It’s pretty easy for me to name my favorite song. No contest. Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” This isn’t “Music of Your Life” nostalgia. “Satin Doll” was written long before I was born, and now days I’m just as likely to listen to Matisyahu or Nora Jones as Ellington. However, Ellington’s spar piano line in “Satin Doll” pulls me in and makes me forget where I am, that there’s anything in the world but the notes he’s playing.
I’m not as quick to name my least favorite song. Too many possibilities. “We are the World” is somewhere near the top of that list—both versions. For so-esoteric-they’re-incomprehensible lyrics, I’d choose “MacArthur Park.” If you can make sense of “All the sweet green icing melting down. Someone left the cake out in the rain, yada yada,” the Sixties were way too good to you.
Anything played by Buck Owens and Roy Clark during the 23-year run of Hee Haw is in the competition. Nothing against CW; but quite a bit against Hee Haw. It took CW music another 23 years and Taylor Swift to recover.
For some reason, it’s the bad songs that spring unbidden to my mind to echo around in my head when I least expect. Just thinking “Achy Breaky Heart” (Billy Ray Cyrus), “Copacabana” (Barry Manilow), “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” (Tony Orlando) puts the melody flowing through the jasmine of my mind—with reverb—right in the middle of that meeting or interview. The only way to banish those melodies to 8 track heaven where they belong is a song that’s even worse. “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” will work. Definitely a case of the cure worse than the illness.
There is, however, one song that makes me more tremble more than even the thought of “Barbie Girl” on infinite repeat. Not only does it slip unbidden into my head, I sometimes find myself breaking into song (audible) without noticing. I start humming, whistling, or singing out loud, a song from the musical, Oklahoma. Though that might only get me in trouble walking down the streets of Dallas during Texas Week, the problem goes deeper. If I were humming “Oh, what a beautiful morning,” or “Little Green Surry” (which might very well make my worst song list) that still wouldn’t be enough to inspire such fear. Unfortunately, the song I can’t get out of my head is “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No.” You might well imagine it might lead to embarrassment if I burst out singing that song in a crowded mall, or for that matter, in front of my teenage daughters.
I come honestly to having that particular song stuck on rewind in my head — and it has nothing to do with gender issues. My freshman year my high school put on Oklahoma. I, a lowly member of the chorus, had a crush on the girl who played Ado Annie, the character who sang “I’m just a girl who can’t say no. I’m in a terrible fix.” In my teenage ardor, I was the one who wanted to get her in that fix. She didn’t know I existed. But every rehearsal I watched her from the wings, enraptured, as she sang, “I always say come on let’s go, just when I ought to say nix.” The stuff teenage dreams are made of.
I have no idea where she is today. But I know where that song is. In my head, and I can’t shake it. Once, I sang the theme song to Speed Racer for an hour straight. No good. Usually I just hold my breath so I don’t sing it out loud until the impulse passes.
Got a song stuck in your head? A song you love to hate? It’s blog time. Share with us. Tell us about the song and the lengths you’ve taken to get it out of your head. Though you’re probably just going to add to our list of songs we don’t want to remember.