My Old Kentucky Homesite

Earworm Saturday #1

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/30/2010

An earworm is an annoying song that, no matter how much you bang your head against the wall, you can’t get out of your brain. Earworms may pop up out of nowhere, for no discernible reason. Often, though, there’s a trigger. For example, whenever I find myself in the cereal aisle at a grocery store, I can’t help hearing

Kehhhhhh-lahhhhhhhhg’s sugarcornpops (clap clap), Sugar Pops are tops.

I’m sure that some of you other old farts will sympathize with my plight.

Earworms can be songs you like, songs you used to like, or – more commonly in my case – songs you can’t stand but that just won’t go away.

My latest earworm is a little number that’s about 230 years old. It was written by an Englishman, a former slave trader turned curate, named John Newton. He was moved to create this song, among dozens of others, in praise of his god – the very deity who, a few years earlier, had smiled on the buying and selling of human beings.

I’m plagued by this particular earworm because at almost every damn musical event I’ve attended here in Lexington, a performer has been “moved” to sing it. The hoot-‘n’-holler version rings out loud and clear, and the audience always joins in as if it’s the city’s secret anthem. Since I, myself, am descended from New Yawk’s “wretched refuse,” I guess I should think it appealing that there are so many self-proclaimed wretches in my new home. As an atheist, I find the words both revolting and stupid, but the tune won’t leave me alone. I’m speaking, of course, about “Amazing Grace.”

So, in order to pass my earworm along to all those who claim that they get nothing from reading my blog, I’ve collected a few choice samples of some of the worst versions of this ditty. You may find them funny, but – believe me – you won’t be laughing tomorrow. I guarantee that the sound will not be sweet after it has lost its way in your cranium.

First, here’s the definitive awful rendition. An industrious you-tuber (or should I say “ouch potato”) supplied the lyrics, for those Kentuckians who’d like to sing along.

This next version has evidently been recorded by parents hoping to cash in on the saccharine show-busy piety of their young daughter. I don’t think you’ll be able to stomach the entire ride, but do tool along for the first few seconds, at least until you can fill in the blank: “that saved a ___________ like me.”

I’m not a Christian, but f’Chrissake! I’m pretty sure that this interpretation isn’t what the song is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, here’s “Amazing Grace” as a horrifying tribute to our death machines in Iraq.

The video says this guy is from Georgia, but I don’t believe it. He’s gotta be from Kentucky, because he just won’t quit singing that song. Truthfully, I’m glad he didn’t choose the Sugar Pops jingle, or I’d never be able to digest breakfast again.

I’m pretty much in agreement with Drake in this short piece. Far more articulately than I can, the kid expresses our mutual attitude toward this irritating hymn.

Finally, here’s a version that you actually might enjoy. It won’t cure you of that wriggly critter leaving its slime all over your hammer, your anvil, and your stirrup, but it will at least put the song in perspective. So when you find “Amazing Grace” sloshing around and around and around inside your skull, just pour yourself a cold one and hum along.

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68 Responses to “Earworm Saturday #1”

  1. srsny said

    I love the definitive awful rendition. What drugs could this guy be on to go on mike – in church – to lead people in a song he doesn’t know. I think the American Idol guy was totally acting. Probably because he knew it would get him his 15 minutes (or rather seconds – that’s all you need now).

    The worst thing about your post for me – is that now I can’t shake my worst ear worm. It always pops into my head whenever any talks about earworms. From the 70s – Monti Rock the third as Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes:
    Doo — Dah — Doo — Dah — Doo-Dah-Doo/
    Doo — Dah — Doo — Dah — Doo-Dah-Doo/
    Get Dancin’

  2. Srsny:
    I remember Monti Rock, but not that song. After searching it out on YouTube, I can see why you’d find it annoying. But for me, it’s not quite up (or down) to earworm-worthy quality. However, you may have cured me of my “Amazing Grace” malady. Because after reading your comment, I can’t stop thinking about “De Camptown Races.”

    I’m not convinced that you’re right about the “American Idol” guy. Come visit me in Kentucky, and we’ll go hear some music at one of the local joints. After that experience, you might decide that he’s for real.

  3. yunshui said

    I’m more than a little concerned by the title of this post. Earworm Saturday #1? Does mean I’m going to be spending every weekend from now on trying frantically to dislodge whatever dreckish hymn you’ve dredged up from the bowels of your subconscious? Because if so, I warn you, I shall be avenged

  4. Wow, Buckwheat got a haircut. Well it’s nice to see he’s still performing, but I’d prefer he stick to his old material.

    Yunshui, I see your ‘Hchicha Mahna yal mahna’ and raise you a mango

  5. Earworm Saturday? My email of the post says Earworm Friday. If I come back tomorrow, will it say Earworm Sunday (which actually might be more appropriate for this post)?

    And is this something that comes about with large snowfalls?

    Philly, You’ve done that before, tried to infect us with that mangled mango machination you call a ditty. That only works once. I’m not biting. Been there, done that, have the psychoanalysis bills to show for it.

  6. Yunshui:
    Rest, perturbed spirit. “Earworm Saturday” is not a term akin to “Two-for-one Tuesday.” Instead, think of “Earworm Saturday” as a kind of occasional “Maundy Thursday.” But whereas the latter is about washing the feet, the former is about clogging the ears. And did you happen to notice that Friday the 13th fell on a Wednesday this month?

    Philly:
    I’ve now set my Spam Filter to quarantine any further references to “fruit AND pirate AND pope.” Of course, commenters are still free to refer to any of those subjects singly.

    SI:
    Ah, your email is astute, indeed. Since I wrote my post in the wee hours, I was still in Casual Friday mode. But the date was actually Saturday, so in the interest of complete transparency, I decided to change the title. But I do apologize to any Australian readers, for whom it’s actually sometime next year.

  7. Spam filter test

  8. Philly:
    Well, shit! Devilishly clever artists can always game the system, can’t they? But at least the image doesn’t sing. (Yeah, you can read that as a challenge.)

  9. Evie said

    Singing the words of Amazing Grace to the tune of Gilligan’s Island may cure you of this particular malady. On the other hand, it may just give you a whole other earworm.

  10. Evie:

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like Gilligan,
    The skipper too,
    The millionaire and his wife,
    A movie star,
    The professor and Mary Ann —
    and me.

    By the way, did you know that on the last episode of Lost, the survivors will be rescued by the passengers and crew of the S.S. Minnow?

  11. yunshui said

    Philly

    Babyshui was on my lap when I clicked on that mango link. Not only was it apparently the most exciting thing she’d ever seen, she also got cross when I stopped it, and I had to watch the damn thing over and over for nearly 20 minutes before she got bored.

    I really, really hate you right now.

  12. Yunshui: Excellent

  13. yunshui said

    Seven hours later, my head is still filled with the mango song. You utter bastard.

  14. the chaplain said

    yunshui – If you’re tired of mangos, maybe you’d like some blueberries instead.

  15. Yunshui:
    Consider yourself lucky so far. When Babyshui gets a little bit older, she’ll make you act out that thing. If I were you, I’d start shopping immediately for the appropriate costumes.

  16. the chaplain said

    Hmm. I guess I’ll just start posting under “the chaplain” from now on. Signing in and out is obviously too difficult a task for me to execute with regularity.

  17. If you’re tired of mangos, maybe you’d like some blueberries instead.

    Must. Resist. Do. Not. Click.

  18. the chaplain said

    SI – I promise you that the blueberry link is nothing like the mango link.

  19. I couldn’t resist. I went to and and was pleasantly surprised.

  20. Do post photos once you and babyshui are costumed up.

    Just think, many decades from now when they’re planting you in the ground, babyshui may turn to babyshuideux and ask, “remember when he’d put on the pirate costume and do the mango song?” “Yeah” babyshuideux will say, “that was the best.” And generations of shuis will sing and dance the mango song to their progeny, with the original costumes relished as sacred family heirlooms, and yet never knowing it’s all due to an utter bastard who was tooling around in the intertubes one day back in 2010. :)

  21. Philly, Yunshui, Chappy, SI:
    OK, here’s the ultimate fruit-flavored earworm.

  22. Well, as long as we’re trying to infect each other, here’s one that will ding-a-ling in your ear for quite awhile.

  23. Worst I ever got was It’s A Small World After All. Something there is that does not love a large chorus of children coached by adults on how to sound cute while they sing. Same for a lot of child actors.

  24. SI:
    Your You-Tuber must be the cheesiest potato in the patch. He can’t even manage to spell “Chuck” correctly?

    Percy:
    Oh, yeah, “It’s a Small World” is definitely one of the most annoying earworms on this tiny, childish planet. Unfortunately, I think the tune will outlast the statue of Ozymandias.

  25. Mmmm. Cheesy potatoes. Yum.

  26. Cheesy potatoes

  27. the chaplain said

    He can’t even manage to spell “Chuck” correctly?

    Dare I suggest that the misspelling may have been an unfortunate Freudian slip?

  28. Only as long as you also dare to suggest that the unfortunate Freudian slip was also misspelled. ;)

  29. SI:
    I don’t know how we got from “Amazing Grace” to cheesy potatoes, but this potato video should bring us back on topic.

  30. the chaplain said

    SI – We can both guess what was occupying the guy while he was Freudian slipping on the Internet.

    Larry – Jesus, man! If you’re going to inflict yet another rendition of Amazing Grace on our poor, abused ears, please do it to a decent tune, like this.

    I think this is an old American tune. It’s infinitely better than the more common one. Would you happen to know what the tune name is?

  31. Kirk M said

    Myyyy baloney has a first name,
    it’s O-S-C-A-R,
    Myyyy baloney has a second name,
    it’s M-A-Y-E-R oooooooo…
    …oooyeee love to eat it everyday and
    if you ask me why I’ll saaayyy…

    …’cuz Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

    (was that right?)

  32. the chaplain said

    You’re a sweetheart, Larry. ;)

    And, Kirk, if I can’t get that bologna tune out of my head tonight, I’m blaming you.

  33. Chappy:
    I recognized that tune immediately. The name of the song — with entirely different words — is “The Water Is Wide.” Dozens of folk groups of the sixties performed it. However, a quick check of Wikipedia (the world’s greatest authority on everything except spelling, grammar, and punctuation), revealed that the song, under yet another set of words, was originally (?) called “O Waly, Waly.” It goes back to the 1600s, at least 100 years before John Newton published his hymnbook. So, besides being a slave-trader, Newton was a plagiarizer, too.

    Kirk:
    Yup, you’ve got perfect recall.

  34. the chaplain said

    Larry – I knew you’d know it. I was still rather young when the 60s folk singers were singing their folk songs. I was wrong about it being an American tune – it’s English or Scottish (according to the Wiki the All-Wise and All-Knowing (except for the rudiments of the English language)). Too bad Newton didn’t plagiarize the tune – I’m bored with the one you’ve been inflicting on us all weekend. I’ve alleviated the boredom by listening to Gilligan’s Island in my head all weekend. At least I know another set of lyrics to that one. The Water is Wide and House of the Rising Sun are, unfortunately for me, linked to John Newton’s text in my mind, along with the traditional tune. You wouldn’t believe how many hymn tunes and lyrics are stuck in my head.

  35. Chappy:
    Maybe I’m not reading correctly the piece of music that you sent. It says clearly that it’s “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, yet there are no words. I assumed, then, that he claimed the tune as his own. If he didn’t — if some other Christian commingled Newton’s words with someone else’s melody — I must apologize to the old curate’s ghost. So the next time I see it, I will.

  36. ildi said

    (does the mango ever stop?)

  37. You mean you haven’t gotten to the end yet? The ending is the BEST. Keep playing. Mango, mango, mango, mango, mango, mangooooo

  38. Ildi:
    does the mango ever stop?

    Only when either you or your computer dies, whichever comes first.
    Unless, of course, you’re religious. In that case, the soul of the mango follows yours for eternity.

  39. yunshui said

    The mango does not stop. Ever. It haunted my dreams all night and is still there this morning.

    If the one family heirloom that I pass down to my descendants is a mango-dressed-as-the-pope costume, I will never forgive you, Philly.

  40. ildi said

    Mango is excellent, but ultimately I go for badger classics.

  41. the chaplain said

    ildi – Were those badgers dancing or doing jumping jacks?

  42. ildi said

    Well, they’re called dancing badgers, but I suspect they went to the same school of dance that many of my fine Midwestern male cohorts must have attended…

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, J, Amz and Loo show us how to dance to the mango song; hit it, kids!

  43. Kirk M said

    @Ildi (and Larry) – The “hit it, kids” URL has rather enormous typo in it. Larry, for our further viewing and listening anguish pleasure, I’m sure you can fix?

  44. ildi said

    I’m usually good at links! Go to youtube.com, add /watch?v=nsq_MkyZyCQ

    he is a mango, he is a mango, he’s a mangooooh….

  45. Kirk M said

    Ildi – Oh, I’ve already been there (I’m good at doing surgery on typo’d URLs :P ) I can’t thank you enough for your contribution. I felt sorry for the bed actually.

  46. Kirk M said

    Hey, where’s my smilie?

  47. ildi said

    must…fight…fire…with…fire…badgers not working… (unlocks youtube vault)

    Unleash the kitty cat song!

    I picked one with lyrics because I used think it said “bedroom rockets imposing.” I’m sure I don’t need a shrink to splain that one.

  48. Ildi:
    For some reason, those badgers remind me of politicians. Jumping blithely together, without thinking, until a person of the other party comes around. Then they scream “Snake!”

    chappy:
    Those badgers were neither dancing nor doing jumping jacks. They were responding delightedly to a State of the Union address given by a president from their own party.

    Ildi (again):
    I fixed the link. However, I’m not sure anyone but you will thank me for doing so.
    Question: Is that what kids are doing as foreplay these days?

    Kirk:
    I’ve disabled those manufactured smilies, because I prefer the ingenuity of the originals — back when people actually had to choose from among keyboard characters. If we keep on spoon-feeding our young geeks, we’ll wind up with a nation even more full of badgers than it already is. On the other hand, if they all behave the way J, Amz, and Loo do, we may not have to worry about them procreating.

    Ildi (yet again):
    Somehow, I knew a cat would find its way into this post; the Internet is crawling with them. Next, Philly will show up again, and we’ll have to look at yet another picture of his beloved mutt. (The Canine Response to the Feline State of the E-Union.) Then, before you know it, someone will find an excuse to mention Hitler. That’s how these long threads always go.

  49. ildi said

    Well, Hitler did love dogs…

  50. Ildi:
    OK, you finally got me to laugh out loud.

  51. Kirk M said

    Larry – No, we won’t have to worry about them or anyone else for that matter, didn’t you hear? The world’s going to end in 2012 anyway.

  52. Kirk:
    The world’s going to end in 2012 anyway.

    Maybe that’s why everybody in Kentucky is so busy singing “Amazing Grace.” That was a successful strategy for the Mayas, wasn’t it?

  53. Linwood said

    I have to smile – I’ll have you know I walked down the aisle to Amazing Grace! I got married in a catlick church to please the father-in-law so they asked us what hymn the organist should play. I panicked, not having any recent acquaintance with churchy music. I dredged my memory of childhood sunday school songs and school assembly hymns (yup, a state school, but no separation), but could only come up with ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and ‘Onward christian soldiers’, neither of which would do. I recalled ‘Jerusalem’ – loved the music, rather jingoistic, but it didn’t matter as the organist didn’t know it. I came up with Amazing Grace cos I must have heard it somewhere, and I liked the tune, but had no idea what the lyrics said! Later, when I listened to the lyrics, I was mortified at my choice of wedding hymn!

  54. Linwood:
    Later, when I listened to the lyrics, I was mortified at my choice of wedding hymn!

    Yeah, the bride doesn’t usually refer to herself as a “wretch.” At least, not on the very day of the wedding. Perhaps you misheard, and thought the singing was about a “wench.”

    But if that piece had been played at my wedding, I would have insisted on substituting “kvetch.”

  55. srsny said

    I have 2 comments –

  56. srsny said

    grr – hit enter by accident – let me try again –

    2 comments – 1. I covet those fluffy, pink slippers. 2. I’m worried about that badger video, because I’m not so sure those are TAILS I am seeing.

  57. srsny said

    Ok, I’m getting a sense of the crowd here, so I’m sure you all will appreciate this: (the comments were going to the dogs anyway.

  58. Srsny:
    Here’s a critter that has a short question for you.

    And to return to my original point, I offer this.

  59. srsny said

    As for the first bird – it would be fun if somone put him on a mango-style loop.

    As for the second.. apparently he learned the words from the O-mazin grace guy.

    When you said you were going back to your first point, I thought you’d be giving us a parrot who can sing the sugar pops are tops jingle. Now THAT would be something!

  60. Srsny:
    Yeah, that second poor guy seemed almost as resistant to the song as I am. And I agree with you about a bird who could sing the Sugar Pops jingle. Hell, I’d even be amazed if a parrot could sing the Wheaties theme song.

  61. ildi said

    Speaking of birds and Amazing Grace; one thing nice about traditional hymns (Eddie Izzard’s take notwithstanding) is that they’re in most people’s singing range; I like to whistle Amazing Grace (and ‘Moon River’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Black’) when I’m walking the dog.

  62. Ildi:
    Unfortunately, there’s no lack of enthusiasm here when people sing “Amazing Grace.” Lack of key, sure. In fact, the further off-key the singers go, the more enthusiasm they have. Why can’t a truly merciful god give all his fans perfect pitch?

  63. Kirk M said

    Larry – “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands” (or something like that). He never said anything about being on key.

  64. Kirk:
    He never said anything about being on key.

    I beg to differ, my friend. Read Matthew 16:19.
    And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven …

  65. Kirk M said

    Larry – Let’s see now…

    And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” (give or take a translation or two)

    Um, for some reason I don’t think he was speaking of the term “keys” in the musical sense of the word. On the other hand:

    And he said unto them, “if thou art tone deaf on earth, so shall you be in heaven.”

    Yes, no?

  66. Kirk:
    Definitely! But …
    For the wages of bad singing is death to thine eardrums.

    You’re invited to confirm that by coming to Kentucky.

  67. the chaplain said

    Srsny:
    I had the same question about the tails. I’m glad you raised it before I did.

  68. srsny said

    Chaplain:
    I think there is a pun somewhere in your use of the word “raised.” But I’ll just leave it be.

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