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Monday, November 05, 2007

We Built This City on Bad Lists - Part II

Part I dealt with Blender magazine's desperatly seeking chicness list of the supposedly worst songs of all time. After dealing with such a hopeless misfire of a list, not to mention the very idea of remembering the truly awful songs that one must consider whilst analysing such a list, one is tempted to chuck the lot in the virtual wastebin and move on to more intriguing matters1. However, as the old saying goes, "In for a penny, in for a pound." Fortunately, Blender's list was a free link on the Internet and we've had to pay neither.

Now, in fairness2 the gits at Blender has got a few things right. Billy Ray Cyrus may have had a Grand Ole Opry renaissance as Hannah Montana's hokey but thoughtful dad, but that will never hide the searingly obvious fact that Achy Breaky Heart is to the poetic muse what formaldehyde is to the human liver: slow death.

Other choices also make sense. Corey Hart's Sunglasses at Night is my choice for one of the most creepily, self-indugent, unintentionally embarrassing piles of rubbish in recent memory. Corey wears his sunglasses at night because he's a sap trying to impress people who are too busy trying to find the doorknob to the pub entrance to notice. I put it just above Clint Black's Fireman (Not actually on the list - An actual lyric from the song is, "Well everybody wants to have what I got," which would be an oversized black hat and an obviously Fruedian self-consciousness about one's hose.)

My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion? I can live with that, given that had the song itself actually existed in 1912, it surely would have sunk the Titanic before she got within 100 miles of an iceberg. New Kids on the Block, Ja Rule Feat, Ashanti, Uncle Kracker, Right Said Fred, Vanilla Ice, and Limpbizkit are all acts born to create more than half a dozen songs on this list. Fair dinkum as the Aussies might say, were the song not banned in Australia as a weapon of mass destruction.

However, it must be said that whilst the Blender bumpkins were so busy demonstrating their detatched coolness, by trashing decent songs, they left out a sea of pure awfulness that richly deserved a place on this list. To their credit, they have placed some reader suggestions on the sidebar of the article (some of which are fairly good - Debbie Boone's You Light Up My Life is an obvious selection that Blender's ultra-pseudo-hip writers didn't even consider. Perhaps they liked the movie of the same name so much, they couldn't imagine trashing the song. Maybe they're Pat Boone fans and didn't want to upset the old codger by going after his daughter's only hit.)

There are also some weird songs that just miss such a list, like Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man. Sure, some people consider it a classic, and the general tone of the song is pleasant enough. However, and I know I've used this remark here before, how can one take seriously the line, "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me?" What's he going to play, Bolero?

It also sounds suspiciously like Bob is stalking Mr. Tambourine Man, but that may simply be Shatner's take on the song bleeding (and I do mean bleeding) into my mind.

Anyway, one bad list deserves another, so here are my nominees for the "worst" songs Blender's list missed3.

  • Only Wanna Be with You - Hootie & the Blowfish - This song should be on the list if only for the line "the Dolphins make me cry." I realise one shouldn't expect sublime lines of iambic pentametre from a band named "Hootie & the Blowfish" but that doesn't mean we have to stand for demented crap like this either. The band was actually sued for using Bob Dylan lyrics without permission in this song, so perhaps Bob's to blame, if only for the inspiration.
  • Funkytown - Lipps, Inc. - What do you expect from a "band" with a name like that? The dredge of disco's dying days. When I checked, the Wikipedia listing had the song's duration at 67 minutes and 58 seconds. Now, now, it only feels that long.
  • Physical - Olivia Newton John - The Aussie's most improbable song. She was very cute, but the idea of her getting "physical" with anyone in the spirit of the song is about as sexy as the idea of imagining Sally Field on the job in her Flying Nun habit . Which is to say, just a notch in hotness above Olivia in the leather getup at the end of Grease. She looked more out of place than Laura Bush would at a rave.
  • You Make Me Wanna (Grunt) - Ashley Simpson - I'm not really sure what the actual name of this tune is. I heard it when Ashley "sang" it at the Super Bowl a few years ago and it burned a deep and lasting scar into my eardrums. It doesn't help matters that Ashley grunts like Martina Hingis, were she drunk and belching at the same time.

  • The Bird Is the Word - The Troggs - Not so much a song as despreate cry for help. Unfortunately, after about 10 seconds, the audience's cry is much louder and far more desperate. Internationally, this is considered more egregious an interrogation technique than waterboarding.
  • If You Want My Body and You Think I'm Sexy - Rod Stewart - Just what the hell was Rod thinking? The "Fireman" of the pop world. Stewart occasionally dabbles in really bad songs but this sounds like a novelty tune, somewhere just to the clean side of Chuck Berry's My Ding-a-Ling.
  • My Ding-a-Ling - Chuck Berry - Now that I mention it, yeah, this definitely makes the list. Chuck and his producer must have been stone drunk when this one was given the green light... and recorded, from the sound of it.
  • Mr. Jones - Counting Crows - I just heard this the other day and it simply must be on the list. Do they want to be Dylan, or Tom Petty, or Van Morrison, or some unpleasant hodgepodge of all three? Well, they got the last bit spot on. Good band - weird, grating, egocentric-sounding song.
  • Philosophy of the World - The Shaggs - What's that? Youve never heard of The Shaggs, the worst band ever (although Frank Zappa ranked them #3 best of all time, but he was surely stoned at the time)? This is their trademark song, though it should be added that everything they recorded is unbelievably awful in the traditional sense. They have no sense of tone, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, lyrics anything. It's a wonder they got the guitars plugged-in. Still, from what I can tell, decent enough sorts and the music is strangely listenable. I still listen to them occasionally, just to shake off the doldrums of Top 40 radio. Their song My Pal Foot-Foot is a worthy companion piece to this one.
  • Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man - William Shatner - How could I omit this one, a staple of DOUI comic music links. Admittedly, it's just a cover, but what a cover! From bemusement to hysteria in a few seconds at the end makes this for me. Most would choose Shat's cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but he at least captures a certain drug-inspired haze in that one. In this one, he rants like a rabid banshee. Glorious.
  • Funny Way of Laughing - Burl Ives - Burl's song about how someone broke his heart, but they shouldn't mistake his tears for sadness because it's just his... well, the title says it all. Burt's fans shouldn't confuse my own uncontrollable laughter each time the song plays for anything other than deep, sincere reverence. This was also the theme song for Lukas P. Short's short-lived television program (straight to video).
  • Hello George - ("Artist" unknown) - I can't even find this one online, but I've heard this country-western disaster of a tune on the original 45 and it stabs to the bone. I can't decide what the worst part is: The inappropriately fast tempo? The shouted rejoinders of "Hello, George!"? If you should come across this, do not listen without a syringe of atropine ready to be plunged into your heart, just in case. My vote for worst of all time.


1. Such as, "Was that really a Stew Miller post after over 4 months?" I told you he was still alive and in better shape than King Tut.
2. And we won't stay here for long. Let's face it, fairness isn't particularly hiliarious.
3. Try saying that 3 times fast, or better yet, try singing that to "Only Wanna Be With You." It can't be done, not even the original lyrics work. Also, please consider a plethora of gangsta rap music as included. I can't stand to listen long enough to work out the titles and "artists."

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