My wife lies sleeping beside me. In the distance a dog barks. All else is silent.
It’s all in my head. An early morning earworm. But it wasn’t just that one morning; as I write this, five days later, I still can’t get ‘Jet’ out of my head.
Paul McCartney, as he was singing a song in a London studio 41 years ago, is lodged in my auditory cortex. Every time my brain hits idle mode (more often than I’d like to admit) he re-appears, ‘daaa-daaa-dada, Jet!’
What was a four minute listen on my morning commute one day last week has morphed into a hugely frustrating brain itch.
I’ve written about earworms previously. In most cases they disappear after 24 hours, having been pushed out by something else. But McCartney’s song about his dog (or his pony, or David Bowie – take your pick) is stuck there.
My usual trick to dislodge it, of playing another earworm or anything very catchy, hasn’t worked – though I’m still afraid to push the Big Red Button and listen to ‘Guantanamero‘. I’m not one for anagrams, but research suggests that solving one could work. Or, it emerged this week, chewing gum – not a favourite habit of mine either.
Which brings me to my final hope – the theory that reading a book helps. This is interesting. In recent days – the ones which have coincided with my McCartney itch – I’ve skipped reading. Could this be the cause?
Music psychologist Dr Ira Hyman has suggested the ‘good book’ solution, stating: “The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge. If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.”
Hyman suggests that an alternative is to learn to sing the song in its entirety, as earworms have been linked to incomplete fragments of melody that the brain tries to resolve. But there’s no way I’m doing anything as reckless as that with a hook-heavy Paul McCartney song.
So it’s back to a book. Maybe I’ll start with the one on the left. Then again…