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SOUNDTRACK MADNESS

When Sigmund Freud launched modern psychology by naming the hidden recesses of the human mind, the unconscious, superego, id, and the rest, he forgot a part—perhaps the most mysterious part of all—The Soundtrack.

If the exhaustive survey I conducted is true (I asked my wife) then most of us have a song running around in our heads most of the time. This ever-changing score, programmed for us by our brains, provides the musical accompaniment to our lives.

We don’t chose the selection playing on our soundtrack, but it affects us profoundly.

Let the right tune be looping through your head and life is happy thing, your mood as buoyant as a child’s. But let the wrong song get stuck in your mind and all is dark.

Your own brain will torture you. An obnoxious melody, harder to shake than a stalker, makes your life a joyless heap of ashes. You have Soundtrack Madness.

For as long as it lasts, and it will seem like forever, you’ll struggle helplessly with an invader as hostile as any virus. You will curse the day you ever heard of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. “Young girl, get out of my miiind….” indeed. And take this piece of crap song with you.

Soundtrack Madness can strike without warning. Maybe you were at the office Christmas party when some goon croaked out “New York, New York” on the karaoke machine for fifteen excruciating minutes, and now you’ve got it so bad it feels like your combover is on fire.

“Dom dom doobie dom. Start spreading the noooz, I’m leaving todaaay,” the infection takes hold. It haunts you on the drive home. It’s still there when you cut yourself shaving the next morning.

“I want to wake up, in the city, that never sleeeps….” Over and over. Your brain is melting. What can you do?

Well, we here at Caught off Base can help. But like a bad case of the hiccups, the cure won’t work until the disease is ripe.

In the meantime, let’s learn something about the enemy.

What are the characteristics of song with high Soundtrack Madness potential? The first hint is any song that is so catchy you remember it the first time you hear it. Let one of those pieces of pop Velcro enter your ears and soon enough it will be repeating on you like a microwave burrito. If you like it the first time you hear it, you’ll hate it by the fifth.

Even a decent song can turn toxic if it is forced on you too often. Surely a vengeful God reserves the ninth circle of hell for the monsters who use our cultural patrimony to sell Toyotas. Twenty to life in the Empire State Building listening to the elevator version of Eleanor Rigby would be too good for those SOBs.

The first person to describe Soundtrack Madness was (as in so many things) Mark Twain. He wrote a piece 130 years ago where his hero gets a workman’s jingle stuck in his brain, and the only cure was to infect someone else with it.

Fortunately, modern medicine has made great strides since then. We have more humane treatment options than dreamed of back in the 19th century.

The cure for Soundtrack Madness now is replacement therapy, or Musical Transplant. All one need do is put another, more palatable song into one’s head, and the cure is effected. But there is a catch.

The new song has to be even stickier than the first. Only the most infectious of ditties will do the job. Cole Porter can’t help you here. Think Freddie Boom-Boom Cannon.

That’s the cure for the horrible sickness that’s boring into your synapses like a dentist’s drill. But for the treatment to take the pain has to be nearly intolerable.

Are you there yet? Are you hearing that awful song until your eyes cross?

“If I can—doom doom—make it there, I’ll make it—doom doom—anywhere. It’s up to you. Noo. Yawk. No-ooo Yawwwk!”

OK, you’re ready. Get ready to tell it goodbye. All together now, let’s sing….

“Na na na na,

Na na na na,

Hey hey-ey,

Gooo-ood Byyyye.”

Once again, “Na na na na….”

Repeat until cured. You’re quite welcome.