Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009
by Neil Hacksworth
A man is suing 80s rock band Black Lace for £600,000 because of psychological damage resulting from having a song stuck in his head for more than twenty years, BBC News has learnt.
Stewart Sneddon, 46, from Newport Pagnell, claims that the chorus from the band’s 1984 hit 'Agadoo' has been repeating compulsively within his mind since he attended a concert at Wembley stadium almost 23 years ago. He is bringing the case against event organisers Splat!, as well as Black Lace members Terry Tickle, 58, and Dean Smedley, 57.
“My life has basically been a living hell since the gig,” said Mr Sneddon, who compiles classified ads for a local newspaper. “I can’t sleep, I have no confidence and my marriage has suffered as a result. It was completely ridiculous what they did in that encore, there was no need for it and it’s me that’s had to pay the price.”
Chorus repeated 112 times
Black Lace’s Wembley concert on 15 August 1986 is remembered as one of the great events in British rock music.
Over 82,000 people attended the performance, while an estimated 400 million viewers across 60 countries watched on screens in one of the largest-scale satellite link-up and television broadcasts of all time. Amongst the numerous notable events of that day was a world record for the longest human ‘snake’, as some 21,000 people danced to the band’s classic hit Do The Conga.
But the concert is best remembered for the unusually long encore of Agadoo, which lasted for some three-quarters of an hour and during which the song’s catchy chorus was repeated without variation for 112 times in succession.
It was this extended repetition, according to legal experts, that provides the grounds for Mr Sneddon’s case against the band.
“If our client had merely bought the Agadoo single and deliberately listened to it a hundred times, then there would be no case to answer,” said a spokesman for Mr Sneddon’s legal team.
“But in a packed Wembley stadium he was exposed to the full force of the song without any reasonable chance of escape.”
Renowned neurologist Oliver Sachs has supported Mr Sneddon’s case.
“The official term for a song being stuck in one’s head is ‘involuntary musical imagery’ but people commonly refer to these things as ‘earworms’,” Sachs told a BBC reporter.
“However, when a tune is exceptionally hard to shake off we sometimes call it an ‘ear-python’ – like an earworm but bigger. The chorus of 'Agadoo' certainly falls into this category, in fact it may even be the Daddy Ear-Python. A single hearing is enough to lodge the song in your head for hours, so 112 repetitions is far in excess of safe levels. So yes, serious psychological damage is likely to occur.”
Since Mr Sneddon has brought his case, several other attendees of the 1986 concert have come forward complaining of similar symptoms.
Neuroscientists have even suggested that a medical term “Push Pineapple Syndrome” should be formally recognised to describe the condition.
Black Lace vocalist Smedley and guitarist Tickle – who is now a respected music producer – have both so far refused to comment on the case.
However, figures from the rock elite have been speaking out in support of the band. U2’s Bono, who supported Black Lace at the Wembley concert along with Haircut 100, Michael Jackson and Queen, was dismissive of Mr Sneddon’s claim.
“I don’t know who this guy is or what’s his problem,” said the Irish singer. “But he should just be grateful he was at that gig. Black Lace rocked it, I mean they fe**ing rocked it that day. He should be telling his grandkids he was there, not whingeing, the fe**ing gobshoi*e.”
Oasis star Noel Gallagher, who remembers watching the concert on television, echoed Bono’s sentiments: “For me and ordinary working-class people of my generation there’s only ever been four British bands: the Beatles, the Smiths, the Pistols and the Lace. I had that mullet, man. Oasis wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for them two.”
Newer rock acts including the Killers, Babyshambles, Vampire Weekend and the Jonas Brothers have also pledged their support for the influential band. All four have agreed to play in a special fundraising gig, headlined by Coldplay, should Black Lace lose the case.
Comedy duo Horne and Corden and compere Jonathan Ross are also penciled in for the event, which is being organised by Pamela Spanks, chairperson of the Black Lace fanclub – or ‘LaceHeads’ as they prefer to be known.
“This whole case is crazy,” said Ms Spanks. “I’d love to be able to hear Agadoo all the time in my head. He should be enjoying every minute of it!”
Mr Sneddon however, is adamant that the song has ruined his life. “It’s just that damn chorus over and over, I don’t even know the words to the verses. If I concentrate on something really hard it fades a bit, but whenever I’m sitting doing nothing and my head is empty it comes back louder than ever. I work in the media so this happens a lot.”
The case continues.