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Friday Five – Songs so bad they’re AWESOME!

December 19, 2008

Some songs are bad.  I’m a pretty open-minded guy, but seriously – some songs are just empirically bad.  For instance, “Rock On” by David Essex – does anyone actually LIKE that song?  Shouldn’t a song about rock and roll actually rock?  Let’s face it, if you’re going to sing about rock music you should begin with Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music,” AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” or the classic Johnny Winter / Rick Derringer “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” as your template.  At least Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” (Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul; I want to get lost in your rock and roll; and drift away…) has a sweet soulful groove.

Then again, some songs are so bad they’re great.  The music is simplistic or cheesy, the lyrics are nonsensical or vapid or even unintelligible, and yet you can’t stop listening to it.

Let’s begin with my own personal favorite in this category:

  1. Surfin’ Bird – The Trashmen.  The Trashmen were actually a legitimate surf-rock band with really good chops and actual talent, but you’d never know it from listening to Surfin’ Bird.  This goofy take on two Rivingtons covers (The Bird is the Word and Papa Oom Mow Mow) was their only real hit.  And it’s a real earworm.  I dare you to listen to it and not have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
  2. Barbara Ann – The Regents / The Beach Boys.  When I was a kid I thought the song was called “Bob a Wren,” because that’s what it sounds like.  Of course, I also thought that it might have been written about Vinnie Barbarino because I loved me some Welcome Back, Kotter.  (Wow, I just dated myself there!)  The Beach Boys version with Dean (of Jan & Dean) is great because it contains genuine laughter when they started to sing different verses at the same time.  I’m surprised that Brian Wilson let us hear that, when you consider that his perfectionism was his personal downfall.
  3. Ain’t Got No Home – Clarence “Frogman” Henry.  He’s homeless, penniless, with no family to help him and nobody to love but he sure sounds like he’s having a BLAST because he can sing like a girl, a bird and a frog.  This song is the only instance I can think of where simple pleasures so powerfully and literally override basic human needs like food, shelter and love.
  4. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) – The Beatles.  This “song” is a chaotic mess, but the lads are having quite a good larf on all of us.  I get it stuck in my head often, and sing it in the shower.
  5. Land of 1,000 Dances – Wilson Pickett / Cannibal & the Head Hunters.  What happens if you string together names of dances so they rhyme, combine it with an irresistible rhythm and hook, and add the infinitely profound lyrics, “I said na, na na na na, na na na na nana na nana na, na na na na”?  Yes, it’s dumb.  Yes, every single dance listed is out of vogue.  Yes, it’s downright awesome!
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2008 2:52 pm

    N°4!!!!!
    A great song!

  2. orisit permalink
    January 21, 2009 12:03 pm

    Surfin’ Bird is both evangelical and Trinitarian.

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