Over at BusinessInsider.com, there’s an article about songs that the CIA used as part of their — ahem — enhanced interrogation program. The complete list in the article is eleven items long. Seven of the songs on the list I’m completely unfamiliar with, so I have nothing to offer about them, but here are the four on the list that I have heard before and would recognize in a heartbeat:
- I Love You (the Barney the purple dinosaur theme song)
- Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees
- The Meow Mix theme
- We Are The Champions by Queen
Given the presence of Barney’s big addition to the music pantheon, I’m somewhat surprised that “It’s A Small World” (from the Disney ride) isn’t up there somewhere.
As for the Bee Gees making the list, I suppose that high falsetto they do could get to you after a while. To be fair, there is no single song titled “Saturday Night Fever” by the Bee Gees, so I presume this really refers to just about any song by the Bee Gees from said film. Is it possible that “Stayin’ Alive”, played for a long enough period of time and at a sufficiently high volume could make one wish he were dead?
Madison Avenue’s addition to the list, the Meow Mix jingle, just makes me laugh, because my youngest daughter will break out into song at the drop of a hat when she’s home, and odds are that this song — or at least a snippet of it — is what will pop out. I’m not sure she’s even seen one of the original Meow Mix commercials, but probably knows this only from watching an Austin Powers movie.
Here’s everything you could ever want to know about the Meow Mix jingle, from the Wikipedia:
“The Meow Mix Theme” was written by Shelley Palmer in 1970 and performed by a singing cat. The idea came from Ron Travisano, at the advertising agency of Della Femina Travisano and Partners, who had the account with Ralston Purina in 1974. Travisano put together film footage with editor Jay Gold, looping images of a cat to make it look like it was singing. The music was then composed by Tom McFaul of the jingle house Lucas/McFaul, one of the major jingle-composing houses at the time. Working from Travisano’s film, McFaul wrote and produced music to fit, with the actual meowing performed by professional singer Linda November.
Travisano then came up with the idea of adding English subtitles, along with a bouncing ball pointing out the words.
Curiously enough, Jerry Della Femina, eventual chairman of the ad firm mentioned above wrote a book about the advertising industry which is claimed to have been the inspiration for the cable TV series “Mad Men”. Only appropriate, I guess, given that repeated listening to the Meow Mix song is supposed to send you over the edge.
And, finally, as for We Are the Champions, I really don’t have much to say, except to wonder if the point was to “rub it in” to those forced to listen to it: is the message of the song “we’re better than you”? Or maybe the electric guitar solos get to you after a while.
I suppose the saddest thing about music used as a torture device is the idea that art should be used in this way at all. But evidently some songs kind of lend themselves to this sort of (ab)use.