Archive for the ‘Earworms’ Category
Whenever I put together a new edition of our Earworms Special Feature, I start by trying to figure out why the song suddenly popped into my head. I think today’s candidate started bouncing around between my ears when I read that someone is considering making an updated version of the original Ghostbusters movie.
But even though the 1984 film’s theme song began running through my head, it didn’t seem quite right somehow – earworm wise. I thought about it, then listened to the #1 hit record of the song generated by Ray Parker, Jr., watched the movie trailer (below) but nothing seemed quite right.
Finally I figured it out. We had an Atari computer back in the early 1980s, and we also had the Ghostbusters computer game. As near as I can recall, the theme song played during the game but even after the game was over the music would continue to play endlessly — or at least until you stopped it. That’s my earworm.
Atari Ghostbusters (Excerpt)
Ray Parker, Jr. – “Ghostbusters”
The frigid weather we’re experiencing helped lead to my latest Earworm, and it also proved that — as we all know — sometimes just one phrase from a song does the trick. (Or maybe we should say a ‘segment’ since we’re talking about worms.) It happened for me when I contemplated prying myself out of a warm bed on an icy morning, and kept hearing a familiar line from an old song: ‘Please, Mr. Custer. I don’t wanna go!’
A novelty song from 1960 that would probably also qualify for our Saluting Silly Songs feature, today’s Earworm is “Mr. Custer,” written by Al DeLory, Fred Darian, and Joseph Van Winkle. It was first recorded by comedian/singer Larry Verne, whose record — believe it or not — made it all the way to #1 on the charts. That same year, British performer Charlie Drake turned it into a solid hit in the United Kingdom, proving once again that goofy recognizes no borders. (You can hear both versions below.)
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the song was written from the viewpoint of a hapless trooper in Custer’s Seventh Cavalry, a sad sack who desperately doesn’t want to accompany the guys on their upcoming expedition. I guess you could say that me leaving my warm bed wasn’t quite as serious as his dilemma, but I was still helpless — as always — to the invasion of an earworm.
Charlie Drake – “Mr. Custer”
As I said in the first edition of Earworms, the songs that get stuck in your head are usually not those that were big hits. Or to put it another way, the biggest sellers are already pretty familiar so it seems to me that they’d pop into your head once in a while anyway. But when a lesser-known song seems to show up and run endlessly through your thoughts, that’s an earworm. And I’d go so far as to say that even though I think that it’s possible to have shared earworms, it’s usually just your personal one.
But here’s a new wrinkle. Today I found myself inexplicably trapped in the midst of Pat Boone‘s “Bernardine” and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I’m pretty sure I haven’t recently heard the song or thought about the movie it came from, and I definitely don’t remember meeting anyone named Bernardine. And yet it appeared — a one of a kind occurrence. Could we call it the immaculate exception?
Not one of Pat Boone’s biggest hits, it had a brief flurry in record stores when the movie of the same name came out in the Summer of 1957, and it then settled into #14 on the charts. It did have the distinction of having both words and music written by the legendary Johnny Mercer, who was more often just a lyricist. As for the movie, it was pretty forgettable — something about some teenagers inventing a fictional girl named Bernardine Mudd. But somehow it all came together to create an earworm for this particular geezer.
Pat Boone – “Bernardine”
I have to confess that I haven’t been particularly eager to add a new Special Feature to the ol’ GMC, especially if I didn’t see a way to bring something different on board. But then I woke up today with an earworm, and along with it came inspiration — it was a natural subject for a new Special Feature.
An earworm, for those who don’t know, is a song (or a piece of one) that seems to get stuck in your head and just won’t go away. It can be a good song but it’s often one that isn’t particularly noteworthy, except for its ability to burrow its way in and stay there.
Of course, I’m not trying to claim credit for this idea. Earworms have been talked about for years — in fact, there are blogs dedicated to them. But they still seem like a good subject for a new Special Feature on the GMC, and so I won’t run short of ideas for new posts maybe some of you will tell me about your earworms. (I already have a couple of candidates from your comments on earlier posts. I’ve also found two previous posts that are about my own earworms, so have added them to the Earworms link in the left column.)
But back to today’s earworm, a piece with the deceptively simple title of ‘Rose.” It’s a song that’s actually pretty obscure these days and I don’t think it was ever a big hit. It was written a half-century ago by poet/songwriter/singer Rod McKuen, and is probably best-known as performed by Glenn Yarbrough. But even though most of the song is a little fuzzy for me, the chorus is what I hear endlessly in my head.
‘That’s okay, Rose would say. Don’t you worry none. We’ll have good times bye and bye, next Fall when the work’s all done.’
Glenn Yarbrough – “Rose”
When I read recently that country singer Cal Smith had died, my first impulse was to find the previous post I’d written about him and point folks to it. The only problem was that I had never written about him before, even though I thought I had. After all, his signature song — “Country Bumpkin” — has always been a earworm for me. You know, one of those songs that just seem to pop into your head from time to time?
Although he was born in Oklahoma, Calvin Grant Shofner actually grew up in the San Francisco area, where he began to appear professionally during the post-war years while still in his mid-teens. But success didn’t come his way at first, and he spent some time in the rodeo business and later worked as a truck driver. By the early 1950s he’d gone through a brief marriage and divorce, but had finally managed to get some traction on a musical career, even making some appearances on a country music variety show on TV.
Unfortunately Uncle Sam came calling, and he lost a couple of years of career progress fulfilling his military obligation. Returning to his Northern California home area after his discharge, he found work as a DJ while also working in area bands. His big break came in the early 1960s when he was able to latch on to a job as a guitarist with Ernest Tubb’s touring group, the Texas Troubadors. His strong guitar work helped propel several of band’s best records, and within a few years Tubb helped Grant Shofner begin a solo career as Cal Smith.
It was the beginning of two decades of solid record sales for the performer. Smith had moderate early success on songs like “The Only Thing I Want,” “Drinking Champagne,” and “Heaven Is Just a Touch Away,” but in the early 1970s he really hit his stride, with a Top Ten hit on “I’ve Found Someone of My Own” followed by his first chart-topper, “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking.” It also appeared on pop charts, as did his next hit — his biggest — the memorable story-song “Country Bumpkin.” But he wasn’t finished, and soon had another top-seller with “It’s Time to Pay the Fiddler” before beginning to slow down a little in the late 1970s. Like many stars, he eventually relocated to Branson with his second wife and it was there that he recently died at age 81. He is survived by his wife, son, five grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Cal Smith – “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking”