Monday, 13 December 2010

Ear Worms

I was following a thread on The Word blog recently about those pesky tunes that get lodged in your brain and steadfastly refuse to leave. And it's an affliction for which there is no cure. Even deafness wouldn't get rid of them - once they're in, that's it. I have many pieces of music (sometimes only brief snippets) that nudge their way from the deep recesses of my brain and take centre stage. This is one I share with Quentin Cooper of Radio 4's Material World: despite not having heard it since I was a nipper, I still know it note for note.

Quentin ran a feature on Ear Worms and the feedback the following week was fascinating. Musical memories from our childhood right through to music played at funerals, pulling in hits of the day, muzak, radio jingles, cheesy advert music and (most interestingly) tunes you can't abide - they all find a way into our heads and take up residency. Play School aside, here's another one that gets regular airplay, creeping up on me when I least expect it:

Middle Of The Road's Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep was a massive hit in the summer of 1971 and coincided with the Medds' first ever European jaunt to Spain. And at the tender age of nine I was aware that it wasn't only us Brits who were getting off on bubblegum pop: every cafe, diner and bar my parents took me to during the hottest fortnight I'd ever experienced, all I could hear was Chirpy Bloody Cheep Cheep. On the flight back something strange happened - I'd got a window seat and was trying to sleep with my head leaning against the window when, all of a sudden, the tune started playing; it wasn't coming out over the tannoy and there was nobody next to me with a transistor radio jammed to their lug hole. No, what I was experiencing was my own, very primitive, 'in-flight entertainment.' Forty years later and I still can't find the off button.


  1. With you all the way on the Play School clock, altough my worm has been impossible to track down. It's a musical motif from the Benny Hill show: just before/after the ad breaks when the titles were overlayed against fireworks in the sky. Nothing to do with the Yakkety Sax ending or the Mahna Mahna reworks used as incidental music. This was a punchy horn piece played only pre and post adverts..

  2. One that gets me is "Requiem" by London Boys from the dregs of the late 80s. Remember them? Couple of guys in lycra who did a kind of Greco-Roman wrestling routine on Top of the Pops.

    "You're the love of my life -my life -my life, and I can't let you go now".

    Don't even like the bloody thing.

  3. I have had the theme tune from 'Mister Trimble', which was a particularly rubbish 70s kids TV show (the kind you only saw when you were off sick.). I must have watched it when I was feverish, as it's implanted in my brain like a bad dream. Nobody else even REMEMBERS Mister Trimble.

  4. I remember Mr Trimble and his wide-legged walk in the intro. It was around the time of first generation Pipkins when the old boy, rather Johnny was running the firm.

  5. Fancy anyone else remembering that. We used to say that our Latin teacher had the same walk, and would follow him in a wide-walking line down the corridor. He hated it.

  6. Thanks for that - I'll not get Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep out my head now!!!

    My Dad bought that... unusual for my Dad to buy anything except Mantivani or Harry Secombe!!! Memories... I was 8/9 at the time

  7. "Puppy Love" is a frequent worm for me, to my eternal irritation.

    As a former competitive swimmer, I distinctly remember taking part in a 1500m race - so between 20 minutes and half an hour of hard swimming - while Depeche Mode's "Shake The Disease" went round my head. In spite of their love of elongated mixes, I doubt they ever did one that was that long but somehow I made it last the course. I came second.

    The Playschool thing was fab. I always think of the line "Ready to knock; show us your cock" whenever that subject comes up. Says much about me. I blame TV Cream.