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Friday, February 24, 2006

The Ten Dumbest Songs I've Ever Found Part II

In part one of this post, I concentrated on deep album cuts that I had come across that I felt were so stupid that I couldn't believe anyone would spend the valuable studio time investment to save these songs for all eternity.

In part 2, I am going to be much more subjective. We have all come across songs on the radio that are musically disposable, for whatever reason. Yet in order to make my list, I wanted to focus on songs that not only are borderline terrible in the musical composition department, but contain lyrics that actually make the track worse.

Realizing that all music is subjective, there may appear on this list a song that you actually like. I wish I could say I'm sorry, but if I did I wouldn't mean it. In my humble opinion and with my well-traveled ears, these songs are dumb, and no amount of rerecording or tutoring will ever save them from the depths of stupidity in which they now languish for all measured time. So, with that in mind, let's start with an oldie, but a goodie:

"Dancing In The Street" - Various Artists - I have had discussions with people who truly like this song as a happy, celebratory song that makes them feel good. This song has been recorded by a number of artists, including Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Mamas & Papas (there they are again; what was John Phillips thinking?) and a particularly abysmal version by Mick Jagger & David Bowie from 1985.

I hate to break it to you, but this song is the epitome of stupid escapism and should never again be heard by human ears. The only type of event that would cause this kind of mass, communal dancing through the streets of all of the cities mentioned in the lyrics would be an oncoming nuclear bomb or chemical attack. Only we wouldn't call it "dancing". It's called a riot, and it's a BAD THING!

One last footnote: one of the cities mentioned is "Philadelphia, PA", a town where I once lived. How ridiculous is the assertion that Philadelphia would suddenly break into dancing? Well, dancing is prohibited by the Philadelphia Parking Authority in all parking lots prior to sports contests at the stadiums and arenas there. In reality, if a group of people start dancing in the streets of Philadelphia, the first reaction is to call 9-1-1 to get these idiots off the streets, or, failing that, a few sharp billy clubs to the back of the head. Philadelphia, PA indeed! This song needed a fact checker.

"Young Turks" - Rod Stewart - Ah, what would an article of musical criticism from me be without yet another pot shot at that legendary Acid-Throated Bard of All Things Mediocre?

Since 1974, we have had a LOT of musical crap from this one source. I am hoping that one day the powers that be give him a Lifetime Achievement Grammy inscribed with the words: "To Rod Stewart; ENOUGH ALREADY!". Until that day comes, his picture is on my mental dartboard.

There are a lot of truly stupid songs in the Rod Stewart "Canon", but "Young Turks" was dated, dumb and worthless a mere one day after first appearing on the radio in the early '80's. The main instrument in this song is one of those cheesy, Casio keyboards that were all the rage with New Wave bands of the time period. The story line of this song is a teenage couple who, acting on empty-headed impulse, run away from home. The song ends with the female half of the couple giving birth to a 10-pound baby boy. Way to encourage responsible behavior, Rod. Should we expect any less from someone who trades in the latest model he's nailing the moment she turns 30? If that wasn't bad enough, there's the chorus:

"Young hearts be free tonight

Time is on your side

Don't let 'em put you down

Don't let 'em push you around

Don't ever let them change your point of view

Show me a teenager who is absolutely correct and set in his world view, and I'll show you a teenager with some form of mental disability. "Don't ever let them change your point of view"? Teenagers NEED a change in point of view. It's called pot, and they'll discover it in college. The National Institutes of Health has drawn a direct correlation between this song and a spike in teen pregnancies during the time period (well, not really, but I'd like to think so).

"Plush" - Stone Temple Pilots - My wife and I argue constantly about the merits of this band. To me, this song tells you all you need to know about how bad the results can be when a different record label is anxious to find an up-and-coming band with a similar sound to a band that has already hit it big. In this case, Pearl Jam had already made it, and Stone Temple Pilots were quickly pushed out into the world to be sound-alike pretenders to greatness.

Musically, there is just a bit too much of a similarity in sound between "Plush" and Pearl Jam's "Even Flow", from their multi-million selling debut "Ten". This song would be a bad idea if we stopped there, but then, Weiland (their lead singer; yea, like with his lack of talent and penchant for heroin, he earned the right to go by one name) put lyrics to this copycat song that may very well be the most incoherent and intelligence-insulting pile of fecal matter I have ever heard sung out of a human mouth:

"And I feel, I feel

When the dogs begin to smell her

Will she smell alone?"

Sorry to be profane, but what in the fuck does THAT mean? Stone Temple Pilots think so much of their lyrical abilities that they actually have the lyrics to this "song" currently posted on their website (Go ahead; they're there, I already checked). If I EVER write lyrics like this and show them to you, you have my permission to either bash my face in with a Louisville Slugger, send me to Bellevue or into rehab, whichever is most applicable at the time. The worst part of this song? It was a single TWICE, once electric and once acoustic, where you can actually understand the lyrics being sung. Why would a band do that with lyrics like these?

"All You Zombies" - The Hooters - Sweet Jesus, where do I begin?

I lived in Philly when The Hooters broke into the Great Beyond of airplay in the early '80's. I had to hear different incarnations of this song on local radio a full THREE YEARS before the rest of the country. Pity me. I'm still in recovery. I can barely get through "Night Of The Living Dead" without an indirect zombie flashback to this song.

After all this time, I am wondering what was so compelling about the Book of Exodus that it needed to be turned into an ersatz reggae power ballad. Worse yet, what the hell does Moses delivering his people from Egypt have to do with zombies? Note to Rob Hyman, Hooters lyricist: When attempting to write a political statement in song, draw a clear parallel between the point you're trying to make and the story you're telling. I don't get it. NO ONE gets it. Never sing about zombies again!

Footnote: My wife and I are viewers of VH1 Classic. Lately they have had a very nice program called "Pay To Play", where you can pay for a certain number of videos based on the size of your donation, with all of the proceeds going to Hurricane Katrina relief. We were watching it recently and at the top of the hour, the VJ is announcing who sent money in to see their favorite videos that were about to be played. The final name she said was "...and Eric Bazilian of Bryn Mawr, PA". I immediately recognized this name as being the guitarist for The Hooters, which was funny, because the VJ didn't seem to know who he was.What happened at the bottom of the hour? Three Hooters videos played back-to-back, beginning with "All You Zombies". It has truly come to this; The Hooters' music is so poorly regarded 20 years later that the only way you can hear it is for the members of the band to PAY to have it played. Unfortunately, Eric was a co-writer of the next song on the list, so the royalties he has earned may buy a lot of crappy music on your airwaves. Hopefully, VH1 Classic's program has been a success and can be ended as soon as possible to avoid this kind of whoring by washed-up musicians from my hometown.

"God" - Joan Osbourne - As if the madness of The Hooters in the '80's hadn't left a bad enough taste in all of our collective mouths, good ol' Rob and Eric kept writing songs together, resulting in this all-encompassing bowl of dried rhino snot disguised as a musical statement. Lyrics?

"Yea yea, God is great

yea, yea, God is good

yea, yea, yea, yea, yea

What if God was one of us

If you change the vocal inflections while singing these lyrics, it could very well sound like a 14-year-old boy beating off to the Bible. Was there really a need for this kind of statement?
I have never met a single person in my ever-expanding circle of acquaintances who actually likes this song, which, based on the model of the previous song on the list, leads me to believe that Rob and Eric had to have paid someone to break this compost pile of a composition to a wider audience. I truly think that this is a case where a video with a chick with a nose ring had more to do with the popularity of the song rather than any compelling merits of the song itself. I have to hand it to Rob and Eric. If you're going to write a dumb and pointless song that may not go anywhere, have a circus midget, a bearded lady or (if available) a chick with frizzy hair and a nose ring to record it. What's the old axiom? People are so scared of the Yankees because they're dazzled by the pinstripes. This song may be the most successful example of "bait and switch" ever inflicted on an unsuspecting and drooling public at large. Nice going, boys!

And thus ends my list. Add or subtract where you like, but these are the dumbest songs I've ever found. I am not so jaded as to think that dumber songs will not be created in the future. Rest assured that if it enters my ears, you and the composers will both hear about it in the strongest language possible.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The 10 Dumbest Songs I've Ever Found

Before I begin to catalog songs under this posting's heading, I feel that I need to come clean; I am quickly becoming an anachronism.

I do not yet own an IPod, and I have no plans to do so. I am a firm believer in the power of the album. I believe that ANYONE can catch lightning in a bottle once in their life, and that everyone probably has one good song in them. Having said that, the elevation to musical deity only happens when someone fills an album with more than one song you want to hear over and over.

Which brings us to this list I've compiled, Because I spend a lot of time listening to full CD's (dare I ask...remember those?) by artists I have come across, I have discovered songs that are fantastic that most people have never heard. On the other hand, I have discovered a lot of what is called "Filler", as in "We only have eight songs; can you come up with two more to flesh out the whole record?"

Most filler is harmless; average musical compositions that have mass, take up space and are easily bypassed by hitting the skip button on your CD player. Beyond that first line of filler are usually tracks that are of the Ed Wood variety. These songs are so dumb that you can't believe that ANY recording studio actually was reimbursed time to commit such a laughable atrocity to all posterity.

Because of my listening habits, virtually all of these tracks will be unfamiliar to you, which - trust me on this one - is a good thing. I consider this article as part of my community service sentence; I listened to them, so you don't have to.

"Spontaneous Apple Creation" - The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown - Arthur Brown was known for another song that appeared on his first album, the psychedelic nugget "Fire" ("I am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you.....Fire"). I put this song first because as much as I revel in the music of the psychedelic era, I am of the realization that there was a lot of very silly music on a lot of full-length albums of this time period. "Spontaneous Apple Creation" is one of the more egregious examples of this. The music track features a picked upright bass intro, what sounds like a xylophone, a Hammond organ and some kind of watery flying sound in the middle of it. The lyrics? Judge for yourself:

"...what could save mankind from man
when the blind, the blind overran
down from all this confused devastation
Came the great Spontaneous Apple Creation

OK, I've smoked grass, and I don't even get that one. The funniest part of this is that Arthur Brown's first album was co-produced by Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert, the brains behind no less a masterpiece than "Tommy". How do things like this happen?

"Love and a Muscle" - The Northern Pikes - In 1988, I was listening to WIOQ in Philadelphia, a few months before it became a white rap station and I abandoned it forever. WIOQ was what we would call an Adult Alternative station today. Back then, they hadn't even thought of a label for what they played. On their playlist at the time was a song called "Things I Do For Money" by a band from Canada, The Northern Pikes. One afternoon, they were giving the band's album, "Big Blue Sky", away to the seventh caller, and I won. Upon receiving the CD in the mail and listening to it, I soon regretted that phone call. While "Things..." was an ok track, the rest of this album was so chock full of garbage as to go down in my personal history as one of the top three worst albums I ever heard beginning to end.

You would think that with so many awful tracks on one album that picking one that was worse than all others would have been a difficult task. Unfortunately, one listen to the song "Love And A Muscle" ended all debate.

I have absolutely no idea what this song is about as far as a story line, but the unforgettable first verse is its reason for inclusion on this list:

"She has a muscle
She has a muscle
She has a muscle
Flex it, Flex it, Flex that muscle

When I'm out of fart jokes, I quote this verse at parties in my best poetry-reading voice. Notice that it stands below fart jokes in my sliding scale of Amusing. I think that tells you all that you need to know. If it was only a matter of the lyrics being dumb, I probably wouldn't have remembered this track, but the lyrics are paired with one of the worst trainwrecks of musical song structure ever committed to CD. Thankfully, this band never recorded a follow-up. Unfortunately, I'm left with the memories.

"Twist And Shout" - The Mamas And The Papas - Part of the charm of The Mamas & The Papas was the fact that they reinterpreted songs from the early '60's in the folk rock vein. This works marvelously when they covered "Dedicated To The One I Love", and I prefer their version to the original. When they covered "Twist And Shout", the revered Isley Brothers/Beatles classic, it was an absolute failure and a stupid idea. Denny Doherty sings lead on a song that requires a quick tempo, but was recorded as a slow dirge by one of my favorite vocal bands. No amount of perfect harmonies could save a song that is a straight rock and roll song recorded as a ballad. As the Beatles and the Isleys do it, I really like this song. This stands as John Phillips' worst production idea.

"Mona Bone Jakon"
- Cat Stevens - I'll freely admit that Mr Stevens (Mr. Islam?) had a number of great songs, and the album of the same title that this song comes from contains some of his best work, such as "The Wind", "Trouble" and "Katmandu". And yet, in the middle of this admittedly great album is a major hiccup. I put this song on the list remembering that Elvis Costello was once quoted as saying that he didn't like to name his albums after a song on the album because he felt it put too much pressure on that song to be the best song on the album. "Mona Bone Jakon" may be the worst song that is also the title of the album that holds it. This one is a real headscratcher, because Stevens was in his songwriting prime at this moment in time. In the midst of songs that became legendary came this lyrical mess of ersatz acoustic folk blues. The opening lines?

"I've got a Mona Bone Jakon
But it won't be lonely for long

Not only does he set a scene of us not knowing what the hell he has, but then he turns around and tells us that whatever it is he has is lonely. Sure, it's easy to think that he's singing about his schwantz whenever someone sings about anything containing the word "bone", but I find it hard to believe that any man, even in his most drunk and primitive state, would name his penis "Mona". Just ask that dear old friend between my legs, Cousin It.

"Warrior" - Wishbone Ash - And while we're on the subject of bones, I present this relic of rock's Progressive Era. Wishbone Ash was one of those "music for your head" bands like Yes, ELP and early Genesis, only not nearly as good. When I heard this song for the first time, I figured that this had to be one of the main bands that inspired Spinal Tap. I once tried to drag my wife to see this band (yes, they still tour; scary audience) at Summerfest here in Milwaukee a few years ago. She dragged us away after five minutes to go see Ben Folds instead. She hasn't forgiven me for the lousy seats we had for Ben folds because we showed up late.

"Warrior" was part of a suite of 6-minute fantasy medieval story songs from one of Wishbone Ash's records. Progressive era bands were known for this kind of Dungeons & Dragons-type lyrical sillyness, but of all of the ridiculous songs from that era covering this subject matter, "Warrior" stands out as the most bloated and juvenile. Here's a lyrical sample, straight from what seems to be a 15-year-old males's first diary:

"I had to be a warrior
A slave I couldn't be
A soldier and a conqueror
Fighting to be free

The music that accompanies this chorus fits these extremely silly fist-tightening lyrics to a tee, as the power chords accompany the whole band singing these words in mock-battle anger mode. "Sex Farm Woman" anyone?

This will be a blog post in two parts. Coming up in Part 2, some more visible entries from some surprising sources. Stay tuned.