So I’m going to try something new here and see how it works… I may have mentioned before here that I pretty much always have a song stuck in my head… or maybe I just mentioned it in a comment I left on Laina’s post about the phenomena on The Silent Wave a few weeks back, I’m not sure. Anyway, I’ve at various times referred to it as my:
- Internal soundtrack
- Random playlist
- Mental jukebox
There are points for and against each descriptive term. For instance, ‘internal soundtrack’ maybe sounds too descriptive of the song being related to whatever I am doing, thinking, or experiencing at a given moment, and while sometimes that fits, (like the other day when Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was immediately replaced with L7’s “One More Thing” in the aftermath of the fruitsplosion) other times it really is random and apropos of nothing.
This morning, while looping the same song over and over (one that frequently invades my brain) as I worked, I thought it might be fun to blog about it – not just saying something like “I’ve got this stuck in my head again” but really trying to unpack what the song is about, analyze what it means to me, and hazard a guess why it might be stuck in my head at a given moment.
Wherever possible, I thought I could even paste in a playable link and some history for the song. Anyway… we’ll see how it goes. I think I will stick with the term ‘mental jukebox’ (even though it implies more conscious choice than is usually involved) since it seems to be used a lot by others around the web.1
For this first post, the song I’ll cover is the one that’s been lurking in the back of my brain all day today: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. This song, released in 1976, was written about the November 10, 1975 sinking of the ship by that name in Lake Superior, killing all 29 crewmembers.
I would have been seven years old at the time of the wreck, but I don’t really remember hearing about it at the time; I sure remember the song that came out the next year, though. It got a lot of airplay on the radio for years afterwards – at least in Canada, where both the singer and I hail from.
Back when I was a kid, I don’t remember having any particular interest in the song, or really paying attention to what it was about. It was just one of those songs that was frequently in the background of my life; something that would be playing on the radio at home, or later on as it faded back into the ‘classic rock’ genre, over the sound system at a business.
I’m not sure when it actually took up residence in my brain but I suspect it probably was when I started driving, and would play the radio on long drives. For some reason, I am able to focus much more acutely on audio when driving than at most any other time. Maybe it’s because my eyes and reflexes have a job in the car, but my ears don’t really have a lot to do? I don’t know, that’s just a guess, but I do know that the only time I really can listen to podcasts and audiobooks and not have my mind wander is in the car, and I think this was also when I began really picking up on the meanings of song lyrics.
As to why that song, specifically, and why so often… I’m not sure… Maybe it’s comforting to me, on a subconscious level, because it’s so familiar from my childhood? Maybe because I really love songs that tell stories? Whatever the reason, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald has been a frequent visitor in my brain for several decades now. About ten years back, after it got stuck for almost a week one time, I broke down and actually bought the song: it really is a classic, and I don’t just say that because it’s always in my brain. 😉
Featured Image: Black and white public domain image of SS Edmund Fitzgerald from Army Corps of Engineers, author and date unknown.