BOSTON. Ted Raznor is, in his own words, “pushing seventy, and seventy ain’t pushing back,” but he retains the youthful spirit that brought him to Boston a half-century ago. “This town was HOT,” he recalls when asked for specifics. “In the sixties there was My Unicorn’s Knightmare, an antacid rock band. In the seventies there was Maggot Puke, one of the great pre-proto-punk groups,” he recalls wistfully.
Years of listening to hard and heavy rock has taken its toll on Raznor and many of his friends, however. “I have a constant ringing in my ears,” he says of the tinnitus he suffers from, along with noise-induced hearing loss that forces this reporter to shout questions at him in order to be heard. “But I’ve got those problems pretty much under control,” through electrical stimulation and hearing aides, he says. “It’s the damn earworms that drive me nuts.”
Raznor is referring not to Japanese beetles, which afflicted him when he camped with his Boy Scout troop, but to catchy strains of music running through his mind that he’d like to forget but can’t. “Incense and Peppermints,” he says with disgust, fairly spitting out the title of a pseudo-psychedelic tune by The Strawberry Alarm Clock. “This Diamond Ring by Gary Lewis and the Playboys,” he says of the last rock group to feature an accordion before that cheesy instrument faded out of fashion. “I’m a Fool, by Dino, Desi & Billy,” he says before his eyes roll back into their lids, as if he’s about to pass out.
But now there is hope for victims of earworms as a breakthrough drug, Xorpion, has passed FDA clinical trials and is ready to go to market according to its manufacturer, Bluxo Pharmaceuticals in nearby Lexington, Mass. “Xorpion is a time-release antidepressant designed to keep one’s mind free of bad music ranging from ‘Disco Duck’ to Melanie’s ‘I’ve got a brand new roller skate, you’ve got a brand new key,'” says the company’s marketing director Ingrid Shaw. “It will be available shortly through most employer-paid health plans with a $5 co-pay, and should boost U.S. service sector productivity.” What about farmers and blue collar workers, she is asked. “They’ve got their tractors and combines and chucking machines going so loud, they can’t hear what’s going on in their own brains,” she says.
Melanie, in her dotage.
The drug’s side effects are disclosed in teensy-tiny print on the side of the carton, or spoken with obfuscating rapidity by announcers in bland, evasive television commercials. “We tested it on lab rats with no problems,” Shaw says. “They became sterile, but for these old farts that’s not going to be a problem.”