Last Friday afternoon, a patron walked into my office and asked if I’m a rock music aficionado. Unsure if he wanted to ask a trivia question, sell me some vintage vinyl, or maybe start a Styx cover band, I tentatively answered that I’m not an aficionado, but I’m generally familiar with rock and/or roll. He proceeded to tell me that he had recently heard a song on the radio that he liked and wanted to hear again, but he didn’t know the name of it and wasn’t sure how to go about finding it. He then hummed the song, which I will attempt to transcribe:
DA (pause) DA DA (pause) DA na na na DA DA
Aside from that piece of the melody, the only other thing he could tell me about the song is that it repeated the lyric “Hey Louise,” or something that sounds like that, multiple times . Nothing came immediately to mind, so I did some Googling of “Hey Louise” and found that there’s a Neil Diamond song with that exact title. I listened to it, and while it definitely contains the “Hey Louise” lyric, the rhythm is different, it’s in a different key than the patron’s humming, and it’s way too Neil Diamond-y (the patron made it sound like a heavy rock song with crunchy guitars, and that’s not how Diamond gets down). With me unable to deliver, the patron sought out and hummed the song for our Director, Steve, who pegged it as an ‘80s song that he was pretty certain made mention of dancing shoes, but he couldn’t come up with a title. At the time I left for the day, he was still thinking on it.
When I came in today, I asked Steve if he had been able to identify the song, and he said he hadn’t. I told our children’s librarian, Miranda, about it and hummed the song for her, and, as an ’80s music expert, she immediately identified it as “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. The rhythm matched, and “Footloose” does have a lyric that starts “Please, Louise…” in its chorus. I was skeptical due to its lack of edgier rock factor, but everything else fell in place well enough to indicate she was most likely right on. She told Steve, and it turned out “Footloose” was the song he’d been thinking about (it is indeed an ‘80s dance song that mentions “Sunday shoes”). With us all in agreement, the mystery seemed to be solved. Now we just needed to tell the patron.
Fortunately, I spotted the patron in the library this morning and approached him to let him know we had a good idea about what the song is, but before I could triumphantly tell him, he said “I figured it out, it’s ‘Footloose.’” While I was slightly bummed that we didn’t get to be his answering heroes, I was glad he got the answer to his question, which is of course the most important thing. Also, we were right, which is the second most important thing.
What if this happens again? Sure, we were able to put our heads together and come up with an answer this time, but what if next time the song in question isn’t floating around in any of our heads? Surely, technology can help us out, right? I did some searching, and the answer is yes, of course it can. There’s a free app called SoundHound that can identify songs solely by analyzing your humming or singing. I tested it out by humming first the chorus (which is what the patron provided) and then, separately, the verse of “Footloose,” and it correctly identified the song both times. If you tap on the result, you’re given the option to listen to the song on Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, or iHeartRadio so that you can confirm it’s what you’re looking for. I think this is incredibly neat and should be a great way to find song titles when you don’t know any lyrics to search for or you’re unable to Shazam it. I encourage you to try it out, but if you’d prefer some sonic reference from your friendly neighborhood library, you’re always welcome to come in and hum for us.