In 1995, the Good Humor Ice Cream Company borrowed a mildly popular song by Scatman John called–well, “Scat Man.” They changed the lyrics to “Good Humor Man,” and featured the song in a commercial. That song has been stuck in my head for twenty-one years.
The worst kind of earworm is the song you really don’t even know all that many words to. You can’t even be halfway entertaining for yourself, or the poor souls forced to live or work alongside you, when the song your brain is spinning on repeat amounts to less than ten contiguous words followed by an assorted collection of mouth noises that really only make sense to you. My own relentless captor features only five words, and is made up largely of scatting, which I’m not sure holds water coming from a 30-something housewife in a cardigan.
The consensus on earworms is that the only way to rid yourself of one is to replace it with something else. Please don’t think I haven’t tried. Thousands of other earworms have come and gone, with little or no warning. I’m not sure how my susceptibility ranks among other humans, but if the reactions of my family are any indication, it’s bad. Real bad.
My husband has tried to exorcise the demon of the Good Humor Man song through a genetic family skill he calls “zoofing.” This is the ninja-esque art of purposefully pushing an earworm off onto someone else. My low immunity makes me the perfect target, and it usually takes just the suggestion of a song, an innocent hum or whistle, to get me. He always wins the battle, but has yet to win the war.
Carrie Brownstein joined an episode of All Songs Considered on NPR, where they spent an hour considering the worst songs ever, including the most offensive earworms: Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time,” Blind Melon’s “No Rain,” Disney sweetheart “It’s a Small World,” and my personal favorite, Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” All worthy contenders, but when my own child threatens to procure a bottle of water and spray me with it each time she hears the words “I’m the Good—,“ I have to think I’ve got the one earworm to rule them all.
So for now, I can only hope that one day I’ll be free of this affliction. What I would give to fill my own days with the occasional Christmas song in April or even some inspired words from Darryl and John. Until then, I’ve got my family to hold me accountable, as long as I don’t drive them too far.
Bee boop doo bada bop.