We all get them. Earworms. If I’m out walking the dog, that’s when I’m at the most vulnerable to earworm attack. I use the word ‘attack’ advisedly. Earworms are almost never the best, musically or lyrically. They will be memorable, ‘catchy’ – as people would never say, nowadays – or simply likely to pass the old grey whistle test, which the programme was named after. If you don’t know what that means, though I’m sure you do, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris explained it once (or twice) in interviews. Who’s that? You ask. Never mind. Anyway, in the olden days there was Tin Pan Alley, a street full of kind of Brill Building-type hothouses for songwriters, in London, where they came up with the popular music of the day. A musical ‘boiler room’ if you like. The money men and the A&R people would play an acetate to the grey-suited doormen from their own and nearby buildings. If the music biz people heard the "old greys" whistling the tune later, when the musos went out for their liquid lunch, the tune had passed the old grey whistle test.
Have a drink of coffee/tea/tequila; there were some l-o-n-g sentences there, weren’t there?
At any rate, this morning, I was attacked by Meat Loaf. The band was ubiquitous in 1978 on juke boxes (!) in pubs from Devon to Darlington and beyond, for all I know. At the time, I absolutely hated the umpteen singles released from their breakout album, ‘Bat Out of Hell’, which was very much against the tide of opinion then. But now, now I’m on the downhill stretch as it were, I feel differently. I still think the music is tacky, overblown and over-orchestrated, with lyrics which are no doubt offensive. However, it reminds me of being 17 years old. If you were out in Elland this morning, I apologise. Marvin Lee Aday you are not, you say - and you took the words right out of my mouth.
So as I’m writing this, in the ‘Writer’s Den’, 'Bat Out of Hell' is on the WDMTM* and 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' is going to come on, and, like I always do, I’m going to imagine ‘the Baseball Broadcast’ section replaced by a cricket commentary version using John Arlott and Richie Benaud’s voices. Wouldn’t that be something? Howzat, indeed.
Yeah, 'Bat Out of Hell' might be crass, commercial and maybe crap – two out of three ain’t bad, eh – but it doesn’t have to be good music to evoke memories. As Noel Coward – no mean songwriter himself – said, ‘It’s strange how potent cheap music is.'
*Writer’s Den Musical Time Machine