1954 Elvis Presley, in his first live concert appearance, appears on the show Hillbilly Hoedown, opening for Slim Whitman. According to reports, Elvis was so nervous that he stood on the balls of his feet and shook his leg in time to the music. After he came offstage, he wanted to know why the audience was yelling at him. They were reacting to the leg shaking, and a signature move was born.
1955, Johnny Cash begins recording ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ at Sun Recording Studio in Memphis. The song was inspired by a movie about the prison that Cash had seen while serving in the US Air Force in West Germany.
1966, The Troggs cover of ‘Wild Thing’ starts a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart. Interestingly, the same song had been released by an American band, The Wild Ones, a year earlier but failed to make the charts.
2003 Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records and Sun Recording Studio, dies of respiratory failure in Memphis, Tennessee. Phillips discovered Elvis Presley, and worked with other legends of rock and roll, including Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, as well as Ike Turner and blues legend B.B. King.
Source: This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, YouTube, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Elvis Presley Music
Ok we’ll start with the admission that we can be snobs when it comes to music. With that in mind , Paul and I decided to compile a list of some of the worst songs ever . I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder so our apologies if we offend anyone. Feel free to offer additions (or defenses) if you choose. Mike’s requirements for his list:
- the song needs to have been at least a modest hit
- done by an established artist (people who should know better)
- no 1 off novelty songs
- extra credit for bad songs from artists who’ve done otherwise good work
- no Christmas songs. That’s a special list we’ll do in December
I start with a twofer because these two bands are the same band. The level of “look how sensitive I am” is staggering. Creed is sensitive in the “I’m spiritual but not religious” kind of way. Nickelback is sensitive in a “high school jock who just got high for the first time” kind of way.
This bit of lyrical magic should explain the inclusion of this hit should explain its inclusion
“And I try
oh my God,
do I try!
Try all the time
in this institution”
Starship is like a great TV show where they kill off your favorite characters, the main writer quits and the Network CEO’s screwup nephew gets to write, direct and star in an episode. 80’s Schlock at its best
Special mention for bad duets. Incredible because this one includes two first ballot rock and roll Hall of Famers.
*Extra credit for this lyric video which tells us who is singing which lyrics (because no-one can tell the difference between their voices) and manages to spell Michael wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME.
The first song I thought of when started to make this list. Exemplifies everything about what was ,ummm , not so good about a lot of 80s music.
If music video is supposed to bring the artist’s vision from audio to the visual world, I’d hate to see what else was going on in Dennis DeYoung’s brain when he wrote this song for Styx.
I. CAN’T. EVEN.
Where to start. 80s pseudo- metal hair bands could fill this list but I’ll choose this representative gem from Warrant. The lyrics, if you choose to pay attention, have what I think is supposed to be sexual innuendo ( as envisioned by horny 9th grade boys)
In the “I can’t , I won’t and you can’t ” category we have…..
I’m riding Paul’s coattails on this one with the Grammy screw ups…….. but uggh….. this one annoys me.
Chris Cross won best new artist in 1981 at the Grammys over the Pretenders, Best Album, over The Wall by Pink Floyd, Billy Joel and Frank Sinatra, Best Record over New York, New York by Sinatra
*(oh and by the way , the Clash released London Calling that year. “Why theGrammys Suck” , could be a future column. Stay tuned.)
Billy RayCyrus should be on this list if only for owning some responsibility for popularizing the mullet.
Mike and Paul love music – all kinds of music. That’s why we started a blog after all! So we tend to have a pretty wide area of toleration, if not love, for all kinds of music. We would never say we hate for example, all country music, or all hip hop music, or even all polka music.
Having said that, we have to admit that there are some songs that just don’t cut it. Inane melodies, pointless embarrassing lyrics, some songs are just bad. Even artists with songs we love can over the course of a long career reach a creative nadir. So without further ado, here is, in my opinion, a list of the worst songs of all time. Disagree? Have suggestions for additional songs? Leave a comment below.
Beach Boys Kokomo
Ok the Beach Boys are a legendary band, revolutionizing rock and roll in the early 60’s with their classic surfer sound. But 25 years on, they had sunk to this annoying piece of pop drek. Pointless chorus, and it goes downhill from there.
Starship – We Built this City
This one makes most lists of all time worst songs. What began as Jefferson Airplane, the influential late 60’s psychedelic folk/rock band, had morphed in the mainstream rock band Jefferson Starship, which descended by 1985 into Starship, which produced this. The pretentiousness of the lyrics, combined with a bland melody is just too much. Extra rotten tomatoes for the cheesiness of the video.
Lou Ree – Metal Machine Music
In 1975, Lou Reed released this album of, let’s be honest, noise. There are no melodies, no lyrics, no rhythms, just an hour plus of guitar feedback and other effects. Some have hailed it as the forerunner of industrial or noise rock. There is speculation it was a big middle finger to his record company. Either way it is un-listenable. If you ever want to clear a party, just put this on. Here is a mercifully short clip. The entire album is over an hour of this.
Van Halen – Why Can’t This Be Love?
Sometimes its not the song melody that makes a song the worst, but the lyrics. This 1986 song, the first with lead singer Sammy Hagar, gets the nod for utterly inane lyrics. One choice example: “Hey only fools rush in and only time will tell, If we stand the test of time.” Seriously guys, this is the best you could come up with?
Kid Rock – All Summer Long
I have to say up front that I have never been a Kid Rock fan, which doesn’t make me particularly popular with my in-laws who live in Michigan. What annoys me about this song is the complete rip-off (some would say appropriation) of the melody structure of Warren Zevon‘s ‘Werewolves of London’ and Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ I know that there are few original ideas in music (everyone is always recycling new ideas for new creative purposes) but in my opinion this crosses the line into desecration of two classics.
USA for Africa – We are the World
Ok so yes, this song was done for a noble purpose (to raise money for famine victims in Africa). And yes it brought together the best of mid 80’s American pop and rock stars to record it (watching the video is a kick in that sense). But the song itself, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richtie? Not so good.
Lou Bega – Mambo #5
This one is emblematic of any number of one hit wonder songs that become massively popular in a short amount of time. I’m thinking the Macarena, Who Let the Dogs Out, Gangnam Style. They may not necessarily be terrible songs themselves, but they get played over and over and over and over and over…again on the radio to the point where you want to destroy your radio.
Dionne & Friends – That’s What Friends Are For
Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Ok. Covered in this version by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder. Granted. And it also was a charity song for AIDS research and prevention – a noble purpose. But it makes my list for a very specific reason. At the 1986 Grammy Awards, this song beat out the following songs for Song of the Year – Steve Winwood – Higher Love; Paul Simon – Graceland; Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer. Stop for a second and read that list again. Enough said. I guess its not the song’s fault it won, but if it hadn’t been written it wouldn’t have won.
Dan Hill – Sometimes When We Touch
This 1977 song by songwriter Dan Hill is the perfect example of overly earnest lyrical sentiments that quickly collapses into annoying tripe and cheesiness. As one song lyric goes, “The honesty’s too much, And I have to close my eyes, And hide.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, Dan.
Extreme – More than Words
A hair band trying to show its sensitive side. The message to the girl in the song is to show her love for the protagonist with more than words. Maybe its just me, but this one creeps me out. Reminds me of the archetypal scene in the backseat of a car on a Saturday night where the captain of the football team is trying to get the cheerleader to give it up by showing his “sensitive side.”
Wang Chung – Everybody Have Fun Tonight
This 1986 hit by Wang Chung is a good example of how bad some 1980s music became. Pointless, self involved, new wave cheesiness. They even refer to themselves in the song lyrics. Bonus rotten tomatoes for the music video – enough to induce a seizure from all the rapid fire jump cuts.
Stevie Nicks Silent Night
Covers of Christmas classics by contemporary artists could be its whole own category of worst songs. Why does every artist who has more than 2 albums feel the need to do a Christmas album? Easy money I guess, since you don’t to write the songs, just sing and record them and put it out during the holiday season. Most of these covers are just plain boring, nondescript, or bland. Every once in a while a new classic is born. But the flip side is this selection off A Very Special Christmas Vol. 1, which has Stevie Nicks completely ruining Silent Night. Completely misguided pairing of artist to song. And the backing vocals from Robbie Nevil don’t help.
So that’s it for now? Violently disagree? Dumbfounded that I forgot your favorite selection? Leave a comment below!
I think Paul and I had the same thought for a Sunday morning, something gentle .
“All your Favorite Bands” has, without me even noticing, become one of my favorite albums. Taylor Goldsmith has a way with lyrics and I truly believe he’s on the way to being one of the best songwriters of his generation. When you take that with subtle, beautiful guitar you get this great song.
A little acoustic guitar for a Sunday morning. Simple guitar line repeated over and over, but the sum is definitely more than its parts
1953 So You Say Its Your Birthday! Patti Scialfa, American singer-songwriter. Scialfa came up in the Jersey shore scene, before joining Bruce Springsteen’s E St. Band for the Born in the USA tour. She has also done session work for the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, and David Johansen (Buster Pointdexter), as well as released several solo works, including Rumble Doll, released in 1993. Oh, and she is married to Bruce Springsteen.
1966, Bob Dylan is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident near Woodstock NY, suffering broken neck vertebra. The accident came weeks after the release of Blonde on Blonde, the third of three classic albums over 18 months that changed rock and roll forever (the other two being Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited). Dylan went into seclusion for a year, re-emerging in 1967 to record what would become The Basement Tapes. Some mystery has surrounded the accident. For more see this story.
1968 The Beatles begin recording Hey Jude, a song written by Paul McCartney about John Lennon’s son Julian.
Sources: This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, Ultimate Classic Rock.com