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Song & Memory

Song and Memory: "Private Eyes"

Ann Heppermann

Kara Oehler

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Hall and Oats
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Mike Daisey: When you're little, people define kids by questions they ask them, like "What's your favorite color," and they have to have an answer. I remember that I felt like I should have a song that was my favorite song because it seemed like other people were doing that. And so there was some degree of peer pressure: I have to have a favorite song.

On some level, I'm still embarrassed that my favorite song at the second grade was "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates. And, in fact, I feel vulnerable that at one time I declared it to be my favorite song, which is weird because I think I should probably cut myself some slack. But in my head, there's no slack cut at all. Instead, I'm like, "That was a bad choice! I wish I had a better choice." But I don't know what that choice would've been.

I don't know when Hall and Oates' "Private Eyes" came out because I was very very young. And I don't remember hearing it the first or second or third time. But I think I remember hearing it the tenth, fifteenth and twentieth times because it became one of those songs I heard when we'd drive around in our car.

I would sit in the back seat with my window rolled down because my parents would smoke. And I would remember sitting there trying to breathe the fresh oxygen out the window and listen to this Hall and Oates song as we drove past the endless potato fields of Maine.

I remember that I thought the song was creepy, and that I liked it. Like I liked the idea that private eyes are watching you, and that they're watching your every move. I would really enjoy "Watching you. Watching you. Watching you."

I was a very fat, strange child. I was very geeky and weird, and I would stand at the edge of the playground rocking in a sort of autistic fashion during recess. I wouldn't play with other children very much. And if other kids did come and try to talk to me, I would get very excited because I really wanted to talk but I didn't know what to say. So I would end up talking about black holes, which I was really obsessed with at that time and I would try to explain to them all about black holes and singularities and collapsing stars. I would get really excited. And so I didn't talk to other kids very much.

I remember one day in the cafeteria, I was eating my lunch, alone, and some other more normal children came over and sat near me and began talking to me. And I remember I was very alarmed because they were sort of talking to me like they actually wanted to talk to me. And they asked me, "Hey, what's your favorite song?"
I knew that there were probably correct responses. Like there were songs that everybody else would all say the same song. But I didn't know what that was because I wasn't talking to anyone because I sit alone all the time thinking about black holes. So I did a terrible thing; I told the truth and I said "Private Eyes."

And everyone sitting around me began to laugh. And I was horrified and I remember I left the lunchroom and went to the classroom and just sat in the classroom waiting for everyone else to come back from lunch and hoping it was over. And then when everyone came in, everyone in the class had been told about my terrible song choice. And everyone roundly laughed at me!

It's funny about this memory because it feels like it's ripped from any number of teen and child comedies. Like "the scene in which our hero is scarred for life." Every time I remember this, it doesn't seem real.

This had a profound effect because what I decided was that I would never have a favorite song, and that instead, I would hate all music forever. And, in fact, I really internalized it and I actually hated all music for years and years and years! When music was on the radio, I was like "Turn it off! Music is barbaric, and it's just intended to chain us to our emotions. If we're going to have an emotion, we should just have it on our own. I don't need any stinking music to tell me what my emotions are going to be. Thank you."

I remember explaining this to my father in these cold, measured tones. My father looked at me like "Oh my god." The look on his face was like, "I gave birth to an alien. This is my alien son." But I was very adamant about it.

After this thing happened, I thought about the song all the time because I was always like "Why did I say that song? I should never have chosen that. Why that song?" If I'd said any other song, they wouldn't have laughed at me and things would've been better.

Very often when I play the song, I literally go back to that day. I'm sitting in the lunch room and then the people come over. I have to remember all the steps of it. And that's kind of a drag!

You don't want to recollect on your entire life when you're listening to this Hall and Oates song. You kind of just want to hear it because it's a nice song!

"Watching you. Watching you, Watching you." They're private eyes! They're watching you!

More stories from our Song & Memory series

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