A "psych-song" writer from Alred Bester's novel The Demolished Man, first published in serialized version starting in the January 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. It's set in the 24th century where people spell their names funny. Also telepaths are used to prevent crime. But industrialist Ben Reich wants to murder his rival, and as part of his scheme to beat the telepaths, he gets an annoying jingle/earworm from this songwriter called "Tenser, Said the Tensor." He deliberately gets this stuck in his head to hide his thoughts from low-level telepaths.
Wednesday afternoon, Reich went over to Melody Lane in the heart of the Panty district and called on Psych-Songs, Inc. There was a clever young woman there who had written some brilliant jingles for Sales and some effective strikebreaking songs for Propaganda back when Sacrament needed everything to smash that labor fracas in the Asteroid Belt. Duffy Wyg&, her name was, and she insisted that Duffy wasn’t a nickname. Had been in the family for years.
“What’s the most persistent tune you ever wrote?”
“You know what I mean. Like those advertising jingles you can’t get out of your head.”
“Oh, Pepsis, we call ’em.”
“They say because the first one was written centuries ago for the primitive radio and TV they had then by a character named Pepsi. Well, maybe. I don’t know. I wrote one once . . .” Duffy winced in recollection. “Hate to think of it even now. It haunted me for a year.”
“Scout’s honor, Mr. Reich. It was Tenser, Said the Tensor. I wrote it for that Panty about the crazy mathematician. They wanted nuisance value and they sure got it. People got so sore, they had to withdraw the Panty. Lost a fortune.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“I couldn’t do that to you.”
“Come on, Duffy. I’m curious.”
“You’ll regret it.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“All right, pig.” she said, and pulled the multivox panel toward her. “This pays you back for the flabby kiss.”
Her fingers and palms slipped gracefully over the panel. A tune filled the room with agonizing, unforgettable banality. It was the quintessence of every musical cliche Reich had ever heard. No matter what melody you tried to remember, it invariably led down the path of familiarity to Tenser, Said the Tensor. Then Duffy began to sing in an excruciating little voice:
Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tenser, said the Tensor.
And dissension have begun.
“Oh, my God!” Reich exclaimed.