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Songwriting

Worst Song Ever?

Posted on 2011.08.17 at 21:54
Current Mood: geeky
Current Music: Should've Never Let You Go - Neil & Dara Sedaka
OK, I’m fully aware that this is an absurd title for a post, being as we’re talking about A) a matter of highly subjective taste, and B) the obvious fact that I haven’t heard most of the songs ever written. So now that I’ve acknowledged those factors, I will proceed…

What I’m really talking about here is the worst popular song I’ve ever run across. There are some truly dreadful songs that may be in millions of music libraries but which are exempt from consideration. For example, Elton John’s “Solar Prestige a Gammon” is as bad a collection of stray lyrics as you’re likely to find, but it was never a hit single; the only reason there are so many copies of it is that it was on the “Caribou” album, which also contained such hits as “The Bitch is Back” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

Here’s my nominee: the song “Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night. I don’t suppose there’s anything so very wrong with the melody; it’s bland but inoffensive. No, it’s in the lyric department where this song earns its stripes:

Well I never been to Spain
But I kinda like the music
Say the ladies are insane there
And they sure know how to use it
The don’t abuse it
Never gonna lose it
I can’t refuse it

Well I never been to England
But I kinda like the Beatles
Well, I headed for Las Vegas
Only made it out to Needles
Can you feel it
It must be real it
Feels so good
Oh, feels so good

Well I never been to heaven
But I been to Oklahoma
Well they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember
In Oklahoma, not Arizona
What does it matter
What does it matter…


Wow… That is, to use a term favored by a dear friend of mine, shit mush. Grasping, desperate rhyming and no reason for being, other than producing a nice little hit for Three Dog Night.

But let’s give credit where credit is due. The song was actually written by folk singer/songwriter/actor Hoyt Axton. Hoyt’s biggest hit as a songwriter was another Three Dog Night monster, “Joy to the World,” a song which, while we’re on the subject, also doesn’t make a huge amount of sense “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…” …yeah, whatever.

Not all of Axton’s songs were so lyrically crappy. Early on, he wrote “Greenback Dollar” which was a hit for the Kingston Trio, and it was a solid, completely understandable folk song, so I’m not sure where Hoyt took this left turn into crappy lyricism, though it is worth noting that he had a long history of cocaine (and other drug) abuse.

Finally, for all of his success in the music business, there is a large segment of the population who will always think of something else when they hear the name Hoyt Axton – he played the role of the dad in the film Gremlins.

If you have any nominees of your own for the title of Worst Popular Song Ever, I’d love to hear them.

Comments:


(Anonymous) at 2011-08-18 04:38 (UTC) (Link)
The wistfulness of this song does nothing for you? What could've been but never was? And, anyway, "MacArthur Park" is clearly the worst song ever.
Chuck
charlesofcamden at 2011-08-18 19:22 (UTC) (Link)
Well, "MacArthur Park" is a worthy entry for its lyrics, though it is slightly redeemed in my eyes for having such a grand arrangement of a catchy melody that one could almost mistake its nonsense for eloquence. I once read an interview with Jimmy Webb in which he was asked what the lyrics meant. His reply was along the lines of, "I was so high when I wrote that, I have no idea."
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-19 01:45 (UTC) (Link)
It just goes to show: One man's grand arrangement of a catchy melody is another man's overwrought emptiness. And if you've ever wondered why "MacArthur Park" is 7 minutes long, it's because there are three distinct songs embedded within it.
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-18 13:28 (UTC) (Link)

Worst lyrics to a popular song

Here's my worst song nominee, based on lyrics. From the band that's sure to get back together at any moment, the original Van Halen:

Jump

I get up, and nothing gets me down.
You got it tough. I've seen the toughest around.
And I know, baby, just how you feel.
You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real

Oh can't you see me standing here,
I've got my back against the record machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen.
Oh can't you see what I mean ?

Might as well jump. Jump !
Might as well jump.
Go ahead, jump. Jump !
Go ahead, jump.

Aaa-ohh Hey you ! Who said that ?
Baby how you been ?
You say you don't know, you won't know
until we begin.

Well can't you see me standing here,
I've got my back against the record machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen.
Oh can't you see what I mean ?

Might as well jump. Jump !
Go ahead, jump.
Might as well jump. Jump !
Go ahead, jump.

(guitar solo)
(keyboard solo)

Might as well jump. Jump !
Go ahead, jump.
Get it and jump. Jump !
Go ahead, jump.


- Anthony from Philly
Chuck
charlesofcamden at 2011-08-18 19:23 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Worst lyrics to a popular song

Good one! Yeah, the best part of that song is the synthesizer bit at the beginning. But 30 seconds later, the lyrics start, and it's all over.
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-19 00:37 (UTC) (Link)

Yoko Ono's Greatest Hits

A song is good when you enjoy hearing it. If you feel compelled to pick it apart (lyrics, melody, etc.), it is evidently not speaking to you. I can't tell you how many movies I've seen that could have been vastly improved if only I had the opportunity to rewrite the script.
-- ggreen
Chuck
charlesofcamden at 2011-08-19 00:48 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yoko Ono's Greatest Hits

So I have to ask: What's one of the songs that totally doesn't speak to you? I'm particularly interested in your opinion because I know you have wide musical knowledge and tastes. What's one of the songs that just SUCKS for you? Or that maybe you wish you'd have had a crack at rewriting, like a bad movie script?
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-21 22:31 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yoko Ono's Greatest Hits

If I can't think of any "bad" songs, what I'm left with is mediocre songs that get overplayed. One that leaps to mind is Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", which assaults the airwaves every year around Christmas.
From my time as a Country DJ, I could mention the name of Narvel Felts, whose career peaked some 40 years ago. Any time he would pop up on our playlist, I would be compelled to remove my headphones and turn down the studio monitor for the duration of the song.
-- ggreen
Chuck
charlesofcamden at 2011-08-22 21:45 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yoko Ono's Greatest Hits

Never heard of Narvel Felts. It's okay if I never hear any of his music, but I totally dig the name!
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