Friday, September 29, 2017


What do these songs have in common…

 I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers
Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
 We are the Champions - Queen
 Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi
 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton
 YMCA - Village People
 Final Countdown - Europe
Uptown Funk - Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson
 Can't Get You Out of My Head - Kylie Minogue
 Hey Jude - The Beatles
Jingle Bells
 Friends - theme tune
 Wonderwall - Oasis
 Barbie Girl – Aqua
 The Time Warp - The Rocky Horror Picture Show
 Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
The Monkees - theme tune

Rehab - Amy Winehouse
Happy Days - theme tune
 Wannabe - Spice Girls
 Thriller - Michael Jackson
 Eastenders - theme tune
 Kung Fu Fighting
 Mmm Bop - Hanson
 Benny Hill theme
The Great Escape - Main Soundtrack
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Mary Poppins
pink Panther - theme tune

They have all made the top 50 of….earworms!

Those tunes that go round and round in your head, annoying, catchy and then just annoying.

Technical, intelligent people use phrases like "musical imagery repetition", "involuntary musical imagery", and "stuck song syndrome".   

But I will stick with annoying.

I thought it was just me until I read Desmond Bagley’s Flyaway where our hero is traipsing over the desert, up one side of the dune, down the other for days on end. He repeats to himself  “ One bloody foot before the next bloody foot."    "I fell into a blind, mindless rhythm and a chant was created in my mind what the Germans call an 'earworm' something that goes round and round in your head and you can't get rid of it."

Researcher Vicky Williamson at Goldsmiths, University of London suggests that earworms are affected by frequency ( having heard the song a lot) or timing ( having heard it recently). They can also be triggered by an experience that then triggered the memory of that song – and that song sticks and worms its way in.

According to research by James Kellaris, 98% of us experience earworms. The female gender * suffers from longer and more irritable earworms about both * genders suffer them equally often.
Kellaris produced statistics that suggest instrumentals only make up less than 8% of earworms, the rest are ‘lyrical.’  But who hums the Pink Panther theme tune without singing Da rum, Da rum, Da rum da rum da ram.

Or is that just me? Again?

British Journal of Psychology directly addressed the subject around 2010. Earworms are usually 15 to 30 seconds in length ( why do they seem to be there ALL day)  and, as you would expect, they are more common in those of us who are interested in, and who listen to music.

If you are stuck with an annoying earworm do a difficult task and the brain engages its memory to help out, setting the earworm free.

Music with an endless repetition of a single rhythmic beat makes an attractive earworm, as does a tune that is slightly discordant. I  suppose that’s because the brain hones in and waits for the slight 'off' note coming.

While reading around this subject I found this little snippet of interest.
“Jean Harris, who murdered Herman Tarnower, was obsessed by the song "Put the Blame on Mame", which she first heard in the film Gilda. She would recall this regularly for over 33 years and could hold a conversation while playing it in her mind.”

I mean who does that surprise? All women multitask.

And Alan reminded me of the case of Joe Simpson in the book  Touching the Void. He survived against all the odds after a mountaineering incident  in some very remote spot in  South America.
As he tries to stagger to safety, in his state of confusion, he suffered from an earworm so strong he thought he really could hear it. The song? Brown Girl in the Ring.
As if the poor guy hadn’t suffered enough.

I am away now with my pet earworm. Da Rum, da rum, da rum da rum da rum…

*Two genders. Two. Not 52. Case rests milord.

Anybody want to confess their own little earworm?

Caro Ramsay 29 09 2017


  1. Caro, Caro, Caro, I'm never bothered by ear worms. I attribute that to my tried and true method for avoiding them. Just keep repeating to yourself, "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?" That allows me to carry on as if nothing really matters.

  2. I am a champion of earworms my friend. And I shall keep fighting till the end...etc.... I guess I left that door wide open for you !!!!

  3. Ringed in disco light signage that would put Beetlejuice to shame. :)