Brainstickers ? ? ?©2004JCMarion


Do you ever come across Brainstickers ? These are songs that you hear snippets of somewhere, and you are a bit familiar with, and soon they become ingrained into your conciousness to the point where they remain sometimes for days at a time. Why does this happen, and why these particular songs ? There seems to be no rhyme or reason for this phenomenon, just another of those strange workings of the human brain, that most complex and mysterious of machines. This is very much like the ability to remember the most mundane and minute occurrences that took only a few seconds of your life from many years ago, but at the same time have great difficulty recalling entire months or even years of your existence.

Recently there were three songs that I could not clear from my head for whatever reason. The first was originally an instrumental tune with some great chord changes called "Robbins Nest". The version I heard in a restaraunt was a vocal by Sarah Vaughn. I finally found out a little bit about the tune. It was written by modern jazz keyboard artist Sir Charles Thompson and it was a tribute to New York radio personality and jazz d.j. from the late nineteen forties Fred Robbins who was obviously a contemporary of Symphony Sid (Torin) on area radio. Outside of the jazz arena it is not probably a familiar tune but it is certainly one with a great "hook" which is why I couldn't get away from its melody.

The second tune has a very sad and tragic story attached to it. The song is called "East Of The Sun West Of The Moon" and the term is from a long time Scandanavian fairy tale. I recently heard the song in a great version by Dianna Krall somewhere, and soon the melody was a part of my thought process for the time being. I remember so many years ago my father mentioning that it was a song from a college musical that became a big hit, and I had always assumed that meant Syracuse University and a connection with the musical "The Boys From Syracuse". This was of course false because the play was a Shakespeare adaptation and had nothing to do with the school. Doing some research however I found out that the song was indeed from a college musical revue - one called "Stags At Bay" in 1935 presented by the Triangle Club, a long time association at Princeton University. It was composed by a Princeton undergraduate named Brooks Bowman, class of 1936. Someone in Hollywood had taken note of Bowman's talent and he was offered a job as a studio composer. Fresh out of Princeton on his way west, Bowman at the age of 22, was killed in an auto accident. He of course never realized that his great song, which still today remains the most successful song ever written for a college musical, would become an American standard. It was launched by a great recording by Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra in 1940 and since then has become a staple of music for pop and jazz performers the world over.

Or how about this one ? I was watching a rather hokey Mel Gibson movie on TV called "Forever Young" where he thinks his girlfriend has died and so takes part in a pioneering experiment in cyrogenics where he is frozen in 1939 only to be misplaced for fifty years, etc. etc. etc. . . . . . . .But the thing is : running through the movie like a theme song is a killer version of the song "The Very Thought Of You" by Billy Holiday recorded with a small combo led by Teddy Wilson and Buck Clayton. Right through the closing credits this song plays and after the movie, for days on end it stayed with me. I finally bought a Lady Day CD with that recording on it and so that endless obsession was taken care of.

That's why they call them brainstickers . . . . . . .

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