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Jim Walker: Oops ... did I sing that out loud?

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: April 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
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Do you ever spontaneously break out in song?

Now, I’m not talking about being compelled to twirl and belt out “The Sound of Music” every time you’re on a grassy hillside in Austria. I mean, everyone does that. (And they make videos of it for YouTube.)

Nor am I talking about screaming “Getcha motor runnin’” against the wind whenever you crank up your Vespa. Again, this is a socially accepted norm.

What I’m talking about is the occasional, irresistible urge to underscore a special moment in time by giving musical voice to a corresponding lyric from a popular song ... in public.

Sometimes, the lyric is an exact fit, and it can actually take the place of real conversation in that moment. Say, when you look into your lady’s eyes and croon, à la Rod Stewart, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

This can be the perfect thing to offer her, depending on, (A) how well you sing, (B) who else is within earshot and (C) whether intimate conversation is included in your evening’s $200 “agreement.”

And then, sometimes, your lyric is only sort-of, annoyingly, related to the moment.

Take, for example, when the bartender pokes a slice of lime into your Corona and you sing to him, à la Harry Nilsson, “You put the lime in the coconut ...” and he gives you that tired look that says “You aren’t the first mynah bird to perch on a stool.”

Well, as you may have surmised, I am afflicted with this tuneful spontaneity, which, some years back, my daughter lovingly labeled as “songisitis.” (We hereby take ownership of and copyright the term.)

You see, she was younger then, and often trapped in the truck with me. She and her sister certainly often heard “Have I told you lately that I love you?” (So sweet). But they also heard “What’s the matter with kids today?” and “Short people got no reason to live.”

And God help them if they mentioned a friend named Jeremiah because, you know, he “was a bullfrog.”

This is aside from the countless original lyrics I sang to them, such as “I know it’s hard, but did you remember to pack your shin guards?”

Good stuff.

Now I, for one, find songisitis incredibly endearing. And on certain happy occasions, it can even become a group project.

It is said that, when your friends have musical Tourette's, life is like a Broadway show. Given the right lubrication, after you offer your mates the first line of a song, they may spontaneously offer the next.

Or they may take away your car keys.

I think there is a gray area here between songisitis and musical Tourette syndrome (MTS), which I read is actually a problem for, you know, some people. One study indicates that 70 percent of the population has a form of MTS.

It’s usually found in musicians and people who listen to large amounts of music (duh). And MTS is triggered when the subject is exposed to a stressful or uncomfortable situation.

Well, that leaves me out because I’ll do it anytime.

But the study is a hoot in itself, with the conversation with one study subject going like this:

Researcher: “How do you feel?”

Test subject (singing): “Sometimes, I feel, I’ve got to (bangs twice on the table), run away” (Soft Cell).

Researcher: “Are you hungry?”

Test subject: “Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire” (Metallica).

Researcher: “Picture....”

Test subject (singing): “yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies” (Beatles).

I’m sorry; I do not see this as a problem. These are imaginative answers to mundane questions. And such responses can turn the dull and dreary moments of life into uplifting art.

What a wonderful world it would be if people sang their responses throughout the day — especially during important business meetings and murder trials.

However, I will offer one caveat here. Every great now and then, your song lyric might be inappropriate to the current surroundings — though this is unintended, at least on a conscious level.

Take, for instance:

You’re on the street corner and a fully tattooed, fully pierced girl with a Mohawk hairstyle stomps up to you in her heavy black boots and asks if you have a cigarette lighter. As your eyes zero in on the string of shiny silver links connecting her nose to her ear, you hear your own voice singing, somewhere, à la Aretha Franklin, “Chain, chain, chain, yeah, chain of fools.”

(Oops ... did I sing that out loud?)

Or maybe:

You’re helping 90-year-old Aunt Sarah out to the garden. She adjusts her sun bonnet and says, “I’m going to leave my hat on.”

And you can’t help it — you hear the sexy piano music bouncing in and you find yourself in throaty voice singing, à la Joe Cocker, “You can leave your hat on. ...” and then you get the visual of what that song is about — and shudder. Your song trails off into mumbles.

(Aaawkward.)

And finally:

You’re in the men’s room, face to the wall, and you impulsively sing, à la Neil Young, “Long may you ru-uh-un, long may you run.”

And the guy facing the wall next to you says, “Thanks, it’s the Flowmax.”

(Oops.)

I’m just sayin’, songisitis isn’t a bad thing. But there’s a time and a place.

Jim Walker’s “songs of life” are pretty much his own opinion. Comment at jwalker@the-signal.com — or tweet at @SCVSignal or @DontSeriously, where he is forming a chapter of Songisitis Anonymous (as if you could be anonymous with this affliction).

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