Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Radio in My Head

Yesterday I solved a major mystery.

For months now, just as I'm leaving school at the end of the day, I've been finding myself singing the Carly Simon song "Nobody Does It Better." It is uncanny -- every single day, on cue, at 5:15 p.m. I'll be singing it under my breath as I leave the building, or as I walk the sidewalk toward home. Even I have been astonished to find this happening over and over again. What on earth was going on inside my brain to trigger that song, which isn't even one of my favorites?

I knew it wasn't just my subconscious mind giving me an egotistical pat on the back at the end of the workday. I figured it had to be something I was doing while I lock up the library -- some visual or aural cue that prompts that melody. Last night, I found it.

When I power down my computer at work, it makes a little sound that is exactly like the first stroke of piano notes at the beginning of "Nobody Does It Better." From there, my brain unspools the entire song, even though I'm not initially aware.

Isn't that crazy?

Then again, I have a pop song going in my head almost all the time, even if I'm not really consciously singing it. If you ask at any random moment, I can notice that part of my brain and name the song. It's like carrying around my own personal radio. I suppose little cues like this, coming at me from all directions throughout the day, periodically prompt me to "change the station" and switch to another tune.

In other news, when I'm out and about and I hear a new song I like, or someone recommends a movie to me, I type it into the notes app on my iPhone. For months and months now, "The Swimmer" -- a Burt Lancaster movie from 1968 -- has been listed in my phone notes. I don't even remember who recommended it to me or how I first heard about it. But I finally got around to renting it from iTunes, and Dave and I watched it last night. I must say, it was an intriguing, surreal movie -- based on a John Cheever story and featuring a very young Joan Rivers, as well as Diana Muldaur from "Star Trek" and Jan Miner, best known known as "Madge the Manicurist" from all those Palmolive commercials. Not exactly uplifting, but then, it's John Cheever.

(Photo: Council flats on Lillie Road, Fulham.)


  1. Do you know the song "The Movie in my Mind" from Miss Saigon? Well, you've got the music in yours. I am the same way. Constantly singing something. Glad you solved the mystery.

  2. My daughter is like the two of you, always a song in her head. When she was little she would sometimes sit just smiling and I knew she was listening inward. I imagine it must be so preferable to the ticker tape of worries always unspooling in my brain! Perhaps the mind music bestows a touch of serenity that I see in you Steve, and in Gary and my daughter too.

  3. Music is such a trigger for many things. When you hear a certain song don't you go back to that place in your life when it was popular?

    I love how you caught the jet in the clouds! Does "council flat" mean they are subsidized?

  4. Great photo! That jet is just the cherry on top of the sundae.
    I think it's wonderful that you figured out why that song always comes to you at 5:15. My phone's text alert triggers a song to play in my head.
    I saw that movie when I was quite young and I think it really changed the way I saw some things. It is a strange and rather beautiful movie. Or at least, that's how I remember it.

  5. Now that you know what triggers it maybe it will stop.

  6. My friend has lived in council owned flats , pretty dismal at best. Better than being homeless! What an unfortunate song to have stuck in between your ears! ICK! Movie sound intriguing and possibly worthy. Maybe.

  7. That is funny about the song but, I'm glad you figure out why it keeps popping into your head. I remember seeing "The Swimmer" in the theatre when it first came out all those years ago. It's funny how I know I didn't like the movie but yet so many scenes from it have stuck with me. Maybe I should watch it again now at a more mature age. I just don't think I could bring myself to do it.

  8. That's hilarious, and I adore you for even noticing and then finding the cue!

  9. Gary: I don't know that particular song, but yes, I do have the music, for better or worse. It's not surprising to me that you do the same. :)

    Angella: I think it IS a sign of inner happiness.

    Lynne: Music is a HUGE memory trigger, it's true. Yes, council flats were built as government housing, though many of them have been privatized in recent decades. We live in a council flat that is privately owned.

    Ms Moon: It IS a strange and beautiful movie. The camera work is really good. I'm glad I saw it and I would watch it again.

    Ellen: Doubtful!

    Linda Sue: Well, it could be worse. "Torn Between Two Lovers," say.

    Sharon: I wouldn't say it's a flawless movie, but overall I found it kind of fascinating.

    Elizabeth: I just KNEW something was prompting it!