How to eat fried earworms
There’s a danger in our house if you accidentally slip and reveal a weakness. There’s almost certain to be some sort of torture ahead. For instance, admitting there’s a song stuck in your brain, a relentless earworm that’s driving you nuts, will almost certainly lead to a tiny speaker being hidden behind a mirror or curtains, or in a desk drawer. Even under the cat. Just when the earworm afflicted person’s guard is let down — buttons undone, shoes kicked off — over that hidden little speaker will play a tiny rendition of that most maddening song.
For regular folk, common earworm songs are along the lines of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”
But in our house, the song has been one from an obscure 1944 MGM musical, “Broadway Rhythm.” I’m not sure now how we originally came across this most fascinating clip — a five-minute segment from an otherwise unremarkable film — but it features the Ross Sisters singing “Solid Potato Salad” while contorting themselves in impossible ways. After discovering the video on YouTube, we were so blown away we kept showing it to friends and family. We even purchased the movie to give as a Christmas present, which resulted in that part of the movie being replayed time and again.
Cementing its ridiculous lyrics into our brains.
“Solid potato salad. That’s solid salad, Jack.
Solid potato salad, boy. Take a plate and fill it up and bring it right back!”
Day after day after day, it’s the background music in my brain. I wake up to it each morning and am lulled to sleep by it every night.
On the rare occasions a different tune takes its place, it doesn’t get to stay there for long since either Don or Celeste, who are equally tortured, will say or do something that pokes at the ashes in a way that breathes the fire back to life.
“Think that nail is enough to hold it?” Don asked.′
“It feels solid,” I replied.
“Solid?” said Don. “As in potato salad?”
That’s all it takes. My brain does the rest.
“Solid potato salad. That’s solid salad, Jack. Solid potato salad, boy. Take a plate and fill it up and bring it right back.”
I’ve had many songs stuck in my head in my life. A few years ago, thanks to “The Walking Dead,” the song “Easy Street” tormented me for months. In the show, the song was played night and day to provoke a prisoner. It was such an upbeat, catchy song I didn’t much mind. What grates on me is when I only know the beat, not the words, or the times when it’s only a
small segment of an obscure song that I don’t even know what I’m hearing.
If you’ll allow me to flip over to the far opposite end of the dial for a minute, this subject got me thinking about a time I had a song stuck in my head for days on end, to the point it was near driving me mad. But it ended up being this huge blessing. An odd turning point.
At the time, I’d just suffered back-to-back-to-back miscarriages, one midway through my second trimester. Tests to determine the cause revealed a hereditary blood clotting, a type where the doctor said one of my parents must have the same affliction. This revelation led to discovering an active blood clot in dad that might’ve otherwise been missed until it was too late. But because of the timing of my finding, and then his, it wasn’t.
Except that was more mature of a thought than I was capable of at that time. I was mired in grief. Wallowing in self pity.
And pestered by this relentless earworm that just wouldn’t let up.
Until I actually paused to consider the lyrics.
“Every rose has its thorn. Just like every night has its dawn.”
I realized my thorns had a rose. And I still had my dad.
And a begrudging appreciation for earworms.
Karln Fuller can be reached via email at email@example.com.