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The Fourth Wall: I can name that tune in three notes .. over and over and over again

Flying back into Medford from a city home to a kingdom that is magical, we found ourselves seated behind a young girl not yet burdened by the irony of what lies beyond the happiest place on earth.

We were somewhere south of Seattle, and the child unknowingly offered pearls of perception pertinent to the process of leaving the past week in the palmettos.

“Let it go,” she sang. “Let it go-ooooo.”

Truth be told, we doubted she was ...

“Let it go-ooooo. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go-ooooo.”

... talking to us. But Queen Elsa’s anthem from “Frozen” did seem to be the right choice at the end of

“Let it go-ooooo. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go-ooooo.”

... a long trip — and, as could be expected under the circumstances, stuck in our brains for the rest of the

“Let it go-ooooo. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go-ooooo.”

... day.

She was, in a word, adorable ... and seemed quite happy about being in an airplane, having spent time in Florida, and quite content to have a song stuck on auto-repeat.

Of course, she was too young to understand the pain and suffering that comes from being in an airplane, having spent time in Florida and having a song stuck in your head.

Retain enough music over the years, and the likelihood is that you’ll be attacked by an earworm — although not the sort that the villain with skin the texture of rich Corinthian leather dropped into Chekov’s ear in “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.”

In fact, sharing an earworm is one of the few certain ways of letting someone else know exactly how much torture you’re enduring. A former co-worker, who perhaps shall go nameless, would get great glee out of sending an email link to Gilbert O’Sullivan warbling “Alone Again, Naturally.”

Scientific studies have shown that what’s technically known as Involuntary Musical Imagery can have several root causes.

Everything from the “melodic contours” of popular song to the size, shape and thickness of a person’s brain can play a part in keeping the theme song from “Rawhide” rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ around in our thick skulls for most of an afternoon.

Well ... in mine, at least.

The most obscure instance of self-torture in my experience was the night I couldn’t get to sleep because I had the theme music to PBS’s “New Yankee Workshop” dah-dah-dahdahdah-dah-dah-ing between my ears like someone was playing the world’s slowest game of Pong.

The sad thing is, these intruders seem to strike without warning. For most of the week spent frying in Florida, it was the 1978 Suzi Quatro/Chris Norman hit “Stumblin’ In” that took up residence and refused to leave.

You remember that one, right? It’s the one that repeats the phrase ... umm, now what is it? Oh yes ... “stumblin’ in” 20 times throughout its tale of a couple whose love is alive — even after they foolishly lay their hearts on the table.

(Go ahead, YouTube it ... he wrote with devious intent.)

In fact, sharing an earworm is one of the few certain ways of letting someone else know exactly how much torture you’re enduring. A former co-worker, who perhaps shall go nameless, would get great glee out of sending an email link to Gilbert O’Sullivan warbling “Alone Again, Naturally.”

In a little while from then, if I wasn’t feeling any less sour, I’d promise to treat myself to sending “The Night Chicago Died” to Mr. Powell in retribution.

Brother what a night it really was ... yes, indeed. We had joy, we had fun, we had “Seasons in the Sun” in reserve to use as the winning move when our aural game of one-upmanship became too much to take.

(Note to self: Bill hasn’t seen the “I Can’t Dance” video in a while.)

Sometimes, a song becomes so pervasive in a cultural setting that it gets banned — just to keep it from getting stuck in the thick brains of those within earshot.

An organized effort has been undertaken to keep buskers, open-mic singers and bar performers from playing the ubiquitous ditty “Wagon Wheel.” It’s the song Bob Dylan gave up on writing that fell into the hands of the Old Crow Medicine Show (who made it a standard), and then was popularized again by Darius Rucker.

A 2014 study suggests that one way to dislodge the sounds waxing your eardrums is to send what is called a “cure tune” into battle. Among the songs that can withdraw the ooga-chakas from your memory banks include Led Zeppelin’s “Kahsmir,” the theme to the television series “The A-Team” and Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.”

If you go to the Stop Playing Wagon Wheel online store at zazzle, for $47.50 you can buy a pack of 100 business cards with this message to hand out at concerts:

“If you have received this card, you may have played or are planning to play ‘Wagon Wheel’ at a gig, jam or open mic. Please reconsider and stop playing ‘Wagon Wheel.’”

Even such extreme preventive measures, however, can’t save you from every onslaught of the chorus of “We’re Off to See the Wizard” or the ooga-chaka ooga-ooga intro to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling.”

A 2014 study suggests that one way to dislodge the sounds waxing your eardrums is to send what is called a “cure tune” into battle. Among the songs that can withdraw the ooga-chakas from your memory banks include Led Zeppelin’s “Kahsmir,” the theme to the television series “The A-Team” and Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.”

The study says that it is possible that Jimmy Page’s guitar riff of “Kashmir” or Boy George’s “Chameleon” chorus might come and go, come and go-ohohoh ... but at least you’ll be in the same boat as other earworm sufferers.

Proving once again that it’s a small world, after all.

The only stars Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin could reach at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com were just starfish on the beach.

Robert Galvin