Good singer, rotten song: 12 inexplicable musical crimes

Today, I’d like to indulge in two of my favorite hobbies: music, and complaining. Specifically, I want to talk about singers who are normally great, good, even excellent . . . until that one song. What the hell were they thinking, with that one song?


We’ll start with some low-hanging fruit: David Bowie’s “The Laughing Gnome”

Ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, hee indeed. My son points out that Bowie was young when he made it. Well, when I was young, I made poo poo in the potty, and that poo poo was a better song than “Laughing Gnome.”


And now for some high-hanging fruit: “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed, 1972

Fight me! It’s a bad song and it sounds bad. When it comes on the radio, I want radio never to have been invented. They will want you to believe that, just under an intentionally deceptive veneer of deftly-sketched urban optimism, this song quietly smolders with despair. But actually, it’s just a dumb little song that doesn’t make sense, sung unpleasantly by someone who has a very particular talent and definitely isn’t using it here. Nice violins, though. Geez. Fight. Me.


Honorable mention: “New York Conversation,” also on Transformer:

I loves me some Lou Reed, but sometimes he needs to stop.


Now back to something we can all agree on: Paul Simon’s inexcusable “Cars Are Cars”

It’s like a Paul Simon song that he forgot to put any Paul Simon in. It’s like when the recipe calls for  heavy cream and you use reconstituted Coffee Mate granules, instead. It’s like when my daughter woke up in the middle of the night because she had thought of the most amazing invention in the world, and it was going to change everything, so she wrote it down and went back to sleep, planning to dominate civilization in the morning. When she woke up, it said “bag of bees.” We’re not sure where all that confidence came in, but mistakes were made, Paul.


Next: I don’t know if Pat Boone counts as a singer who’s normally good and great and fine. I mean, I do know. We all know. Nevertheless, I absolutely had to include “Holy Diver,” one of many gems from his mind bogglingly ill-advised album, In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy:

I chose this one because of the video.


Hey, here’s a steaming hunk of faux-hippie feculence: The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”

What an absolute turd blossom of a song. It’s pure poetic justice that this song has a bland, pointless, pandering American food chain named after it. Ruby Tuesday is the microwaved mozzarella stick of the rock and roll world, and I’m glad that, whenever I think of the Rolling Stones, I think of Ruby Tuesday, because the Rolling Stones are jerks.


How about “Obladi, oblada” by the Beatles?

It’s not actually structurally a terrible song, but why was it made? And what about when Desmond stays at home to do HIS pretty face, eh, eh? Blows your mind, don’nit, you PLEBE? Allegedly, this is the song that made John want out for good.


Honorable Beatles mention: “Run for your life”

Not a bad song musically, but, like many of my peers, I’m over the whole “let’s have another chorus of domestic violence” thing. Pass.

Of course the Beatles also put out a lot of absurdly self-indulgent nonsense toward the end, but they were trying to be terrible and daring you to be so un-stoned that it bothers you, so that doesn’t count. I’m also not including anything by Paul McCartney or John Lennon’s solo careers, because Lennon + McCartney = genius, but  McCartney alone is frosting without a cake, Lennon alone was just a whine in a bottle.


Now for a song that brings out my inner murderer: “My Ding a ling” by Chuck Berry:

I’m going to start my own country just so I can make a law against this song.


And just because I want to make some friends today: “Man in Black” by Johnny Cash.

Every time he says, “I’d like to wear a rainbow everyday!” I shout “NO YOU WOULDN’T!” He wore black because he liked to look awesome and cool and scary, and also very much because it’s harder to see ketchup stains on black. Nothing to do with the poooooor, or the hundred fine young men who died. Please. It’s actually a decent song, of course, because it’s Johnny Cash, but the penetrating, smarmy insincerity of it makes me want to get up and dismantle things with my teeth.


Ready to really suffer? Here’s the execrable “Delilah” by Queen

This song is new to me, and now I feel so envious of my past self. That pulsing synth makes me feel like I’m in a car with a flat tire but there’s nowhere to pull over. I guess it’s about a cat? Why doesn’t that make it better? I am filled with horror.


Finally, here’s a song that, in a just world, would have been taken out and shot: “Dancing in the Street” by Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

Now, I was actually around in 1985, and I remember how everything came ready-made with that “destined for a cheap car commercial” sound to it, but this song manages to stink so much harder than the rest because of how effortlessly these two shucked off their talent and integrity in favor of floppy clothes and loathsome hair. Oh my gosh, those prancing sneakers. Oh my gosh. There should have been a machine gun at the end, just as a palate cleanser.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a little bit of cosmic justice. Oh, internets.

How I wish every song on this list got the same treatment. Then I could die happy.

Now tell me what this list is missing, and how wrong I am about Perfect Day, and also how the tone of this post has you concerned about all my secret cancer.

Zero Foolproof Gift Ideas for the Man You Claim to Love; or, Simply Having a Wonderful Chickentime

Is it my imagination, or is the Catholic internet just bristling with lists of gift ideas for men this year?

Are there suggestion lists like this for women’s gifts?  Is it my silly little lady imagination going all kookie again, or is it actually fairly easy to buy presents for women?  Of course it’s  possible to go astray, but most women will tell you exactly what they want, if you ask them.  Then what you do is you go out and buy or make or get or do that, and then either add an unexpected upgrade, or add something a little extra to show that you like buying stuff for her (which you don’t, but shut up, it’s Christmas).  It’s pretty easy.

But buying presents for men is quite another thing.

This may be women’s fault.  It’s possible that men will also just tell us what they want, and we should buy or make or get or do that, and then also some beer, and everything would be fine.  It’s possible.  But women do not like to do things the easy way, because we want to show our husbands that we care.  We want to put some deep thought into our gifts.  We want it to be a gift that only we, alone in the world, would have the insight and creative intuition to give to him.

Which is what leads us to give our husbands such terrible, terrible gifts.

Now, I tried to do a little research into the fascinating field of “Terrible Gifts My Wife Once Gave Me,” and the results were far from illuminating.  93% of male respondents outright refused to answer, citing the right against self-incrimination, the Geneva convention, the Gettysburg Address, and “HEY, LOOK,  A FLYING CHICKEN!” and then they ran away.  The other 19% simply smiled mutely, pulled out the combination corkscrew, tire gauge, and boar’s bristle shaving brushes that their wives thought they would want for some reason, and fatally stabbed themselves, whispering through faintly smiling lips as they died, “I didn’t talk . . . “

And one guy said, “Well, ha ha, one time she gave me this stupid little–” and the other 99% screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and tackled him, giving him the greatest gift of all:  a traumatic brain injury that rendered him unconscious until after Epiphany.

So, since all the men are too chicken to talk about it, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about gifts for men.

1.  They do not want a heating pad from the drug store.

Let me explain.  This was our first Christmas as a married couple, and we were still learning about each other, and didn’t even yet realize just how radically different were our ideas about — well, a lot of things.  Also, we were broke, and I didn’t have a car or a debit card, so I could only shop at places that were within walking distance of our cruddy little city apartment.  (To my credit, I never even considered doing my Christmas shopping at the only other nearby store, Jesus Grocery.)

At the time, my husband suffered terribly and repeatedly from crippling sinus headaches caused by bad teeth that we couldn’t afford to get pulled.  All I could think about was that I wished his head didn’t hurt so much.  Then I saw this awesome device where you bathe your entire head in this chamber of therapeutic,  head-clearing steam.  It looked great!  But it was too expensive.  I considered a neti pot, but even I knew enough to realize that he was not a fancy enough man to enjoy tea, or even if it’s, you know,  nose tea.  Or whatever that neti thing is.

At this point, I was getting confused.  I was pregnant, it was a cold and slushy winter, my boots leaked, my nose was running, and I think they were playing “Wonderful Christmastime.”   My head was whirling and pounding as I searched the shelves, rejecting one idea after another, getting more and more panicked, feeling less and less certain about life, the universe, nosey pots, and everything.  What could I get?  What could I possibly get, that would be a good use of our precious spending cash, but would be thoughtful, and a surprise, and would convey love and tenderness, and would make him weep with delight, despite not being a fancy man, when he opened the package?

And then I saw it:  a heating pad.  Right in my price range, just as good as a sinus steam machine — even better!  He could use it on his bad back, too!  Absolutely perfect!  The gift of a lifetime, and did I mention, right in my price range!  Indeed, itwas a wonderful Christmas time!

You see, to me, this present said, “My dear, I wish for you all good things, including health and happiness and ease.  I wish I could wave a magic wand and make your troubles disappear; but, in our sweet and simple poverty, all that I can offer is this simple heating pad–and may it bring you some warmth and relief, and its radiant presence reminded you ever of the warmth and love of my womanly heart, which belongs, my dearest dear, to you.”

To him, it said, “Here, stick this on your head, you smelly old cripple.”

So, that was no good.

2.  He does not want something you found at the dump.

Not really much else to say about this.

3.  I guess you could just ask him what he wants for Christmas, and if it’s not illegal, you could give it to him.



(This post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2012.)