Bottom 20 of the Top 40

Thumbs down

 

Rating these in order of badness is probably a waste of time, so the order is alphabetical by performer. As always, these are my opinions; your mileage may vary. Nineteen of the twenty charted in Billboard's Hot 100, as indicated.

  1. Paul Anka with Odia Coates, (You're) Having My Baby
       United Artists 454, 1974, #1 (3 weeks)
    If the antiabortion movement ever adopts this as a theme song, Planned Parenthood will rule the world. Anka sings this as though sperm reception were a woman's highest goal.
     
  2. Frankie Avalon, Why
       Chancellor 1045, 1959, #1 (1 week)
    Frankie couldn't really sing, but usually they gave him material that wouldn't emphasize his vocal weaknesses. Not this time.
     
  3. The Bee Gees, Stayin' Alive
       RSO 885, 1977, #1 (4 weeks)
    Disco, despite its relentless emphasis on monotonous beat, did produce many good songs, some of which emanated from the Brothers Gibb, and almost all of which were better than this falsetto farce.
     
  4. Captain and Tennille, Muskrat Love
       A&M 1870, 1976, #4
    Neither the Captain's knack for arrangements nor Toni's seductive voice can salvage this piece of tripe, and the electronic rodents are the last straw.
     
  5. Cher, Half-Breed
       MCA 40102, 1973, #1 (2 weeks)
    A really bad song given a really bad reading by a generally pretty good singer.
     
  6. Eric Clapton, Wonderful Tonight
       RSO 895, 1978, #16
    Even if it's true that Clapton meant this not as terms of endearment but as a flip dismissal, it's still way beneath him.
     
  7. Firefall, Just Remember I Love You
       Atlantic 3420, 1977, #11
    Sung as though actual emotion might break the tape, this is the most insipid recording by one of the most insipid Seventies bands.
     
  8. Art Garfunkel with James Taylor and Paul Simon, Wonderful World
       Columbia 3-10676, 1978, #17
    Surely this was never intended to be a lugubrious drone; certainly neither Sam Cooke nor, heaven help us, Peter "Herman" Noone, ever sang it that way.
     
  9. Lee Greenwood, God Bless the USA
       Curb/MCA 52386, 1985, did not chart pop
    Embarrassingly jingoistic, even by Eighties standards, and here's why.
     
  10. Human League, (Keep Feeling) Fascination
       A&M 2547, 1983, #8
    You'd be hard-pressed to prove that any humans participated in this recording, though perhaps you could argue that no computer program could produce such discordant screeches for vocals.
     
  11. Kenny Loggins with Stevie Nicks, Whenever I Call You "Friend"
       Columbia 3-10794, 1978, #5
    The title is actually the least awkward aspect of the song, which takes prefab sentiments and drains all semblance of sincerity out of them.
     
  12. Olivia Newton-John, Please Mr. Please
       MCA 40418, 1975, #3
    Yet another case of a good singer saddled with bad material, and just to make things worse, overdubbed background vocals that make Livvy sound like the Chipmunks on Prozac.
     
  13. Donny Osmond, Puppy Love
       MGM 14367, 1972, #10
    Most of Donny's early solo work was pretty dire, but this one gets the nod for being a recycled Paul Anka tune, which is pretty dire stuff to begin with. Interestingly, his duets with sister Marie, from a couple years later, aren't bad at all.
     
  14. Helen Reddy, I Am Woman
       Capitol 3350, 1972, #1 (1 week)
    Generally, I defend Reddy's song choices, even as perverse as "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)", but this grating would-be anthem has only grown more annoying with time.
     
  15. Diana Ross, Ain't No Mountain High Enough
       Motown 1169, 1970, #1 (3 weeks)
    Demonstrating an utter lack of understanding of the material, Ross turns a simple love song into a grandiose monument to herself. What was Berry Gordy thinking?
     
  16. Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, Endless Love
       Motown 1519, 1981, #1 (9 weeks)
    Blah theme from a blah movie, pitched wrongly for both Ross and Richie, and grating from beginning to end.
     
  17. Boz Scaggs, Lido Shuffle
       Columbia 3-10491, 1977, #11
    Too bland to be hip, too counterculture to be MOR, this song just kind of lies there in its own pretensions, as overly-busy arrangements clutter up the background.
     
  18. Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, Guilty
       Columbia 3-10840, 1980, #3
    All by itself, this song killed off my decade-long Streisand fixation; it was like finding A. J. Foyt driving a clapped-out Escort in the parking lot at Wal-Mart.
     
  19. Think featuring Lou Stallman, Once You Understand
       Laurie 3583, 1972, #23
    Brought to you by the Partnership for a Brain-Free America.
     
  20. Three Dog Night, Joy to the World
       Dunhill 4272, 1971, #1 (6 weeks)
    An enormous hit by some very good vocalists, written by a first-class wordsmith, that nonetheless signifies nothing.
Addendum: People regularly ask "How many of these records did you, personally, actually buy?" The answer is "Too many."

Posted 5 May 1996; updated 27 July 2002


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Copyright © 1996-2002 by Charles G. Hill
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