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The worm that refuses to turn in...

To worms, then, and I don't mean the non-arthropod invertebrates which, after the rain of the past few days, seem to litter the shoddy pavements of Glasgow, presumably unpalatable to the city's corvids and spat out as a form of avian protest; carrion with no beat in the rhythm of life; slithery roadkill destined for the gastric systems of insects unseen.

Nor am I intending to dedicate today's gambol through the muddled meadows of my mind to malicious computer software; nor to the body-rippling move so beloved of breakdancers (remember them?); nor even mid-seventies West German striker Ronnie Worm.

No, today is all about a worm that inveigles its way into your auditory organs, and thus your every waking moment. The earworm: a song, a tune or a musical phrase that you can't, for the life of you, shake.

The night before last I could barely contemplate sleeping, such was my brain's unfathomable obsession with the melody from the traditional song Country Gardens, repeated again and again and again. Bad enough, but worse still I was specifically plagued by an exceedingly puerile version that replaces the first line of the verse with "Drop down your pants and fertilise the ants". Imagine trying to sleep through that nonsense, at maximum volume, on a stubborn cycle, with no end in prospect.

Then imagine being unable to remember that the ants are to be fertilised. All I could recall was the fact the verb in question ended in "-ise". "Drop down your pants and blahblah-ise the ants/In an English country garden" ad infinitum. It only came to me the following morning.

Mercifully, this annexing of my mental faculties proved temporary, and my napper is currently colonised by an extraordinary tune from the forthcoming album by Glasgow-based weirdos The Phantom Band.

No Shoe Blues, it's called and, by Jove, it's impossible to slough off.

Musicologists might argue that unshakeability is the very definition of a successful popular song, a surefire hit. I frame my music through a wider lens these days but a swift trawl of earworms from my childhood and adolescence - Johnny B Goode, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (my parents' records, I hasten to add), Are 'Friends' Electric?, Relax, West End Girls - suggests youth and earworms are bosom buddies.

Nowadays such mind viruses are more likely to be the Nokia ringtone or a boozy variant of a bucolic folk song. It's enough to make even the most dedicated modernist nostalgic.

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