My interaction with a particular snatch of word or melody or beat may last the night, may last several days, might hang around for a week or more. Right now, it's a piece of the lyric from Petty's "Won't Back Down" that is adding an additional layer of consciousness to my morning. You can stand me up at the gates of Hell but I won't back down.
Why that particular song? I have no idea. I haven't listened to it lately. I'm not feeling confrontational. It isn't 9/11. I was just thinking about the length of concerts and got to thinking about summer festivals and how they limit the length of shows and that took me to Springsteen at Jazzfest and that took me to Petty at Jazzfest, and now there is the song to take me through the morning. And beyond?
My brain does have some favorite riffs that it likes to go back to again and again--Led Zeppelin's "Fool In The Rain," Jimi Hendrix's "Them Changes," Grieg's "The Hall Of The Mountain King." There's no telling how many internal hours of my life include one of those tunes on the playlist.
Typically, this would be the point in the essay where I suggest that relentless noise of modern society is penetrating our brains with insipid sentiments, commercial mantras, insidious jingles, and white noise. I would drift ever-so-slightly toward some conspiracy of mind control. I would lament how even as I stand here in my quiet office, my mind is not really quiet. It's got a popular, commercial song playing in it with blandish, generalized lyrics.
But I'm not suggesting any of that. For one thing, I do back down, and so does everyone I know, so there isn't much evidence that the song's continuously-repeating message is having much impact.
And I also find the unannounced arrival of familiar, well-worn songs to be quite comforting sometimes. And usually not a bother at all. Sure, I'd like to be in a deeper sleep so that I didn't have to hear the opening riff and lyrics to "Misty Mountain Hop," but the truth is that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are not keeping me awake; they are hanging out with me as companions to my insomnia. Listen, mate, they seem to say, if you're going to be up, we might as well rock.
During daylight hours, I often find that one of these beloved songs will come back to me when I'm nervous, when I'm entering a familiar situation, when I'm going to the doctor. If the uninhibited secrets of my life come out under anesthesia the next time I have a colonoscopy or something, I'm guessing the nurses will be treated to a loopy version of Springsteen's "Two Hearts."
Of course, it's tragic when I didn't request the song, but I get it over and over anyway. If I get stuck with something like "If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it", it can burrow in so deeply that it becomes an accusation of every failure in my personal history, romantic or otherwise.
The mind doesn't have an aesthetic filter, no matter how much musical snobbery I might practice during waking hours, but I'll still take the playlist. Most days and nights, anyway.