At a low level, they’re enough to keep any intermittent and unexpected background noise from disturbing my train of thought and yet, surprisingly, I’m able to tune in (and that pun really wasn’t intended – only noticed it as I wrote it) if a favourite song comes on, in which case I take a three or four-minute break and crank up the volume.
The only other time I tune in is when indecipherable words give me a mental hiccup, which is how I found myself having a chat to a world-famous singer the other day.
“Open your mouth, Annie,” I heard myself crossly telling Ms Lennox.
Well, it was the third or fourth time I’d mentally sung along with her, repeating “softly circumcision”, which was definitely what she seemed to be singing.
I couldn’t get the ludicrous oxymoronic phrase out of my head, and it wasn’t helping what I was trying to write one little bit.
There was nothing else for it – I had no choice but to break off and look up the lyrics.
Thank heavens for the internet. In the “olden days” I’d be turfing books from shelves in a desperate attempt to answer such a niggle, and I’ve even been known to phone a local librarian if my own reference library didn’t come up with the answer.
Impatient? Moi? Perish the thought.
I found the Love is a Stranger lyrics after skirting my way around half a dozen websites trying to sell me songs for my cellphone ringtone.
Love’s not only a stranger, “it’s savage and it’s cruel and it shines like destruction”, according to the not-entirely-unintelligent words. “It distorts and deranges, you too,” continues the Eurythmics hit – which is just what the unintelligible bit was doing to me.
It turned out to be much more prosaic, (probably why Annie mumbled it): “And I want you, And I want you, So it’s an obsession”.
Relief at last, and my own obsession over.
Still, my musical misinterpretation wasn’t as bad as one of my late mother’s. She was horrified years ago to find out that while she’d been happily singing “Lady Elaine”, along to a Bob Dylan track, the words were actually “Lay, lady, lay (lay across the big brass bed)”.
In a flash, what had been her absolute favourite turned into “that disgusting song”! — Stevie Godson
(A version of this column first appeared in the Daily Dispatch)