Revisiting some of the greatest records that never made the pop charts here and here was a heavenly experience. But like so many of life’s pleasures, it was backed with an annoying flip side: Long-suppressed neuronal connections were re-activated, and I became obsessed with the most appalling music ever to worm its way into the Top 10.
My mental playlist was overwhelmed by a nightmarish mash up of snippets, hooks and licks from such stinkers and clinkers as Feelings, Morris Albert’s ode to insipidness (warning: there’s a teddy bear in this video), Chuck Berry’s My Ding A Ling (say it ain’t so, Chuck) and Neil Diamond’s portentous, furniture-anthropomorphizing “I am I said/To no one there/And no one heard at all/Not even the chair.”
In an effort to purge the noise — or at least drive it back to the unconscious — I offer the list below for your consideration, with the caveat that you too might become infected.
- Pat Boone–Speedy Gonzalez (#6, 1962). Boone’s 1950s-early ’60s sacrileges didn’t stop at white-breading such canonical rock & roll records as Fats Domino’s Ain’t That A Shame and Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti. (Recently, his convictions have compelled him to dismiss evolution as “absurd” and to become an Obama birther. Fittingly, his 1997 heavy metal album was such an abortion it lost him standing with the right-to-life crowd.) With Speedy, Pat added racial and ethnic stereotyping to his list of pop sins. Boone gets extra demerits for fathering Debbie, who notoriously dominated the charts for months in 1977 with that monument to treacle, You Light Up My Life.
- Clint Holmes–Playground In My Mind (#2, 1973). What’s left if we give Clint the benefit of the doubt and stipulate that this song isn’t about dope dealing or child molestation? Bizarro babble.
- Bobby Goldsboro–Honey (I Miss You)
(#1, 1968–5 weeks) “She wrecked the car and she was sad; and so afraid that I’d be mad, but what the heck/though I pretended hard to be/I guess you could say she saw through me/and hugged my neck.” Need I say more?
- Zager & Evans– In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) (#1, 1969–6 weeks) The ultimate one-hit wonder, and deservedly so. A droning track underpins such insightful predictions on where mankind is headed as, “Ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes.” But we’ll still have our ears!
- S/Sgt. Barry Sadler–The Ballad Of The Green Berets (#1, 1966–5 weeks) The politics of this Viet Nam-era glorification of the military aside, I doubt Green Berets would want to be known as “Fearless men who jump and die.”
- Styx–Babe (#1, 1979–2 weeks). Yuck! The first rule my dad taught me about writing words or music was to stay away from clichés. A good start: Avoid everything on this record.
- Frankie Avalon–DeDe Dinah
(#7, 1958). Grating, adenoidal vocal, though the gals thought he was cute. But Frankie was Sinatra compared to Fabian — Tiger (#3, 1959) — another cute no-talent whose closest brush with musicality was his last name, Forte.
- Lee Michaels–Do You Know What I Mean (#6, 1971). No.
- Napoleon XIV–They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! (#3, 1966). Please, take him and keep him away! The mind reels to think this guy — who penned such other insults to people with mental illness as Bats In My Belfry — wrote several good songs, and one great one: Sammy Davis Jr.’s The Shelter Of Your Arms.
- Charlene–I’ve Never Been To Me (#3, 1982). Huh?
Next: In Part 2 we’ll tackle such mysterious questions as “Who writes the songs?”; If “we didn’t start the fire,” then who did?; and precisely who “Is Woman”? More important, which city was built on rock & roll and what’s the cheapest way to get there? Meantime, please chime in with your own betes noires.
(Texas-sized hat tip to Gregg Geller.)
Michael Sigman is a writer/ editor, media consultant and the president of Major Songs, a music publishing company.
Crossposted from Huffington Post with the author’s permission.