I believe I have discovered a new form of mental illness. Since I am the one who discovered this malady, that means I get to name it. Let me tell you about Cantusecholalia. Those of you who know Latin won’t need me to translate the word, but for the rest of humanity, let me explain: It is a disorder in which a person keeps repeating the last song they’ve heard over and over in their mind. I should know. I suffer from this, and it is horribly debilitating. I hope and pray you or a loved one never develop this disease, because I seriously doubt there can be a permanent cure. I bet they could make a drug to fix it, though. Better living through chemicals, I say.
I realize now that I’ve had Cantusecholalia my entire life. My mom would sing me a lullaby at bedtime and it would start rolling around in my brain non-stop, until another song took its place. My brain played “The Good Ship Lollipop” once for eight weeks before it was replaced with “Stormy Weather” when my dad played it on the hi-fi. It didn’t help that my dad was a radio disc jockey, either. I’d spend a day with him at the station and come out in a near psychotic state. Try singing the tune “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (Glenn Miller) and “Coo Coo Roo Coo Coo Paloma” (Perry Como) in your head at the same time.
The first song that I really liked, and didn’t mind hearing over and over and over and over again was “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. Unfortunately, after I set the back yard aflame, I was prohibited from walking down to the service station for lawn mower gas again. I thought the whole song-in-my-head thing was normal and that everybody did it. I mean, heck, I’d hear a fellow humming a tune to himself as he walked down the street (this was almost a century before the first portable radio), or hear my mom singing something from Bing Crosby or Dean Martin while she did the dishes, and before I knew it I was carrying that around in my noggin. I realized something may be wrong with me when I caught my dad sitting on the front porch swing one day and asked him what he was thinking. “Nothing,” he replied. I asked him if he was listening to music in his brain and he told me the only thing going on in his brain at the moment was whether he should wash the car or not, and the ‘or not’ was winning the argument. That’s when I began to think I was different. Well, again, there was that back yard conflagration incident, but I mean really different.
I couldn’t keep my mind from playing the last song I heard, and I tried everything (except snails…I refuse to put snails in my ears). I’d hear a jingle in a commercial before going to bed and it would bore into my consciousness all night and into the next day. I was haunted by the Mister Clean song for years. Crap, I hear it again. “Mister Clean gets rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute…” It wasn’t until I first heard “In a Gadda da Vida” in ’68 that I was finally rid of Mr. Clean. It looks like now I’ve got to listen to Lady Gaga’s latest hit to overpower this relapse.
The scariest times are when I’m minding my own business, trying to be like my Dad and think of nothing more important than whether to wash the car or not, when some yahoo in a ragtop rolls past with Pitbull cranking out “Timber,” and because I don’t know any of that song except what I hear when they shoot by, I’m stuck hearing “Swing your partner round and round, end of night it’s going down.” My mind is stuck repeating that line ad nauseum and I’m left wondering what in the heck Pitbull was thinking putting out a square dance tune. Then I quickly run inside and fill my head with Bigger On The Inside’s title song until Pitbull’s been exorcized. That is until the next morning when I wake up screaming “ROUND AND ROUND AND ROUND AND ROUND AND…!”
Ok, now that’s I’ve discovered this new mental illness – Cantusecholalia – would it be asking too much to have some pharmaceutical company make me a pill that’ll make it go away? Well, everything except “Ring of Fire.” I really like that song.