Thursday, February 2, 2023

Spirit of the Season

In our neck of the woods, snow is a good thing. We like snow. We need snow. It keeps us alive. It sustains our existential balance. And the same is true of the truly cold winter days and nights. A deep and thorough freeze is what keeps pestilence and disease from running rampant through our beautiful world. So quit yer bitchin'! Take advantage and catch up on all those "indoor" tasks you've let slide.

To help you join in the spirit of things, here's a little ditty along with appropriate pix, from my good buddy Richard Wiegel. Enjoy.

Let It Snow

The McMusical Calendar

Thursday, February 17
Faux Fawn (the band behind singer-songwriter Paul Otteson) opens up for Disaster Passport (the band that replaces the original Philip Glass soundtrack to the groundbreaking 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi with their own) at The Bur Oak, 2262 Winnebago St. Come for the Fawn, stay for the film.

Saturday, April 1
No foolin'! The Birddog Blues Band plays at Main Street Music in Brooklyn (Wisconsin).

Saturday, April 22
They're back! The Gentlemen, Wisconsin's premiere Brit Invasion band way back in the 60s, reunites in Madison to revisit the Beatles catalog and other chart toppers of yore. At Chief's Tavern on Cottage Grove Rd. (right across from Buck's Pizza, and they deliver!)

More musical events coming. Check back.

Friday, May 5
The Birddog Blues Band host an evening of bluesy grooves and moves at The Bur Oak, 2262 Winnebago St.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Attack of the Antique Earworm

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Unexpected. Unbidden. A tune, a musical phrase, a hook. But not from nowhere, of course. Rather from the distant past, those days when the brain was young and spongy, impressionable, formative, when a song, or just enough of one, could get stuck in the tissues and lie in wait (for decades!), waiting to bubble up and pop open in a moment of blissful empty-headedness. 

An earworm.

So it was recently with Far Away Places. An innocuous melody. A dreamy, drifty, waltzy kind of thing. One day I’m walking along and there it was, singing itself plaintively inside my head in a voice much like my own, filled with a simple longing. All I could remember of its origins were that they went way back. Far away places, are calling to me... I hardly knew the words at all, but the melody and sentiment were alive in my head. I “knew” it by feeling.

Not so very long ago I would have started asking around, browsing used record racks, trying to track down the source of this thing. Now, like the rest of the world, I go to Wikipedia or YouTube. There I learn that it was written in 1948 and soon became nearly simultaneous hits for Margaret Whiting and then Bing Crosby, followed soon after by Perry Como and Dinah Shore (pictured). All were released before I was born, but because I remember The Dinah Shore Show playing on the family TV set, I suspect it was her version that planted the worm.

I found a Willy Nelson version on YouTube (a duet with Sheryl Crow), and nothing wrong with it (we love Willy), but also a Sam Cooke version, more proof of his voice’s Midas touch (we idolize Sam).

But what’s with earworms, anyway? The surprise appearance of Far Away Places hit a sweet spot for me, but don’t we think of earworms as annoyances? Songs that you once wished you would never hear again, yet keep coming back to vex you like an old injury? You know. The Pina Colada Song or Afternoon Delight or Muskrat Love?

I have a vague sense of the term taking hold in popular usage some years back and wondered if it would even turn up in any of my dictionaries. It didn’t. But the Merriam/Webster online dictionary had it: “a song or melody that keeps repeating in one's mind.” Okay, very succinct. But what about an OED-style reference to the date of a first-published use of the word.

My oldest dictionary (The Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principles, copyright 1955) refers me to “corn” for clarity on “earworm” but the entry preceding it, "earwig," catches attention. Yes, we're talking about those nasty insects with the rear-end pincers, suspected by our ancestors of crawling into ears and taking up residence in brains (“wicga” means insect in Old English). OED tells us that “earwig” as a transitive verb means “to pester by private importunities; to bias by secret communications; to insinuate into the confidence of,” and as a noun means “a whisperer, flatterer, parasite.”

So, while earworms may pester us, or somehow insinuate themselves into the fiber of our consciousness, they are unlikely to ever feel as negative or threatening as earwigs. Like worm holes, those possible interstellar portals to the past, future, or who-knows-what kind of far away places, ear worms, mysterious little burrowers in our brains, may turn out to be good things, at least occasionally.

McMuscial Calendar

Saturday, January 28
Come on out to The Pfharmacy in Lake Mills to hear The Birdddog Blues Band. It's the new beer-and-music venue  to the nearby Tyranena Brewing. 7 to 10 pm

More stuff in the works. Check back.