Is it simply head music, or something more?

By Dennis Minich

One of the things I could never figure out, back in the day, was why the people Perry Mason always defended did stupid things, like pick up the murder weapon or walk through the victim’s blood, or simply run away instead of just calling the police.

The fact was, since they had him as an attorney, they weren’t guilty, and they just always made his job more difficult by doing a bunch of stupid things he had to untangle in court.

What would also have been a good piece of advice, for both the folks in Perry Mason’s world and in almost any TV or movie world, is: Listen to the soundtrack going on around you. When the music starts to get really suspenseful, don’t open that door or look under that bed. The music always tells you something bad is about to happen, and why they can’t figure out that just seems strange; their life could be so much easier.

Yes, I know they’re not really hearing the music, but what if they could? I sometimes wonder if, when we get a song stuck in our head, if this is a real-world soundtrack. Unlike TV, others can’t hear our background songs, but maybe there’s a reason that certain ditties just refuse to go away.

There are many songs which I really like, and so if I start mentally hearing one of those, or maybe even humming along, I can understand that.

For example, there’s the song, “Jessie’s Girl,” by Rick Springfield. I think it sometimes gets set off in my psyche because it is played as background music in so many places. The other night I was having dinner and I could vaguely, over the noise of the crowd, hear the opening licks of “Jessie’s Girl.” I made the comment that I thought it was one of the best rock songs of all time. I was quickly and immediately rebuked, so I changed the subject, but I have hummed the tune for a week.

I like to hum along with the canned music in restaurants and grocery stores, etc. But it always ticks me off when you are hearing a long-forgotten song and just start to get into the groove, and they break in for an announcement about generic canned goods being available or that the latest flavors of chicken wings are now available in the deli.

I think marketing people learned a long time ago that music can easily influence people. That is why the advertising jingle world was, and maybe still is, so important. Anyone my age can recall the Budweiser song. If you know the difference between an Almond Joy and a Mounds, chances are it is because of the jingle.

Yes, we all remember the famous advertisements for McDonald’s (I do deserve a break today) and Coca-Cola (I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company). It is also true for TV shows. Some had theme songs so perfect they were unforgettable: “Cheers” and “Hill Street Blues” for example. Even today the theme to “Better Call Saul” just wouldn’t work on any other show.

In other cases, classic songs may have helped make the show a hit. If someone had said 15 years ago that they were going to make a show about crime scene investigators, most people would have scoffed. But take a great show and lead into it with the screaming tones of The Who and it’s the formula for a franchise. I do have The Who in my head a lot, but it is hard to hum along because much of it is screaming. Singing along could create issues.

It is still hard to understand why songs get locked in your head. The Electric Light Orchestra actually had a song “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” but it doesn’t slip in often.

The odd thing about head music is, it isn’t really your favorite songs. If it were, my playlist would be much wider. But mine lately has been pretty simple. I find myself thinking about “Unchained Melody” a lot. My late wife loved the Righteous Brothers, and the melody is their best, so I actually understand that one. I’ve also had “Ghost Riders in the Sky” playing a lot recently, I think because a video game I play has a similar tune in the background.

But there have been two or three which are driving me crazy. One is a Beatles song, “Norwegian Wood.” That is so wrong on so many levels. I am not a Beatles fan, I barely remember “Norwegian Wood”, nor do I even care for it. But for the past couple weeks, I just keep hearing it over and over. If that’s not weird enough, it quite often alternates with Ferlin Husky’s “Wings of a Dove.” Again, I didn’t say it made any sense, those are simply the tunes I am hearing.

So now that I have implanted some improbable tunes in your mind, you are welcome and I will go back to trying to figure out if this actually the soundtrack of my life and if it is: are they trying to tell me to look behind that door or not?

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