by Dave Barry
In a recent column I noted that certain songs are always getting played on the radio, despite the fact that these songs have been shown, in scientific laboratory tests, to be bad. One example I cited was Neil Diamond's ballad "I Am, I Said," in which Neil complains repeatedly that nobody hears him, "not even the chair." I pointed out that this does not make a ton of sense, unless Neil has unusually intelligent furniture. ("Mr. Diamond, your BarcaLounger is on line two.")
Well, it turns out that there are some major Neil Diamond fans out there in Readerland. They sent me a large pile of hostile mail with mouth froth spewing out of the envelope seams. In the interest of journalistic fairness, I will summarize their main arguments here:
Dear Pukenose: Just who the hell do you think you are to blah blah a great artist like Neil blah blah more than 20 gold records blah blah how many gold records do YOU have, you scumsucking wad of blah blah I personally have attended 1,794 of Neil's concerts blah blah What about "Love on the Rocks"? Huh? What about "Cracklin' Rosie"? blah blah if you had ONE-TENTH of Neil's talent blah blah so I listened to "Heart Light" 40 times in a row and the next day the cyst was GONE and the doctor said he had never seen such a rapid blah blah. What about "Play Me"? What about "Song Sung Blah"? Cancel my subscription, if I have one.
So we can clearly see that music is a matter of personal taste. Person A may hate a particular song, such as "Havin' My Baby" by Paul Anka (who I suspect i also Neil Sedaka), and Person B might love this song. But does this mean that Person B is wrong? Of course not. It simply means that Person B is an idiot. Because some songs are just plain bad, and "Havin' My Baby" is one of them, and another one is "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."
That's not merely my opinion: That's the opinion of many readers who took time out from whatever they do, which I hope does not involve operating machinery, to write letters containing harsh remarks about these and other songs. In fact, to judge from the reader reaction, the public is a lot more concerned about the issue of song badness than about the presidential election campaign (which by the way is over, so you can turn on your TV again).
And it's not just the public. It's also the media. I put a message on the Miami Herald's computer system, asking people to nominate the worst rock song ever, and within minutes I was swamped with passionate responses. And these were from newspaper people, who are legendary for their cold-blooded noninvolvement ("I realize this is a bad time for you, Mrs. Weemer, but could you tell me how you felt when you found Mr. Weemer's head?") Even the managing editor responded, arguing that the worst rock song ever was "whichever one led to the second one."
Other popular choices were "A Horse with No Name," performed by America; "Billy, Don't Be a Hero," by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods; "Kung Fu Fighting," by Carl Douglas; "Copacabana," by Barry Manilow; "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo," by Lobo; "Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks; "Feelings," by various weenies; "Precious and Few," by some people who make the weenies who sang "Feelings" sound like Ray Charles; "The Pepsi Song," by Ray Charles; "Muskrat Love," by The Captain and Tennille; every song ever recorded by Bobby Goldsboro; and virtually every song recorded since about 1972.
"It's worse than ever" is how my wife put it.
Anyway, since people feel so strongly about this issue, I've decided to conduct a nationwide survey to determine the worst rock song ever. I realize that similar surveys have been done before, but this one will be unique: This will be the first rock-song survey ever, to my knowledge, that I'll be able to get an easy column out of.
So I'm asking you to consider two categories: Worst Overall Song and Worst Lyrics. In the second category, for example, you might want to consider a song I swear I heard back in the late 1950's, which I believe was called "Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys Do." I've been unable to locate the record, but the chorus went:
Won't you take a look at me now You'll be surprised at what you see now I'm everything a girl should be now Thirty-six, twenty-four, thirty-FIVE!
I'm sure you can do worse than that.
Send your card today. Be in with the "in" crowd. We'll have joy, we'll have fun. So Cracklin' Rosie, get on board, because Honey, I miss you.
AND your dog named Boo.