I HAVE TO admit it. Until recently, I wasn't aware of the effect pop songs could have on human behavior.
Of course, that was before the recent hubbub over a rap record. We won't mention the name of the band, as it has already exceeded this column's limit on free publicity.
Anyhow, according to a woman from the local chapter of Morality in Media, anyone who listens to this album will either a) be appalled, or b) become a sexual deviant.
This second possibility was an eye-opener. I always thought it took more than a few spins of a platter to become a sneaker-sniffing, stocking-fondling, card-carrying member of Sexual Deviants Anonymous.
To clear up the confusion, I consulted an authority. I found him in the Yellow Pages, under O -- "Odd or Deviant Behavior, Musically Induced."
Dr. Hugo Badd assured me that, yes, pop music can warp the minds of otherwise decent, clean-living, bill-paying folks. In fact, he makes a living treating such individuals.
"Sure, it gets ugly sometimes," said Dr. Badd, "but somebody has to do it."
I asked about some of his cases.
He said a woman had recently come in, distraught over a change in her husband's behavior. This once robust, fun-loving fellow had turned moody and sullen.
Worse, he was reading poetry, wearing black turtlenecks and frequenting late-night coffeehouses. He bought an acoustic guitar and strummed it for hours, gazing longingly into the distance.
"All of a sudden," she told the doctor, "there were a lot of superficial sighs. And dangling conversations."
Her husband lost all interest in power tools and Genesee Light commercials. He stopped mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage, claiming he was too busy thinking. One night, after turning out the lights, he sat up in bed and said: "Hello darkness, my old friend."
"Don't tell me, Doc," I interrupted. "Simon and Garfunkel, mid-'60s."
"Exactly," Dr. Badd confirmed. "The poor sap discovered three of their old albums in the attic.
"Eventually, he went completely around the bend. One morning at breakfast, he turned to his wife and said: 'A rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.' "
That sort of pretentiousness is bad enough at the dinner table. Over scrambled eggs, it borders on the criminal.
"Of course, she ran screaming from the house," said Dr. Badd. "The police called me. As with any such emergency, I saw her immediately."
"A hefty dose of Little Richard," he revealed. "It broke her husband's wimpy funk quicker than you could say 'Tutti Frutti.' "
The doc pulled another case from the files. This one was even more frightening.
It started, for this average American couple, at a Holiday Inn lounge, with the house band's passionate rendition of "Feelings."
As Dr. Badd told it, the man slipped into a romantic trance.
"At first, the woman said everything was fine," related the doctor. "He gave her roses every day. They went for long walks in the park. He took her out for romantic dinners."
What was the downside?
"Try having someone gaze into your eyes 12 hours a day," he said. "Or cling to your hand like a baby. Pretty soon, she wanted him back to normal. But it just got worse.
"He quit his job, because it kept them apart. He bought every record Barry Manilow ever made. Memorized the words to 'Mandy.' She finally broke it off the day when, overcome by emotion, he wept at the grand opening of a K mart."
What broke the spell?
Dr. Badd shook his head. "Some people," he conceded, "are beyond even my help."
The horror. A human being, condemned to a life of terminal sappiness. A cautionary tale, for sure.
OK, Doc. But what about this other music? The more threatening stuff. With the foul language. The macho poses. The attitude that women are mud flaps.
"Oh, you mean rock," said Dr. Badd.
"No, Doc, rap. Rap music."
Surprisingly, Dr. Badd said the rap- obsessed often cure themselves.
"Think about it. These guys constantly talk about their private parts. Brag about what they can do in the sack. Act like women exist just to satisfy them.
"They're like people with chronic bad breath. Nobody wants to be around them. After a while, they have a choice: Lighten up, or be lonely."
I thanked Dr. Badd for his time.
"Don't mention it," he said. "And remember -- rap's bad, but those Holiday Inn lounges are downright dangerous. Once those sappy tunes get a hold on you, there's not much I, or anyone else, can do."