Auditory Memory

Now that the flood of responses on my quick quiz has slowed down…

Which is to say: Now that it’s become pretty clear that nobody gives a damn…

It’s time for the answers, and for the post that I was holding off on–but that post may have less to it than I originally thought.

The Answers

The song’s penultimate line was, as noted:

And everybody knows that the very last line

  • The last line is: “Is the doctor said, give him jug band music, it seems to make him feel just fine.” (Presumably, everybody knows that because–with changes in the first word–that’s the last line of each verse.)
  • The name of the song: “Jug Band Music.” (There’s more than one song with that title. This is one that doesn’t happen to be jug band music.)
  • The name of the writer: John Sebastian.
  • The name of the lead singer: John Sebastian.
  • The name of the group: The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • Bonus answer: The song was on Daydream, released in 1966. That was apparently the Spoonful’s best-selling album: It reached #10 on the charts.

The song is a hoot, as are the lyrics–it’s very much a wacky story-song. It’s also, in some ways, a classic earworm–as are several other Spoonful songs. I finally picked up a good copy of a decent selection of Spoonful songs from SecondSpin, a 2000 “Greatest Hits” CD that was remastered from the masters–the earlier CDs I had were made during an extended period in which the master tapes were apparently lost or unavailable.

Auditory memory

Anyway…while I was listening to this, I found that I was hearing a John Sebastian song that was not a Lovin’ Spoonful song–and a song that I probably hadn’t heard in at least 25 years, namely She’s a Lady.

The song appeared on Sebastian’s first solo album (John B. Sebastian) in 1970. (Now that I check it on Wikipedia, I see that there weren’t all that many other memorable tracks on it–and that Sebastian had to make it with a bunch of nobody session players: Some unknowns named Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Dallas Taylor, Buddy Emmons…life is tough when you don’t have connections in the music industry.)

It’s a beautiful little ballad (“little” is right–the original is under two minutes). I could hear it plain as day, including the low-key orchestration…

I suspect everybody’s a little different when it comes to auditory memory. Sometimes, I can hear pieces, fully arranged, that I haven’t heard in years (or in this case in decades). Sometimes, I can even manipulate the arrangements.

Are earworms like that? When a song gets stuck in your head, do you just hear a melody, or do you hear the whole arrangement?

There’s another question: Is my auditory memory accurate? There’s no good way of knowing, I suppose.

Nothing momentous here. I will say that having a good if flakey auditory memory is helpful when someone mentions one of the really annoying earworms: I can usually drive it out with something I like.

4 Responses to “Auditory Memory”

  1. Mark Says:

    I cared but I had to cheat to find the answer so I didn’t comment as that would’ve been wrong.

    As to “earworms” I am not sure I truly understand what they are. I’ve always (OK, only heard the term for the last couple of years) assumed it meant songs you did NOT want stuck in your head but you seem to be including positive instances so I guess I don’t really know. Not that I was convinced that I knew; just less so now.

    Memory is not accurate as it is constructed on-the-fly (more or less) so I doubt auditory memory is accurate either. And accurate as heard on a tiny AM transistor radio in 1965 or as heard on a nice stereo system in 2000 or hard perform live in an intimate venue in 2005 or …?

    I think accuracy is mostly beside the point, while effectiveness of memory is more to the point.

  2. walt Says:

    You’re probably right–an earworm is a song you don’t want to have occupying your mind over and over. (Although, if you’re trying to focus on something else, even the best song in the world can be an earworm at that point.)

    I suspect accuracy of auditory memory varies a lot from person to person, just as what one pays attention to (and “hears”) in music varies. Certainly other forms of memory vary wildly, up to supposed eidetic memories. Some decade, I might read up on that…(or maybe not).

  3. David Bigwood Says:

    The Lovin’ Spoonful was a wonderful band, they did many styles of music quite well. I was suprised that their best selling album only made number 10 on the charts. For those years it seems like the Lovin’ Spoonful were the only rivals to the Beatles.

    The John B. Sebastian song I remember best from his first solo album is “Rainbows all over your blues” or something like that. Fun upbeat tune. Last I looked, the entire album was not available for download.

  4. walt Says:

    According to the liner notes in the Greatest Hits collection, the Spoonful’s first seven singles all made it into the Top 10–and some of their best songs were never released as singles. Summer in the City reached #1; Daydream and Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? reached #2.

    They did indeed do many styles of music well–and Sebastian, besides being one of the most distinctive and memorable pop harmonica players (he was on a lot of other people’s folk, rock and pop albums) may be the king of the amplified Autoharp. (But he strummed, unlike Mother Maybelle Carter’s plucked autoharp style.)


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