A couple of years ago I did a piece for REBEAT called “Week-By-Week Proof That 1974 Was the Worst Year in the History of Modern Music” in which I made the claim that 1974 was the worst year in popular music based solely on the #1 songs that year.
Then, recently, I wrote its counterpart, “Week-By-Week Proof That 1967 Was the Best Year in the History of Modern Music,” which was likewise based on #1 songs that made the Billboard pop charts in 1967. But among the many things I learned while doing those articles, two conclusions stood out:
- There was a lot of really bad music that made the Top 40, maybe far more than I ever imagined, and as you’d expect, they weren’t all #1 songs
- It’s a lot more fun to write about bad music than it is to write about good music
As for the first statement, I realize that what constitutes bad music and good music is all subjective and, therefore, arguable, and maybe that’s what makes doing this so much fun. I clearly realize that just because I don’t like a song that it’s a terrible song. I don’t believe that for a moment.
As for the second statement, writing that 1967 article was really boring! I found it interesting that so many great recordings by so many legendary groups went to #1 that year, but at the end of the day, it was kind of ho-hum to write about and not much fun at all. Maybe it’s just more fun to make snarky comments about bad music than it is to sing the praises of the good stuff. It certainly seems that way to me.
Anyway, where all this is going is to say that I’d like to present you with a new feature where each month, I’ll look at some of the musical low-lights for a focus year. The only rule for inclusion is that the song had to make the Billboard pop Top 40, which, like it or not, during the REBEAT years was the standard for chart success and a barometer of tastes in popular music.
My intent is to look at five pretty obvious songs, and a sixth that may not be so obvious. I’ll explain that later, but the fact is that, although I’ll only do a half dozen songs a month, I could easily do more. I learned that doing this month’s list, and don’t be surprised to see “1972, part II” (or even III) somewhere down the road!
Finally, let me also add that I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion here, just providing a list of some particularly dreadful chart hits from the year I’ll feature each month. As I said above it’s arguable, so don’t take offense: as I wrote in the article about 1974’s music, “someone bought those 11 million copies of “Kung Fu Fighting” that sold worldwide” after all!
That brings us to “The Year in Schmaltzy, Crappy, Cringe-Inducing Music, 1972.”
Let me lead off by apologizing to 1974. While I realize that my calling it the worst year in popular music probably still holds true based on my criteria judging each year by bad #1 songs, had I based it on Top 40 records in general I have a pretty strong feeling 1972, and not 1974, would have come out on top (or bottom – depending on how you look at it). There were so many bad songs released that year that narrowing it down to just six was a challenge. So here, for your listening displeasure, are five really bad songs from the year 1972 in order of their peak chart positions, followed by one that that may be a surprise selection.
“The Candy Man,“ Sammy Davis Jr (Billboard #1)
“The Candy Man” was a song that first appeared in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, and Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. recorded it later that year backed by the vocal “stylings” of the Mike Curb Congregation, whom we’ll see again on this list. The story behind this is that Mike Curb, the new head of MGM records, really liked the song and wanted Sammy Davis Jr. to record it. That was an interesting choice, because even in 1972, Davis was close to being yesterday’s news, having had just three Top 40 songs in the 50s and four in the 60s. But Mike Curb had his mind set on having Davis sing it.
Davis did not like the idea from the get-go. In his autobiography, Davis claimed he wasn’t sure about Curb and he told his manager “that cat’s square, white bread,” but he was convinced to record for Curb for the other considerations it would bring Davis professionally. Davis really didn’t like the song, saying “It’s horrible,” and after recording it he didn’t feel any better about it either, saying “This record is going straight into the toilet. Not just around the rim but into the bowl, and it may just pull my whole career down with it.” In what was apparently a surprise to everyone except Mike Curb, the song went to #1 and spent three weeks at the top of the charts.
It’s hard to generate much enthusiasm for a song a person was forced to record and then didn’t care for at all afterwards, but of course that wasn’t general knowledge in 1972. But you don’t have to know the back story to know this is a corny mess of a song, and one that has not held an audience outside of children in the years since.
“Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” Wayne Newton (Billboard #4)
Like Sammy Davis Jr., Wayne Newton may be well known to many of our readers more so as a showbiz personality rather than a recording artist. He had two Top 40 chart records in the ’60s, this one in the ’70s, and one in 1980. More people today probably know him from the use of “Danke Schoen” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Compared to “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” “Danke Schoen” sounds like “Helter Skelter.” The lyrics say it all:
If only for the sake of my sweet daughter
I just had to turn back home right there and then
And try to start a new life with the mother of my child
I couldn’t bear to hear those words again
She cried and said
Daddy, don’t you walk so fast
(My daughter cried)
Daddy, don’t you walk so fast
Daddy, slow down some ’cause you’re makin’ me run
Daddy, don’t you walk so fast
Ugh. Just listening to this song makes me afraid I’m going to develop that “old-people smell” in less than two and a half minutes. Anything more I want to say about this record would be censored, so I’ll leave it at that.
“Convention 72,” The Delegates (Billboard #8)
Believe it or not, there was a time when songs like this were pretty popular, and in fact a couple of years ago George Brandon did a piece in REBEAT on the art of the “Break In” record as they were called. What this meant is that some kind of novelty concept would be established (in this case a political convention in 1972), and, when asked questions, the responders would answer with snippets from popular songs. Although to the record’s credit it does sample (a term that was not in use in 1972) a couple of good songs by groups such as the Bee Gees, Three Dog Night, and the O’Jays, most of the sampled music is bad as the premise behind the song itself, including Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” (a song you’ll see on the write-up for 1971) “Troglodyte” by the Jimmy Castor Bunch (a song which would have made this list if I’d done even 10 songs), and “The Candy Man,” which we’ve already addressed.
Shockingly, this song made the Billboard Top 10. Now I can admit when I was a little kid I thought this type of song was cool, but “little kids” generally aren’t record buyers. So who bought this thing to listen to at home? The Billboard Top 40 charts were based on singles sales, but how many times could you listen to something like this? You couldn’t sing to it, couldn’t dance to it, so I’ve always been mystified that this record sold in numbers sufficient to put it in the Top 10. To each his own I suppose.
“Daisy a Day,” Judd Strunk (Billboard #14)
Banjo-playing Jud Strunk had the perfect name for someone who would create a song like this — and that’s not a compliment. As a song about a loving couple who grow old together before one dies and the other makes daily visits to the grave, it’s a depressing exercise in sentimentality that my grandmother would have liked, because it’s hard to believe it would appealed to anyone under the age of 65. But apparently it did.
There are a lot of “worst hits of the ’70s” lists out there, and I’m always surprised that this song isn’t on those lists more often. Maybe it’s because it flew under the radar, perhaps failing to inspire more venom at a middle-of-the-road peak position of #14. But it is a bad, bad song. Corny, treacly, with a homespun aw-shucks attitude that seems as if it was written challenging you to hate it because of its wholesomeness. Challenge accepted.
“Long Haired Lover from Liverpool,” Little Jimmy Osmond (Billboard #38)
I hope the Mike Curb Congregation was well-paid for their work in 1972, because this is the second horrible song on this list they had a hand in as backup singers. “Little Jimmy” Osmond was the goofy-looking younger sibling of the Osmond Brothers, a family group at the top of their game in 1972, having collectively and with Donny singing solo scored a dozen Top 40 hits in 1971 and 1972. They tried to shoehorn “Little Jimmy” in on the back of that fame as a solo artist, but mercifully this low-charting dud would be his only contribution to the charts.
Make no mistake about it – there is nothing good about this song. It might have made more sense if released in the mid-60s when Beatlemania was in full swing, but it never would have been a good song. Not in the ’60s, not in the ’70s, and not now.
If you haven’t figured out there was a lot of bad music that charted in 1972, “Long Haired Lover” should “seal the deal” as they say. But my bonus pick is a little different, in that it is a song by a rock and roll icon, one of the most important figures in rock and roll.
“My Ding a Ling,” Chuck Berry (Billboard #1).
I don’t know what’s more tragic: the fact that one of the greatest innovators in rock and roll history, the man who brought us classics such as “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelline,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “No Particular Place to Go,” and many, many more, did this song at all, or the fact that it was his only #1. By the time Chuck Berry recorded his cover version of this song, which had originally been recorded in 1952 by Dave Bartholomew, he’d had roughly two dozen Top 100 hits. Bartholomew’s version, which was later covered and updated by the Bees in 1954, was one of those racy double entendre hits that I’ve chronicled in REBEAT several times. But here’s the thing: I guess I think this is a bad song because its kind of juvenile, and really seems beneath Berry – if that makes sense. To me it’s kind of like if John Lennon had recorded “Rhinestone Cowboy” or if The Rolling Stones had covered “Muskrat Love.”
I’m guessing this will be the selection on this list most people will disagree with, because it’s a “fun” song. But recording crappy stuff late in his career really damaged Elvis’s reputation in the eyes of many people, and I guess I think this is a bad song because I feel like Berry was better than this. But better than this or not, it was a big hit, and as I said it was his only #1. So, in a commercial sense I guess he knew what he was doing.
I suppose what you can take away from this month’s list is that a lot of senior citizens and a lot of kids bought a lot of records in 1972. But moving forward, a lot of the years ahead and behind don’t fare much better. Until next time.