The words were in Italian but the melody was unmistakable. Unfortunately, I recognized the Italian version of this insidious tune immediately.
Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart.
There’s nothing I can do, a total eclipse of the heart. (Eclissi del cuore)
I was on a bus heading from one small town to another in Puglia, Southern Italy, and it was just the driver and I. Oh to be a bus driver in a small town in Puglia. They have total autonomy to play their own music, chat on their phones and text to their hearts content, so when you step on board, it feels a bit like getting a ride with someone. I was the only passenger on this bus and the driver didn’t look up from his mobile phone when I boarded.Moments later, he looked up from his incessant texting, as he continued to barrel down the road towards a town called Conversano, just to pop a homemade CD into the player with the offending tune. I couldn’t help but ponder two questions: 1) Why had someone, in this case a musician named L’Aura, chosen to cover this dreadful tune in Italian? 2) Why was the driver inflicting his horrible taste in music on me and other unsuspecting passengers at this volume level?
I had no idea but before I knew it we were on to an Italian cover of “Winds of Change,” complete with the catchy whistling. You’re already doing it in your head, right? Sorry for the earworm. Later in the day, I sat in an outdoor café that piped in a host of dreadful tunes, including Toto’s “Africa” and “Next Time I Fall in Love.” And just this morning in Kos, I went to a beach bar that was nice and quiet, ordered a drink and then was hit with an onslaught of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” followed by a cover version of “The Careless Whisper” at ear-splitting volume. The truth is that travel can be hazardous to your aural health.
Sure, I could walk around with my iPod listening to Guided by Voices, The National, Neil Young and some of my other favorites, but when traveling with my wife and two children it wouldn’t be very sociable. And besides, listening to cheesy music can be fun, in small doses.
But I draw the line at being subjected to dreadful music at beach clubs or resorts where you can be held hostage by bad DJs for your entire trip. I love to hear the sound of the waves on a beach, not Bryan Adams singing “(Everything I do) I Do It For You.” I once stayed at a sublime Westin on the beach in Puerto Vallarta and loved the place save for the insidious soft rock hits that were piped into every conceivable nook and cranny of the grounds. By the end of the week, I think I’d heard DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” approximately 14,000 times.
The odd thing about encountering rancid North American pop music outside North America is that you hear horrible songs you haven’t heard in ages but also learn about songs that somehow became popular without you noticing. I’ve often found myself speaking to a foreigner who can’t believe that an American has never heard of so-and-so, the American pop star that everyone knows about except for me.
Someday, my dream is to open my own hotel/resort so I can inflict my own musical tastes on the unsuspecting masses. But until then, I’ll be motoring, running on empty and continuing to search for that lost shaker of salt on the road, bad music and all.