Friday, February 06, 2009

Weekend Listomania (Special There's No Accounting For Taste! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental fille de nuit manual catharsis manager Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to Washington, D.C., where we'll be staying at the spartanly-appointed digs of Sen. Lindsey Graham for some kind of stimulus package thing. Apparently, it involves my pants, but I'm not really sure what might be on the agenda above and beyond that.

In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Most Inexplicably Fricking Huge Post-Beatles Hit Single!!!!!!

Obviously, the flip side (as it were) of last week's shoulda-been-bigger-hits Listomania. This time we're talking about the record(s) whose massive chart success merely flummoxes you or (worst case scenario) actually strikes you as some kind of crime against nature. Something so butt ugly or moronic that after hearing it you despair of being human.

You know -- some piece of shlock pop fluff that got lucky.

Okay, here's my top of my head Top Nine:

9. Rihanna -- Umbrella

Gorgeous woman, lousy singer, skull-crushingly annoying song.

8. James Blunt - Goodbye My Lover

I don't think I've ever heard a note from this guy that didn't make me want to go "What the fuck is that shit?". But this one is REALLY beyond the pale....

7. The Royal Guardsman -- Snoopy Versus the Red Baron

If memory serves, I'd never seen what these guys looked like before finding this clip. But after viewing their moronically grinning mugs here I find myself even more annoyed by the song than ever. Frightening Fact: The original group reformed in 2006 to record "Snoopy Versus Osama," which is a big fave on the Dr. Demento Show, or so I hear.

6. Celine Dion -- My Heart Will Go On

Apparently, the deal with this song is that she's recommending low-fat snacks and a heart-healthy diet rich in beta carotene. Other than that, I think it's inexcusable on a purely aural level.

5. Meat Loaf -- I Would Do Anything For Love

Seven goddamn minutes long, and when it's over you still have no idea exactly what he's talking about when he says "I won't do that." Take out the garbage? Vote Republican? Divulge the secret formula that makes Orange Julius so devilishly delicious? C'mon, help us out here, Meat.

4. Pat Benatar -- Love is a Battlefield

You know, it occurs to me that this may not actually be the worst song ever written, but that the video is just so hilariously awful that it merely seems like it is. The dueling dancing hookers at the end are a particularly ghastly touch either way, of course.

3. The Poppy Family -- Which Way You Going Billy?

Unspeakably icky, even for Canadians. And the drummer overplays, criminally.

2. Colbie Callat -- Bubbly

Perhaps the lamest song of perhaps the lamest pop music decade since the halcyon days of Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. Seriously, if the world was to come to an end tomorrow and I was forced to reflect on the 21st century, I would probably echo Isaac Bashevis Singer on the 20th: "On balance, a complete flop."

And the number one biggest piece of crap to become a gigantic hit apres the British Invasion, there's really no argument about this even remotely possible, obviously is --

1. Tommy James and the Shondells -- Hanky Panky

A crappy 1963 throwaway b-side becomes a huge hit during 1966, arguably the most creatively exciting year in the history of 20th century pop music, thus proving there is no God. I have decided, however, that there is a certain karmic payback in the fact that James, seen here performing it live in 2005, has been fated to warble the damn thing more times than Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow."

Okay -- so what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania (theme: underrated director or star whose work most deserves a second look re-evaluation) is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way over there to leave a comment, it would keep me in good with management. Thanks!]


Mister Pleasant said...

Steve, all your choices are horrendously wretched, which of course means they are deserving of this week's category.

I have a soft spot for Tommy James & the Shondells, but certainly not Hanky Panky which is annoying beyond belief.

Personally there were a whole slew of big 70s hits that induce my gag reflex. A few include:

Kung Fu Fighting - Carl Douglas, #1 1974
Convoy - C.W. McCall, #1 1976
Run Joey Run - David Geddes, #4 1975
Have You Never Been Mellow - Olivia Newton-John, #1, 1975
My Love - Paul McCartney and Wings, #1, 1973. Possibly the nadir of Macca's career.

Mike said...

My unholy troika of worst songs ever:

(You're) Havin' My Baby - Paul Anka and Odia Coates
I've Never Been To Me - Charlene
Honey - Bobby Goldsboro (the song that was #1 the fucking week I was born)

TJWood said...

This category I expect we're going to have some fun with. My two choices:

1) No list of most popular odious post-Beatles pop records is complete without those four gruesome words:

Seasons In The Sun (by Terry Jacks, who also contributes to the previously mentioned Poppy Family song).

I know it was the '70's, the decade when dog you-know-what was dog you-know-what, and there are actual worse candidates, some that have already been mentioned.

But still: From the lame bass line that introduces each verse, to the unbearably cheesy organ riff, to those lyrics (which I know Jacks wasn't responsible for) to their mewling delivery (particularly that "black sheep of the family" line), this record had it all.

2) Baby I Love Your Way/Free Bird by Will to Power

Yes, it was the 80's, and there probably are actual worse candidates which I'm sure will get their mention.

But still: The former is the worst song I know of that became a hit three different times (in three different versions by three different artists). The latter, with all due respect to Lynyrd Skynyrd, is a nice excuse for a 5-minute or so guitar battle. How this lasted beyond anyone's first listen is a mystery to me.

megisi said...

There are two that first come to mind on which the hole in the middle of the record was not nearly big enough:

The smarmy and insipid Muskrat Love and You Light Up My Life by the Boone spawn.

I similarly detest The Ballad of the Green Berets, which scarred me deeply in my callow youth, and ... and ... I can barely bear to say its name, The Night Chicago Died.

I'm surprised Macarena has escaped unscathed so far, but here is my all-time, farting-platypus worst ... Radar Love. Beyond awful, it occupies a special place in recording history, smugly perched atop a pepto-pink embroidered polyester pillow, in the seldom visited place of Sweet-jesus-I-hate-record-execs Ville.

No mas, no mas ...

Kid Charlemagne said...

"Muscrat Love" was by Captain and Tennille. Odly enough, Daryl Dragon (The Captain) was in the Beach Boys' backing band in the early 70s.

Morris Albert - Feelings #6 in 1975

steve simels said...

You know, as icky as C&T's "Muskrat Love" is, the version by its composer, Willis Allan Ramsey, is actually really good, as is the album it's from -- which is a crucial outlaw/alt-country/Americana record. This is not a joke. We're talking Townes van Zandt, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Guy Clark territory here.

And I'm baffled by the inclusion of "Radar Love," Megisi. One of the better hard rock records of its era, I think, and if not quite the corrective punk was later, certainly a nice rebuke to the prog-rock excesses of the early 70s.

Oh well -- in the immortal words of Chuck Barris, what do I know...I like cold toilet seats.

Brooklyn Girl said...

"We Built This City" by the Starship - time for that ship to go into dry dock.

"Betty Davis Eyes" - okay, maybe the song isn't awful but what's-her-name's voice (I always block it out for some reason) is nails on a blackboard.

"Horse With No Name" by America - no comment necessary.

"Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum - endless droning, another annoying voice ... shoot me now.

Anything by Kiss - I don't even need to pick a particular song ... the existence of the group itself is reason enough.

And, of course, the number one obvious choice is ...

"MacArthur Park" - by Richard Harris. Put the pipe down, Richard, and back away from the mic ...

Gummo said...

My Love - Paul McCartney and Wings, #1, 1973. Possibly the nadir of Macca's career.

Seconded, with an Amen! From Red Rose Speedway, one of the most embarrassing albums in anyone's career, let alone an ex-Beatle.

And I can't believe no one has mentioned Whitney Houston's vocal masturbation on "I Will Always Love You," a recording that sends dogs howling and makes grown men wish they were dead.

And anything recorded by Barbra Streisand. Ever. Why a voice that sounded like an out-of-tune air raid siren was considered one of the premier voices of her time is a mystery I will never unravel.

P.S. Radar Love is one of the great radio songs of the 70s. So there.

FeralLiberal said...

Nick Guilder - Hot Child in the City (I still cringe any time I hear it)

Bon Jovi - Livin on a Prayer (and any number of other Hair Band "hits")

Paul McCartney - Let 'em In (No, Please, Don't) Dishonorable mention to Ebony and Ivory.

4 Non-Blondes - What's Up?

Henry Gross - Shannon

Any "hit song" where the dancing was more important than the music.

Most (but not all) Disco hits.

Kid Charlemagne said...

Nick Guilder - Hot Child in the City (I still cringe any time I hear it)

What's not to like about a song about a teen hooker?

Actually, that LP has some decent powerpop tunes on it "Hot Child" not withstanding.

steve simels said...

Hey -- I like Shannon by Henry Gross.

Brooklyn Girl said...

It's actually pretty interesting to see some of the drek that has made it to number one on the charts:

"Magic" and "Physical" - Olivia Newton-John
"Lady" - Kenny Rogers
"I Love a Rainy Night" - Eddie Rabbit
"Here I Go Again" - White Snake

and another all-time worst:

"How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" - Michael Bolton

TMink said...

I can explain the popularity of Snoopy and the Red Baron! I was 6 when it came out, and I loved Snoopy. So I bought the single.

Same thing for Hanky Panky, except I did not buy the single. I remember the whole damn bus in grade school singing those songs.

The songs were stupid, they were easy, and they were perfect for little kids who could tell that something interesting was going on, but weren't old enough to figure out what.


Anonymous said...

The Candy Man – Sammy Davis
Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus
Disco Duck – Rick Dees
I Am I Said - Neil Diamond

steve simels said...

I Am I Said - Neil Diamond

"And no one heard at all
Not even the chair"

One of the all-time stupid lines, which inspired Dave Barry, in an essay on really bad songs, to quip "Mr. Diamond -- your Barcalounger is on line 4!"

Anonymous said...

Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns n Roses
Ironic - Alanis Morissette (aka atlantis raisinette ) too bad she doesnt know the meaning of irony !!!now thats ironic ...

Anonymous said...

I am woman - helen reddy

Jeff said...

For a gay teen in the late '70s whose favorite artists were Richard Thompson, Television and the Stones, going to "the bars" was a form of aural masochism. Shrieking divas at earsplitting volume was (and still is somewhat) the rule of the day, at least in New Orleans. A standout among the trash was Cee Cee Peniston's "Finally". More repetitious even than "Funky Town" (which once prompted a radio dj to exclaim, "Somebody pleeeez take this woman to Funky Town"!), there was an extended mix which could really make me feel like my head was going to explode.

steve simels said...

Jeff said...
For a gay teen in the late '70s whose favorite artists were Richard Thompson, Television and the Stones, going to "the bars" was a form of aural masochism.

For a straight 30-something with the same taste, ditto.

Kid Charlemagne said...

Also who can forget the Macarena craze of the mid 90s. That song is #5 on Billboard's All Time Top 100.

Marsupial said...

The Girl is Mine - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson. IMHO, the worst song ever recorded.

Kid Charlemagne said...

Even worse than "Ebony and Ivory"?

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

You guys all think Hanky Panky is irredeemably sucky? Wow. Isn’t there some kind of law against PowerPop people hating stuff I like? Noam’s already guilty of a felony Dead Flowers violation :-), and now here’s a clear instance of public Hanky Panky Hating which, although a little more understandable, has to be at least a misdemeanor. (And no fair repp’ing the song with a middle-aged T. James!) Don’t tell me you guys hate Mony Mony too? Wait, don’t answer that! :-)

But as for me, I’ll go with both Tom Sawyer & Closer to the Heart (which got heavy, heavy airplay on the so-called “AOR” stations in the Baltimore-DC area in ‘75-’85 decade) (thank god for WHFS). I don’t think Rush lacked all talent, but for me, after about 2 minutes the vocals on both those songs just turned into fingernails on the chalkboard. If you could strip out the vocals the band might be listenable. (I pretty much feel the same way about Yes, actually, which instrumentally seemed formidable.)

megisi said...

I can't defend my aversion to Radar Love, Steve ... it's visceral. That song makes me utterly nuts. It nauseates me. It applied the cringe in a way nothing else does. It just does. de gustibus non disputandum est.

As for Muskrat Love, it was the Captain and Tennille recording that I wished vinyl death for. I've heard a piece of the original and, yeah, it has a kind of alt-country charm that's entirely excusable. Context is all. The equivalent, I suppose, would be some Vegas tux covering Guy Clark's The Cape.

MBowen said...

I can't get behind picking on The Royal Guardsmen (kiddie-oriented novelty song), Colbie Caillat (not great, but not particularly offensive), or Tommy James (again, silly novelty hit). Also, I don't get the hating on The Macarena, a silly, catchy dance craze record. None of these people deserve contempt as much as say, Crosby, Stills, & Nash or Radiohead.

Some of the records mentioned by others earlier are truly heinous, like the utterly inexplicable "Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird" medley (I keep wondering if it's some super-post-modern joke that I'm just too dumb to get), the astonishingly awful "What's Up" (Scott Muni played this on a "new artists" feature on WNEW back then, and halfway through he cut it off, grumbling "What the hell is this!"), and "We Built This City" (it make as much sense to criticize this as a Jonah Goldberg column).

Other horrors:

Whitney Houston, "The Greatest Love Of All" - the obvious followup to this would be her version of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me".

Billy Joel, "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" and Bob Seger, "Old Time Rock and Roll" - die, you reactionary old fuckers, die!

Stone Temple Pilots, "Interstate Love Song", Alice In Chains, "Would?" - die, you reactionary old fuckers, die!

steve simels said...

Whitney Houston, "The Greatest Love Of All" - the obvious followup to this would be her version of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me".

I am SO stealing this...

steve simels said...


Boy, do I have to disagree with you on that Colbie Callat thing.

Apart from being a)moronic and b)butt ugly...

it's about as amateur a song as I've ever heard, what you'd expect from somebody who had just picked up a guitar and thought "I betcha I could write a song."

It doesn't really have a verse or chorus per se, just a rambling melody line that goes nowhere except doubling back on itself. And the sort of bridge may be the worst in history.

Sorry -- it's just absolute crap. By comparison, Debbie Gibson is Gustav Mahler.

I mean it -- the fact that a major record company thought it was worthy of release is really insulting, and its success a sign of our total cultural decadence.

Okay, perhaps I'm getting a little overheated here, but I really REALLY hate that song.

MBowen said...

Her dad is Ken Caillat, producer and/or engineer on the big Fleetwood Mac albums as well as Michael Jackson's "Bad", so I'd imagine that had something to do with her entry into the music industry.

Libby Spencer said...

I second Ballad of the Green Berets. That song seriously creeped me out.

Off the top of my head, the first thing that comes to mind is

We've Only Just Begun - The Carpenters

Libby Spencer said...

And am I allowed to nominate The Donny and Marie Osmond variety show? Everything on that was awful. Special recognition to their signature song, Little Bit Country, Little Bit Rock n Roll.

TMink said...

Who am us wrote: "for me, after about 2 minutes the vocals on both those songs just turned into fingernails on the chalkboard."

What are you? Some kind of Jedi master? I cannot stand two seconds of any Geddy Lee vocal. Ditto Axl Rose. You sir, are a stud plain and simple.


Noam Sane said...

C'mon, help us out here, Meat.

That's Mr. Loaf to you.

"Pink Houses" is one of the most grating songs I've ever heard. And where have I heard that whole real -Americans-come-from-Podunk hooey before?


Marsupial said...

Even worse than "Ebony and Ivory"?

By about 10,000X. Even ignoring the fact that we get Michael Jackson arguing that he is the bigger stud at the end (not that it can be ignored), any song that breaks down into a conversation -- a LONG conversation -- just says to me that they ran out of ideas.

CovetedNOPrizeWinnerWithOakLeafCluster said...

These are mostly fine (meaning terrible) selections, of course. But, I wish to defend the Golden Throats and others who sing novelty songs. I will take cheerful comedy over serious, it's been done a thousand times just-like-this genre music any day. Convoy. Kung Fu Fighting. Disco Duck. This is Good.

Also, I wish to defend Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life." The ASL version is quite good.

Libby Spencer said...

One more just came to me.

Tie A Yellow Ribbon - Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Dave said...

10cc -- "I'm Not In Love" Made me want to fall out of love every time I heard it.

The Kenosha Kid said...

"Jet" - cover of Wings tune by Guns N' Roses - video featured Axl Rose in totally gai purple velvet short shorts, and also this selection ties together the Maca/GnR hate on this thread.

The entire oeuvre of the band Quarterflash. How did they ever become successful?

"Bad Medicine" is a much worse Bon Jovi song than Livin on a Prayer, which is a guilty pleasure.

That song by Puff Daddy which was a Police song with P rapping new lyrics... WTF?

The Kenosha Kid said...

Ugh, I just remembered, it wasn't "Jet," it was "Live and Let Die."

cthulhu said...

How can Dave dump on 10cc?? Great band, great song.

But as far as the theme, I'm going to apply the theme, "Horrible Hits that Big Daddy Did To Perfection!"

So, we get the shining resurrection in glorious '50s styles of such utter dreck as I Write The Songs, Bette Davis Eyes, Super Freak, Eye of the Tiger - all off their first album, ROFL funny. An absolute frickin' shame none of their albums are in print anymore!

Alex said...

The McCartney Hall of Shame: "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "My Love," "Ebony & Ivory," "Let 'Em In," "No More Lonely Nights," "Say Say Say," "Goodnight Tonight," "Coming Up," "Girlfriend," "Temporary Secretary," and too many others I've suppressed over time...

Steve Simels said...


None of the Big Daddy stuff is in print? Not even the one where they do a Harry Belafonte version of Talking Heads "Once in a Lifetime?"

That album is the greatest masterpiece of rock criticism in history, damnit!

MBowen said...

Patti Smith was a fan of "You Light Up My Life", too. She used to cover it straight in concert back when it was a hit.

Another monument of suck: "Dance With Me" by Orleans, perhaps the nadir of 70s neuter-rock. So bland, it makes fresh tofu taste like Dave's Insanity Sauce. Other countries get cool rockers in their government, like Peter Garrett or Amelia Fletcher. I'm stuck with this fountain of "lite" as my congresscritter.

Steve Simels said...


Dance With Me is actually a great song to learn how to play bass guitar to.

Seriously -- if you can do the part on that record, you can pretty much play every other rock song in history.

Anonymous said...

Every single horrible song mentioned above is really f-ing (and to my friends on the island, f-ink) killer if sung in the manner of Bob Dylan. Even "Havin' My Baby".

Sheesh. Buncha whiners.

Dave said...

This is a much harder topic to comment on than last week's Listomania. For one thing, repression is a wonderful thing. While titles tripped off the top of my head last week, I've spent decades trying to forget perfect candidates for this week's list.

Second, there are plenty of songs that I hate whose popularity isn't inexplicable to me. There's a certain category of romantic, melodic, catchy songs that are going to be hits even if it means listening to Celine Dion caterwauling.

That's why of the titles mentioned in the comments section that I hadn't thought of before, My Love stands out -- what a turgid boil of a song from a brilliant artist.

So I'll eliminate the merely sappy or the novelties, even the highly annoying ones, and suggest a few "inexplicables":

Exactly who were the folks who ran out to buy Kenny Dino's "Your Ma Said You Cried in Your Sleep Last Night"? Not since Freddy Cannon had the nose played such an integral part of a vocal. (I could nominate Freddy Cannon here for "Tallahassee Lassie," for that matter, but he redeemed himself later with "Palisades Park" and "Transistor Sister.")

Tommy Roe had a perfectly wonderful start of his career, with throwback soft-rockabilly hits like "Sheila" and "Everybody," and then came "Sweet Pea," and down the chute he went with "Hooray for Hazel," "Dizzy," and other atrocities.

Except for their very earliest covers, I've never been fond of the Rolling Stones' R&B covers. When their disappointing version of "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" came out, it was more of a comment on the Jagger/Richards well being dry than an endorsement of their version. But then it became a pretty hit. I can't figure out why, except for the obvious merits of the song.

What was the deal with Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died?" I've heard worse, but I have no idea how this became a #1 song.

I'm with you on "Umbrella." A more recent corollary: "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa. What's so catchy about this?

I'm fond of "Hanky Panky" but the only inclusion on the list that rankles me is "Love Is a Battlefield," the only song of Pat Benatar's that I ever liked: love the melody, love the punch, and even love the vocals. But I'm also going to defend the video, because like the movie version of "Hair," it's cool precisely because it subverts the simplistic generational solipsism of the lyrics of the song(s).. In the end, the singer/character in the video WAS wrong. Yay for parents and kids having to come back with their tails between their legs!

I find the whole video charming, including Benatar's commitment to dancing when she can't really dance, the gold-tooth guy, and the shimmy dancing battle. I really commend Benatar for having the smarts to know that replicating the sentiments of the actual song would be trite and nauseating. Besides, she has so many other candidates for the list ("Heartbreaker?" "We Belong?")...

Anonymous said...

My Love by mac is that hated? It's really not so bad...try picking up your acoustic and sing it for your girl.

But what do I know? As a kid I really dug Seasons in the Sun...ghey!

geor3ge said...

I feel as you do about Colbie Caillat, but my wife likes it, so I bite my tongue most of the time.

Noam Sane said...

"My Love" has a great guitar solo. Not really a terrible song by pop standards.

Seasons in the Sun was a favorite of Curt Cobain. There is something alluring in its weirdness.

David said...

I agree that a lot of these songs are perfectly execrable, but wasn't the idea to come up with songs that one can't understand why they were hits? As awful as many of these songs are--all those 70s tunes for example, except Shannon and Radar Love--many of them are catchy in horrible ways, or they cater to the lowest common denominator of music listener in cloying cynical ways. I mean, of course Seasons in the Sun is heinous, but you can't get that fucking melody out of your head--that's why it went to no. 1. As for Snoopy and the Red indeed??

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Noam said: Seasons in the Sun was a favorite of Curt Cobain. There is something alluring in its weirdness.

Agreed. Certainly when in Curt’s hands anyway.

Noam Sane said...

you can't get that fucking melody out of your head--that's why it went to no. 1

Of course, the old eighth-notes-on-the-organ trick helped; put that on a chorus and your odds of a hit increase tenfold.

Would be a good Listomania - songs that use that trick.