earworms, and the cure

Two weeks ago, it was John Coltrane’s birthday.  I had a profound intention to celebrate, culminating in a great posting to this website.  It didn’t happen. I did play great benefit with my friend Nathan Hanson ( soprano saxophone) at the Black Dog , for the Joyce bi-lingual preschool. We did play “ central park west” and a version of “ my favorite things.

And life rolls on.  I have some ideas about Mr. Coltrane which will have to come out, hopefully before Thelonius Monk’s birthday ( October 10) but probably I will miss that too.

And last week… after my watch died ( does anybody really know what time it is?)

I finally went to a store to buy one.  The songs in these stores are mostly inane. One came on… “ love me, love me say that you love me” . It was silly beyond silly, familiar. I had to find out what it was. So I searched on the you tube.

You tube is a great place- I have watched performances of Minugs, ‘ Trane, Eric Dolphy, the Art ensemble, Don Cherry, Milton Nascimento, and… more.

Instead, I used this tool foolishly, identified this sound as “ lovefool” by the Cardigans. Like Ulysses being tempted by the sirens, I listened to it. It got stuck in my head, the worst kind of ear worm.

To compound this, we were in a “mouse crises” at home. My dear wife went out of town one night for a conference: I got 20$ of various traps, and set them around the house, thinking I was solving the problem, and I could go trout fishing the last day of the stream season. Wrong.

My wife came back, ready to share the great experiences she had. I was doing the dishes, and heard a blood-curdling scream… a mouse had jumped off the freaking bed.  This was severe. She slept on the  futon chair folded out on the mainfloor, I slept in the basement with Victor the dog, who could hear the mice, and kept waking up to get them.  That damned song  kept repeating in my mind,

a torture chamber of inane,foolish repetition. I cursed all things Swedish, all popular music, all clever musical craftsmen. I cursed the earworms.

I tried to imagine Pharoah Sanders taking long solos over the top, Jason Moran somehow bending and twisting the form. It did not work.

I woke up after a mostly sleepless night to intense cleaning and discarding.  My mind kept going back to  this song, looping and looping. What finally saved me was  Gary Bartz and his version of “ I’ve known rivers”. I had to listen about 10 times, and then Pharoah Sanders “Heart is a melody”.

I called a local exterminator person who set professional traps, plugged holes, and participated in various alchemy. The mice sounds have stopped.  I am still married.  And next time, I will talk about Gary Bartz.  Paul told me to listen to the Cardigan’s version of “ Iron Man”. Defying the odds, last night, I did. At low volume.  I  may try it again. But not without some Don Cherry around as an anecdote.


  1. I’ve heard that the cure for an earworm is to hear, in your mind, “Byyyyyy Mennen!”
    Your case seems too severe for this cure, however.


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