Friday, November 17, 2006

Top 5: Bottom Feeding

The people at Boston.com are out with another list of the 10 Worst Songs of All Time. When I first saw it mentioned somewhere, I thought it might be good blog fodder, and it is, but only inasmuch as it shows how these lists have jumped the shark. Everybody does 'em nowadays, but nobody's trying too hard anymore. By now, there's not a single sentient being left in the observable universe who doesn't know that Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" is the suck. Similarly, making fun of "We Built This City" or "Ice Ice Baby" hasn't been cutting-edge for a long while either--not since the first three or four times the songs appeared on lists like these. It doesn't seem entirely kosher to bash a record because the accompanying video is stupid: Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" is probably one of the Ten Worst Videos of All Time, but the record itself isn't nearly so bad. And I'd even go as far as defending Kevin Federline, ostensible inspiration for the list, because what the hell did everybody expect? The second coming of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan? Federline's vanity rap record is merely the latest in a long line of cynical record-company cash-ins designed to separate idiots from their money. I'd submit Federline's probably not smart enough to be put to blame for it. (I will give Boston.com credit for getting one thing right, though: including Fergie's execrable "My Humps" on its list. Do not, under any circumstances, click the YouTube link at that particular entry, or you will be walking around for the next several hours humming about the dumbest goddamn thing imaginable. I mean it. Don't go there.)

With a little more thought and creativity, you and I can surely come up with a better list of The Worst Records of All Time. Here are my nominees, biased toward the 70s and 80s as usual, in order of increasing awfulness:

"Sugar Walls"/Sheena Easton. (chart peak: #9, March 2, 1986) Famously written by Prince, whose generally juvenile attitude toward sex was never more strongly demonstrated than it is here, and sung in a clueless and unsexy whine by Easton, its title metaphor would be considered less than clever in a junior-high locker room.

"Rock Me Amadeus"/Falco. (chart peak: #1, March 29, 1986) Sheer sonic ugliness masquerading as art. I realize Falco was Austrian, but if the Germans had won World War II, every record in the 80s would have sounded like this.

"Taxi"/Harry Chapin. (chart peak: #24, June 3, 1972) One of the first entries in the history of this blog bashed "Taxi," and I haven't changed my opinion. I hate that record.

"Christine Sixteen"/Kiss. (chart peak: #25, September 3, 1977)
In which a sexual predator latches onto an underage girl outside her school--although what's really obscene is the barely competent whorehouse piano banging throughout. Relentlessly vile. I not only hate that record, I hate anybody who doesn't hate that record.

"The Last Game of the Season"/David Geddes. (chart peak: #18, December 20, 1975) The story of a scrub high-school football player whose blind father dies during the first half of a game. The scrub somehow gets into the game in the second half and singlehandedly wins it for the home team, explaining afterward, "It's the first time Dad ever saw me play." This record's most amazing achievement might be that it makes Geddes' more famous record, "Run Joey Run," sound like "Stairway to Heaven" in comparison. Ecch ptui.

Deciding which of these tracks to post was a chore. I finally settled on "The Last Game of the Season," because to people used to the concept of ironic distance, it sounds like something from another universe. Today, this kind of unabashedly sentimental treacle would never make the Top 40, although it would probably still get some traction on country radio. And in fact, a country version by Kenny Starr rode high on the charts in early 1976, albeit under a different title: "The Blind Man in the Bleachers." Starr's version made it to Number Two--an apt description indeed.

Buy Geddes' version here, if you dare. It's Rhino's Super Hits of the 70s: Have a Nice Day, Volume 20, but be forewarned that it contains a few other records that could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch, such as "Disco Duck" and Engelbert Humperdinck's "After the Lovin." However, you will get some decent songs in addition, including the Sanford/Townsend Band's "Smoke From a Distant Fire" and Smokie's "Living Next Door to Alice." I mention the latter because ever since last summer, I've been getting dozens of hits to this blog from people Googling "Living Next Door to Alice," mostly from Europe. I'm not sure why, but for those of you looking for the tune, there's where to find it.)

So anyway: I'd stake those five choices against anybody else's list of the truly awful. What are your choices for Worst Records of All Time? Let's see 'em in the comments.

7 Comments:

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Dave P said...

I can't tell what you hate more about "Christine Sixteen," the crude, predatory nature of the lyrics or the piano playing. And speaking of repugnancy, have you ever heard Gene Simmons' infamous NPR interview?

And to be consistent, you should hate Harry Chapin's "Sequel" (from 1980) with the same intensity you devote to "Taxi."

 
At 7:53 AM, Blogger jabartlett said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger jabartlett said...

I removed the comment above because Blogger trucated links to audio and a transcript of Simmons' 2002 interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." So if you Google "Gene Simmons" and "NPR interview," multiple opportunities to hear and/or read it appear.

 
At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry -- "Taxi" is a classic. Great writing and so is the second part, "Sequel".
Musicradio

 
At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to see that "You Light Up My Life" by Debbie Boone isn't on your list! That's a truly horrible sonng. As I remember it was played continuously for what seemed like an entire year (I had to look - it was 1977.) Maybe you have some selective amnesia about it. In fact, I can remember it starting to play on the radio and you commenting "As if anyone ever needs to hear THAT song again."
Cheers!
Max

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger homercat said...

Good blog fodder indeed. Hmm I have to think this one over.

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger whiteray said...

As I noted once on homercat's blog, my vote for worst song/record will always go to Terry Jacks' "Seasons In The Sun." With apologies to Paul Simon, I'm still gagging after all these years!

 

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