Now, we’re beginning our journey through the 60s and we start with one of the most boring years in pop music history. 1960 was a chore to sit through. The 50s have not truly ended by this point and let me remind you that the 50s is my least favorite decade for popular music. You have rock & roll, pop, country, soul, doo-wop, big band, and a shit ton of ballads. This was one of my least favorite years in popular music and counting down the worst that it had to offer was a difficult task, but someone has to do it. So let’s get started.
If Pat Boone was a woman, I believe that he would be Anita Bryant. Like Boone, Anita Bryant is a stereotypical white Christian conservative and her music is just as bad. Only thing she didn’t do is cover songs from black artists. Her biggest hit was called Paper Roses, which is an apt name because this song is bland like a blank sheet of paper. The instrumentation is duller than a used No. 2 pencil and the writing revolves on a paper-thin story of a guy who doesn’t love someone. Anita Bryant doesn’t bring any sense of emotional investment to the song, this sounds more like someone phoning it in for a check. 13 years later, Marie Osmond did a cover to this song because of course. This is unrelated, but Anita is also a major homophobe, spending most of the 70s campaigning against LBGT+ rights which killed her career. Couldn’t have happened to a better person.
Another big trend of the late 50s and early 60s were the teen tragedy songs. Basically, these songs revolve around dead teenagers. You read that right: dead teenagers. As you can guess, the times weren’t that cheerful. Well, let’s look at one of those songs, Mark Dinning’s Teen Angel. Dreary production aside, it’s the story of a young couple who go out on a drive when suddenly, their car stops working and they’re stuck on train tracks. And wouldn’t you know it, a train is approaching. They both get out, but the girl goes back to the car and… well, you can figure that out. When they find her body, it turned out that she went back for a high school class ring. Seriously. Not to make light of something like death, but no ring is worth getting hit by a train over. Just go get a new one. They’re probably cheap back in those days, right?
There was a lot of teen idols in the 50s and 60s. The number of teen idols at the time probably rivals that of the late 90s and 2000s. One of those teen idols is Frankie Avalon, who makes the list for Why, which perfectly sums up his music catalog. The production and instrumentation is safe, cookie-cutter crap and the writing gave us another generic love song that’s disgustingly saccharine. Not helping is Frankie Avalon’s fragile performance that’s supposed to sound romantic, but is just lame. Also, this.
I’ll never let you go
Why? Because I love you
I’ll always love you so
Why? Because you love me
There was a lot of songs like this in this time and artists like Frankie were part of the reason why.
Remember back in my Worst of ’72 list when I talked about Donny Osmond’s Puppy Love? Well, like I said back then, it was a cover to the Paul Anka song of the same title. Many of the things I’ve said about Osmond’s version applies to the original: sappy instrumentation, Paul Anka’s weak ass voice, and the lyrics. With a title like Puppy Love, you know what to expect. It’s a teenybopper love song with all of the sugarcoated sappiness that comes with it. Is it really a surprise that Donny covered this song 12 years later?
A friend of mine on Twitter said that music has always had a disposable nature to it and they were right. Anyone talking about music today sounding monotonous, have them go through the year-end lists of the 50s and 60s and see if they have that same tone. You’re going to hear a lot of songs that sound like Forever by The Little Dippers. The slow, grainy instrumentation, the poor mixing even for the times, and undercooked lyrics. Seriously, these are the only lyrics of the song.
Hold me, kiss me,
That you love me
Hold me, kiss me,
That you love me
Forever, huh? Okay. I wouldn’t even have a problem with this if the music was interesting, but this shit shit sounds like a lullaby. It pretty much is old people music and I’m going to pass on this big time.
Here’s two songs that suck for different reasons and they’re both from Johnny Preston. First, we have Running Bear, which was written by J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, who died in the same plane crash that took Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens’ life. It’s another teen tragedy song revolving two Native American teenagers from rival tribes falling in love and it plays out a bit like Romeo & Juliet, ending with both of them drowning in the river that separates the tribe. Yep. A white guy singing about Native American people. And it goes as well as you’d expect. Throughout the song, there’s chanting that I’m pretty sure is fake. Preston’s other big hit in 1960 is Cradle Of Love, which incorporates nursery rhymes into its lyrics and none of them mesh together well. It also generates some ugly implications in terms of what you do in bed. Note to songwriters: if your song lyrics could be unintentionally recited by kindergartners, you need to start over ASAP.
You know this song. We all do. It’s been used in movies and commercials. Brian Hyland’s Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. I should’ve phrased that better because now, there’s the mental image of the dude above wearing that exact outfit. Anyways, the song. It’s about a shy girl who’s at the beach wearing a yellow polka dot bikini and she’s too embarrassed to show it off, so she resorts to hiding in the locker room, covering herself up in a blanket, and when she goes into the ocean, she stays there in fear of coming out. I’d understand if she has self-esteem issues about how she looks and I’d understand if this was back when people were more conservative, but she does know that she doesn’t have to wear that kind of bikini, right? But more importantly, Hyland sounds like a creep. He sees this poor girl who has very little confidence and all he’s focused on is her swimwear. As a matter of fact, how does he know what she was wearing? Every time I question this song, I unravel more disturbing implications. This shit is wack, end of story. Next.
I don’t know if this is a spoiler or not, but the Top 3 songs on this list triggers a heavily negative response from me. Let’s look at Let The Little Girl Dance by Billy Bland. On the surface, this seems like just another rock & roll song with some R&B influences and it’s about a girl who wants to dance. Let me rephrase that: a little girl who wants to dance. Little girl. Maybe it was just the times, but there’s two ways that this could be interpreted: either she’s the same height as Peter Dinklage or the worst option, she’s underage. Maybe I’m reading too much into this. After all, it is just dancing. But then again, it could lead to something else along the lines. Let’s just move on.
You want to hear something disturbing? No? Well, too bad because you’re going to suffer with me as we look at Kiddio by Brook Benton. This song has no pedophilic connotations thankfully, but it has something just as disturbing: verbal abuse. If you don’t believe me, then look at these lines.
A-won’tcha say yes? Don’tcha say no
Make me feel good, kiddio
Say yes, don’t say no. Wow. Talk about being used to getting what you want. This whole song reads as a look into the mind of an abusive, controlling spouse. This is the type of dude who thinks women’s only purpose is making him a sandwich and sex. No woman should be with this dude. Can’t believe the shit that they let fly back then. And there’s only one song that’s worse.
And now, here are some dishonorable mentions
- Steve Lawrence-Pretty Blue Eyes
- Freddy Cannon-Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
- Larry Verne-Mr. Custer
- Bobby Vee-Devil Or Angel
- The Four Preps-Down By The Station
- Ray Peterson-Tell Laura I Love Her
- Neil Sedaka-Stairway To Heaven
- Skip & Flip-Cherry Pie
- Joe Jones-You Talk Too Much
- Anita Bryant-My Little Corner Of The World
And finally, the worst song of 1960 IS………..
Oh, great. Here’s another song that revolves around little girls and it’s bluntly called Little Bitty Girl by Bobby Rydell. Seriously, what is with these songs and their obsession with little girls? And this one’s even worse than Let The Little Girl Dance because we have Bobby Rydell explicitly tell us that he’s searching for a little bitty girl. How did no one think about how this would sound? This sounds like something R. Kelly would say while on tour. The innocent-sounding production only makes this song even creepier. Parents, guardians, keep an eye on your kids when this dude is around. Congratulations to Little Bitty Girl for being the worst song of 1960.
And those were the worst songs of 1960. In two weeks, BACK TO THE 60s continues with the Worst Songs of 1961.
SONG OF THE WEEK
Crazy Classic Life-Janelle Monae