Michelle Haines Thomas: Why can't I remember anything but old song lyrics?

From where I sit in my newspaper office, I can hear music wafting up from the sales staff’s radio downstairs.

They listen to a pretty middle of the road station that plays music from all eras, as long as it meets basic requirements for utter dullness.

Actually, that’s not true. Occasionally, they play something with a bit of zing, but it’s amazing how 30 years can wash the colour out of something that once dazzled.

Being forced to listen to this music, I’ve noticed something. I’ve usually steered a little more toward the verges in my musical taste (though not quite off the main road – let’s not go crazy here). But there’s hardly a song that floats up the staircase to which I don’t know all the words.

It’s not my music, it never featured on my mix tapes, but I know it.

And it’s not just me. Everyone knows it. Sometimes we have singalongs.

Right now, it’s Paul McCartney’s ‘No More Lonely Nights’. I hate Paul MCCartney, BUT I STILL KNOW THE WORDS.

Paul McCartney - I'm not a fan, so what is he doing in my head?

Paul McCartney - I'm not a fan, so what is he doing in my head?

How does this happen? How is the third verse of a sorry 80s easy listening classic wedged in my brain, including guitar riffs? I swear I didn’t put it there.

And why is it that when I consciously try to memorise something, I’m incapable of doing so?

This is old news, really. Song lyrics are mysteriously easy to remember. The study of mnemonics has long attempted to harness the power of music to help jog our brains along (something I’m grateful for every time I have to put something in alphabetical order).

So, it’s easy right? Just put stuff to music and you’ll be the memory queen.

But I feel like someone may have overlooked the practicalities of that. I may be paid to write, but even I can’t fit my shopping list to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb. (Unless I’m buying lamb, of course.)

And it sure isn’t going to do anything about the moments when I stand up to leave the room, then can’t remember why.

But that’s enough of that. Now they’re playing Tiny Dancer and I need to join in.

This story Memory? Forget about it first appeared on The Courier.