I have been stumped about a song for over a year.
Does that sentence almost defy belief? In this age of internet searches and mobile devices and song-identifying apps we are supposed to be able to find any song at any time. Do you remember the old way of doing things? I can recall more than one instance of standing next to my mother at a record store as she physically hummed a song to a clerk in the hopes they could identify it for her.
My problem? My song didn’t have any words. Or, at least, I’ve never really noticed the words before. It has this digitized “oh oh oh” vocoder riff that gets easily stuck in my head, but that’s all I knew about it. That, and that it sounded similar enough to the much more frequently-heard “Let the Music Play” that I freak out about it at least once a week in the car.
Figuring out the name of this song has become one of my top ten missions in life, right beside trying to go a week without buying anything from Amazon. I sing it to people constantly. On elevators, even. No one ever seems to know what I’m talking about. I don’t know a long enough snippet to identify it with a music app. I have nothing to go on.
Which brings us to Friday night.
It is almost midnight, and I am driving E and I home from The Muppets. It should be pointed out that this is only my fourth time ever driving in New Jersey, and I might be feeling a little bit tense.
The song comes on the radio just as I clear the toll plaza for the Ben Franklin Bridge. I have previously driven through a toll plaza exactly twice, and their lack of defined lanes completely freakw me out.
The opening vocoder riff chimes as I pull away from the toll, navigating through the funnel of madness that is the post-toll lanelessness. The singer begins to sing lyrics. Words! I must remember words! I start repeating them to myself, but they are not sinking in because the bridge is down to two westbound lanes, which renders the space between me and a concrete divider in the middle to be about the size of a breadbox. It requires every spare synapse to keep the car moving forward in one piece.The vocals continue. I try repeating one phrase over and over like a mantra, but as my attention strays from the road I veer uncomfortably close to the car on our right.
“Elise,” I call over to the passenger seat, “I need you to help me remember the words. Any words.”
I do not risk a glance to my right. E had a not-small quantity of Jack Daniels at the movie and for all intents and purposes turned into a Muppet. I am riding in the car with a member of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. This is probably for the best, as completely sober I’m sure she would have reached across to take the wheel from me at this point.
“Hmm?” she queries, bopping along to the music not unlike a guitar-playing puppet made out of high quality felt.
“Try to remember the words. Any words. Three words. Please.”
“Sure,” she said, still bopping.
Flash forward to our arrival at home (or maybe the next day?). I sat down at the coffee table and loaded Google, ready to finally reveal the identity of my stymying secret song. I called to E, who was puttering around in the kitchen.
“Honey, what where the words to the song?”
“Hmm?” she queried, peeking her head into the living room.
“You know, the song from the car, ‘Oh oh oh OH oh oh ohoh.’ What were the words?”
“Oh, um… something about a door.”
“Yes,” she replied, sounding very certain.
“Were they opening a door? Perhaps going through the door?”
“Possibly which?” I asked, grasping for any further hint she could provide.
“There was definitely a door.”
Feel free to Google the terms 80s, door, lyrics, and “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh.” Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
No, “I Can’t Wait” by Nu Shooz is not one of the early results. I sprawled across the couch in resignation. I had come so close to solving my musical riddle, only to be foiled by my uncertain driving and E’s being a Jim Henson creation.
Yet, here we are, rocking out to “I Can’t Wait” thanks to the magic of YouTube.
How did I figure it out? Though I did not come away with any words, I did manage to acquire an indelible memory of the bassline. This morning I caught the elevator with one of my partners in insanity and music-loving, MK.
I told her about my dilemma, and when we reached our neighboring desks, I turned to her. “Okay, MK, this is really serious. You have to help me figure out this song.”
“I’m ready,” she said, fixing me with a steely stare.
I began to sing my newly recollected bassline. “Bum buh ba, bum ba, BUM ba … Bum buh ba, bum ba, BUM ba.”
MK paused for nary a second before singing the hook in reply, “Oh oh oh OH oh oh ohoh.” We had created an office acappella group worthy of televised competition. We were breaking down some hot 80s jams.
MK interrupted her vocoder imitation for a second, “Oh, I totally know this one!”
I took a breath between fat bass beats, “What’s it called?!”
My boss emerged from her office just as our neighbor Chris poked his head over the cube wall.
“It’s called ‘I Can’t Wait,'” they shouted in unison, unphased by our suddenly convened doo wop duo. Then they returned to their desks without batting an eye, as this was no more unusual than our semi-weekly Tuesday afternoon Cher karaoke hour.
“Well,” I turned to MK, grinning a satisfied grin, “that settles that.”
Now I have a few extra synapses to rub together for other purposes.