Identifying The Absolute Worst Pop Song Of All Time
By Tom Danehy
I USED TO do an occasional book review for The Weekly, in addition to my duties as Voice of My Generation. At least that's what they told me my title was; they said I could have it in exchange for really low pay. It's like in The Wizard of Oz; I don't really need a brain, just a diploma.
The funny thing is, since I don't really work for a living, I probably read more books than just about anybody else here at The Weekly. And ***PRETENTIOUSNESS ALERT!! PRETENTIOUSNESS ALERT!!*** I generally read non-fiction.
Nonetheless, I have a few fiction writers whom I read religiously--Tony Hillerman (I can't believe he had Jim Chee break up with Janet Pete!); Elmore Leonard (who once explained his bare-bones writing style by saying, "I just leave out the stuff that people don't read anyway"); Carl Hiaasen (one of the few writers who can make me laugh out loud); and Tom Clancy (I know he's a right-wing techno-weenie, but I just can't help myself).
With those few exceptions (plus a couple others), I read non-fiction. Last week I finished The Walls of Jericho: Richard Russell, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and the Fight For Civil Rights in the U.S. Senate. It was way more interesting (and even longer) than the title. This week I'm on Richard Rhodes' Deadly Feasts, a true story of an always-fatal brain-eating disease which can be traced back to ritualistic cannibalism in New Guinea.
I'm still unnerved by what I read three books ago, Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. Barry also makes me laugh, but in a non-fiction kinda way. It's strange that he and Carl Hiassen are both from Miami, which is one of the least funny places on Earth, unless you count that Versace-Cunanen murder-suicide, which was a scream.
Barry wrote a column about bad songs from the rock era and somehow managed to milk it into a book. I really admire his laziness. According to his survey, the Top Five Worst Songs were:
1. "McArthur Park," by Richard Harris. I strongly disagree. I found this song intriguing; I want to know who left the damn cake out in the rain. Besides, if Richard Harris can hit No. 1, there's still hope for me and every other human being on the planet.
Except Fran Drescher.
2. "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (I've Got Love In My Tummy)," by Ohio Express. This group is not to be confused with the Ohio Players, who sold millions of records, mostly because they always put beautiful naked women on the album covers, usually with honey dripping on their ample bosoms.
"Yummy" was an example of bubble-gum music, an odd weed which managed to sprout in a garden blooming with the likes of the Stones, Credence Clearwater, James Brown and Janis Joplin. The only way to handle this song is to come up with really vulgar ways of envisioning the nature of the "love" that's in the tummy.
3. Paul Anka's "You're Having My Baby." More love in the tummy.
4. "Timothy," by the Buoys. For those of you who missed this one the first time around, it's a lilting little ditty about three guys who get trapped in a cave-in, get real hungry, and when they get rescued, there are only two of them.
ENOUGH with this love in the tummy theme!
The rest of the Top 10 includes stuff like "You Light Up My Life," "Muskrat Love," and "Afternoon Delight." There is absolutely nothing I could say about these three songs which hasn't been said before, often accompanied by small-arms fire.
In my opinion, the absolute worst song of all time, without question, is "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," by Rupert Holmes. This song is so offensive on so many levels, it's like two or three of the worst songs of all time.
First off, let's look at the subject matter. You've got two people living together who want to cheat on each other. That's not surprising, because people who live together, by definition, ain't got enough heart to get married, and so can't be expected to be faithful. My friend Stew says the phrase "Let's live together" really means, "I like having sex with you and I really like saving money on the rent, but I'm not marrying you unless a loaded shotgun is involved."
Then there's the fact that Holmes can't sing. That's a minor thing in the rock era, but it's still a negative. Plus, in the letter he wrote to the paper, he says he likes piña coladas, rain, champagne and the ocean. Sounds like a wussy boy who wants to go back to the womb, preferably drunk.
The song lay dormant for 20 years, but then VH-1 unearthed a video of it, with dorky Holmes wearing Dockers and an untied tie, trying to look dreamy and soulful as he lip-synchs the worst song of all time. It's just a little bit of hell.
It all came to a head a couple weekends back. I was doing that button-pushing thing on the car radio; on Mix-FM they were doing a countdown of the listeners' favorite songs of the '70s. I listened for No. 1. You guessed it: Coming in ahead of "Stayin' Alive" and "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" was "Escape."
I changed the station to Hot 98-FM and what was on but a rap update of "Escape"? In case you've missed this (and count your blessings if you have), the new version is full of dirty language and no imagination. Even with all the filthy lyrics and talk of a menage a trois with a lesbian couple, it's still a boring-ass song.
This must stop. I know there's not much chance of Holmes ever having another hit song, but that's not enough. We have to recall every copy of that record if we are to progress as a species.
As for Holmes, he's still around. He writes jingles and obscure Broadway tunes. He was a songwriter before he grabbed the mike and perpetrated "Escape." He even had a hit or two.
Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives
| © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth