Sing, Sing a Song ... Or Not


Daddy was a cop
on the east side of Chicago
Back in the U S A
back in the bad old days

The Night Chicago Died” was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid. Sung by the group Paper Lace, it was on my favorite 8-track up until I got the “Star Wars” soundtrack. In fact, I assumed at the time that all their songs must have been huge hits, only to discover later that here in America they were a one-hit wonder.

            I should point out that “my favorite 8-track” isn’t saying much, as I only had about half a dozen at the time … later I’d accumulate an outrageous collection of over two dozen cassettes! We were not a rich family.

            A great shock came years later, when I discovered an association of radio DJ’s had voted “The Night Chicago Died” as their number one song – the one they hated most of all.

            I was shocked. Shocked! How could no one love this story of a cop’s wife, waiting at home while he battled Al Capone’s gang?

            Okay, when you put it that way …

            My problem with music is that I’m sentimental, I have low standards, and I’m easily entertained. There are over ten thousand songs in my list of top ten favorite songs. They cover almost every genre, from the critically acclaimed to the stunningly bad. I also have a weakness for novelty songs: Those funny/strange ditties that crack people up the first time they hear them, and drive them crazy the fifth time.

            So it should come as no surprise that, when a CNN music critic polled his coworkers on what they thought were the top ten worst songs ever, several of my favorites landed on the list. I’m trying not to take it personally.

            The critic, Todd Leopold, chose “Honey”, by Bobby Goldsboro, as the worst song of all time. Narrowing it down must have been a tall order, but this song, from the point of view of a man whose wife planted a tree and then died … well, it’s high up there. If anything, it’s certainly the most depressing song of all time.

            Here are some of his coworkers’ least favorite songs:

            Afternoon Delight”, by The Starland Vocal Band.

            I loved this song. Had it memorized. I loved the way the group blended their vocals together. The entire song’s about a guy who’s sneaking off with his lover for a little afternoon tryst, and it’s so slow moving that it would have fit in with that interminable closing sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The group parleyed this one hit into their own summer replacement variety TV show, which demonstrates what a wasteland summer TV was at the time.

            Achy Breaky Heart”, Billy Ray Cyrus.

            This is one I actually agree with. Cyrus had some later songs I liked, but for some reason this one just annoyed me from the moment I first heard it. Maybe part of that has to do with its extreme catchiness: I kept catching myself singing it, leading to much self-loathing.

            Broken Wings”, Mr. Mister.

            I actually had to look this one up, and when I did, I realized I used to play it during my short stint as an air personality. I didn’t like it or hate it: It was just forgettable, like vanilla ice cream or vice-presidents.

            Heartbeat”, Don Johnson.

            It’s always dangerous putting an actor into a music studio. Riding the crest of “Miami Vice” fame, Johnson got behind the mike to record a song about a guy looking for love – because nobody’s ever done that before.

            Convoy”, C.W. McCall.

            I have to cry foul on this one. Should novelty songs even be on this list? Of course, with this genre you either love them or hate them, which is the whole point of the list. “Convoy” tells the lighthearted story of a trucker just driving down the highway, gathering a group of similar minded CB nuts who break every traffic law, destroy property, and get into a pitched battle with the Illinois National Guard. All so you can find your favorite goods at Wal-Mart.

            I’m Too Sexy”, Right Said Fred.

            Give this guy a break: His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred, named him Right Said. That would screw up anybody.

            It’s all about a guy who’s too sexy. For anything.

            Disco duck”, Rick Dees.

            Instant classic, people. It’s about a duck – who discos! Come on, there’s nothing but fun in that. It may be the best disco song ever. Or maybe all the rest of them are the worst.

            My Humps”, Black eyed Peas.

            Ummmmm … It’s about sex, and people wanting to get it. And there’s something about cereal.

            MacArthur Park”, Richard Harris.

            Ah, interesting choice, here. In the great entertainment world tradition of rewarding art that’s thick, metaphoric, an unintelligible to the average consumer, “MacArthur Park” got a Grammy Award and was redone by many other artists. How could it qualify as a worst song? Well, let’s take a look at some of the lyrics:

Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don’t think that I can take it,
‘cause it took so long to make it,
And I’ll never have that recipe again.
Oh Noooooooo …

            Dude. They’re called antidepressants, take some. You want to borrow my Zoloft?

            Maybe Harris recorded it after listening to Bobby Goldsboro sing “Honey”. Or maybe Goldsboro, wanting a song to be more depressing than his, left the cake out in the rain.
            Doesn’t seem as serious as Chicago dying.