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Sunday, November 12, 2017


What is a memorable song for someone can be annoying to another.  An example that comes to mind is You Light Up My Life by Debby Boone.  Strong cases can be made for both points of view.  

Let's start with the composer, Joe Brooks.  He had Kasey (Kvitka) Cisyk record that song for a film entitled You Light Up My Life, which was lip-synched by lead actress Didi Conn.  Brooks was sexually rebuffed by Cisyk, leading him to hold back payment for this performance, plus not giving her credits, until he lost a long lawsuit.

Debby, daughter of Pat Boone, was then found to use her vocal over the same instrumental film track.  She was a minor actor in the movie (a bridesmaid), with no previous singing experience but was told to mimic that song as close as possible to the Cisyk version, using every inflection.  

The story does get worse.  While Brooks indicated this was a love song, Debby all her life indicated, no, it was God who lit up her life.  Cisyk (right) never made it as a popular singer, but did record the Have You Driven a Ford Lately  commercial.  Note the similarity, with a slight Country Western twang of Cisyk.

And even worse.  In 2009 Brooks was indicted for 91 counts of rape, etc.  While awaiting trial he committed suicide in 2011.  A few months earlier his son had been accused of murdering a swimsuit designer.

On the plus side, You Light Up My life held the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten consecutive weeks in 1977, setting a new record for that time.  Elvis Presley's Don't Be Cruel/Hound Dog combo was at the top for eleven weeks, but that was in 1956, two years before the debut of the Hot 100.  Further, Boone's hit won her a Best New Artist Grammy, while the Cisyk rendition of the song won the Oscar for Best Song in 1978.  Click on both...they sound almost identical.  This was Debby Boone's only hit.  She said she lost count of how many weddings where she sang this song.  Ah, another blog posting for the future:  most popular wedding songs.

So does You Light Up My Life qualify for worse song ever?  RollingStone named it the fourth worst song of the 1970's:
Indeed, Disco Duck qualifies as one of the worst.  Dees, a Memphis disc jockey, said it took him one day to write it as a spoof, but three months to convince anyone to perform it.  Dees is not the duck in the song.

Here is another worst list, this one all-time, with James Blunt's You're Beautiful at #10, Bryan Adams' Everything I Do I Do It For You #7, Los Del Rio's Macarena #6, Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling #3, Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry, Be Happy #2 and Owl City's Fireflies the worst.  That #1 occurred in 2009, and it was so bad I never before heard of it.

Wikipedia, does it right, citing Irwin Chusid (a 37-year DJ for WFMU), Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento, and has a degree in ethnomusicology) and Darryl W. Bullock (in 2013 wrote The World's Worse Records--the paperback came out in 2013 as Volume 2 and the Kindle edition is available for FREE, but Volume 2, 2015, is only available in paperback for $16).  To summarize:
  • Various albums inspired by Elvis Presley and the Beatles were mentioned, with two examples:
    • Elvis' Greatest Shit:  yes, his worst releases, and if you click on that, you will observe side one
    • Two the Hard Way:  a collaboration of Cher and Gregg Allman, so embarrassing that Cher acquired the rights to the album and refused to allow it to be re-released in any form--BUT YOU CAN HEAR THE WHOLE THING BY CLICKING ON THE TITLE
My all-time worst was a two-CD set I purchased in Okinawa.  I went into the shop and there was a communication problem.  In as many ways as possible, for at the time I was collecting Japanese post-World War II records, I asked if there was a compilation of the best Okinawa popular songs of that period.  I paid around $50, and that was 25 years ago.  I came home excited to hear what I bought. The entire set was only a slow dirge, with a few bongs and bangs, of what must have been prehistoric music of early Okinawa.

Which leads to why it is difficult to include classical music in this posting.  There seems to be no consensus, and it goes back to the difficulty of picking universal worsts.  I can't stand many operas, cowboy music, bagpipes and raps and children's songs, but that's me.  I do list Baroque music among my favorites, so this has nothing to do with a fixation on the contemporary.

Anyway, here are my three worsts.  First, #3, William Hung's She Bangs.  This performance was his audition for American Idol, and it was so awful that he was invited back, again and again.  He was at that time a civil engineering major at the University of California at Berkeley.  Later in 2004 he made a Christmas album, and my wife bought it for me as  her gift that year.  I might still have it. He quit his studies to become an entertainer, but gave that up in 2011 to work as a crime analyst in Los Angeles.

#2 is Transfusion by Nervous Norvus (Jimmy Drake, a truck driver), released in 1956 when he was 40.  He died twelve years later.  He actually turned down an Ed Sullivan appearance because he was just too shy.  In case you missed the lyrics, it has to do with a careless driver who cheerfully receives blood transfusions after each of his accidents.  The song was banned from any radio stations in the 50's, and I don't think I ever once heard it played since then, except, maybe on Dr. Demento.

My worst song of all-time is Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen, released in 1963, actually reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song is a blatant copy of the Rivingtons Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow and The Bird's the Word.  The Trashmen were unaware of these origins, were sued for plagiarism, and lost.  Somehow, they made this combination a lot more atrocious.  Absolutely obnoxious.  John Waters has a scene in Pink Flamingos of a man lip-synching his anus to the tune of this song.  If I were you I wouldn't click on that movie, for there is a lot of flatulence.  I recall a radio station only playing this song on their final day of transmission.  Amazingly, Surfin Bird never made any all-time dreadful list.

So, then, what does worst mean, and who really cares anyway.  I actually enjoy my rare encounters with Surfin Bird and You Light Up My Life.


1 comment:

Lenguyen Myhuong said...

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