My Top Ten Most Annoying Hit Songs Ever
Songs that drive you crazy
We all have songs that annoy us every time we hear them, whether it's because of an endlessly irritating drumtrack or lyrics that offend us or just make no sense. Sometimes I love the song, but only until the annoying lyric filters through to my brain. Then I can't listen without noticing it. I've compiled a list of songs which offend my own ears the most; some of them might surprise you, but I assure you that to me they are the musical equivalent of chalk on a blackboard. So, in no particular order .....
1. Peggy Lee - Is That All There Is? (1969)
In the 1960's Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote this song, which some call “existential” and “world-weary”. The singer relates events both tragic and magical, from her family's house burning down when she was a little girl, to seeing the circus, to falling in love for the first time. Her response to each of life’s most dramatic and wondrous experiences is a bored shrug, and the complaint, “Is that all there is?” As a hymn to negativity, this stands unchallenged. The character featured in the song is the kind of person who, if privileged to witness the Second Coming of Christ, would complain about there being too many re-runs
2. Charlene - “I’ve been to Paradise, but I’ve never been to me” (1982)
After having a hit with this song, Charlene disappeared from sight without revealing her last name. Maybe she feared repercussions from the feminist lobby. In this song she brags about being “undressed by kings” (note the plural) and “sipping champagne on a yacht” as if being a rich man's tart is the summit of every female fantasy. Now she’s wishing she’d been an average housewife and gone to Wal-Mart instead. If only her idea of Paradise wasn't simply being the biggest floozie in the biggest Jacuzzi.
3. Des'ree - Life (1998)
Rhyming “I’ve never seen a ghost” with “I’d rather have a piece of toast” has brought British soul singer Des’ree her fair share of ridicule. It also brought her a hit song. But just imagine how all those jobbing songwriters must have felt, who have churned out song after song with perfectly reasonable lyrics without ever achieving a major hit. Picture them watching in white-knuckled exasperation as a song with lyrics as inane as this floated up the charts. It must have seemed like proof there was no justice in the world.
4. Bobbie Gentry - Ode to Billy-Joe (1967)
Sixties music lovers were galvanized by the tragedy at Stockton Ridge, when Billy-Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. It is mentioned in passing that the singer (or someone who looked just like her) was seen the previous day with the deceased on the Tallahatchie Bridge, throwing something off it. This is the annoying part. You never find out what they were throwing off that bridge. It had to be something important for Billy Joe to throw himself in after it, but what was it? An engagement ring? A winning lotto ticket? His paycheck? His motorcycle? His grandma? We never find out what it was, so we never find out why he jumped. An entire generation has spent decades wondering why Billy Joe McAllister jumped off that darned bridge.
5. Rolf Harris - Two Little Boys (1969)
Two little boys, Jack and Joe, play on toy horses. Jack's horse breaks and Joe insists on sharing his own horse with him. What a sweetie. Leap ahead 20 years - it's wartime. Joe lies dying on the battlefield. As his life flashes before his eyes, up pops Jack and insists on sharing his horse. The moral is: kids, share your toys - it could pay off one day.
It’s not that I object to sentimentality laid on with a trowel (note I haven’t even included “Sonny Boy” in this list) but I deplore the fact that no one is remotely bothered about those horses. Joe's horse doesn't even get a mention, while Jack's is forced to trudge over a corpse-strewn battlefield with two grown men on its back. Yet neither gets even a sad note on a didgeridoo from animal-loving Aussie Rolf. If it was up to me, there would be a further verse in which both former little boys were prosecuted by the SPCA.
6. Donovan - Mellow Yellow (1966)
This song refers to a craze in the sixties for making some sort of mind-altering substance from bananas. It was known as “electrical banana”. You didn’t actually smoke the banana like a large bent yellow cigar, but had to navigate through some very complicated and long-drawn out preparation process which involved slow-cooking bananas, including the skins, in the oven and grinding them up into a stringy powdery mess, which you had to somehow roll into cigarettes. The few who, after hearing the song, tried this “craze” (I put the word in inverted commas as I never met anyone who had even heard of it other than in the song) reported it did absolutely nothing at all for them, and was just a waste of good fruit. It really was bananas.
7. Gary Glitter - I'm the Leader of the Gang, I Am (1973)
This is the only song that annoys me for reasons not intrinsic to the song itself. This song was very popular in Britain after it came out in the 70’s. The chorus, with its "D'yer wanna be in my gang?" refrain, was so easy to sing, it proved particularly popular with groups of friends emerging from pubs late at night, who would lurch and sway down the road as one, arms linked around one another’s shoulders, regaling the sleeping world with it at the tops of their voices. It was almost the National Anthem. However, a whole new slant on the lyrics emerged when Mr Glitter was exposed as a pedophile who had invited a number of under-aged girls to be in his gang, from Britain to Bangkok. Suddenly, no one wanted to join Gary’s gang any more.
8. Marti Webb - Tell Me on a Sunday (1980)
If you knew for certain your partner was about to dump you, what would you do? In these poignant lyrics by Don Black, this obliging female not only tells the guy just when he should dump her but even gives him a choice of venue.
All of the venues had to rhyme with “please”. So, she first reasonably chooses somewhere covered in trees, and then asks to be dumped in a zoo where they’ve got chimpanzees. This request has always struck me as rather perverse. Why chimpanzees? Are they particularly sympathetic in such situations?
But I can't criticize Don Black. Compared to other activities rhyming with please, visiting chimpanzees probably seemed the most interesting option. What’s really annoying is the fact that she’s a doormat. Have some self-respect, girl, dump him on Saturday. Better still, Friday night.
9. Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man (1968)
This celebration of redneck marriage has almost a sacred status, but I have to admit the lyric leaves me a little non-plussed. For instance, “You’ll have bad times, and he'll have good times, doing things that you don’t understand.” What can this guy be doing? Are he and his buddies contemplating the latest developments in superstring theory, or chewing the fat over the thematic subtlety of the French art film? She should count herself lucky she's not married to some beer-swilling, gambling, fighting, woman-chasing oaf. That's something she certainly would understand.
“But if you love him, you’ll forgive him.” She hasn’t told us what he’s done - but forgive him anyway. The implication is that a lower standard of behavior must be expected from the male of the species. She should even be proud of him if he's a drunken sot because “after all, he’s just a man.” In other words, he may behave like a pig, but he can’t help it. If I were a man, I would join the Men’s Liberation Movement on the basis of this lyric alone.
10. Neil Diamond - I Am ... I Said (1971)
I’m a big fan of Neil Diamond, so I feel a degree of guilt in including him here - but not too much. The song is brilliant, but it includes this lyric: “I am I cried, to no-one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair.”
The chair, Neil? The chair!!! But it is the words “not even” that make it stand out. That “not even” the chair hears him, suggests that the chair could normally be relied upon to listen. Even if the kitchen table wasn’t interested and the dresser was turning a deaf ear, he could trust the chair to give him its full attention. I’ve seen chairs with arms and legs, chairs with backs and sides and even chairs with wings, but I’ve never in my life seen chairs with ears.
I have to admit I don’t really hate these songs, with the possible exception of the first one. They were all huge hits and have hordes of fans. Some of them I actually enjoy listening to and can admire the talent of the writers. But there is something in each one that gets my goat. Feel free to use the comments box below to note the songs that have the same effect on you. Or if you have enough of them, write your own hub. I'd love to know.