There’s no chemical reaction. Often, there isn’t even an overt reference point. But nevertheless, each morning, there it is, tapping on the back of our pineal glands like a bored, sticky child. A pop song. Or a fragment – a mysterious bass line tangent; the suggestion of some Motown backing vocals, or maybe even a disjointed chorus or bridge. Sometimes, by shower’s end, whole verses have been assembled. Other times – these are the really bad days – the mildew sticking like bits of food to our brain matter assembles itself into one great, hoary mess of a fully realized song. But we never wanted anyway, and won’t be able to shake ’til we get home and put on The Queen Is Dead in a desperate, clawing effort to wash that song right out of our hair.
Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady” is a charmingly terrible song, not readily hummed by the non-mulleted. But just like that gun and ammuniton just inside the doorway, Steven Tyler’s vocal histrionics in the outro can be used to rail against the even more terrible song that has been assaulting our heads since that changing room fiasco. Stuck in line with two pants and a shirt, as Heart’s “All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You” bellows in the background. Goddamn, why couldn’t it have been “Magic Man”? So, the trump card. A blank stare on the outside. But behind blue eyes, Tyler’s inhuman yowling tears at Nancy Wilson’s bleating lament until, mercifully, he and Joe Perry have replaced Heart in the center of our mental Thunderdome of bad music. Yow, Yow, YickyYickyYickyYicky Yow.
Waiting rooms, convenience stores, the headphon’d golem next to us on the subway lacking volume etiquette – these are the obvious situations where an unwanted tune might crawl into our ear. But what about those moments of weird, anti-Zen, while we’re working, walking, or just hanging out, when suddenly that dull itch inside of our skull reveals itself as a song we haven’t heard in 20 years? Where did it come from? What electrical impulses triggered its rise to the surface? It could be a combination of factors. Maybe an Escalade, blocks away, is vibrating license plates with a giant bass groove. Walking down the street, it’s a distant hum, mixing unnoticed with the consistent rumble of the city bus in front of us and the squeaking hinges on the old lady’s grocery getter across the street. We buy a hot dog from Marcelino on the corner, and as we head to the train stop, the little transistor radio taped to his cart chirps out a tinny salsa melody.
It’s eight hours later. Ears still ringing from the Fu Manchu show, we rest our bones back at the homestead. Suddenly, anti-Zen. The foot starts tapping. We start mouthing words. What the heck? After 2 hours of fist-pumping, high-octane Rock and Roll that should make the brain too tired to do anything but shut down, it’s assembled Ton Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” from the other side of the mental cantina. And we haven’t heard that shit since Uncle Rosie’s third wedding two summers ago!
Was it live? Or was it Marcelino?