'500 Miles' is nation's top earworm

It might take 500 miles to get it out of your head, but The Proclaimers' hit song is officially the UK's number one '˜earworm', according to a study.
The ProclaimersThe Proclaimers
The Proclaimers

The phenomenon is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a catchy tune, piece of music or (occasionally) phrase which persistently stays in a person’s mind, especially to the point of irritation’.

And the Scottish brother’s 1988 smash ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ has topped a top 50 chart of the most difficult tunes to dislodge.

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Classic rock band Queen took second and third place with Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions in the survey by online market research company OnePoll.

Other contagious tunes to land in the top 10 were Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’.

But the chart was dominated by TV theme tunes - including the Benny Hill Show, The Monkees and Friends.

Kevin Smith, Panel Director for OnePoll, said: “Queen are an iconic band with iconic catchy songs, so it’s no wonder they appear twice in the top three.

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“Sometimes you won’t notice the source of the earworm, it might have come from a passing car, someone whistling nearby or from an advert on the television.

“But however it happens, it can really get on your nerves, especially when it’s the same part of the song on repeat in your head.

“The survey shows that the top five earworms are all classic hits, could this mean newer songs aren’t as catchy as they used to be?

“‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are the highest ranking songs from this decade at eighth and ninth spot.”

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In the last month, the typical Brit has had five songs stuck in their head and usually it’s there for over an hour before they can forget about it.

This would include anything from ‘YMCA’ by The Village People and the more recent tune, ‘Shake it Off’ by Taylor Swift.

And it’s not just your usual chart hit that you’ll find in the Top 50 Earworms poll, theme tunes for Friends, Match of the Day and The Monkees also featured.

The main soundtracks for films are also getting stuck in the nation’s heads such as The Great Escape and Star Wars.

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It’s usually either hearing it on the television or the children singing that sets off an earworm, but one of the more common ways to get rid of it is to listen to something else.

But one in eight believes that listening to the actual tune all the way through can help get it out of their mind.

The Addams Family, The Simpsons and Spongebob Squarepants made the list of annoying tunes that get stuck in your head.

Along with Happy Days, one of the biggest TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s not to mention ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ made famous by Disney’s Mary Poppins.

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There’s even a Christmas song in the top 20, as ‘Jingle Bells’ can get stuck in the minds of the nation any time of the year.

And overall, the band or artist to appear the most frequently in the poll were The Beatles, with ‘Hey Jude’, ‘When I’m 64’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’ all sitting in the top half of the list.

Kevin Smith added: “Similarly to Queen, The Beatles stand the test of time, as their songs do. You don’t have to have been around during their heyday to be able to recognise one of their hits.

“It sounds like listening to something else has worked for a third of people and one in 10 said they just go to sleep and it’s gone when they wake.

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“But hopefully reading this story hasn’t left 50 tunes stuck in your head for the rest of the day.”


1. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers

2. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

3. We are the Champions - Queen

4. Livin’ On A Prayer - Bon Jovi

5. 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton

6. YMCA - Village People

7. Final Countdown - Europe

8. Uptown Funk - Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson

9. Shake It Off - Taylor Swift

10. Don’t Stop Believin’ - Journey

11. Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley

12. Who Let the Dogs Out - Baha Men

13. Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen

14. Can’t Get You Out of My Head - Kylie Minogue

15. Hey Jude - The Beatles

16. Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs

17. Jingle Bells

18. Gangnam Style - Psy

19. Friends - theme tune

20. Wonderwall - Oasis

21. Barbie Girl - Aqua

22. Poker Face - Lady Gaga

23. Match of the Day - theme tune

24. When I’m 64 - The Beatles

25. The Time Warp - The Rocky Horror Picture Show

26. Yellow Submarine - The Beatles

27. Sweet Child O’ Mine - Guns N’ Roses

28. The Monkees - theme tune

29. Rehab - Amy Winehouse

30. Ooh Ee Oo Ah Ah, Ting Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang - Witch Doctor

31. Happy Days - theme tune

32. The Addams Family - Theme Tune

33. Wannabe - Spice Girls

34. Thriller - Michael Jackson

35. Blue (Da Ba Dee) - Eiffel 65

36. The Simpsons - theme tune

37. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

38. Eastenders - theme tune

39. Kung Fu Fighting

40. Mmm Bop - Hanson

41. Benny Hill

42. The Great Escape - Main Soundtrack

43. Star Wars - Main Soundtrack

44. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Mary Poppins

45. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - theme tune

46. Tomorrow - Annie the Musical

47. Pink Panther - theme tune

48. Cheerleader - OMI

49. Backstreet’s Back - Backstreet Boys

50. Spongebob Squarepants - theme tune

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