Tunes that leave a ringing in the ears

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The Independent Online

Greensleeves may have been intended as a love song, filled with yearning and passion, but its mournful tones are likely to induce passion of another kind these days ­ in the frustration of telephone callers being kept on hold.

About 500 years after King Henry VIII was rumoured to have composed it, the tinny tones as heard down thousands of telephone lines a day would shock even the most amateur minstrel of the Tudor age.

On average, Britons spend a total of 45 hours a year on hold, according to an NOP survey published yesterday, and the use of "Greensleeves" is the most irritating aspect of those wasted hours.

Telephone hold music, meant to lull the listener into feelings of calm while the minutes tick away, became an everyday feature of British life in the 1980s. "Greensleeves" has been a popular choice ever since among switchboard manufacturers, despite the revelation that almost one in four people said it was the most irritating choice of tune.

Coming second with 14 per cent of the votes was Tina Turner's anthem "Simply the Best". At 13 per cent was anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, followed by ragtime classic "The Entertainer" and Vivaldi's Four Seasons on 6 per cent.