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.