record was shattered, and besides, I had forgotten it. I tried In the Quiet Morning, Stewball, Prison Trilogy, and even the more popular The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down and Diamonds and Rust. Nothing would stick. Joan had turned Teflon on me.
Then I decided to try something repetitive, but more peaceful, a song from a better decade, a song by Bob Dylan, the poet laureate of a generation, something inspiring, a protest song, a call to action. So I started humming Blowin’ in the Wind. I love Blowin’ in the Wind. To this day, I still get goosebumps when I hear Peter Paul and the late Mary, up the volume when they sing, “How many deaths will it take ‘til we know that too many people have died?”
And you know what? It worked. Thank you, Bob. Thank you Peter, Paul and late Mary.
So the next time you can’t get “shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake your BOO-ty, shake your BOO-ty” out of your head, I suggest you fire up Blowin’ in the Wind. It worked for me.
Of course, now I can’t get Blowin’ in the Wind out of my head, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
This essay has been brought to you as a public service announcement from the Seventies Music Revisionist Organization.
She was a showgirl.
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