Earworm–Prepare to Die


I remember the day so vividly. It was 25 years ago when an earworm inched its way into the deepest recesses of my feeble teenage brain and permanently entered my subconscious. Sometimes late at night when I’m alone, I still faintly hear this dreaded tune, taunting me from beyond.


It was the summer of 1988, and the day started like so many others.  I curled, feathered and Aqua-Netted my hair until it was a sufficient height of five inches, tied on my forest green L.L. Bean apron, and headed to my retail job at the store. After clocking into work, I began folding a mountain of plaid turtlenecks in the Women’s clothing section. My co-worker, Lisa, yelled from her corner by the registers, “Yo, Darla! Whassup? What song is it today?”

“Riders on the Storm,” I said, shaking my head.

“Ooh! That’s not so bad!”

“Yeah, but it’s only the part when the rain and thunder crash and Jim Morrison is ominously singing so…yeah….it’s a bit unnerving…” I plopped a small heap of flannel nightgowns onto my station. “How ’bout you? Whatcha got today? Anything really bad?”

“It’s Pour Some Sugar On Me,” she groaned.pour_some_sugar_on_281x211

“Yikes. Sorry,” I offered.

“I’ve had it in my head for days. Only the chorus. Over and over.”

“I wasn’t aware there was more to that song but the chorus.”

“Well, it’s driving me stark raving mad,” she said while walking over to me.  “I’m heading into my second week with this thing.”

“Eh. I’ve heard of worse,” I said while stuffing a pair of camouflage long johns into a plastic sleeve. “You remember my friend Mike? Yeah, well, a few years ago, he had “Jingle Bells” playing on a nonstop loop in his head for like, five months.”

“Get out.”

“I haven’t spoken to him in awhile. No one knows what happened to him. I think he ended up going to see a therapist.”

“Tragic, ” Lisa put her elbow on my table and leaned forward, resting her head in her hand. “Sooooo….what’s the worst song you’ve ever had stuck in your head and for how long?”

“Oh, no, no, no, no,” I chuckled. “I’m not fallin for that, Lisa.”

“C’mon!” she slammed her hand down. “What was it? You can tell me! Maybe that song will replace this Def Leppard song!”

“Forget it.”

“It’s already playing in your head, isn’t it?”

“No! It’s not! It’s–” I picked up a stack of Bomber hats and stormed off, Lisa following close behind. She grabbed my arm.


“You’re gonna regret it.”

“Pretty please?”

“You don’t realize the power of this song! It’s gonna ruin your life! Just let it be, Lisa! For the love of all that is holy! Let it be!”

“Just tell me what the song is!”

“God! Ahhhh! Fine!” I slammed the hats down onto a shelf.  “It’s I’m never gonna give you up!” I yelled, my voice carrying across the store. A few customers glanced our way, scowling. I lowered my voice into an angry whisper. “Never gonna let you down! Never gonna run around. And desert you!” I put my head in my hands and began to sob. “Never…gonna…make you cry…” I continued to sing, my voice quivering. “Never gonna say…goodbye…ah! Make it stop! For god’s sake, make it stop! Why, Lisa? Why did you do this to me? Are you happy? Cuz I sure hope you’re happy! At least Def Leppard’s outta your head now, right?”

“Hmm….” Lisa sighed and scratched her head.


“Nope, nothing. Still got Pour Some Sugar On Me. But thanks though, Darla. You tried.”

“I hate you.”

And so concludes my cautionary tale about the day the worst earworm in the history of the universe descended upon my soul never to give me up, never to let me down, never to run around and desert me.


You’ve got it in your head now, too, don’t you?



What’s the worst earworm you’ve ever had? How long did it last? What’s in your head right now? Maybe it will replace Rick Astley!

126 thoughts on “Earworm–Prepare to Die

  1. “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone. It lasted for months in the 1970s. Then in the 1990s my office mate had a CD no doubt entitled “Songs Elyse Hates Most” and it started with that horrible song. She would put it on and leave the office with it playing. Somehow I refrained from violence. Now there is a TV ad that sneaks up on me playing it. Life is just unfair, Darla. It is just unfair.

    Still, Darla, you do light up my life. You give me hope. To carry on.

    1. Oh god! Yeah, that is pretty damn terrible. Debbie Boone! ugh! I feel for you, I really do.

      I think I had Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” alternating with Queen’s “Another one bites the dust” stuck in my head the better part of the early 80s. It was a confusing time.

  2. Damn that earthworm! He leaves me with Disney songs, that’s right, Disney songs in my head. Mostly Disney PRINCESS songs! And then my soul wants to shrivel up and die.

    1. Having your soul shrivel up and die isn’t a worse fate than hearing the songs from Beauty and the Beast over and over again. I’m SO with you on that one, Audrey. Thanks to my daughter, I know every line and song to every princess movie.

      1. I just noticed how my auto correct inserted “earthworm” instead of “earworm” – slightly disturbing but it still is a less horrid fate than being plagued by an earworm and it’s terrible music. My condolences about the princess movies!

  3. I actually have Rick Astley and Def Leppard doing a celebrity death match in my head now. It’s kind of interesting. My retaliation to people that earworm me is one word, which works so well for me because I am apparently the only person on the planet who doesn’t know this song: Convoy.

  4. I saw someone’s blog post about Salzburg and I had “16 going on 17” in my head for DAYS. No amount of dubstep or death metal blasted through my ears made the slightest bit of difference either. Damn you, Rodgers and Hammerstein!

  5. Ear worms. Never heard them called that before. Yesterday, I kept breaking out into song and the song was from Phantom of the Opera: Music of the Night. ALL DAY. And I didn’t know all the words so I had to hum my way through most of it and make up some lyrics, which were pretty good actually, but I couldn’t remember them, so I kept making up new stuff. I think even Scrappy was annoyed…

    1. I love to make up my own lyrics to songs. Almost every single day I wake up and belt out “Oh what a craptastic mor-ning! Oh what a craptastic day! I’ve got back pain and a head-ache! nothing is going my way!”

  6. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. My husband has relatives with a name similar to Jingleheimer, so every time I have to mail something to them, it gets stuck in my head for days. And it’s already one of those songs that never ends.

  7. My husband has a habit of whistling whatever song was playing when he got out of the car. But he usually only knows the chorus. So he whistles the chorus over and over and over, and I go to sleep thinking that will end it, but no…I wake up with that little bugger in my head. The absolute worst is “Hey, Soul Sister.” (ain’t that mister mister on the radio, stereo, the way you move ain’t fair you know…)

    I think the very act of talking, writing, thinking, reading about earworms wakes them up. It’s a diabolical plan, Darla. Diabolical.


    1. Oh,my oh MY, Jeannette. You have picked a doozy. Hey Soul Sister? Probably the worst earworm to come down the pike in years. My daughter absolutely adores that song. She made us put it on our iPod. It just sticks in your brain for days and never wants to let go. I have it in my head right now. Rick Astley a distant memory now. I kinda wish Rick would come back to be honest. Well done!

      And yes, this is the most diabolical post I’ve ever done. Mwa ha haa!

  8. I can’t believe I was just Rickrolled without even clicking on a link! You’re evil, Darla, pure evil.

    Over Christmas break I watched all of the first two seasons of Downton Abbey back-to-back. There’s a bit of incidental music that they play a lot on that show, and I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks afterwards.

    1. Y’know, I’ve always imagined I would only use this blog for good and not evil. I’ve changed. Blogging has completely hardened me.

      I’ve also had themes to TV shows stuck in my head before, not a good thing. I wish I knew the song from Downton Abbey you speak of, maybe it would be better than Rick.

      1. I actually don’t remember how that song goes, which is a good thing. But it was the “something dramatic is about to happen” music, so I always kept expecting dramatic stuff to happen while I was hearing it.

        I adopted a kitten a couple months ago, and she’s full of kitten energy. She’s also addicted to the laser pointer. Every night when I go to bed, she insists on chasing the laser dot around — and when she does, I hear “Gangnam Style” song in my head, except instead of “Gangnam Style”, the words are “Laser time”.

      2. I can’t tell you how much I love your kitten-laser-gangham-style story! Gangham style is one of those tunes that will pop up at the weirdest times. I’ll be washing dishes and all of a sudden I’m yelling out “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Open Gangham style!” Or I’ll put on my bathrobe in the morning and suddenly it’s “heyyy! sexy lady!”

      3. It’s actually worse than an earworm — it’s an eye-and-ear worm. I see an entire video of kittens frolicking with laser pointers to the tune of “Woop! Woop! Woop! Laser time!” and “Hey, crazy kitty”.

  9. Well, he’s telling you right there in the song. I’m not sure why you are surprised. He’s NEVER gonna give you up, NEVER gonna let you go, NEVER gonna run around and desert you!! NEVER. NEVER EVER.

    Oh, yeah . . . that reminds me. That’s the one that gets stuck in my head. The Taylor Swift song . . .

    You’re welcome . . . 😉

    1. Kudos to you, Misty. Not only is that the worst song ever written, it’s probably the worst video. I wouldn’t know because I refuse to click on it. I can’t start my day that way. I want to keep my will to live intact.

  10. Hahaha! I’ve never heard the term “ear worm.” It reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where this guy has a weird bug crawl into his ear and chew through his brain. He almost went insane/died through the painful process before it came out the other ear. The doctor treating him then breaks the news that the bug was a female who showed signs of having just given birth to dozens of tiny offspring…

    Bet you have a nice, new image to replace that song in your mind, don’t you? Your welcome.

  11. I wrote a post a few back which made reference to Betty White, the last surviving Golden Girl. I had that hideous theme song on a continuous loop in my tortured brain for WEEKS! I’m so happy to finally be able to move on with my life without having…Oh Crap!….Thanks Darla, THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND….

    1. Oh! Well, that is bad! And I absolutely adore the Golden Girls.

      But I’m truly sorry, Dave.

      Oh and one more thing before I go:

      “thank you for being a friend…traveled down the road and back again! Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant! And if you threw a party…..invited everyone you knew! You would see the biggest gift would be from me…and the card attached would say….” You know the rest, right?

  12. Impybat

    Well, it *was* “Firewoman” by The Cult, until I started reading through the comments! Now I have a multi-track listing of earworms!

  13. I actually heard of an earworm yesterday on SpongeBob…I just so happened to be in my three year old daughter’s room while she was watching it. I’ve had quite a few of them myself, thank goodness not lately. Lol!

  14. Yeah and he’s tradin’ in his Chevy for a Cadillacacacacacacacac
    You oughta know by now.

    Over and over and over and over again. Just those two lines. Thanks so much Billy Joel.

  15. When you got to the song, I laughed out loud, LOUDLY. I love picturing you workin’ at The Bean of Two L’s. (How’s THAT for a sweet commute, huh?)

    That song is amazing. Until it’s not.

    My worst earworm is probably… wow. Okay. I don’t know how widespread this radio commercial is, but it’s one they play regularly here: 1-877-CARS-4-KIDS. It has the most tone-deaf jingle EVER. As soon as it starts, I freak out and switch the station, but it’s ALWAYS TOO LATE.

    You’re welcome.

    1. Hahaha!!! OH MY GOD. That is just awful! I will have that in my head all day now. Thanks!

      yeah, I had quite the commute to Bean’s. I lived right next door. On my lunch break I’d walk home and eat a bologna sandwich. Good times.

    1. I wish. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten to the chapter in our anatomy book that deals with the treatments for horrendous earworms. But I did get that snazzy diagram of the ear from my textbook so my education isn’t a total waste now.

  16. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I’m busy listening to a Scrubs song that I love (Jeremy Kaye’s “Have It All”), so I’m blessedly–if temporarily–immune to earworms. Speaking of Scrubs, they actually have an entire episode featuring an Erasure earworm. (God, how I love this show! But really, now I’m going back to Jeremy Kaye. And, um, work. Yes, that.)

  17. Your post had a really strange effect on me. Instead of earworming me with Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, it infected me with “Never Never Gonna Give You Up” by Barry White and then Lisa Stansfield.
    And by the way, there is a way to cure that earworm. You just have to find a song or two that you know really well and for a very long time, that has more or less repetitive melody, and one that’s not remotely catchy (you’ll know it could be the one if you’ve never caught yourself singing it), then sing it aloud once or twice. I have found a song that works for me, but unfortunately it won’t be useful to you since you probably never heard of it – it’s not in English.

    1. Hmm…I’ll have to try that trick. Something that’s not catchy. I’ll have to think long and hard on that one. I just tried and came up with a Coldplay song and well, it’s too damned catchy. Man!

      1. Coldplay? No, those 3 songs I know are too catchy for that trick. Try “Old McDonald had a farm”
        And just so that you could test if this works…
        “Never gonna give you up,
        Never gonna let you down
        Never gonna run around and desert you”

  18. That Rick Astley song is enjoyable in very small doses (and in an ironic way, of course). He has one of those voices that just *doesn’t fit* his appearance. How does such a deep and creamy voice come out of such a frail and mega-white redhead? Shakes head at the injustice of it all.

    I tend to get Axl Rose screaming “Sweet Child O Mine” in my head at the most inopportune moments. My sister, too. Once we both spontaneously burst into the same chorus at the same time, without even knowing that the other one was suffering from the Guns N Roses earworm. Spooky!

    1. I will give Rick credit for having a souful voice. Did he ever have any other songs, though?

      I am freaking out about your Axl Rose story because, I kid you not, I had Sweet Child O Mine in my head recently. And it was just the last line over and over “sweeeet chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild of mi-yi-yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.”

  19. I’m feeling your pain, Darla. Here’s something to take your mind off all of this:
    “It’s a Small World After All … It’s a Small World After All.” As I sing this, I keep seeing those little Disney characters bobbing along.

    Dang it, Darla. I planned to write on this topic this coming week. Now, I’m curled in a fetal position, knowing I’ve been Rick-rolled, and whimpering as I hear him sing. 🙂

    1. Judy, I once took my two year old son on the “It’s a Small World After All” ride at Disney in Florida. At the end of the boat ride, we came out and my ears were bleeding. It was pretty traumatic.
      You should still write about this on your blog!

  20. Snoring Dog Studio

    I do have that tune in my head now, and it’s okay. I love being Rickrolled. I adore that tune and I love his video. I am happily beginning my day with that tune in my head. Thank you. It’s better than meth.

  21. I had know idea there was a name for this condition either. I have suffered from it for decades now. I was a teeny bopper in the 80’s listening and drooling over Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” I secretly imagined he was singing that about me!

  22. So so funny! Not sure what it says about me – but I like both songs. Sad, eh?
    I haven’t heard the song “Friday” by some chick, but I hear that makes a pretty intense earworm.
    You’re welcome.

  23. I’ve noticed lately that it’s just one line from a song that repeats over and over. Sometimes I go to bed with it in my head and when I wake up in the morning it’s still there, and I worry that it was playing all night. But what really scares me is when I say to myself, “Okay, that’s it, enough. I have important things to think about!” And one second later, the song starts up again. I don’t know who’s in charge, but it doesn’t seem to be me.

    I know you’re suffering with this, Darla, but as long as you can keep producing great posts, I’m willing to live with it.

    1. I do the same thing, I worry it was playing all night long. Apparently, neither of us is in charge. I also seem to get these really horrible and intense earworms when I’m really sick with a fever. It’s just an endless loop of one specific line over and over again. The brain is a mystery and I’m completely clueless about most of it.

  24. Okay, I am so giving away my age….this was in my head for so long, for years in fact I won’t post it hear due to some of the language

    Country Joe McDonald – Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag, Woodstock 1969

    I drove my family insane singing this song, round the clock. Dad would turn on the news, I would sing the song. Family would get together, I would sing the song. Knew every word.

  25. ♪Scarborough Fair…parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme♪remember me…♪ and anything Simon and Garfunkel. Thank goodness for my husband…he knows everything and when I want to sing out he can give me the words when they just don’t come…in a manner of speaking.

  26. The worst was in high school when I was a long distance track runner. I’d hear some song in my head on lap number one and it’d have to stay with me for the full eight laps. I wanted to run myself into a goal post before I got to the finish line.

    Baby Got Back is a usual suspect that comes to mind. I can sing every verse and I’m not proud of that.

      1. Nuh-uh! That is creepy since I only comment on blogs about once a month. What are the odds? Like right up there with me conquering the Legend of Zelda or something.

        1. Yeah. And I was sifting through old posts looking for a certain commenter’s blog and saw little ol’ you at the bottom with a comment and I thought: HEY! I know! I’ll reply to her old comment here and one day she’ll get on wordpress and see her little orange notification light and it’ll be from ME and she’ll remember my blog fondly and the banter we used to have and then we would get matching Wonder Twin rings and activate them.

  27. Pingback: Firsts and Lasts in Maine | Rachel's Table

  28. What a fun post to read; though it raises plenty of memories of earworms. The worst earworm I have had is actually my current earworm…it seems that when I don’t have music playing in the background and I am completing some task in the kitchen, I whistle or root-doot-doot ‘Yellow Submarine’ by the Beatles. No. Matter. What. Every time! How?!

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