My Billy Joel earworm

For the last month or so, Billy Joel has come to visit me every time I sit down to meditate.

It goes like this: First I fidget around a little bit, then my mind starts psychotically going over pretty much everything that I’ve said or done in the past few hours; every email I’ve read, everything I’ve seen. Some days it takes longer than others, but sooner or later the mini life-flashing-before-my-eyes fit dissipates and fades, and then the piano starts…  “she can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes…”

Billy never stays for long, doesn’t even really bug me that much, to that point that it was only last week that I realised this had been going on for quite some time. A couple of days ago I thought to mention it to a fellow meditator, and when I went to tell him what song had been stuck in my head all this time, I could only remember the word “woman,” and thought that maybe it was Bob Dylan’s “Just like a woman” which had been plaguing me, though I knew it sounded wrong.

Yesterday I put my finger on it, and this morning I listened to “Always a woman” all the way through, in an attempt to purify my meditation.

A word to the wise: It doesn’t work. Billy has now been yelling in my ear for almost 12 hours straight.

So a few hours ago I did what I do: I googled it. It being “song stuck in my head.” Turns out, the phenomenon has a name: I have an “earworm.” And for anyone who was wondering, the site doesn’t work either. In fact, by its own admission, it’s really only making things worse, by playing “equally catchy songs” to replace the musical culprit.

The experience reminded me of one of the many anecdotes I had wanted to include in my initial Vipassana run-down blog (read: babbling Dhamma-high manifesto), but forgot due to the prohibition of writing materials on retreat. I had wanted to share the variety of songs that had played over and over in my head – earworms, that is – during the 10-day retreat, when I’d had absolutely no recourse but to let them wiggle their own way out. From Sinead O’Connor’s “No man’s woman,” courtesy of a decidedly man-like woman on the course wearing a t-shirt with those words across the front almost every day, to a certain song we used to sing on youth movement camp, the name of which would probably bring the level of this blog down significantly (the Netzer kinky perverts among you will know what I’m talking about). Happy Hardcore tunes I swear I haven’t heard for a decade came pumping up again too, along with Hebrew songs to which I only know half the words. My mind was happy to fill in the blanks to anyone who’d listen (which in this case was no one, myself included).

I’m pretty sure “Always a woman” never made an appearance on Vipassana though, and all the songs that did are long gone.

In any case, almost an hour online and I’m none the smarter. No one seems to be able to give me a definitive explanation as to what Billy is doing in my brain, or how to get him out. Some pundits seem to think my brain is just trying to keep busy while its idling, which seems unlikely (trust me: it’s got plenty of other material to ponder). The more Freudian among the lot reckon the song that’s stuck is rebelling against its own suppression.

I was, however, reassured to find out that my “earworm” is not a cause for alarm and does not indicate any mental disorder. Phew. Here’s the best I got: In a list of tips for eradicating said worm, one blog suggested sharing it with a friend. So, I pick you guys:

Stay tuned to find out whether it worked.


  1. OK so I know this is old now… I get that. But here's the thing. I just found your blog. And read this piece.. and it reminded me of some advice that a young lady (read: Elana) once told me. When you have an earworm, Kermit the frog's Rainbow Connection always seems to pry it out: – Cheers, C


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