Tag Archives: Earworm

An earworm from 80’s children’s television

Earworms are common in life. They happen – a song pops up at random or a snippet of something musical that you’ve heard, be it a professional song, a TV theme, a commercial, or something else. It happens.

I’ve been haunted in the past by a piano riff to a song I didn’t know the name to that I had heard off the radio as a child. A friend helped me find out what pop song it was. I now listen to the tune on a semi-regular basis.

I’ve got another song in my head and there are issues that likely make it impossible for me to ever hear it again; another volley from childhood in the 1980s. This time, though, I saw the song performed on television and I know the refrain from it… It’s just most every other factor is forgotten and web searches turn up nothing.

It was on Nickelodeon, I’m pretty certain of that. It wasn’t Pinwheel, or Out of Control (to even suggest that one is comical, which goes well with Out of Control’s comedic motifs), and it sure as shit wasn’t something from You Can’t Do That on Television. I just don’t remember the show besides being acting and musical – and I don’t mean skit musical but performing on-stage for children in an audience.

And while memory is dim on any other details, the acoustic song’s refrain isn’t forgotten:

Swimming in the pool and lying in the sun,
Swimming in the pool and lying in the sun

In fact, it comes off like a coda to end the song from my memory. It didn’t go on for 4 or 5 minutes but it was repeated over and over again until the last line: Swimming in the pool… And lying in the sun!

I can’t remember other verses, but the song was about summer time. I can remember the tempo. Everything else is a wash – who was performing it (guys), what show, all the lyrics. I’ve tried looking the song up quoting the refrain but results were minimal on Google and seeing some were linked to adult related content, I don’t think the wording is right on my part or the song is actually listed lyrically online.

It’s not like songs off Nick escape me entirely. I can’t forget Hocus Pocus from Today’s Special. The theme to Pinwheel is still in my head. Heck, maybe I have the wrong station where I heard this thing? It could have been CBS but the only live-action, children’s TV show that I remember watching was the Patchwork Family (I don’t know if that was a New York only broadcast, by the way; it was a Saturday morning show).

Back to the song in question, it’s catchy to the point you’d expect someone to cover it. Then again, it’s a kid’s song. It’s not going to get covered as so much remembered. In this case, it is indeed remembered – just without solid facts of who, what, where and when.

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The end of the mystery earworm

A few days before Christmas 2015, my friend Liz contacted me through Twitter in an enthusiastic state and asked “is this The Song?” The ambiguity is an appropriate title of a mystery earworm that’s followed me around since childhood. A couple of notes to a song, a piano or synthesizer riff, that I had heard a few times while in the car with my family as we traveled late at night through Queens, New York.

do-do DA-do, da-da Dada…. 

We were always passing through Flushing Meadows, on our way home in Suffolk County, New York. It was late at night as-was and it was usually me and my father who were the ones still awake in the car. Dad had been working overnight for the United States Postal Service at their sorting facility at LaGuardia Airport at the time. Driving home late at night was no big thing for him. For the rest of the family – my mothers and my two brothers – it was time for sleep. The would be dozing as we were in the beginning stages of a trip to the Great South Bay area of Suffolk County, some 50 miles away

We visited Queens and specifically Jackson Heights on a regular basis; it’s where my parents were from and their parents were still there.  Well, at least their mothers and siblings. My mother’s mother was the usual destination of our trips into the city, though we regularly made brief stopovers to my dad’s mother’s place.

I don’t remember the exact streets that were taken to get to the Long Island Expressway and back home, but I do remember passing William A Shea Stadium and the World’s Fair site in flushing. I loved passing those location sites. And it was guaranteed my father would have the radio on and be listening to the music playing on one station or another while we headed east.

? da-da Dada, dad a DA-da…. ?

It happened more than once, I just don’t know how many times; it was too long ago to even try to guess. Driving through Flushing that song would be playing. Memories of the streetlamps from the highway and seeing Shea Stadium and the World’s Fair sites at night were sown with the song and the memory a guys voice tied to the song. I couldn’t recall a lyric; I could recall the piano riff though. Was it a keyboard or a piano? Memory wasn’t clear on that one either, but as time went by it came off more and more like a keyboard. Blame that on time and distance distorting a memory.

The last time I heard that song was by chance after I’d moved with my family from New York to Florida in 1989. It was about 5 years later and coincidentally / fittingly we were visiting the tri-state area because my aunt was to be married in October 1994. We all had flown from St. Pete/Clearwater airport to Newark on the long-since-defunct Southeast Airlines, and had to make the extra long trek from Newark to a location in Nassau County where our hotel was. While it was just mid-afternoon, it was only me and my father awake in the car at the time when that song came on air over the station my father was listening to.

“What is this?? What is this song, dad?  It’s been in my head for years, I’ve always wondered….”  He answered, but between the events of the wedding-weekend and life in general, what he said didn’t get retained in memory.

A lot of things have taken place in my life since that afternoon, including me becoming deaf and regaining my hearing with thanks to an Auditory Brainstem Implant (it’s a variation of the Cochlear Implant). One thing that didn’t change was memory of that song that riff. It haunted me. I started imitating it and running it by people in person around 2004, seeking out suggestions from those who grew up in the 1980s. Maybe they’d know? I ran it by family first before reaching out more broadly in recent years (by way of social media).

Early in 2015 I compiled a list of Billboard Hot 100 lists from the mid to late 1980s and started to check songs whose titles I didn’t recognize… Maybe that one is it?  Oh, by the way? I’m not even supposed to be able to enjoy music as much as I do. That’s supposed to be a shortcoming of having sound by way of the Cochlear implant – you can’t process music right, and can’t enjoy the songs for what they are.

Yeah, well, I’ve got 1250+ songs in my iTunes library, many of them songs I’ve only heard after going deaf, and they sound like they should depending on the era they were recorded in.

Back to the Billboard listings – I stuck it all in an Excel file, and while it reintroduced me to a lot of good music from 1987 through ’84 or ’83, I didn’t find what I was looking for.  I didn’t go through everything though – getting impatient and disappointed as well as having the rest of life happening. I still have the spreadsheet tucked away somewhere on the PC and want to go through it again to sample other songs from the list but, well, that’s not necessary any more in the case of THE song.

I forgot how Liz got caught up in this. We were talking through Twitter I guess and out of frustration or because musical chatter had come up – I brought up the song. A little while after our conversation in the summer, I sent an audio recording of me humming the song.  Like many had reacted to me over the years, Liz (who’s my age) recognized the riff but had no clue of the song – who it was, what the song title was.  She’s a 1980s music fan and has friends who are 80s music fans. The plan was to keep an ear open for it.

Oh, by the way? Soundhound sucks. I’ve used that app a few times on Android phones and at no point has song humming worked to identify a song, let alone this long-standing sought after item. While I see the application as absolutely loved by the masses, it’s just never lived up to its reputation or abilities unless I put a smartphone up to a speaker when a song plays that I need to identify.

At any rate, back to Liz: She was traveling with her husband and a friend through upstate New York less than two weeks ago. A SirusXM station that focused on stuff from the 1980s came on the air. A lot of songs have been suggested to me over the years ago The Song, but all of those suggestions aren’t even of the feeling of 80s pop hits that this thing sounded like. It’s no rocker, it’s no ballad. It was… it was … something… Probably a one-hit wonder too if I’ve never crossed it again. And you can guarantee a one-hit wonder song will make it back on-air through a station that covers a decade…

I click that link and the tempo alone matches the memory. Then the piano of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin Out” starts coming through strong….

That link Liz posted, that song and hearing it again and knowing who sang it… that was an early Christmas gift and turned out better than the majority of my tangible gifts received this year. To have such a long standing question answered. It brings a level of internal peace and allows a degree of comfort. Such a trivial and persistent question gets solved, and now the earworm can’t haunt me by way of ignorance of who and what.


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