I’ve tried. I really have. To be positive and to select songs which have been of interest to me and which have, at some level, added to my life. And then there are these three…
I want to (really I don’t… but it serves an educational purpose) look at/listen to three songs by way of introducing my next topic (which will span several upcoming posts).
The three songs do share some commonalities.
1. Each song became #1 hit for the artist(s) involved.
2. Each song is sung with great sincerity (just look at the faces in performance).
3. Two of the songs conclude by threatening to begin again while the third gives a foreboding sense that its chorus will never end.
4. Each song addresses loss… the first speaks of “self loss”, the second of loss of a loved one and the third of the loss of humankind.
5. And, for purposes of this discussion, all three have managed to irritate. In fact, at least two of the songs have achieved the distinction of being found on many “worst song compilations”.
Let us meet the perpetrators… have kleenex on hand.
Exhibit A Honey by Bobby Goldsboro
To be fair, Goldsboro had previously achieved some success with See the Funny Little Clown (#9) in 1964. But Honey was his big hit, remaining at #1 for five weeks in 1968 and becoming the largest-sellling record in the world for that year.
Exhibit B Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks
Canadian content, eh? Yes, our nation contributes to this collection. Terry Jacks (formerly of The Poppy Family) released this single late in 1973 and by early 1974 it had reached #1 status in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The single eventually tallied four million copies in sales. Jacks’ version was a further modification of Rod McKuen’s earlier re-write of Jacques Brel’s Le Moribund. (To be fair to Brel, the tone of the lyric was markedly different in the original.)
Exhibit C In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
If you couldn’t muster some compassion for the aforementioned unfortunate individuals, maybe you’ll change your tune when it’s humanity going “down the tube”. In the Year 2525 (recorded by duo Zager and Evans) reached #1 status in 1969 and it remained atop the charts for six weeks. The song was their only significant hit.
Now I don’t pretend that everyone shares my irritation with these selections. In fact they are beloved by some and (if truth be told) I’m sure some of my favourite songs would be irritating to others. It does beg the question… why are some songs so abrasive to us?
There are several possible answers to this question. I’d like to suggest one…
The Ear Worm
Doubtless you’ve experienced it. A particular song plays over and over in your head and you can’t get it to stop. You may suppress it for a time only to have it re-emerge unbidden. Fortunately, for most of us, the song eventually recedes or is replaced by some other aural irritant. Back when these three songs enjoyed wide exposure thanks to the dominance of “hit music” radio stations on the airwaves, one could expect endless reiteration of See the tree how big it’s grown/We had joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun/In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive they may find…
Although the notion that familiarity breeds contempt may date from the writing of Aesop’s Fables it certainly could apply to ear worms. In fairness I must add that some irritating songs can irritate upon a single listening. Repetition not required.
You might not regard the Seinfeld series as primarily instructive but, for our purposes, these scenes ideally illustrate the concept of the ear worm…
More to say about the EW as we continue this series…
When a piece of music is created, the creator is often looking for an element that will “hook” the listener. It may achieved be through the melody, the harmony, the rhythm, the instrumentation or the lyric (if there is a lyric). Frequently it is a combination of these. The hook is intended to ensure the listener’s enjoyment of the song (often the hook is heard several times in the composition) and to encourage re-engagement with the piece. You can see how a well-constructed hook may foster the emergence of an ear worm. There are myriad examples of musical hooks and, over the course of the next several posts, I’ll look at just a few of them. Meanwhile, here are your British friends from Deep Purple (pioneers of heavy metal/hard rock) to illustrate “the hook” with a live example (a minute or two will suffice) from 1973…
It’s the 24th… HBLD