Chris Johnson

Here comes sleep, no, here comes Jimmy Buffett, no, here comes that oop-oop song

There was a time in my life when I’d listen to music as I drifted off to sleep. In my younger days, that usually meant listening to the radio instead of some streaming service from your phone tailored to your exact wishes.

Back then, I couldn’t just turn to Siri or Alexa and say, “Play smooth jazz” — to which she would reply, “OK, shuffling songs by Bruce Dazz, acid rock legend.”

“No, I said play smooth jazz!”

“OK, shuffling songs by Cruise Shabazz, speed metal banjo extraordinaire.”

“Never mind,” I would say if I could.

“OK, perhaps you just should play the radio since I don’t exist yet.”

The problem with listening to the radio at bedtime in the days before Pandora and Spotify is that you couldn’t control what they played or what they talked about. Some of that stuff would subliminally slip into your brain. You could wake up wanting a Vegemite sandwich for breakfast if Men at Work’s “Down Under” came on at 2 a.m. instead of a more appropriate song for my life in the 1980s such as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Worse yet, I could have the radio on the wrong channel and wind up marching down the halls of Possum Holler Junior High belting out “I am woman, hear me roar!”

So, I quit listening to music at bedtime. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before sound machines and then phone apps came along that would allow me to drift off to relaxing sounds of thunderstorms, ocean waves or even the sound of a cat purring. It’s so realistic that you can practically feel fur in your face. Hey, wait a minute! “Um, honey, tell your darn cat to get her butt out of my face.”

“That’s where she sleeps!”

“Since when?”

“Since 2011!”

Lately, I’ve developed an even worse problem than snorting Fresh Step in my sleep. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or I’ve been poisoned by cat butt, but for the past few months my brain picks out a couple of songs each night from the dark recesses of my brain to play on an endless loop as I toss and turn.

It’s never just one song or three — always two for some strange reason. My brain won’t even play the whole song — only the chorus or a famous refrain, over and over. My brain is so disorganized that it won’t play two Jimmy Buffett songs on the same night or even two songs from the same era or genre. My brain pairs two utterly random songs.

I’ll be lying there as my brain spins “And I’m proud to be an okie from Muskogee” a few times and then yanks the phonograph needle across the vinyl of my hippocampus and gets stuck in a groove of “Alley-oop, oop, oop, oop-oop.” Then back to Merle, then back to the Hollywood Argyles. And so on. All. Night. Long. If I can’t find a Vegemite sandwich after “Down Under,” I dang sure ain’t gonna find a bear-cat stew after “Alley-Oop.”

I’m particularly worried about tonight. While driving home from lunch today, I landed on a radio station where my wife’s personal counselor, John Tesh, told me that folks who sing together strengthen bonds. That’s why the military sometimes has songs during drills, why choirs are even more united than sports teams and why it’s good to sing on a long road trip.

And that got me thinking about the scene in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” where Clark and Ellen try to get the kids to sing on their way to Wally World. Then, I walked into the house accidentally singing “Who’s the moosiest moose we know? Marty Moose. Who’s the star of our favorite show? Marty Moose.” Uh-oh. It’s gonna be a long night.

I bet I punch the first moose I see tomorrow.

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