Top Ten Songs I Hate Off Albums I Love
guess it’s generally accepted that your top ten, or at least five, all time favourite records are going to be pretty much blemish-free, right? Looking at my most recently re-assessed top seven (I got distracted before eight, nine and ten, okay? It was probably dinnertime), I’d say that’s a fair enough assumption. Marquee Moon? Grade-A flawless. The Darkness’ Permission To Land? Okay, so there were some tracks that I didn’t immediately love, but they’ve been (cringe) growing on me. 1984? Check. Power Age, Greatest KISS? Check 1-2. But, uh oh, then there’s Rumours. I lovelovelove this album, but watch me leap for the skip function or the needle arm when “Oh Daddy” starts up. And then there’s Houses Of The Holy; I’ve only recently come to dislike “D’yer Mak’er”. I mean, I used to love it when I was 14, but I also used to love wearing big t-shirts with stirrup pants and jelly sandals with socks.
There’s something about those singularly bad tracks on favourite albums that simultaneously makes the rest of the record seem even more fabulous and makes the dud eminently deplorable. In the end though, it’s not an easy, rock critical, good/bad, right/wrong argument. Some people love “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” just as much as some people might hate “Meet Me In The Morning”. It’s a deeply personal thing, a gut reaction, and of course one that opens me to bad- and good-natured flamings from friends and colleagues. They range from, “Really? I prefer to hate ‘Octopuses Garden’” to, “I can’t believe you don’t like that song! I think I’m going to have to re-evaluate our friendship, Clem.” God knows most of the songs I’ve saved my hatred for are generally well-produced, snappily written and ably performed, most of them by artists I admire, and definitely all from albums I’d count as favourites.
So, get out your stopwatch and prepare to time me as I race to skip past… The Top Ten Songs I Hate Off Albums I Love.
10. Britney Spears – “The Hook Up” (from In The Zone)
I enjoyed In The Zone much more than I expected. From the sublime pop of “Brave New Girl” and “Toxic” to the jackdawish “(I Got That) Boom Boom” and Rishi Rich’s mental reworking of “Me Against The Music”, it’s all gold. Well, almost all gold. “The Hook Up” is definitely the least successful of any mainstream appropriations of cult or ethnic musical styles (in this case, dancehall). Made more enervating as it follows the Vaughan Williams-esque “Touch Of My Hand”, “The Hook Up” is a ghastlily exploitative number, full of “riddims” and stuttering ska beats. It reaches its nadir when Britney garbles, in some dumb, accented pidgin speak, “One time, two time, three time/We go”. Oh, daylight come and me wanna go home.
9. Missy Elliott – “Pussycat” (from Under Construction)
Now, I’m as right on as any sister when it comes to vaginal awareness, but there’s something about the gloopy R&B; of “Pussycat” that just makes me think… ew. Besides that, it’s just not convincing—you just know a woman like Missy probably does her pelvic floor exercises and has a pussy that would probably sing “Hello My Baby!” if given the chance. “Pussycat”, however, is so sloppy and tiresome that Canesten could sign it up as a new theme song for 3-day thrush treatment.
8. Daryl Somers – “Sing” (from Keep Smiling With Daryl & Ossie)
As one of a few albums assembled by the then still vital Hey Hey It’s Saturday team (Daryl and Ossie, with silly voices by John Blackman and sound effects by Murray Tregonning), Keep Smiling… remains a sentimental favourite of mine—though its appeal goes way beyond pure nostalgia. The hilariously un-PC “Pirate’s Treasure” ‘radio play’ still makes me laugh just as hard as anything SNL or The Goodies produced. BUT (and, as you’ll notice throughout this column, there’s always a but) “Sing” is just cringeworthy. Sure, it’s a nice enough ‘70s MOR song, but there’s something in Daryl’s gravity-laced performance (like The Goodies’ Bill Oddie, he always seemed to take musical episodes a little too seriously, dreaming of pop stardom) that just irks. Add to that a children’s choir and you get a pretty smug confection indeed.
7. Warren Zevon – “Join Me In L.A” (from Warren Zevon)
I love Warren Zevon, and his eponymous 1976 album was instrumental in sowing the seeds of my appreciation of music. From the Appalachian “Frank And Jesse James” up to the exploration of Zevon’s modern condition, “Desperados Under The Eaves” (which echoes the opening track’s instrumental introduction), the album is a thrilling, moving journey. Unfortunately, as with Britney’s In The Zone, Zevon’s stinker comes sandwiched between two killers, “Carmelita” and “Desperados…” The culprit is the cocktail bar jazz/funk of “Join Me In L.A”. Witty discourse on the City Of Angels’ hollow heart or not, it seems transplanted from another album. Zevon sounds bored and the saxophone solos and wailing backing vocals from Bonnie Raitt and Rosemary Butler are all too mid-period Eagles with a sprinkling of Billy Joel. Still, at least it’s reassuring to know that even Zevon could lay a turkey.
6. Led Zeppelin – “D’yer Maker” (from Houses Of The Holy)
Discussing the merits of “D’yer Mak’er” during a recent family afternoon tea, my Mum protested that it was great because “no one else was doing reggae back then!” My sister rebutted with, “um, nobody except all the reggae artists back then”. Politics of dancing aside, “D’yer Mak’er” is just silly!
5. Fountains Of Wayne – “Peace And Love” (from Welcome Interstate Managers)
Fountains Of Wayne walk a fine, fine line between celebration and reinterpretation, and pastiche. Mostly they keep themselves on the safe side, so that even though a song like “Stacy’s Mom” is clearly an homage to The Cars or Rick Springfield, it stays fresh and funny enough to make you forget the tribute. Sometimes, though, they topple into the terrible abyss of pastiche. “Peace And Love” is a terrible take on soppy sunshine pop of the Donovan ilk, and while it’s not the only out and out pastiche on the album (the country and western “Hung Up On You” is still, at its heart, a good song), its twee lyrics smack of middle-class, middle-aged solipsism—and apart from that, they’re just annoying. What’s worse is that it gives denouncers of Fountains Of Wayne’s music an easy key to dismiss the rest of the album.
4. The Beatles – “Her Majesty” (from Abbey Road)
An obvious choice? Maybe, but “Her Majesty” really makes my blood boil. It’s the smug audacity of this song that really annoys the most; forget the dinky guitar and cutesy lyrics. “Wanna tell her that I love her a lot/But I gotta get a bellyful of wine”? You just trumpeted it from an album that sold 12 million copies in the USA ALONE!
3. Ed Wynn, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke – “I Love To Laugh” (from Mary Poppins: Original Cast Soundtrack)
Even when I was four and watching Mary Poppins on video, I hated this song. They say children can see through lies, and this song’s “hilarity” is no exception. We didn’t have a remote control, so I just willed the bloody machine to go faster and get through this terrible scourge. Now, I’ve got the soundtrack on vinyl and it still taints track one of side two—and the degree to which I cherish the rest of the songs makes “I Love To Laugh” all the worse. It’s a profoundly depressing song. Wynn and Van Dyke’s terrible forced laughter is less inspiring of merriment as it is rabid and indiscriminate violence.
2. Fleetwood Mac – “Oh Daddy” (from Rumours)
Noooo! A ponderous, whinging monster of an epic, wet and self conscious, a self-indulgent moanfest… there are so many ways to describe the song that leaves Rumours as only 99% perfect. From the sluggish momentum to Christine McVie’s sooky la la vocal “performance”, “Oh Daddy” is a dreadful song. On top of that is the distinctly creepy vibe that lines like “Everything you do is just alright/And I can't walk away from you, baby/Even if I tried” add to the song – “baby”?! Eurgh…
1. Bob Dylan – “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” (from Blood On The Tracks)
Of all the songs on this list, this is the one that sends me flying towards the needle arm on the record player. I’ll knock aside a Ming vase, my grandmother or a $1 million novelty cheque if it means I’ll save myself from even seconds of “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts”. Compared to Dylan’s catalogue, it’s certainly not his worst work, but sitting amongst such precious and extraordinary love/life songs as “You’re A Big Girl Now” and “Shelter From The Storm”, its jaunty flippancy is despicable.