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Off the Beaten Tracks: A Christmas Cringefest

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BACK in September we grimaced our way through Kenny Everett’s World’s Worst Record Show, a collection of 20 truly terrible tunes from the vaults, and I invited readers to provide their own suggestions for a follow-up album. Here, as a festive ‘treat’, is a selection of your comments. Warning – not for those of a sensitive disposition.

We kick off with Reborn, who remembered the Everett show with fondness, having taped it when it went out on Capital Radio in the late 1970s, adding: ‘I Want My Baby Back was an excellent comedy record and comment on 1950s teen road crash stuff – probably down to the death of James Dean and the accompanying cult. Surely the worst record must be one that is
A) Intended to be serious
B) Made by talented musicians.
In which case my choice is anything from Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Stones. Not only embarrassingly bad, but the band look uncomfortable in their silly clothes on the album cover. Truly ghastly.’

Thanks for that, Reeb. Here’s a clip of In Another Land

39 Pontiac Dream opined: ‘Usually, most things played at parties, wedding receptions, etc, are terrible but you can’t have a worst of the worst list without a (David) Hasselhoff and/or (William) Shatner song. Only in Germany, eh? :)

‘I’m a big Zeppelin fan but I’ve got to say (and I’m sure other readers will find this sacrilege), Whole Lotta Love has got to be one of the most overrated songs out there. That’d probably be on my list.’

This struck a chord with Hugh Jampton, who wrote: I agree with you there . . . of course it’s not really a Led Zep song, is it? I think they had to reach a financial settlement with Willie Dixon. Only thing is, I detest Stairway to Heaven even more, I think it’s the pits. Have you heard Nina Persson doing Whole Lotta Love? Worth a listen!

IwasGnarth added: ‘Shatner doing It Was A Very Good Year  is very odd. As one comment beneath put it, “I cannot decide if it is incredibly bad or really quite good.” Exactly.’

Sticking with the Shatner theme, Labour is bunk asked: ‘Have you heard his Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds? He should have stuck to his Five Year Mission.’

Always good for a few suggestions, SiberianRhod listed The Birdie Song by The Tweets, Agadoo by Black Lace, Crazy Frog by Axel F and Disco Duck by Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots. By this point I am losing the will to live.

I’m Old Fashioned stated: ‘You won’t find a bigger admirer of The Who than me, but My Wife is a blot on the otherwise wonderful album, Who’s Next. I can’t imagine what made [Pete] Townshend allow such a second-rate John Entwistle song on to a record that was otherwise his personal masterpiece.’

Richie P supplied the following bumper bundle: ‘I’ve Never Been to Me by Charlene Duncan. Aaaargghh. Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday, by John Bult, about the singer having killed his daughter in a drink driving incident and how it would be her sixteenth birthday. The Mr Blobby song that was Christmas No 1 in 1993. The Most Wanted Music, by Komar & Melamid. An attempt to create a hit song by committee and by statistical analysis of what people wanted in a song. It is unbelievably glurgy and sickly.’

Aggie said: ‘Right, Alan and everyone, here’s my nomination for worst song title, if not actual song, ever: Dropkick Me Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life) by Bobby Bare.

Of course, like most country songs it has a very catchy, singalong tune. Then, even Elvis produced a real stinker: They Call Your Daddy Big Boots, a mawkish load of tripe he sang to cute pics of Lisa Marie when she was a baby. Lastly, what has to be one of the worst lyrics ever: “Helping the frauses tie bells on their cowses”; this was in the movie Summer Holiday starring our very own Cliff.’

Sticking with the so-called Peter Pan of Pop, therealguyfaux proposed: ‘The Shrine On The Second Floor, from a musical comedy film, Expresso Bongo, which satirised the pop music industry (as Bye Bye Birdie would a few years later).

Understand that Sir Cliff is playing a kid who’s being played for a mug into becoming a pop star by a cheap hustler played by Laurence Harvey. Initially Harvey wants to make him into a “rebel” type, but when they find a song about “mother,” Cliff is turned into a “nice young boy,” which he isn’t, not really. You kind of have to know the backstory of the film to appreciate why a sentimental ballad that’s not THAT overly bad (it’s a so-so slightly-saccharine-for-most-tastes number) is a bit skin-crawly. It’s the meta-humour of the song being sung by a man who has always been thought of in real life as “that nice young man,” who might even have sung it in real life sans archness as Cliff Richard, singing it cynically as Bongo.’

In a further contribution, Guy added: ‘If one wants a mawkish piece of cheese that was apparently done in earnest, and was a quite successful release, look no further than Bobby Goldsboro’s truly execrable Honey (I Miss You). It is the McGonagall of song lyrics. If it’s mawkish sentimentality you’re after, I’ll nominate Telly Savalas’s version of If, which actually went to No 1 in the charts.

Thankfully, it was a cover of David Gates’s ballad not Rudyard Kipling’s poem, so things could have been worse. When it comes to mawkishness, talking records seem to have something of a head start over singing. Deck Of Cards by Wink Martindale and Big John by Jimmy Dean are both worthy runners-up to the Savalas.’

Over to Otis Spunkmeister, who said: ‘Let’s add Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO, which is a slice of pure cringe, and Pound on my Muffin by Shira. Keeping with the baked goods theme, Babycakes by Three of a Kind.

I bet you thought you were safe from that horror didn’t you? Oh yes. A piece of cringe from the early days of YouTube. Straight Cockney by Phenomenon. A beetle-browed nasal-voiced degenerate raps badly about being straight cockney because he’s from . . . Romford.’

Uusikaupunki interjected: ‘Let’s raise the tone with a superb Queen of the Night by Mozart. Impeccably sung (sic) by Florence Foster Jenkins, who once sang to a fully-booked house at Carnegie Hall.’

For an encore, Labour is Bunk came up with the toe-curling No Charge, by JJ Barrie, saying: ‘You can see now why I increasingly turned to classical music.’

I’m Old Fashioned replied: ‘Nice one, Labour. This is like poker. I’ll see your No Charge and raise you Teddy Bear, by Red Sovine.’

Prompting Hugh Jampton to join in: ‘I’ll see you . . . and I’ll raise you Neil Reid, Mother of Mine. The management will accept the deeds to your house as collateral, dude.’

‘Wee’ Neil Reid won the TV ‘talent’ show Opportunity Knocks in 1971 at the age of 12, singing about his beloved mammy when he should have been out playing football with his mates on the streets of Glasgow. The ghastly Mother of Mine sold more than two million copies around the world, including 400,000 in Japan. Thankfully his career ended when his voice broke.

Mrs Ashworth suggests that the Crystals’ He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss) is possibly the most ill-judged song of all time. Really, a number about domestic violence is not going to be a success, and it wasn’t. 

She would also like to put forward two contenders for the worst lyric. The Turtles’ Happy Together:

‘So happy together
How is the weather?’ 

And 10cc: I’m Not In Love:

‘I keep your picture
Upon the wall
It hides a nasty stain that’s lying there’

Lying there? On a wall? 

Blimey! After all that my teeth will be on edge for months. I will, however, add a personal bete noire, the genuinely vomit-inducing Cinderella Rockefella 

by Esther and Abi Ofarim, which reached No 1 in the singles charts in March, 1968. One can never over-estimate the shocking taste of the British public.

So there we are. What a lot of stinkers. I hope none of them sticks in your head – this Lockdown Christmas will be bad enough anyway. Perhaps we should all drink to forget them.

So, cheers, everybody! See you in the New Year.

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells with the family dog Bingo. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to alanj126@yahoo.co.uk

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