Singing in the Brain!

You wouldn't believe the songs that are stuck in my head!

My birthday is this week and I’ve been thinking a lot about wrinkles.  No, not the ones that are starting to creep onto my face (I hate those!)  I’m talking about the wrinkles in my brain.

The reason I’ve been thinking about these particular wrinkles is because just a few days ago I found myself singing a song that I literally hadn’t thought of in forty years.  What’s even more remarkable is the fact that this was a very obscure song, and there probably aren’t that many folks who knew it when it was current!  And yet here I was decades later, belting out every word of every verse with such spot-on accuracy that you’d have thought I had the sheet music right there in front of me.

Clearly pleased with this impromptu solo performance, I then began testing myself to see what other little ditties might be tucked between the creases of my gray matter, and I’ll have to say, the results were astonishing!  Let me give you a few examples.  (Humor me.  It’s my birthday.)

The song that got this whole process started was "Company of Cowards”, a silly little ballad about a Civil War brigade in full retreat.  It was from a 1964 album by the New Christy Minstrels.  Thanks to the Internet you can now download it, but as I told you, I didn’t need to do that because I knew the entire thing by heart.  In fact, I had almost total recall of all the other songs on that album as well, no doubt due to the fact that as a kid I absolutely loved it and played it so often that I practically wore the grooves off of the record.  (That statement will mean nothing to today’s MP3 generation!)

Another 1960’s era album I committed to memory in its entirety was "My Son the Nut”, by song parody genius Allan Sherman.  Oh sure, everybody is familiar with his most popular recording, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”, but how many of you know: "One hippopotami cannot get on a bus, because one hippopotami is TWO hippopotamus”? 

I found a lot of "singles” hiding in the wrinkles too, like "Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends” and the theme from the old TV series "My Mother the Car” – every word, mind you – as well as all eleven verses of "Found a Peanut” (a personal favorite of mine because as soon as I start singing it, the song gets stuck in my husband’s head and drives him absolutely crazy!) 

By now you’ve probably noticed that every one of those songs is slightly on the zany side.  It’s a funny thing about me, I guess.  The weirder and more bizarre something is, the longer I remember it.   Give me a goofy jingle about hot dogs and it’ll cling to my brain like a hair on a balloon; but ask me to retain a useful fact like the capital of Vermont or the square root of 289, and it falls off faster than a Wacky Wall Walker that’s been dropped in the dirt! 

Curious as to why this is, I decided to do a little research online to find out for myself what the connection is between music and the brain, and in the process I discovered all kinds of information about magneto encephalography, which measures the electromagnetic activity of neurons and their effect on the tertiary auditory cortex. Blah, blah, blah. 

Needless to say, I got bored pretty quickly with this project (the Wacky Wall Walker strikes again!) and turned my attention instead to figuring out what to do with this vast repertoire of screwball songs lurking under my cranium.  Then it hit me – I’ll teach them to Aidan and Avery!   After all, what’s a grandmother for, right?  Just think, fifty years from now all these odd, quirky little tunes are going to be stuck in their brains, and they’ll have Grammy to thank for it!

I think we’ll start with this one that I learned when I was about five years old (sing along if you know it!): 

Alice, where art thou going?  Upstairs to take a bath!
Her shape is like a toothpick; Her head is like a tack. 
Alice stepped in the bathtub, and she pulled out the plug (pop!) 
Oh my goodness, oh my soul!  There goes Alice down the hole!
Hey, Alice!  Where art though going?”

By the way, did I mention I share a birthday with Bob Hope?  That may explain a lot right there.

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