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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.

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