April 21, 2006

ABSURDITY SQUARED (via Bryan Francoeur):

'See the tree, how big it's' -- groan (Todd Leopold, April 21, 2006, CNN)

I knew it was coming.

Every day, at the end of almost every hour, XM's '60s channel plays the top six hits of a corresponding week from that decade. As an aficionado of the Billboard charts -- I've got a bunch of the Billboard Top 40 and No. 1 books at home -- I knew what was going to be No. 1 when the countdown got to mid-April 1968: "Honey," by Bobby Goldsboro.

The Worst Song of All Time.

I sat transfixed in my car as it played, as if I were in the midst of an accident. The simpering melody, the tearjerking lyrics: God, how I hated it. And yet I couldn't change the station.

"See the tree, how big it's grown / But friend, it hasn't been too long, it wasn't big ..." [...]

I asked CNN.com staffers what they thought the worst song of all time is -- and you'll get your chance as well.

I only had two rules: the song had to have been a hit -- preferably the kind you hear on the radio so often you can't change the station fast enough -- and it can't have been a song that wore out its welcome through repetition. A really bad song is one you hate from the word "go."

Worst song of all time is like genocides, you never compare anything to Killing Me Softly or to the Holocaust.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 21, 2006 11:44 AM

The mid-60s to the mid-70s was the all-time high point of the morbid death song on Top 40 radio, almost all of which deserve some spot on the all-time worst song list. Music to drive your car into a bridge abutment by.

Posted by: John at April 21, 2006 12:11 PM

Seasons In The Sun by Terry Jacks

Posted by: RobM at April 21, 2006 12:16 PM

Hard to top "Honey," but here are my nominations:

"Billy, Don't Be a Hero" by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
"Green, Green Grass of Home" especially as performed by Tom Jones
"MacArthur Park" (For pity's sake, who left that damn cake out in the rain?)
"Copacabana" by Barry Manilow
"(Let's Get) Physical" and "Have You Ever Been Mellow" by Olivia No-Tune John

Now I need to go rinse my brain out with some Blue Swede.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at April 21, 2006 12:29 PM

Any "hit" by Queen and the radio is off within less than a second.

"Rose Garden"
"Brand New Key" -- a voice higher than Celine Dion's.
"Seasons in the Sun"
"The Night Chicago Died"

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 21, 2006 12:49 PM

I nominate Alanis Morissette's oeuvre.

Posted by: Mike Beversluis at April 21, 2006 12:55 PM

"Killing Me Softly"'s use in the film About a Boy was very funny.

Posted by: pchuck at April 21, 2006 1:20 PM

David Geddes, "Run Joey Run" -- ultimate maudlin 70s radio death ballad
Kate Bush, "This Woman's Work"
Psychedelic Furs, "Love My Way" -- I hate that synthesizer. Hate it hate it hate it.
Adam Ant, "Goody Two Shoes" -- I once dated a girl who adopted this as her personal anthem. I bailed immediately.
Starland Vocal Band, "Afternoon Delight"
Joe Dolce, "Shut Uppa You Face" -- for some odd reason, all the Italian-Americans in Youngstown actually liked this one.
John Mayer, "No Such Thing"
Nena, "99 Luftbaloons" (English or German)
Neil Diamond, "I Am"
Natalie Cole's oedipal-necrophiliac duet remix of her father's classic "Unforgettable"
Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On"
The Cure, everything ever recorded by the Cure
Anything ever recorded by Annie Lenox
Midnight Oil, "Beds Are Burning"
Rick Dees, "Disco Duck"

...but all of these pale before the true ultimate horror:

Mini Moni, "Mini Moni Telephone Ring! Ring! Ring!" -- song that sells cellphones, make-up, and cameras . . . to 6th graders . . . sung in Japanese . . . by girls who sound like hamsters.

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 21, 2006 1:33 PM

Most of the "best" worst songs have been included but I'm surprised no one mentioned these gems:

Short People - Randy Newman
Like a Virgin - Madonna
Muskrat Love - America

Posted by: Bartman at April 21, 2006 1:56 PM

I have never once heard the song "Achy Breaky Heart", but I have now reminded all of you about it so that it is currenty playing in your head. Feel the burn!

"What kind of fool" by some Gibb and that Streisand chick.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 21, 2006 1:59 PM

"We Built This City." End of story.

Posted by: LC at April 21, 2006 2:06 PM

Phil Ochs was a genius lyricist, but he suffered from manic depression before it was known how to control it.

As great as the following songs are, they explain his eventual suicide:

You Can't Get Stoned Enough

Rehearsals for Retirement

I Had Her

I'm Tired

It's Morning


My Life

When I'm Gone

Cross My Heart

Tape from California

No More Songs

The Doll House

When in Rome

Posted by: obc at April 21, 2006 2:15 PM

Weren't those on the albums that whatsisface cut on The Mighty Wind?

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2006 2:20 PM

"Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band. "We Built This City" would be my second choice.

Posted by: djs at April 21, 2006 2:30 PM

Anything by Gilbert O'Sullivan.

Posted by: John Thacker at April 21, 2006 2:32 PM

Hey. Don't knock "Short People" When it came out I had a boss who was about 5 ft who liked the part about how they've "got little cars that go beep,beep, beep."

I still want to get a copy of the original version before Newman was forced to insert that sappy bridge about how "short people are just the same as you and I".

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 21, 2006 2:35 PM

The problem with Short People is it's too obvious to need stating.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2006 2:39 PM

Bartman: "Muskrat Love" was by Captain & Tenille. I can understand your mistake, though.

Worst Song Ever:

Whoever it was who sang that song "I've been to paradise but I've never been to Me".

I don't know if that's the name of the song or not, but it's the chorus kick-line.

Posted by: Twn at April 21, 2006 3:12 PM

No contest. MacArthur Park. I've refused to share baking duties on principle ever since.

Posted by: Peter B at April 21, 2006 3:13 PM

I nominate Alanis Morissette's oeuvre.

Mike Beversluis got there before I could.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 3:55 PM

1. Havin' my Baby by Paul Anka

2. Endless Love

eww...and I just ate lunch :P

Posted by: sharon at April 21, 2006 4:06 PM

Paul Anka, "You're Having My Baby".

or perhaps "Meet the Mets" written, and sung, I believe, by that giant walking baseball the Mets had (have?) as their mascot.

It's a toss-up really.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 21, 2006 4:06 PM

Great minds Sharon, great minds.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 21, 2006 4:07 PM

"DOA" by Bloodrock.

Posted by: jefferson park at April 21, 2006 4:13 PM

"One Tin Soldier (Legend of Billy Jack)" by Coven

and in the 70s maudlin death genre:

"Shannon" by Henry Gross

(I hope *he's drifting out to sea).

Posted by: ted welter at April 21, 2006 4:56 PM

I forgot to nominate: "Hey, Jude"

Posted by: Peter B at April 21, 2006 5:23 PM

...and for grammatical incoherence, "Baby I'm-a Want You" by Bread (who I'm sure deserve a few more entries in the hall of shame).

Posted by: ted welter at April 21, 2006 5:42 PM

Know I'm dating myself, but it's gotta be Teen Angel, the grandfather (grandmother?) of all the morbid death songs. The 7UP commercials were pretty funny though, except that Teen Angel turned into a guy. Perhaps a sex change operation?

Posted by: jdkelly at April 21, 2006 6:04 PM

Let's face it, we've been subjected to a lot of lousy music over the years. Who's in charge of this crap?

Posted by: AllenS at April 21, 2006 6:30 PM

You're all going to slap your foreheads when I say "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," perpetrated by Vicki Lawrence.

Cher had the good taste to turn down this song. Think about that.

If you force yourself to listen to the lyrics, you notice the song is about a narrator, who watches a trial that culminates in the execution of an innocent man, who can give testimony that would clear him but does not do so, and then whines about injustice. (But then, if you listen to "Greensleeves," you notice it's about a narrator who complains "I spent a lot of money on this bimbo and she won't put out." So there you are. Worst song of the 16th Century as a bonus.)

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at April 21, 2006 6:31 PM

"In the Year 2525" , Zager and Evans ....(torture) chamber music.

Posted by: Marvin Currie at April 21, 2006 6:32 PM

jd, I'm glad you commented about being dated because I didn't want to jump in with a real oldie, but "Born Free" seems to rearrange the synopses in my head so that I actually cower in fear when I hear the opening bars.

Best popular song by far, Jo Stafford's version of Hank Williams, "Jambalaya."

Posted by: erp at April 21, 2006 6:44 PM

Peter B:

One of the most irritating things about that craphole song is having people piously explain to you that it's just an allegory, just a metaphor. Dave Barry once said he would accept that it was a metaphor, but it was a really dumb metaphor. Cake? Rain? Recipe? All the sweet green icing flowing down? Maybe Homer Simpson gets the metaphor, but the rest of us want to pelt Richard Harris with a paintball gun.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 7:25 PM

The Motherlode.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 7:28 PM

erp, Forgot about "Born Free". A very terrifying song.

Bob, The words may stink, but I like the music. I'll give it an "85". Like the Christmas version.

Dick Clark

Posted by: jdkelly at April 21, 2006 7:30 PM

Matt, You're missing the wrenching tragedy of the song.

"it took so long to bake it,
and I'll never get that recipe again"

What's a Peep?

Posted by: jdkelly at April 21, 2006 7:37 PM

My wife just gave me another one

"Horse with no Name"


Posted by: jdkelly at April 21, 2006 7:43 PM


Took so long to bake what? Love? Desire? The perfect woman? What does baking have to do with any of that? Ditto the recipe. And what does MacArthur Park signify? What precisely happened there? Did she tell him to buzz off (not that I blame her)? That her parents wouldn't put with it anymore? That she can't get no satisfaction? The whole song is vapid and bland, and I doubt the cake was all that good to begin with.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 7:50 PM


Glad to see you are on my side, but I always thought it was just about a cake. Now that you have helped me see it may have been a metaphor for Love? Desire? The Perfect Woman?, I hate it even more.

Posted by: Peter B at April 21, 2006 8:07 PM

Peter B:

Perhaps he was in love with Betty Crocker?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 8:47 PM

Also deserving of a dishonorable mention is Highwayman, sung by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. That some very talented singers took part in this irritating squeal of a tune makes it particularly odious.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 8:57 PM

Matt, The comment was facetious. Guess I should have used a smiley face. My wife loves the song, BTW. No accounting for taste. Chill.

What's a Peep? How long to bake?

Posted by: jdkelly at April 21, 2006 9:21 PM


I knew you were being facetious, I was just pointing out how stupid the song is. I re-read my comment and it came off sounding harsh, but I didn't intend that. Sorry.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 21, 2006 9:36 PM


I almost nominated DOA, but I wasn't sure if it was actually a national song or just some regional shlock. I will admit, though, that as kids we LOVED it, especially when the siren stopped at the end. Our dog would howl just like it was a real siren. Of course, now I realize our dog had better taste than we did. :)

Posted by: sharon at April 21, 2006 10:48 PM

Matt, The song may be stupid. Talk to my other. I'm ducking that one.

One other nominee. Elvis

Hound Dog,

Rabbit Angstom

Posted by: jdkelly at April 21, 2006 10:55 PM

"Feelings" by Albert Morris

Posted by: Bill at April 22, 2006 1:47 AM

Wow - there is a lot of crap out there. Wasn't that song "I've never been to me" done by Melanie?


Muskrat Love is originally an America song..seriously.

But I agree the Capt. and Tennille version is worse...if that's possible

Posted by: Bartman at April 22, 2006 9:00 AM

I was thinking the other day about all the creepy odes to statutory rape that the 60's produced.

Just off the top of my head is "Young Girl" by Gary Pucket and Union Gap:

Beneath your perfume and make-up
You're just a baby in disguise
And though you know
That it is wrong to be
Alone with me
That come on look is in your eyes

Yikes. You just know that these days, he's frenetically downloading from alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.lolitas.

Then there's "Come Back When You Grow Up" by Bobby Vee & The Strangers:

You're looking real good like a woman now
Your mind hasn't gotten the message somehow
So if you can't take it and the going gets rough
Come back, baby, when you grow up

Garg. Jesus, Bobby how old is this girl, thirteen? I appreciate that you're turning her away, but you should have never let it get that far in the first place. Turn yourself into the cops and get some psycholigical help before you become even more like Albert Fish.

Posted by: Bryan at April 22, 2006 10:55 AM

I'm shocked at how many of the songs mentioned above are ones that I actually like. I don't usually consider bizarre lyrics a disqualifier if the instrumentals and melody are good. I like "MacArthur Park" on those grounds, especially the instrumental interlude before the final chorus.

Likewise, I can't imagine anyone not liking "Abracadabra". Steve Miller rocks!

Of the ones above I second (or third, fouth, fifth)

Seasons in the Sun
Afternoon Delight
Muscrat Love

and one not mentioned
"Never been to Me" by Charlene.

Also, anything by Leonard Cohen.

And that feminist anthem by Helen Reddy which I cannot mention for fear of angering Wife Judd.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 22, 2006 3:06 PM


More recently, Benny Mardones'"Into the Night:"

She's just sixteen years old
Leave her alone, they say
Separated by fools
Who don't know what love is yet . . .

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 22, 2006 8:32 PM

MacArthur Park
Boris The Spider
Ohio (Tin Soldiers)
Horse With No Name

Except for their value in torturing enemy combatants, I'd suggest Henry VIII I Am and We're So Sorry,Uncle Albert.

These come to mind, plus a few more that I can only remember a phrase or a few bars of the melody. I'll have to dig through my record albums and cassette tapes for more.

Posted by: Dave W at April 22, 2006 11:34 PM