Slipped Discs – the Worst Rock ’n’ Roll Records of All Time
Jimmy Guterman & Owen O’Donnell
A Fan’s Guide to the Music You Love to Hate
“In the beginning rock ‘n’ roll was simple & direct. Songs conveyed their point seriously and in under 3 minutes. In the sixties it began to take itself seriously; angry young men with faces as long as their guitar solos pontificated on life, the universe and everything. The rock icon was born.
This book topples the statues, revealing that all the gold from Dylan, Presley, Costello et al. does not necessarily glitter. With incisive criticisms of the fifty worst albums and fifty worst singles, and special sections including the worst Dylan cover versions, the worst Elvis tributes and the worst rock ‘n’ rollers of all time. Slipped Discs… The Worst Rock ‘n’ Roll Records of All Time is the most witty, caustic and honest rock guide ever written”.
1991, Virgin Publishing. All text is quoted from the book.
The Fifty Worst Rock-And-Roll Singles of All Time
1. Berry, Chuck – My Ding a Ling
…strings together double-entendre penis jokes that can be enjoyed only by the very young or the very drunk.
2. Think – Once You Understand
The first sound comes from a middle-aged father character. “I’ll be expecting you to get a haircut by Friday”. “Forget it Dad,” comes the self-righteous teenage retort. “It won’t change anything”.
3. Charlene – I’ve Never Been to Me
…this Muzak-ready ballad is extremely cynical in its pandering to an unglamorous audience
4. Charlene & Stevie Wonder – Used to Be
You know you’re in trouble when a song starts with the disembowelled logic of “ Superman was killed in Dallas/There’s no love left in the palace/Someone took the Beatles’ lead guitar”.
5. Peter, Paul & Mary – I Dig Rock and Roll Music
This record is about a trio who can sense that they’re on the way out refusing to acknowledge that the rules of the pop game have changed.
6. Zager & Evans – In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)
…as silly and vapid as outtakes from Abbott & Costello Go to Mars
7. Ronstadt, Linda – Back in the USA
The most believable explanation we can come up with is that part of Linda Ronstadt’s brain, the part that has to do with discriminating between good and bad musical ideas, atrophied when she was a child.
8. Cher – You Better Sit Down Kids
…the song vacillates between a metronomic piano base and an upbeat, horn-driven go-go section.
9. McLean, Don – American Pie
Once you start listening to the words, you’re left wondering: “What is this guy talking about?”
10. Harris, Richard – MacArthur Park
If the best comparison he can make to her leaving is a cake melting in the rain, then is it any wonder she didn’t stick around?
11. Gibb, Andy & Victoria Principal – All I Have to Do is Dream
Love make us do stupid things. …When you’re a celebrity, the possibilities for acting stupid in these ways increase exponentially.
12. Chapin, Harry – Taxi
The most important requirement of Chapin’s genre… was to present the song in a highly strained and overworked manner that seemingly goes on forever.
13. Chapin, Harry – Cat’s in the Cradle
…we can’t help but feel that one of these songs was probably a favourite of every character in every John Hughes upper-middle-class-suburban-teendom-is-existential-terror film.
14. Gold, Andrew – Lonely Boy
It’s boring mid-seventies Asylum music that thinks its rocking out because the drums are mixed a little louder.
15. Reddy, Helen – I Am Woman
… the song fails both as rabble-rouser and performance. And the bad guys win again.
16. Knack – Good Girls Don’t
They appeared out of nowhere, pretended to be the Beatles, treated their audience like shit, begged for forgiveness, didn’t get it, and disappeared.
17. Knack – Baby Talks Dirty
… a retread of the already derivative beat and chord changes of “My Sharona”. By then, though, the joke had worn thin… The only people talking dirty to the Knack now, were their former fans.
18. Stills, Stephen – Love the One You’re With
… exemplifies the smug stupidity that defines West Coast rock in general and the Crosby, Stills & Nash axis of it in particular. Here, in a nutshell, is the clearest reason to despise all that tripe.
19. Herman’s Hermits – I’m Henry VIII, I Am
It trivialised Beatles rock into the sort of cavalier music-hall nonsense it was supposed to displace. Isn’t the singer worried about what happened to Henry’s I, II, III, IV, V, VI & VII? Of course not, he’s a music-hall twit who doesn’t have a brain. La la la.
20. Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue
They didn’t care; why should we?
21. Carmen, Eric – All by Myself
… may have been a hit record, but it was certainly not rock ‘n’ roll.
22. Lewis, Huey & the News – Hip to be Square
… a pox on rock & roll in the late eighties. Lyrically… this was a perfect anthem of rationalisation for uneasy sell-outs. I’m so square, la la la, where’s the cash?
23. Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Blinded by the Light
… ranks at the top of nearly every Bruce fan’s list of worst cover versions…
24. McFerrin, Bobby – Don’t Worry Be Happy
It is embarrassing to watch a once-defiantly-non-mainstream performer try to accommodate himself to the demands of the mass audience; it is especially pathetic when that performer does so by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
25. Ian, Janis – At Seventeen
… represents the feel my pain school of songwriting.
26. O’Sullivan – Gilbert – Alone Again (Naturally)
Over a subclassical arrangement, that suggest the Who’s Tommy while he was deaf, dumb & blind, O’Sullivan considers suicide.
27. Hollies – Stop in the Name of Love
The antiseptic production makes you wonder if any two instruments or voices were in the same studio (forget at the same time). Most embarrassing is Tony Hick’s inappropriate screeching guitar solo, which sounds like it was left over from another song and accidentally dropped into the mix by one of the plethora of producers.
28. Stevens, Cat – Moon Shadow
Why is… [the moon shadow] following Cat? Is it trying to cut off his arm? And if so, could the moon shadow make sure it’s the one Cat uses to write down his lyrics?
29. Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones – Kiss
Jones has received many accolades from many performers who should know better (from Elvis Presley to Van Morrison), but his unctuous baritone is completely inappropriate for the falsetto lust of Kiss, one of Prince’s greatest singles.
30. Tyler, Bonnie – Faster Than the Speed of Night
Some one-hit-wonders will do anything for another shot.
31. Clapton, Eric – Wonderful Tonight
… what about last night, Eric? Did she look like dirt? We’re certainly not going to ask about tomorrow morning.
32. Melanie – Ruby Tuesday
Throughout the overwrought performance, Melanie inserts extra syllables and vocal flourishes in a desperate attempt to stamp her own imprint on the song.
33. Melanie – Brand New Key
“I’ve got a brand-new pair of roller skates/You’ve got a brand-new key”.
34. Richie, Lionel – Dancing on the Ceiling
… the first single from Richie’s 1986 album of that title, stands as his most abysmal up-tempo performance (his ballads, like ‘Truly’ and ‘Hello’ are too frightening to consider in this context).
35. Stewart, Rod – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy
Stewart’s most cynical move to curry fleeting musical favour… as annoying as a loudmouth barroom drunk on the stool next to you.
36. Smith, Hurricane – Oh Babe, What Would You Say?
The was Smith’s voice breaks as he tries to reach the high notes in the song’s title line is perversely sublime. We can only dream – with something resembling the thrill of jumping off a cliff – what could have been if Smith had teamed up with the Shaggs.
37. Coolidge, Rita – Higher & Higher
Rather than try to capture some of the energetic happiness of the original, Coolidge opted for a blessed-out soporific.
38. Stewart, Amii – Knock on Wood
As a disco song ‘Knock on Wood’ wasn’t particularly awful, but as a senseless recasting of a pivotal rhythm & blues classic, was unlistenable. … she exemplifies the damage disco did to some essential music.
39. Simon & Garfunkel – the Dangling Conversation
The whole point of ‘the Dangling Conversation’ is for Simon to sound smart and poetic, so he drops names and hopes he accumulates some of the power of those whose names he uses for rhymes.
40. Jacksons – State of Shock
… so slight it hardly exists.
41. Jagger, Mick & David Bowie – Dancing in the Street
… we question why these major rock figures bothered to turn the microphones on if they didn’t have anything to say. …why is Bowie yelling ‘South America!”?
42. Benatar, Pat – Sex as a Weapon
Don’t believe the hype; nobody else did. If you’re making a sincerity move, you had better be believable.
43. Wham! – Freedom
Freedom is the transition between Michael’s unaffected trash and the affected kind.
44. George Michael – Freedom ‘90
The former Elton John wanna-be with no dance-floor credibility is now a frankly self-involved auteur with multilayered stubble.
45. Adams, Bryan – Summer of ‘69
For the record, Adams was ten years old in 1969; it took him a while to admit that the song wasn’t autobiographical. You’ve heard it all before, done better.
46. Frey, Glenn – the Heat is On
Last we heard of him was he was doing commercials for soft drinks and health clubs and waiting for a phone call from [Don] Henley. Even he didn’t take himself seriously anymore.
47. Seger, Bob – the Horizontal Bop
It’s a huffy song about sex, one without any danger: high-school boys could sing it as an act of woman-fearing male bonding, while high-school girls could sing it as a goofy song about ‘doing it’ without any dirty words. It’s as provocative as shaving cream. years before the age of safe sex, it’s a safe song about sex.
48. Everly Brothers – Ebony Eyes
… represents how far the boys could fall.
49. Will to Power – Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley
The version was incompetent, and under normal circumstances we would have quickly forgotten the novelty cover. But then the real horror set in. After the first verse, Will to Power segued into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird.
50. John Cougar – Jack and Diane
‘Jack and Diane’ is an extremely little ditty about two teenagers having sex, but leave it to Cougar to try to build that into a grand pronouncement on, you guessed it, America.