Music on the Brain August 9, 2019 7:09 AM   Subscribe

As the end of another [insert your applicable adjective here] week grows nigh, let’s talk about having music on the brain. Is there always a soundtrack playing in your noggin? Or is everything quiet and that’s a bizarre question? On what occasions has your brain cued up a song with lyrics that fit the situation perfectly, or offered insights, comfort or humor that you needed? Ever find yourself thinking of a tune that would be utterly inappropriate in that moment should you accidentally start singing it? Can you “play” entire albums or symphonies in your head? Can you imagine familiar music differently, perhaps switching up the instrumentation, the meter or even the genre? Do you make up new lyrics to songs as a way to amuse yourself and others or remember things? And no conversation about music on the brain would be complete without a discussion of earworms… when does it happens to you, and do you have a trick for getting rid of them? Chime in!

This conversation-starter is part of the effort to continue Fizz’s end-of-week inquiries while he takes a break from the site. It’s a politics and grar-free zone, so be kind to yourself and others.

(Posted by r_n on behalf of carmicha to help avoid the repost time creeping too late!)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 7:09 AM (80 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

The answer is yes and They Might Be Giants. Or showtunes, if I have been in that mood lately. And yes, I have been on my bullshit since high school in the '90s. The phrase "don't let's start" is never not a trigger. Other triggers: "gone, gone," "can you picture [anything]," "I'm/we're going to the hardware store."
posted by Countess Elena at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is there always a soundtrack playing in your noggin?

There is, pretty much always, and I love it.

One of the things that happened last summer, right after I learned the full extent of my wife's affair and deception, was that it went away. As the weeks went on, I missed it, and it made me sad that the music was gone. At the time, I thought it was lost forever, and this was just another way in which I was now broken.

A few months later, I was backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail, near Grand Marais, MN. One night, after a particularly bad day (wet, cold, buggy, miserable) I tucked into my bag and tent early. As I started to doze off, I noticed I was humming to myself.

That was the first time in months I had a decent nights sleep.

I still haven't touched by banjo since then, and there are several Pandora stations and Spotify lists I just can't listen to yet. It's going to be years before I am right enough to hear them, I think. But I've been discovering new music, and at least my internal radio station came back.

I hope she never gets cancer, because then I will know what it would be to feel bad for cancer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:04 AM on August 9, 2019 [8 favorites]

I had a similar experience to Pogo … about 3-4 months after I had split from my husband, I started casually dating again. The day after my first good date, music all of a sudden had a completely new vibrancy. I wanted to listen to songs again, and really listen, instead of just having them on in the background as I muddled through the day. It was fantastic, and hasn't faded yet. Being in shitty situations dulls so much, erodes so much of your day-to-day enjoyment and parts of what makes life vibrant and wonderful little by little, almost unnoticeably until it comes back and you realize what disappeared. I still feel like I'm not back to my normal self, but I'm sure it'll come with time.

Do you make up new lyrics to songs as a way to amuse yourself and others or remember things? Yes, I do this all the time! Mostly when driving as a result of frustration at current traffic or other drivers' behavior , or when singing to/about my pets. Sometimes, my alternate lyrics are so good I can't go back to the original.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

I worked on stage crew and FOH for a musical theatre company as a side gig for a number of years and every once in a while, I'll remember one of the numbers I changed to fit my dogs. Then I get SUPER MOROSE
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:20 AM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ever find yourself thinking of a tune that would be utterly inappropriate in that moment should you accidentally start singing it?

My daughter is named Ivy, so I can never sing Mairzy Dotes to her.

Can you imagine familiar music differently, perhaps switching up the instrumentation, the meter or even the genre?

Well, I do sometimes hear music in my head without a concrete notion of instrumentation- just an abstract notion of the melody. One time I realized how tired I was because the abstract notes of O Holy Night brought tears to my eyes.

Do you make up new lyrics to songs as a way to amuse yourself and others or remember things?

I repurpose melodies all the time in service of telling my kids that it's time for their bath, or telling my dog that she is a dog, etc.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 8:23 AM on August 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

On what occasions has your brain cued up a song with lyrics that fit the situation perfectly, or offered insights, comfort or humor that you needed?

So, in about 1994 I had an enormously major breakup; I basically kicked out the guy I'd been living with for 3 years. (Boy HOWDY should I have done so sooner.) It was at the beginning of summer, and it was a major upheaval. But I was still trying to stiff-upper-lip things and go about my business.

That was also about the time that the film Cool Runnings was out; and one of the things on the soundtrack was a Cliff Richards cover of the song "I Can See Clearly Now". And one afternoon, I stepped out of work to pick up something at the salad bar at the local bodega. And as I was there picking my things for my salad, suddenly the muzak in the store started playing that song. And I don't know why it caught me, but I was listening to the lyrics and it felt like an enormous hand was reaching down and patting me on the head and telling me it was all going to be okay, and I ended up bursting into tears while standing there in front of the lettuce or whatever. I pulled myself together, stepped aside to finish listening to the song and then went on my way.

Next day, same thing - I was at the bodega getting a salad and the same song came on. This time, I laughed, thought "okay, message received," and went on.

Ever since, every so often when I am undergoing a period of some tension and worry, every so often I'll happen to hear that song by chance, and I take it as a cosmic sign that "it'll all work out, you'll be okay."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 AM on August 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Is there always a soundtrack playing in your noggin?

Yeah, last night I answered this ask with a link to this archive of American Top 40, so the soundtrack is currently 100% a medley of hits from 1983.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:24 AM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I rewrite songs so that they are about cats. I once rewrote a very upsetting PJ Harvey song about Gallipoli because it was really haunting me. Now it is about some kittens playing in cardboard boxes instead of gunners waiting in the copses.

I'd say I almost always have a phrase of a song in my head, only sometimes related to what's actually happening around me. If I'm very tired, sometimes I get a song stuck in my head to such a point that it makes me nauseated and the only solution is to go to sleep. Other times it's about repeating a particularly enchanting lyric.
posted by Frowner at 8:32 AM on August 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

What happens with me is that I hear a phrase that cues up a song lyric, and then I get the bit of the song with that lyric stuck in my head, often for literally weeks. Mostly, this is not a problem, and I barely even notice it. Incidentally, I have "Two Tickets to Paradise" looping in my head right now, and I honestly have no idea why.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:34 AM on August 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Can you imagine familiar music differently, perhaps switching up the instrumentation, the meter or even the genre?

my head converts indie/folk music into hardcore/thrash metal covers amazingly well. it's a shame I'm not a producer, really.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Recently I've been trying to work out in my heada reggae version of "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel. Seems like it's not as crazy as it sounds, although it'd probably end up like UB40.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Growing up, the background noise to my childhood was classical music. Pretty much the way I knew my parents were awake or at home would be that they would turn on the local classical music radio station. I grew to loathe life with a soundtrack not of my choice, so once I was on my own, I began to enjoy the blessed silence. Now, what I hear in my head is either silence or, if I can evoke it during times of stress, nature sounds. My favorite is the sound of trees with the wind rushing through them. Second choice is ocean waves with occasional sea birds. The hush after a big snowfall with just a bit of wind would be the third. My husband likes to fall asleep to music, but any kind of music just usually keeps me awake, even the kind supposedly designed to relax you or put you to sleep. Thank god for headphones.

I do of course sing silly song bits to my cat, changing the lyrics to suit him.

Earworm wise, there is a section of the city with a ton of food trucks. Particularly in the summer there are a lot of ice cream and other dessert trucks that congregate there playing songs. Those, of course, become stuck in my head and are really hard to dislodge ("Turkey in the Straw" ... ugh!)
posted by gudrun at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2019

I do tend to get songs in my head. At times of high stress they can be insistent and impossible to ignore, and this can feel ... ego-dystonic, similar to how I imagine OCD feels. Now that I have discovered a helpful mindfulness meditation prompt, courtesy of a chance encounter at a MeFi meetup a couple months ago, I have an easy way to squelch the troublesome ones. (An old friend had another surefire remedy — at the mention of having a song in my head he would belt out the main riff from “My Sharona” — knowing, of course, that the cure was worse than the disease.)

My latest (ego-syntonic) obsession has been Andrew Bird. “Sisyphus” from his newest album is amazingly, deliciously earwormy.
posted by eirias at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Okay here's my thing that is continually delighting me: I'm listening to a TON of Latin music lately, and I have no clue how to speak Spanish. But the songs are so great, so memorable and wonderful that even without music I hear them clearly and can groove along to my own internal memory-music... and it sounds normal and perfect in my brain.... but ... I'm sure there's no real way to translate what I *believe* I'm "hearing" in my head into verbiage, Spanish or no. I just love this phenomenon; it's like having the IDEA of 78 crows in your head... but how do you know there are 78? it's the idea of the crows.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:30 AM on August 9, 2019

Dressed to kill, me too! I speak some Spanish so there are words and bits of phrases that I understand, but never the whole song and I can still sing it in my head.

I have a song playing in my head pretty much constantly, in a pleasant sense rather than stressfully.

I’m glad I can still enjoy music in times of stress, and have done a lot of desk dancing recently (in my own office luckily!).
posted by ellieBOA at 10:06 AM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was in Rome, I could not get the Bob Dylan song, Paint Your Masterpiece out of my head. "The streets of Rome are paved with rubble..."

I get admonished by both my kids and my gf for always having a line from a Grateful Dead song to say about almost every situation.

Music is my friend. We sometimes don't get along, but we always come back to each other.
posted by AugustWest at 10:07 AM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I can sometimes go for a week or more with a particular snippet of song that seems to play more or less as an endless semi-conscious loop through the background noise of my brain, with fragmented snippets rising up out of nowhere at random times. Lately, it's been Pulling Mussels from a Shell by Squeeze (don't ask me why, I have no clue). Before that it was Eric's Trip by Sonic Youth. Other past ones I remember are Bonfires on the Heath by The Clientele, and London by Benjamin Clementine. There is probably some cryptic connection between all these, but like much of what passes through the brain of this middle aged fool, I have no idea why or how they got wedged in there....
posted by Chrischris at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2019

All tunes in my head end up being brawked by chickens. All. Of. Them. Chickens a go go, all the time. Wouldn't want it any other way.
posted by scruss at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

Well timed! A colleague turned up in a NIN shirt today, so I have had various Nine Inch Nails songs stuck in my head all morning.
Worst earworm was He Don't Love You by Human Nature the night before and during a uni exam. Didn't help that I hated the song to begin with.
posted by Kris10_b at 10:19 AM on August 9, 2019

There’s a guy in my church choir whose mental radio station broadcasts songs based on whatever words he hears in conversation. Like, if you use a phrase that reminds him of a Broadway showtune, he will launch into singing that tune. We have decided to find this funny and charming, because he’s the best bass we could possibly ask for.

One Easter morning between services, he was driving one of our altos nuts with this. A fellow soprano and I decided to try to provoke him deliberately, every way we could. The weird thing is, he either knew what we were doing and refused to play along, or we kept accidentally referencing music that was in his blind spot.

“Boy, I feel like this morning has gone on forever. I would walk 500 miles to go take a nap right now!”

(We both look at bass guy. Nothing.)

“Tell me about it. I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door.”

(Bass guy blinks into space.)

“I have half a mind to skip out on the 10:30 mass. know the rules, and so do I.”


Eventually we gave up. At least the alto got some relief.
posted by armeowda at 10:23 AM on August 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

Lotsa 'shuffle' type remixes via YT. Couple of weeks now; still gets me out of the chair and moving; and I've been able to take the beat/rhythm to the bike path, and into the gym. Abs! Back after being gone for a few years. Yeah!
posted by buzzman at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2019

SO many answers to this one.

I do usually have something or other playing in my head. After I discovered Hamilton, of course, it was non-stop Hamilton for about six months. That is some seriously catchy stuff.

I do have a handful of songs I can choose to play in my head to dispel an earworm. I've also found that doing mental practice of songs I'm learning is a great way to get rid of an earworm. My brain doesn't have the new song fully encoded in my neurons yet, so it's happy to chew on it and equally happy to let it peter out, leaving me earworm-free.

There are a few albums I can play in my head, although I haven't listened to most of them for such a long time that they've faded some.

I've been thinking a lot lately about two categories of albums:
* albums I played over and over and know by heart
* classic or influential albums I've never heard

I was pretty sure I'd at least listened to Diamonds and Rust before, but I put it on the other day and realized immediately that the only song I knew was the title track - and I expected the whole album to be just like that. It is not all just like that.

There are so many albums I want to sit down and really listen to.

But the funny and odd thing my brain does with music is this: it will often find lyrics that rhythmically fit other songs and mash them up in my head. This seems to happen a lot with Pete Townshend songs.

So, to the tune of "Camelot":

He seems to be completely unreceptive
The tests we gave him showed no sense at all
His eyes react to light, the dials detect it -
In Camelot

And to the tune of "Always True To You In My Fashion":

And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song -
But I'm always true to you darling in my fashion,
Yes I'm always true to you darling in my way.

Ah, brains. Endlessly entertaining.
posted by kristi at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2019

15 or so years ago, I had a span of at least a year when my car's sound system died (too cheap to fix it) and an hour commute for work each day. No more iPod or CDs or even the radio. And it turned out that it was really soothing to have 30 minutes of silence to ramp up for my day and 30 minutes of silence to decompress before I got home.

Now I work from home and have music playing as much as I can, even to just help drown out the neighborhood noise. But sometimes, quiet can be nice.

As for ear worms, I've heard that it's your brain longing for completion and that the best remedy is to listen to the song in full so you can mentally move on.
posted by Twicketface at 10:38 AM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've had INXS's "Mediate" stuck on a loop in my brain since 1987
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:49 AM on August 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

There are a bunch of jazz tunes and lyrics that I've come up with or heard alternatives for; some that come immediately to mind are:

I've Sewn a Costume on Her Face (I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face)
I'm Getting Cement All Over You (I'm Getting Sentimental Over You)
Ukraine Waterway/Crimea River (Cry Me a River)
Girl With Emphysema (Girl From Ipanema)
Take A Train (Take the 'A' Train)
A Lunch Supreme (A Love Supreme)
I Fall Asleep Too Easily (I Fall in Love Too Easily)
Lester Limps In (Lester Leaps In)
In a Strident Way (In a Silent Way)
O, Deviled Egg (Old Devil Moon)
Days of Wine and Cirrhosis (Days of Wine and Roses)
In a Detrimental Mood (In a Sentimental Mood)
You Shlepped Into My Dream (You Stepped Out of a Dream)
My Various Things (My Favorite Things)
Stolen Instruments (Stolen Moments)
Benny's From Heaven (Pennies From Heaven)

"My Romance doesn't need a blue baboon (lagoon) standing by"

I know there are others but I'm drawing a blank at the moment (probably because of the earworm I gave myself with that link above)...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:29 AM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, this is a good one -

Me in late August 1984 - me and my BFFs are talking about being on the cusp of high school and are little freaked out. We hatch a plan that the summer after we graduate high school, the three of us will take a road trip. We quickly settle on New Orleans as the destination, and the idealizing gets us through several months of high school.

Me in 1985 - super-enormous fan of Sting. Dream Of The Blue Turtles is on heavy rotation with me, and Sting is pretty much the only reason I even read Interview With A Vampire. That reinforces the New Orleans aspirations as well.

Me in 1988 - I'm just starting college. My friend and I never took that road trip. But I aspire to visit New Orleans someday nevertheless. On my first week in the vocal class in acting conservatory, the professor has asked us to take a week thinking about it and then each pick a song that we will work on for the entire semester. When we come back the next week, all the guys have selected either "Music of the Night" or "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." All the other girls have selected either "On My Own" or "Memory" from Cats. I, however, have selected "Moon Over Bourbon Street"; when I announce that this is the song I will work on, the teacher does a take, and then simply says "thank you," before going on to the next person.

The training does little for my actual performative aspect of that song, but I"m a little more confident singing it.

Me in 1996 - I've started seeing someone who's also really aspiring to visit New Orleans and we start wish-listing about maybe the two of us visiting someday.

Me in 1997 - the dude has broken up with me. We never visited New Orleans. And then he gets sent there for a business trip and I say FUCK IT, and plan a visit myself. I go in August - it's cheaper and I avoid the Mardi Gras mess - and I spend a week exploring and wandering and discovering.

At one point, one evening, I decide to wander the length of Bourbon Street to the far eastern end of the French Quarter. I pass through all the random bars and clubs and juke joints to the far edge where the Quarter borders with Marginy; it's a little darker and a little quieter and more isolated, and while I don't feel unsafe I realize that I'm not on familiar territory and maybe I should turn back.

I start walking back west on Bourbon Street, on nearly-empty sidewalks in front of townhouses, towards the bustle and commotion towards the middle of the Quarter about ten blocks ahead. I glance up, and there is a moon. I suddenly start smiling.

And singing.

"There's a moon over Bourbon Street tonight,
I see faces as they pass beneath the pale lamplight...."

I sing through the whole song as I walk, wrapping up by the time I get back to the busy part of the Quarter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 AM on August 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

When I am hungry and in the middle of something I need to finish before I can eat I always have the theme music for Sanford and Son playing in my head. I have no idea why.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:41 AM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

And in the "this is a musical thing my brain does and I don't know why" department:

For reasons that I have been unable to ascertain, my brain has permanently spliced part of the Schoolhouse Rock song about nouns into "The Bare Necessities" from Jungle Book:

"I mean the bare necessities, Old Mother Nature's recipes,
That brings the bare necessities of life.
You know they're nouns, you know they're nouns, ohhhhh....."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2019

kevinbelt: Recently I've been trying to work out in my heada reggae version of "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel. Seems like it's not as crazy as it sounds, although it'd probably end up like UB40.

This makes me think of Bill Bailey's Jamaican Dub Reggae version of the Downton Abbey theme.

Kris10_b: A colleague turned up in a NIN shirt today, so I have had various Nine Inch Nails songs stuck in my head all morning.

Trent's "Supernaut" got me through a tough spot recently, allowing me to (mentally) shout along.

When people say "that's/ you're unbelievable" in a huffy sort of way, EMF pops into my head. "Oh, wha-the-fu-, you're unbelievable!"

Latest love: Dais Records, with bands that range from 80s sad/ dark pop songs to synth-laden post rock, to something angrier and more intense (Bandcamp x3). I caught those bands live at Meow Wolf, and it was totally worth being ridiculously tired the next day.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:06 PM on August 9, 2019

Is there always a soundtrack playing in your noggin?

There is, pretty much always, and I love it.

Me too. During slow periods in quiet places I try to play back certain favored tunes; sometimes this works, for a while, but I can never hear a complete song, my brain shifts gears.

I couldn't get the Bob Dylan song, 'Paint Your Masterpiece' out of my head.

Same here, AugustWest -- though I missed Rome, I did pass through Venice and Florence during my first and longest European trip, in 1977, and towards the end, after many countries and being abroad for many weeks it was The Band's version -- especially
"Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola..."

Another line from that song, also when traveling, almost always when coming out of the jetway and into the concourse: "Everyone was there to greet me when I came inside." Even though nobody actually is, anymore.

posted by Rash at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2019

Right now, since half an hour back, it's (for obscure reasons) Brahms's double concerto that's playing. Since I don't really know the piece well, I mostly hear the first theme and some snippets. Earlier today I was singing the finale of Liszt's first piano concerto, making my wife laugh. I can play entire soundtracks in my head, if I know the pieces well. There is always some music sounding; sometimes only some obnoxious harmonic patters re-playing again and again, but often more than that. I can practice in my head, which usually helps me to find some sleep (but occasionally makes me nervous and wide awake).
I believe it's never been different for me. I chunked my entire childhood into week- or month- blocks, defined by the music I was hearing in my head.
posted by Namlit at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Whenever I fly into NYC, the minute I see the skyline I start to hear “A Heart in New York” sung by Art Garfunkel in my head.
posted by bookmammal at 2:03 PM on August 9, 2019

Any time I'm at the airport, this song plays in my head.

I often wake up with songs playing in my head, usually things that I heard on my commute home the day before, which means I often wake up with David Lee Roth, Kip Winger, or Joe Elliott singing in my brain space.
posted by hanov3r at 2:37 PM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of the many reasons I still miss my father is that I could say "Hey, what is this tune I have stuck in my head?", hum a line, and he'd think for two seconds and then say "Oh, that would be the Brahms Violin Concerto" or "That's Mahler 2, except you're mixing it up a little with the scherzo from the Pathetique" or "That's from the Tommy Flanagan album I like" or...and so on. Now I have to figure it out for myself.
For reasons beyond my control I have been listening to Rachmaninoff's Third Symphony on repeat this week, so right now my head is full of schmaltzy Russian proto-movie music. Some of it is really hot, though.
posted by huimangm at 3:13 PM on August 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

I've always been able to 'play back' songs in my head. Being on Lexapro accentuates the 'ear wormy' part of this - sometimes someone only has to mention a song for me to be stuck with it for ages. My internal jukebox also seems to be wired to my subconscious and will play all sorts of situationally inappropriate songs. At present I have New Order's 'True Faith' stuck in my head, thanks to an Instagram comment I read yesterday.
posted by Chairboy at 3:14 PM on August 9, 2019

Yup, pretty frequent soundtrack and earworms too. Often they're mash ups - Right now it's a combo of Gotta get up (thanks, Russian Doll), and Hard Knock Life.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2019

There’s always at least one musical thing happening in my head. My ex spouse does not have an internal soundtrack and always thought this was weird. Sometimes it’s the last song I heard, sometimes a mood-appropriate classical snippet, sometimes I just don’t know. I often play whatever I want in my head for the morning right before going into work.

A few somgs are predictable (like if something is half done or halfway over, I get Livin On A Prayer by Bon Jovi stuck in my head, because some fool decided our school chorus should perform that when I was in sixth grade). And sometimes it’s more than one bit of music at the same time.
posted by centrifugal at 4:14 PM on August 9, 2019

Yes, there's pretty much constantly something playing in there unless I'm actively talking/listening to someone. The only times there haven't been is when I've been deeply depressed and suffering from anhedonia. It's pretty random; I'd say about 30% of the time it's music I've been listening to or playing recently, 30% of the time it's video game soundtracks, 35% of the time it's improvisation in a random style based on no specific tune, and 5% of the time it's some horrible earworm that I can't dislodge.

When I'm strongly focused on something like data analysis, whatever's playing in my head tends to spontaneously come out as humming or whistling, which I'm sure annoys my office mates, so I try to tamp down on that when I'm not alone.
posted by biogeo at 6:31 PM on August 9, 2019

I've had Queen playing in my head ever since I finally got to watch Good Omens.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 6:56 PM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't have a soundtrack in my head all the time, which is a good thing because I find it impossible to concentrate on work if there's music playing. But often my brain will come up with melodies and arrangements that I really want to write down but can't since I never received any helpful instruction in musical theory or notation :(
posted by Panthalassa at 8:16 PM on August 9, 2019

I am an enthusiastic Singer to Cats. A favorite is to the tune of “Rock me Amadeus”:

Little kitty, little kitty...little kitty
Little kitty, little kitty...little kitty
Little kitty, little kitty...
Little kitty, little kitty.

Rock me, little kitty!

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:39 PM on August 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

there is music (sweet sweet) sweet music in my mind. not so much a soundtrack, although sometimes something a little like that, as shreds of melodies, lyrics, motifs etc. are kicked off by something mental or environmental -- often the rhythm of some lingering phrase of some passing thought evoking a lyric -- and then by free association, imperfect memory & confusion.

often i wake with an inexplicable song in mind, usually not attributable to anything in my recent conscious awareness, which i don't even notice until sometime in my morning ablutions, typically a line from the verse of a classic rock song and some suggestions of the beginning of the chorus or hook. usually i wonder about this song. why this part of this song. & passively attribute it to a lingering poignant savor of an unremembered dream. i don't think i ever try to banish this song from my awareness; sometimes i track it down on the internet, as one recent occasion with elton john's i guess that's why they call it the blues, sometimes i plumb memory and ability at a musical instrument. sometimes i sing a different song.

i get earworms & have played the earworm game, and developed an inoculation technique. relevant excerpt from blogmusing on earworm incident:
there are solutions from the folklore: one old saw prescribes simply singing the song aloud.
when someone [in a shared space] does sing, whistle or hum, it may relieve the singer's plaint, but it may also lead to transmission of the earworm. if language is a virus, song is among its best replication strategies, and earworms, its most virulent strains. this, in turn, may lead to the earworm game: trading volleys of fragments of catchy jingles with other persons in an effort to secure the most mindshare for one's proffer.

it was learning, through the dynamic of this competitive effort, to immediately start thinking of another known earworm upon recognizing one, that led me to the notion of inoculation. just about every american since the invention of mtv, if not the phonograph or radio, has the resources already at hand to inoculate [them]self! the inoculation may be performed by playing the earworm game alone and as quickly as one can for some time, but essentially inheres in developing the capacity to propose catchy passages of songs in rapid sequence: a denial of service defense to deploy (out loud or internally) against any earworm assault.
can't take my eyes off of you will obliterate almost any other earworm, but might need to be dissipated pretty promptly with fernando and blue bayou (and even still, that horn hook is rough).

a person in office space once remarked that another person's ringtone reminded them of the brass fanfare at the beginning of that ultimatum-from-authority bit in les miserables: "you at the barricade listen to this: no one is coming to help you to fight..." and so on, and that person was right and now i cannot unhear it. it is okay, though sometimes the other people at the bus stop may wonder why i suddenly belt out "you're on your own, you have no friends, give up your guns or die!" another colleague's ringtone (i don't understand why it doesn't just vibrate!) sounds like the chicken dance song, but at about half-tempo and on ethereal synth, and sinks that damn song in earwormwise real good every time, but the people around me don't hear it in the ringtone.

child of people who sing at their friends' and loved ones' funerals, i have my share of inappropriate musical reactions and invocations. usually suppressed. by me. more occasionally suppressed by the mods, which, probably good work, y'all. i disturbingly recall passages from theodore dubois' the seven last words of christ motet, to which i was hyperexposed as an impressionable youth by dint of a sometimes touring community chorus my parents sang in, which, being a passion play, has some bits that ring as a bit antisemitic. suffice it to say, any time the last item on a list is "and the juice," in my mind i'm hearing the fifth word right before it gets to the "be his blood on us and our children" chorus. shame; some lovely music in there. handel's messiah, to which similar exposure, not nearly as troubling.

i do not replay entire album- or symphonic-length works by memory, directed awareness. except those i have learned to perform. yes i imagine rearrangements of reinstrumentalizations of works: i don't really float or fly among the celestial pythagorean spheres, but understand almost everything musical imperfectly through guitar and piano lenses.

yes: i substitute lyrics. on purpose; by accident. for fun and satire. just because. and, i guess, in pursuit of creative/artistic endeavors. am not usually consciously directing it when the initial relyricization occurs, but by a couple lines in intentionality is engaged and i try to develop it, on not. "if i only had dick cheney," "i want some yellowcake on my plate," "50 ways to levy the euros," and most recently "both sides now, now," are a few examples. back in the coffee-house days, there was such occasional ambitious mishaps as "babe i'm gonna stray cat strut you," "it's a wonderful night for riders on the moondance," "aguas de prudence," and "for what it's worth, you can't always get the wind on the wild side to cry mary."
posted by 20 year lurk at 12:45 AM on August 10, 2019

I get songs stuck in my head when I'm reading something and there's a phrase that is also a lyric from a song I have memorized (of which there are about five thousand, literally.) I usually don't notice this unless it's a really unusual song, then I might make the connection with what I was reading a few minutes before. So I suppose there's always a song in my head, since I spend most of my time awake these days reading!

Right now the song in my head is Zoo Eyes, by Aldous Harding. I probably read the words "What am I doing" somewhere. Great song!
posted by mollywas at 12:46 AM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

sorry: chiming in to correct error. in the dubois passion play motet, the blood bit is from the first word; here (there, above) in the fifth word, the jews merely "rail upon" and shout "vah!" at in dramatic developing harmonies & mock thirsty jesus, telling him to climb on down if he's god. pretty sure it's all gospel-text based. not that that really makes it any more palatable.
posted by 20 year lurk at 1:06 AM on August 10, 2019

Oh god, the baseline to the Yardbirds’ Smokestack Lightning. I can hear the song in all its glory when I focus.

Listening to very fast bluegrass picking like Tony Rice removes earworms for me. Much needed in a household with a 2nd grader who has learned to operate Alexa.
posted by The Toad at 8:19 AM on August 10, 2019

Some years ago, when we were trying to see if the marriage was salvageable, we went to dinner. As we walked in, Tammy Wynette's My D-I-V-O-R-C-E Became Final Today started playing. Prescient.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on August 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

The coffee machine in my office makes a grunt just like the opening riff of Blue Orchid by the White Stripes. The constant beep of electric airport carts is just the same as the one in Editors' Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool. I often find myself, hours out from experiencing one of these things, wondering why that particular song is stuck in my head.

I'm very prone to earworms, which I suspect is part of being neurodivergent (ADHD). Sometimes it feels like it's the same song for weeks, and only a stickier one will drive it out. My partner is sometimes quite exasperated by my singing random phrases of the current tune, but I restrain myself a lot on his behalf!

I do also make up lyrics about my cats, which is probably a universal behaviour of cat owners. To the tune of Sex Bomb:

Cat head, cat head
You're my cat head
You come up for cuddles when I'm lying on the bed
Cat head, cat head
You're my cat head
And really you just wanna be fed

posted by daisyk at 10:17 AM on August 10, 2019

My wife once went to see an outdoor play in Toronto's Ireland Park. It was about the potato famine and the Irish diaspora, and it was very sad. At one point, during one of the saddest, most emotionally-charged scenes, a chartered party boat floated past and everyone could hear the dance music and the DJ - "Y'ALL HAVIN' A GOOD TIME? LET'S MAKE THIS THE CRAZIEST BOAT PARTY EVARRRRRR!!!! *wild cheers*", etc. She said the fact that the actors managed to stay in character made it some of the best acting she's ever seen.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:51 AM on August 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

To actually answer one of your questions, in my middle age the default song that seems to pop into my head whenever I'm walking around and not concentrating on anything in particular is Samba de Orfeu.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:55 AM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

My former office used to play a cruel game where people would try to infect others with earworms, since they seem to operate like viruses: think early rick-rolling. After a few months of this activity, some people espoused the theory that an earworm could only be eradicated when it was replaced by another. But it takes increasingly powerful earworms to do the trick. So here it is, the nuclear option, safety-wrapped for your protection:
It's a Small World After All.

posted by carmicha at 12:34 PM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had a dream once in which The Decemberists performed "I Got Stripes" by Johnny Cash and I wish there were some way I could reach them and communicate what a great thing this would be, because it was fantastic.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:10 PM on August 10, 2019

A couple of nights ago I had a dream where Orson Welles was doing a scene in a movie where his dialogue was the lyrics from "Take Your Mama" by The Scissor Sisters, which he did as a monologue, and while he wasn't singing, exactly, his vocal delivery had a lot of the same inflections as the singer's in the original song. It was also a weirdly fantastic dream.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:19 PM on August 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

I stumbled across the Anatolian Rock Revival Project the other day and have been slowly working my way through the playlist while puttering around the house. Poking around the wikipedia led me to Nepalese Metal, which wound up being a tinge too dark for my tastes. Despite not being a fan of the actual music, I very much enjoyed the process of discovery along the way.
posted by carsonb at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I am road tripping and I get to Barstow, it is always Hotel California. This whole month has been, Quicksilver's long version of Who Do You Love? Then Mona. Why I am trapped in 1969, I can't tell you, I can only ask, who do YOU Love?
posted by Oyéah at 2:46 PM on August 10, 2019

Can you “play” entire albums or symphonies in your head?

I spent much of my childhood as an only child out in the country, and I was alone a lot. One thing I remember doing to pass the time was try to "play" two different songs in my head at the same time. I'd start thinking through the Star Wars theme, for example, and then a few bars in start layering some church hymn (when I was young, Star Wars and hymns were most of the music I knew), so while my mental orchestra was blasting dut-dut-dut-duuuuum-duuuum, my mental choir was warbling through "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross...." I found it an enormous challenge to keep both songs going at once without forgetting one or skipping parts, and I doubt I really did it successfully often, but it was an idea I tinkered with for several years when nothing else was going on.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:53 PM on August 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Card Cheat's story above reminded me of a similar tale from a friend. He was playing Friar Lawrence in a Shakespeare-in-the-park production of Romeo and Juliet, with one performance in Brooklyn Bridge Park overlooking the water.

And he swears up and down that one night, as he was doing the scene where he hatches the plan about the apothecary giving Juliet the sleeping draught, a party boat cruised by - and it was blasting Bel Biv DeVoe's Poison.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 PM on August 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

In the mid-90s I was part of the punk scene in a small city that drew in the smaller-town punks from around the area. Nearby there was a logging town that was appropriately named Lumby. There were a few girls who'd hitchhike down from Lumby to see punk shows, and everyone just called them the Lumby Girls – I never knew their names.

Yesterday, for no reason, to the tune of "Jessie's Girl," I found myself murmur-singing, "I wish I was a Lumby Girl / I wish I was a Lumby Girl / Why can't I be from Lumby like that..."
posted by Beardman at 4:20 PM on August 10, 2019

There's often some kind of music going on in my head, even if it's riffing on ambient noises or playing counterpoint to them. As a highly distractible child grown into a highly distractible adult I kind of wonder if it evolved as a coping mechanism by a brain that can struggle to focus well.

Despite that I don't always get trapped by earworms, or at least they don't seem to persist as long for me as for other people. Which is handy because I'd once worked in an office where coworkers would infect each other with earworms competitively. Which is how I learned that at the copa, copacobana into conversation was usually sufficient to get them to leave me alone.

More seriously again, currently there's a song by Richard Dawson has been in my head almost constantly since I heard it a week ago. And it's not really because of the melody (it's not that catchy) or arrangement (kind of metal-ish, a genre I usually can't get into), it's because the whole package is, I dunno, highly relatable as the kids say these days; on mltshp I called it "A letter to old friends set to music": Jogging.
posted by ardgedee at 4:23 PM on August 10, 2019

Have I got music on the brain right now. Oh god, have I.

Last night was the opening night of the opera I'm working on. It's 4 hours 20 minutes *of music*, plus two intervals. Rehearsals were extremely long, gruelling and intense. (Major roles are double cast, so there were 2 days of Sitzprobe, 4 dress rehearsals... for those who have to do every show, it was A Lot.)

This show has taken a toll on all of us: our friendships, our relationships, our health. I'm typing this with my left hand. It turns out that typing over a thousand surtitles while trying to take up as little space as possible in a cramped dressing room, while also erasing and rewriting pencil marks in a 400-page score, is bad for you. Shoulder tendonitis is painful and limiting, but other company members have worse injuries. I am anxiously watching one particular friend and colleague spend what looks like the last of his physical and mental health onstage. He's being a hero and doing this so the show can go on, but I honestly wish he'd put himself first, even if it meant we had to cancel.

On the positive side: The cast are all singing at their absolute best, and most of the voices are truly outstanding. Also, this is the most racially and gender-diverse opera cast I've ever worked with. Both male leads are sung by Black singers, and one crucial scene in which the hothead romantic lead is being counselled by the older wisdom-figure resonates in a new way because of that. My trans and NB colleagues are great onstage and off. (It's been interesting to see who still refers to the chorus using gendered terms, and who's switched on enough to say "Upper voices" or call them by voice-type.)

And I guess the silver lining to all the stress has been that we've pulled together in support of each other. This opera is set in a town, and the town has become real: we've become a community, a village of sorts. Complete with annoyances and irritants, but thankfully none too bad. And when the chorus sing their praise and love for a particular character, they mean every note.

The reviews have, so far, been unexpectedly kind. This time last week I didn't know if we'd have a show. We narrowly avoided an artistic decision which would have been disastrous. Right now I'm counting "get from start to finish without anything terrible happening" as a win. But I'm numb and exhausted, many of my colleagues are even more so, and tomorrow we do it all again.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:28 PM on August 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

This morning, sunup, end of my bike ride, I'm doing my pushups on this one overlook that gives a particularly nice view of downtown Austin, our beautiful new skyline, different color lighting on so many of these sweet new high-rises and while it's sunrise it's not *bright* yet so the colors still come through nicely, gray rags of clouds getting blown out showing the blue skies behind, ducks quacking as ducks will when they're getting about their day, and this time of year the bats turn a little bit nuts and fly during daylight so I saw a lot of them, I'm sweating like a beast, sucking down electrolyte water, happy as hell, and I don't know the whole song -- or any whole song -- but "It's A Beautiful Morning" by The Rascals kept on playing in my head and in my heart and I'd burst out the hook a time or two and sing it accurately to the original as I am able, like they do, "Mawning" and not "Morning"
posted by dancestoblue at 6:37 PM on August 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I always have background music playing in my head. The default for the last fifteen years or so is the theme from The Odd Couple. I also get earworms, they are often whatever song(s) I've been recently listening to. They play over the background music and appear in my dreams. Lately it's been "Short Side of Nothing" by Los Lobos and "Roscoe" by Midlake. The only way I can get rid of chronic earworms is by listening to them obsessively. Acute earworms I can make go away by wrapping them up with a big finish. The background music is always there.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:41 PM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, don't anyone reading this think of any song that you hate as you read, don't think of that one horrible song that's gotten into your head and you've not in any way been able to make it go on its way, because if you don't think of that horrible song and how much you hate it -- nay, *loathe* it -- then it won't be able to do that to you right now, thank goodness ........
posted by dancestoblue at 6:48 PM on August 10, 2019

There's often a soundtrack in my head. What's really weird is at times a song will fire up in my head that I haven't heard in ages. Earworms make sense - "I listened to that song yesterday, and now it's stuck in my head." But this will be like "huh, I'm getting the chorus from a song I haven't listened to in at least five years stuck in my head."

I fight earworms with other earworms. I know that Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust" or Throwing Muses' "Not Too Soon" will fight off lesser earworms.

I can kinda sorta play albums in my head, but not 100%. Stuff crashes together, I miss bits, I don't have a really perfect memory for music or lyrics. Though I'm much more likely to remember things from my teen years than stuff I picked up in my 30s or 40s.
posted by jzb at 10:07 AM on August 11, 2019

I usually have one track of the current earworn running through my waking hours.
This does not stop me from quoting song lyrics to different songs when they seem relevant to the conversation. IT certainly never stops me from writing alternate lyrics - a family tradition going back to at least the early 70s, long before Mr. Yankovic appeared on the national scene.
One of my earliest memories is my father making up sarcastic nonsense lyrics to "Fernando" by ABBA on the spot while riding in a car. Nonsense lyrics about a dirty undershirt on top of a garbage can - "and it smelled like Marlon Brando."
My wife, pre-dating me, would sing sentences to statements to her kitties, usually either to "The Hallelujah Chorus" (FURR-y Kit-ties) or to "For the Love of Money" (Kitties-kitties-kitties-kitties... KIITTies).
On the earworm front though.. I tend to use "YMCA" or "It's Raining Men" as clear-out songs. Especially when the earworm is in my wife's head.

"I have {x song} stuck in my head."
"DO not -"

The all -time champion weird earworm so far, personally, was a month or two ago when I watched Overly Sarcastic Productions' "Philosophers Song", then looked up the lyrics to "I Am the Very Model of a Heroine Barbarian" and "Every Major's Terrible" and the original "Major General's Song", so that for two and a half weeks I had random bits of all of those plus Lehrer's "Elements" and Bel Kaufman's "I am the very model of a modern teacher, well aware" (from Up the Down Staircase) lyrics playing.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 10:49 AM on August 11, 2019

I fight earworms with other earworms. I know that Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust" or Throwing Muses' "Not Too Soon" will fight off lesser earworms.

I once heard the song "Low Rider" described as "the universal solvent for shit stuck in your head" and can report it works exactly as advertised.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Well it's certainly working for me; unfortunately I didn't have an earworm before but now it's nothing but "low - ri - der"...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a game I play with a friend of mine where we share the songs that are unexpectedly playing in our heads when we wake up, with those being unexpected because we haven't thought about or listened to them in a while. One time I woke up to "Never Gonna Give You Up" playing in my head, and once your own brain rickrolls you that way everything else seems pretty trivial.
posted by invitapriore at 5:31 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I also have constant music playing in my head.

(Bel Biv Devoe - NOW YA KNOW...anyway)

I sing in a dorky old-people mostly-cover band and it is one of the joys of my life, so I end up singing out loud when I probably shouldn't. And I do the sing-to-the-kitty thing - any song can be about cats if you try hard enough. "Heeeeey kitty, I wanna knooooow if you'll be my cat" and such like. Subbing "kitty" for "baby" is good if sometimes a little on the unfortunately suggestive side.

The earworm clearout I have used for a long time is "Paradise City" by Guns N of luck, friends.
posted by wellred at 5:20 AM on August 12, 2019

I often experience music as emotion. On several ocassions I have heard about a death and instantly some song that felt like a lament got switched on in my head. One night while I was working a graveyard shift at work my husband called me to tell me that his younger brother had died in surgery in another city. Almost instantly "The Foggy Dew" switched on with the grief and sense of time passing. "... for those that died at Eastertide...." I spent the rest of the night aching to go home and hold my husband and try to comfort him while hearing that tune in my head.

More recently a long term member of the church where I worked passed away and I took the call and notified the minister, and the theme from "What is Youth?" switched onto play.


I am currently studying music and trying to learn an instrument. Learning a new song can be hazardous to me. If, during the period when the song is in the process of moving from short term memory to long term memory I come down with a migraine one manifestation of the migraine can be that song as a high intensity earworm. The sound of that song inside me, playing without pause is about as painful as the headache sensations of the migraine pain. It can be bad enough that hearing the song again later can trigger nausea and disorientation and other migraine symptoms without it actually being a migraine.


I stim a LOT. The main way I stim is by singing. I mainly sing soothing songs that would make good lullabies. I can make up songs that scan and have original tunes and are a reflection of my mood, or a comfort for my mood almost effortlessly. There are times when it is very difficult indeed to stop doing this. I can't always do it voluntarily, but when I can do it, it can be extraordinarily difficult to squelch, especially if I am under emotional stress. A lot of the songs that have spontaneously come out of me are pretty much of the moon-in-June caliber, but there have been a few that I find astonishingly good. 99.99 percent of them are ephemera. They are unremarked and unremembered, sung once and gone.

I find it rather peculiar that I tend to sing 1920's and 1930's era music- the tempo, beat, phrasing and style of lyrics. It especially puzzling to me that I did this for almost thirty years while not liking that style of music enough to ever listen to it. Finally I got to like it, out of familiarity from listening to it as it came out of my own mouth, and have started listening to it and enjoying it. One possibility is that this is the music my father might have liked and played or sung at some point when I was very small and I imprinted before I was old enough to remember. Or maybe my grandmother sang that stuff? But I have no evidence that either of them introduced me to or imprinted me with this style of music. It seems to be what I settled on at random. Thinking about it I do know that my father loved reading the poems of A.A. Milne to me when I was learning to understand language, and they imprinted on me, but that was reading not singing. That could be what accounts for it, although A.A. Milne's children's poems are not adult love songs, which is what warbles out of my mouth while I am standing there in mild surprise hoping there is nobody in earshot being annoyed by the fact that I seem to have turned into a cathedral radio.

There is frequently a musical sound track going on in my head, less so now than in past decades. There are times when it takes some self restraint not to perform the appropriate dance number to go with it.

This is most likely to be a problem when I am waiting for something. I am sure there are a number of people who have to wait for the Number 4 at the Regional Hospital who think I am the most annoying person on God's earth. I try to stand on the other side of one of the big pillars and keep the volume down, but it echoes in there...

I have a compulsion to sing in stairwells,in churches and other halls and in underpasses because they have acoustics... It just feels wrong to not be singing.

When I go into auditory sensory dysintegration I am filled with a compulsion to sing and that internal music starts. Put me in a noisy mall and I stop being able to process the sounds I hear and the urge to sing gets so strong that I am almost certainly singing under my breath without moving my lips. My throat and breathing will be singing, because they can do it without me making a spectacle of myself, while the volume and visible face and mouth movements will be under my control. Not that they will always stay under control, if it gets overwhelming enough I will start singing sub-audibly.

This singing feels very good. It feels really, really good. It feels like being loved feels. Despite the social awkwardness I am so very happy that I have this constant urge to sing.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh gawd. Earworms.
My lifelong Tourette's now manifests as earworms of music or movie dialogue. Here are some of the more common ones I deal with:
The Candy Man by Sammy Davis Jr.
Da Da Da by Trio
Baby Blue by Badfinger (don't mind this one so much. lol)
Beaumont's Lament from "Jackie Brown"
Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard
Pachelbel's Canon in D
You are My Sunshine
Anything from Schoolhouse Rock ("Interjections", usually)
That goddamned "Friends" theme song
And more that I hesitate to even think about because then they will all invade my brain.

The worst is that it's not the entire song from start to finish, but a piece of the song that lops through like a broken record.
posted by sundrop at 7:19 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I fight earworms with other earworms.

I've tried that, and it's the equivalent of getting superglue on your hands, and frantically trying to wipe it off, only to get shit stuck to other shit.
posted by sundrop at 7:25 PM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

This singing feels very good. It feels really, really good.

I love to sing; for me it's really calming. My kids don't like it at all, so I try to contain myself at home. It's the most effective thing for dealing with anxiety at work, but I can't really do it when other people are at the office. On those rare occasions I come in on the weekend and no one else is around, though, I can sing as much as I want, and it's an amazing productivity boost.

This has got me fantasizing about trying to get a soundproof booth to work in. It wouldn't work now because I have management duties, but if I could go back to just programming...
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

rather be jorting, I Want To Break Free comes up frequently in our house since it fits so many baby/toddler reactions perfectly! High chairs, car seats, being carried by someone, running into the baby gate ....
posted by brilliantine at 8:55 AM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Mairzy Dotes

Holy fuck my mother used to sing this and until this thread I have always thought it was "Mares Eat Oats."

My goddamn mind is blown. I'm 34.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:09 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Lutoslawski, you have the exact point.
posted by wellred at 10:15 AM on August 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

In my drowsy grade school days, I seriously worried after many many weeks that Carly Simon's That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be (wiki)(studio)(live) would never stop playing on repeat in my head. It was so crushing. Before I could process anything like teen or adult relationships, this song told me that manipulation and sadness was baked in. I couldn't shake it, the woman sounded absolutely trapped and yet resigned.

later on, whole Echo/Bunnymen albums would occupy that space, or Replacements, or Melvins, or Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, or... thank goodness for variety.
posted by drowsy at 8:49 PM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of my very favorite "overheard a tiny snippet of someone's life" moment was in a Bed, Bath and Beyond, perusing the towels or whatever, an employee is tidying up shelves nearby and sort of zoned out. The store radio is playing and suddenly I hear
"Everytime you gooo, away.... you take a piece of cheese, with you..."

It's been the permanent replacement in my head ever since.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:37 AM on August 15, 2019

I've progressed on the cello to the level of playing 19th Century singalongs, so "Daisy Bell" is currently on a loop in my brain.

I would gladly replace it with the Melvins.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2019

Sorry, a little late to the game, but I will share that I have discovered when I have an ear worm going on, it is often something that I listened to, or played on the piano, approximately 36 to 48 hours previously.
posted by hypnogogue at 1:48 PM on August 26, 2019

I have a jukebox mind as well and often it's easy to know why a certain piece of music is in my head, but sometimes I wonder "why am I suddenly hearing [Seemingly Random Music]?" -- occasionally I'll realize why, occasionally not. Like when I was thinking about the idea of a comfortable place to meet friends, like the concept of a friendly neighborhood bar, and suddenly the theme song to the tv show "Cheers" started playing in my head.

Sometimes a song really gets stuck in my head and lasts a while, and sometimes it comes and goes. Sometimes I'll go to sleep and then when I wake up, the song will come back into my head first thing. Almost guaranteed to happen if I'm working on a music project or learning a song. I don't mind that much -- but I do mind when it's a song I don't particularly enjoy and yet is still super catchy.

The earworm is almost always an existing song. Very rarely I get music in my head that seems to be original...and I'll get nervous about whether I'm just thinking it's original but it's actually something I already know.

> Boy, I feel like this morning has gone on forever. I would walk 500 miles to go take a nap right now!

This would totally work on me. Even when I read this, the chorus started running through my head (and I'm hearing it now as I copy/pasted the above). Taa dat da! Taa dat da!

Glad to be able to say this before the thread closes. It's been cool reading everyone's experiences here with music on the brain. I always thought this was a little uncommon so I'm happy to know I'm not alone!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:19 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

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