April 12, 2013

Drain Bamage: I Guess It’s Going to Be “All About Soul” Forever

Billy Joel: He's a nice man, but he's gotta go.

They tell me, in this shaded room where the machines beep softly and the drip feed makes a soft “plop” every minute or so, that I am mad to declare, as I do, that my only solution is to go back in time and strangle Billy Joel in his cradle. They say that I am mad, but I say infanticide is the one ambition that still attaches me to sanity. Like Carthage, Baby Billie must be destroyed!

It wasn’t always this way with me. In fact it all started on Thanksgiving but a few weeks ago. Started, as many disasters do, by killing me softly with its love.

The parasite embedded itself in my brain during a vulnerable moment in the postprandial stupor that descended upon me after the third and last helping of Thanksgiving dinner. As the tryptophan torpor of turkey eroded my normal defenses I sat, minding my own stomach, by the warm fire in the study. Next door in the kitchen over a hot hand of Pinochle my host said, “Turn up that Billy Joel song I like.”

If I had known what that meant I would have choked myself with the leftover drumstick at that moment.

But no, I had no inkling of the horror to come. I was drifting through the hideous paragraphs of a tattered paperback novel by Dale Brown, an author who should have gone down with the Old Dog instead of living to write more books. His lulling sentences, so bad they were good, disarmed my natural defenses and so… and so….

In a few moments I heard the beginning notes of my doom. With a lilting melody backed by Thor’s piledriver bass line the following song was hammered into my brain…

It's all about soul.
It's all about faith and a deeper devotion.
It's all about soul.
'Cause under love is a stronger emotion.

In it went. So smooth and unremarked that I scarcely knew it was there. Instead I drifted off into a late Thanksgiving daydream of pecan pie, angels’ wings, dancing hamsters and waltzing kittens.

When I woke I went off to the bathroom for relief and, while washing my hands, I looked into the mirror and thought…. “It’s all about soul.”

I dried my hands and went out into the living room for coffee. As I poured cream into my coffee I watched the white fluid swirl in the dark steaming mug like the long tendrils of stars spattering the intergalactic dark and I thought to myself, “It’s all about soul.”

Later I lay in bed, restless and fitful because, I believed, of all the food I had foolishly eaten. But then my mind, tired of an hour or so of ceiling patrol, stopped me and informed me in no uncertain terms, “It’s all about soul.”

That doleful line, in perfect key, repeated itself horribly for hours and hours until, somewhere towards dawn, I slept.

I awoke in a grey dawn with the vague hope of turkey sandwiches slathered in mayo and topped with crisp lettuce and a smear of cranberry sauce. I walked innocently into the bathroom and put some toothpaste on my brush and began to clean my teeth. I glanced into the mirror and, as the bush went up and down in a familiar tempo, I heard, clear as crystal…. “It’s all about soul.”

I shook it off and went downstairs where the house guests were gathering around the cook of the morning who was turning out one tray of fresh cheese and bacon scones after another. He handed me a plate with three and asked me to take a bite. I did.

“So, what do you think about that scone?” he asked.

I said, “It’s all about soul,” lit my hair on fire and ran from the house screaming "I GOT THE FEAR! I GOT THE FEAR!"

My friends came after me and put me out with seltzer bottles. They took me back into the house, wrapped me in blankets next to the fire, and brought me hot buttered rums until I passed out.

I awoke at dusk and looked out through the mullioned windows at the sun setting rouge red behind the leafless trees that framed the sere grass and I reflected, not for the first time, "It's all about soul."

And so it went. All that long day.

And the next day.

And the one that came after and the one that came after that.

Last night I was standing in the middle of the women’s sweater section in Macy’s at the local mall here slightly north of Seattle. I thought I had finally found a place where I could escape Joel’s incessant insistance in my swollen brain pan that “It’s all about soul.”

Here, at least, the holiday Muzak would bring some shredded morsel of relief to my brain. And then, as if in response to the fading strains of “Silver Bells” I heard the insidious response to this hymn. I heard clearly that Christmas, more than any other day of the year was….

“… all about soul…
all about faith and a deeper devotion…..”

Which is when, they tell me, I began to shout and rave that Billie Joel needed to be the first person visited in my time machine so that he could be strangled in his cradle.

Ranting about strangling babes in their cradles in department stores around Christmas time is not generally appreciated and security was called.

And so here I am, comfortable enough in these restraints. They’ve given me an Internet connection to keep me “occupied.”

I appreciate it. It gives me a chance to post this warning to others as yet unafflicted by this terminal earworm while keeping another window open with this playing on a loop.

It’s a comforting situation. They tell me that, with therapy and the right medication, I’ll soon be eligible for release. There will be a Billy Joel restraining order of course, but I can live with that. When it comes to Billie Joel, I know better than most that it’s not about the singer, “It’s all about soul.”

Posted by Vanderleun at April 12, 2013 4:54 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I know this Dale Brown. Have been in his house. Amazing the riches that mediocrity can bring. But I guess Billy Joel knows that, too.

Posted by: Andy at December 2, 2009 3:19 PM

Warning for those traveling thru Baltimore: Don't ever try to find a "classic rock" station in that town. All they play is Billy Joel and Elton John, over and over and over...

Posted by: David at December 2, 2009 3:32 PM

Joel is wrong...it's all about ball bearings nowadays.

By the way, can you make a housecall on Kenny G. after visiting Billy? Mucho Appreciado.


Posted by: Blastineau at December 2, 2009 3:35 PM

Be grateful -- you only have a finite number of Thanksgivings left.

Posted by: ChiefTestPilot at December 2, 2009 3:53 PM

Silly wabbit... there is too much cream
in your coffee to know about Soul.

Posted by: Robert at December 2, 2009 3:53 PM

This is the best! I've been laughing since the third paragraph or so. In a list of life's irritations the automatic song-replay button, that every brain is equipped with, has got to be in the top 5. Oy! The only cure is a pound of aspirin with a tequila chaser. Or a tire iron to the left temple. AAARRRGGGHHHH!

Posted by: Kerry at December 2, 2009 3:54 PM

Piano Man is enough to incite murder.

However, Cat's in the Cradle by Chapin wins the horror contest for earworm madness.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at December 2, 2009 3:56 PM

Once, many years ago, I happened to remark to a friend, "[Such-and-such song] has been going through my head all day."

Without batting an eye he replied, "I'd shoot it off."

Posted by: rickl at December 2, 2009 5:42 PM

What are you complaining about? I had to sit through more playings that I have fingers and toes of Elton John's Tiny Dancer on Thanksgiving eve.
"I love that song! Play it again!!" my inebriated wife shouted over and over as I repeatedly jabbed my salad fork into my thigh.

Posted by: westsoundmodern at December 2, 2009 6:19 PM

I feel your pain.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 2, 2009 6:22 PM

Enya was suggested at one of my family get-togethers. When I made it clear that I would leave and take my cinnamon rolls with me, the crime was averted.

Posted by: askmom at December 2, 2009 7:10 PM

I may be one of the few people in the world who is not horrified by earworms.

This may be because I spent four years working at a summer camp, singing the most horrendous earworms known to mankind, and discovered a couple of things: the first is that there comes a point when you can sing a horrible song without listening to yourself, and the second is that you can derail any earworm by judicious mental application of a preferable earworm.

And I have a huge mental music catalog in my head, including the overture to Gilbert & Sullivan's Gondoliers.

In other words, don't ever sing annoying songs at me, because I can both trump you and drown you out. :D

Posted by: B. Durbin at December 2, 2009 9:43 PM

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is another earworm that's also "all about soul":



Posted by: Connecticut Yankee at December 2, 2009 10:18 PM

I had the same experience last night at the bakery where I work as a Keebler Elf. One of the other elves brought in the Siberian Transfat Orchestrated or some such bilge spewing cd and proceeded to cause my current insanity. These musicians seem to think that singing the same three notes over and over again, like an acid rock version of Hot Cross Buns done in a soulful minor key with rhyming words...AAAAACCCCCK....my train of thought has derailed.

Posted by: Jewel at December 3, 2009 1:03 AM

I think it was Dave Berry who was ranting once he couldn't get "MacArthur Park" (left the cake out in the rain-I don't think that I can take it, cause it took so long to bake it...) out of his head and he finally found peace by humming "God Save the Queen" very slowly and reflectively.

Posted by: teri at December 3, 2009 5:01 AM

You can purge this horror with large doses of jazz. I recommend Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Keith Jarrett, John Lewis, Horace Silver, Gene Harris ...

Posted by: Deborah at December 3, 2009 5:13 AM

Damn, Damn, Damn you. Why did you make me go and listen to that? Now I sit here wishing I tinitus to drown it out.

Posted by: BobHam at December 3, 2009 9:28 AM

You could probably get rid of it by listening to "It's a Small World" a few times.

Posted by: JanB at December 3, 2009 10:13 AM

Instant cure for an earworm: "Vacation" by the Go-Gos. Pleasant enough, and for some reason, the song doesn't lend itself to aural burrowing.

Posted by: Aquila at December 3, 2009 10:51 AM

Small World? No, no, NO!

I once did listen to it because I had to take my small daughter through it five tiimes at Disneyland.

Took me years to recover.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 3, 2009 11:24 AM

This is the only antidote to earworms, Karma Chameleon. Not only the song but a vision of Boy George also works.

My apologies.

Posted by: mac at December 3, 2009 11:31 AM

Deborah, amen! I would simply add that the Modern Jazz Quartet did a number of recordings jazzing up Bach in such a way that you would have thought Bach MEANT for his music to be played like jazz. It is one of the best cures for recurrent redundancy if ever there was one. Dave Brubeck is also good for what ails ya.

Posted by: Jewel at December 3, 2009 12:04 PM

Here, Gerard: This should do the trick:


Posted by: Jewel at December 3, 2009 12:08 PM

I saw Billy Joel in the 70s as the lead act to the Doobie Brothers. His arrogance, mediocrity, and contempt for the audience who simply wanted him gone left a lasting impression: I would spend my life dedicated to never once listening to his self-important musical spam, ever. Each morning I renew my vows, and to date have been faithfully celibate.

The cure is as others have suggested: replace the brain worm with something of far higher value; blues is my current drug of choice.

Posted by: Dr Bob at December 3, 2009 12:45 PM

That's it Jewel. I'm putting you on THE LIST!

Posted by: vanderleun at December 3, 2009 2:41 PM

Geez, Gerard! I was already banned by Nancy at little groin ball sacks.

Posted by: Jewel at December 3, 2009 6:09 PM

wailing heavy metal guitars cures me,

Posted by: pdwalker at December 4, 2009 9:49 AM

My all-time best ear worm breaker is "Friend of the Devil", as performed by the Grateful Dead. Sing it slow, fast, whatever, but if I repeat it enough times, the bad worm disappears.

Posted by: Hunter at December 4, 2009 5:51 PM

Nothing's worse than a bad earworm coupled with an even tackier mental image--think "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" with the "Christmas Carol" episode of Quantum Leap. Now think of it starting just after Halloween and running until the Super Bowl. When it starts on Labor Day I'll either have to shoot myself or end up naked on some rooftop with a deer rifle, several boxes of ammo and a crate of Molotov cocktails....

Posted by: ipw533 at December 9, 2009 6:25 PM

Damn you! I had never heard "All About Soul". Now, having done so I just want to cry. Or throw up. Or something.

Posted by: Dinah Lord at December 10, 2009 7:25 AM

Here's the power of the internet:

Two years ago, B. Durbin wrote
"...summer camp, singing the most horrendous earworms known to mankind..." and now I'm infected with
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt ... da da da da da da da.

Posted by: Cris at December 9, 2011 8:04 AM

Well, on the other hand, at least you didn't have to listen to "Seasons in the Sun".

We had joy we had fun
We had seasons in the sun ...

Whoops. Sorry!

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at December 9, 2011 8:10 AM

The Banana Song, on a SRO school bus of first graders, sung loudly on a field trip.
You won't listen to music for quite a while.

Posted by: Peccable at December 9, 2011 11:10 AM

Wasn't it Chuck Klosterman who wrote that Billy Joel is "great" but he's not "good"?

Posted by: LS at December 9, 2011 11:25 AM

No wonder pop stars have substance abuse habits, I can barely stand listening to it without needing a drink, I can only imagine how horrible the damage must be having to perform it repeatedly. (I shut it off midway to avoid earworm, but for those looking for a musical tonic (of sorts) and perhaps a bit more aesthetically pleasing (I realize musical tastes vary as widely as individuals), Hopefully this will do the trick nicely: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWFuzjqJYpY"

Failing that go for the full old school brain salad surgery: "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVu9qIIkdGs"
(yes the synthesizer is cheesy by 21st century standards, but Greg Lake can SING)
Good Luck! & let's be careful out there on the innertubes, and as always - many thanks to our gracious host, GVDL for keeping us entertained and enlightened.

Posted by: Crazy Uncle Mark at December 9, 2011 5:04 PM

After all these years of thinking it was a matter of trust?

Posted by: Casca at December 10, 2011 2:46 AM

If you have bad lyrics
That turn you're brains to mush'
I have a bad solution that will make the demon hush.
The Candy Man.
Oh yes, the Candy Man can.
The Candy Man can, cause he turns what's left of sanity into a saccharine slush.

Posted by: stuart at April 12, 2013 8:56 AM

The former Mr. Brinkley now has a bike shop out on Lhong Giland where he will build you a custom mediocrity if you are a fellow mediocrite like Bruce Springsteen.

Posted by: mushroom at April 12, 2013 12:19 PM

"Small World? No, no, NO! ...I had to take my small daughter through it five tiimes at Disneyland. Took me years to recover."

Bummer, Gerard...

I think this dudes got you beat:


"Disneyland Awards Man $8,000 After Horrific 'It's A Small World' Experience

An attorney says a disabled man was awarded $8,000 by Disneyland after the "It's A Small World" ride broke, stranding him for a half hour while the theme song played continuously.

Lawyer David Geffen says Jose Martinez didn't medically stabilize for three hours after the ride broke down in 2009."

Posted by: Cond0011 at April 13, 2013 4:26 PM

More Joel-Wipe-Out medicine:

Antonio Carlos Jobim: His tune called "My Friend Ramades"

The mystery is how Brazilians can make melodies full of joy and sadness at the same time...@


Posted by: Dex Quire at April 14, 2013 11:27 AM