1961 isn’t as bad as 1960, but it’s another dull year in popular music. Most of the same trends are still present. I wish I had more to say with this preamble, but this time period is not giving me much to work with. The late 50s to early 60s are a wasteland of mostly mediocre, forgettable songs. Let’s just start the list.
Remember The Twist by Chubby Checker? Of course, you do. In the early 60s, the twist was a dance craze that swept the entire nation and gave Chubby Checker his first big hit. Well, he decide to try and recapture lightning in a bottle and made Let’s Twist Again. Let’s get this out the way: it’s just The Twist part 2. Like an underwhelming sequel to a movie, it basically copy-pasted everything from the original and didn’t put any effort to make it stand out on its own. I betcha the creative process (if there was any) behind this song was like, “let’s just do the same thing again.” And the worst part? This won’t be the last time Chubby Checker would do this. More on that in the next list.
Let’s talk spirituals. For those who don’t know, spirituals are songs sung by black people back during slavery times that combined the Christian faith with the hardships of slavery. Even when stripped of their indigenous culture and identity, black people have always been connected through music. What if a folk band consisting of a bunch of white dudes did a cover to one of those spirituals? Well, that’s what happened when the Highwaymen did their own version of Michael Row The Boat Ashore simply called Michael. It’s a slogging Christian song made up of acoustic guitars and whistling and another example of white artists ripping off black culture. Granted, it’s a really old part of black culture, but the principle still applies. On a random note, these guys covered a song called Cotton Fields. Yikes.
And now we move from the boring to the annoying courtesy of Linda Scott. This 16 year old (at the time) makes an appearance on this list for I’ve Told Every Little Star. From looking at this song, there’s clearly some communication issues. Linda Scott mentions that she told every single person she knows that she loves this guy, but she never told him how she feels about him. Also, he never told her how he felt. See what I mean when I say that there’s some communication problems? Why would they be together like this? Also, this takes up a good chunk of the song.
And that’s where the annoying comes from. But we’re gonna run into some more annoying songs on this list.
You know? Just because you put “boogie” after something doesn’t mean it’s gonna be cool. Well, someone didn’t tell Buzz Clifford that when he made Baby Sittin’ Boogie. This song features baby noises throughout the entirety of its 2-minute run as the baby is apparently dancing along to a rock & roll record. Yes, this is a real song. And it was a Top 10 hit. Stop looking at me like I’m crazy. I doubt even children would enjoy this. Is that an actual real baby or is it an adult doing a baby impersonation? Who knows and who cares? The song still sucks.
And we go into more dumb shit. Great. In Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp Bomp Bomp) (stop laughing), Barry Mann is singing about how his girl fell in love with him after hearing a bunch of doo-wop records and he’s thanking the people who made such records. Most of the lyrics are complete gibberish and the song is framed as some kind of satire about how doo-wop songs have nonsensical lyrics. Well, it’s not a good satire as it’s just doing the same shit that other doo-wop records are doing and all it’s saying is, “my girl fell in love with me after hearing nonsensical music.” Not exactly the strongest point, especially when the song becomes the very thing it satirizes to where it invokes Poe’s Law.
And now for another kid star, Eddie Hodges, who starred in the 1960 film adaptation of The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. He also had a music career with his biggest hit being I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door. I’ll sum up the big problem with this song in one sentence: Eddie Hodges is an annoying little shit. He’s knocking on the door of the house where the girl he likes lives and it’s clear that this kid doesn’t know the meaning of self-control, uncontrollably knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell, and be an overall nuisance. Even worse is the music imitating the sounds of knocking and doorbells. If I was this girl or her parents, I would open the window, throw something at the kid, and be like, “SHUT UP, YOU SNOT-NOSED TWERP!!” I bet if a black kid did the same shit Eddie Hodges did, he would probably have the police called on him.
This just goes to show that they’ll make a song about anything. Just look at this title. Does Your Chewing Gum Loses Its Flavor (On The Bedpost Overnight). Eat your heart out, Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. Lonnie Donegan got you beat in songs that have unnecessarily long titles. That sounds like a jingle for a gum commercial, which this might as well been since it presents random scenarios that ends in a question involving chewing gum. It’s stupid, unfunny, and is given the hokiest instrumentation that anyone could dig up. Note to anyone wanting to be funny: random does not mean funny and I like strawberries.
Yep. Even the King Of Rock & Roll himself isn’t safe from songs with low-key creepy undertones. On the surface level, Little Sister seems like a typical Elvis song, but then you get to the writing, which gets really uncomfortable. See, Elvis is reluctant to date a girl because he used to date her older sister who then cheated on him with several guys, including one named Boll Weevil for some reason (must have a bug fetish). But then he said “fuck it” and gave the little sister a chance.
Well, I used to pull your pigtails
And pinch your turned-up nose
But you been a growing
And baby, it’s been showing
From your head down to your toes
Reminder: Elvis was 26 years old when this song was released. And he’s talking about dating this little sister. Fucking WHY?! You had ladies who want to rock & roll with you all night, why go for someone who isn’t of legal age?
I gave the Worst of 1973 to Jermaine Jackson, who covered the song that would be number 2 on this list, Daddy’s Home by Shep And The Limelites. Every criticism I’ve made about the Jermaine Jackson version applies to the original as well. Calling yourself “daddy” in the context of your lover is creepy as hell and sounds incestuous. Honestly, this is worse than the Jermaine Jackson version because of the slow 60s instrumentation that just makes the song feel more unsettling. This almost topped the list, but as you can see, it got beat out by something worse.
And now, here are some dishonorable mentions.
- Gene McDaniels-A Hundred Pounds Of Clay
- Steve Lawrence-Portrait Of My Love
- Neil Sedaka-Calendar Girl
- Ferlin Husky-Wings Of A Dove
- Adam Wade-Take Good Care Of Her
- Chubby Checker-The Fly
- Paul Anka-Tonight My Love, Tonight
- Bobby Vee-Rubber Ball
- Ray Peterson-Missing You
- Bobby Darin-You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby
And finally, the worst song of 1961 IS…….
I’m going to assume that some of you don’t know who Pat Boone is and why he has such a bad rep within the music community. Pat Boone was one of the biggest music acts in the 50s, being a contemporary to Elvis Presley. Now both artists are mentioned when it comes to the gentrification of black music, but there are major differences. Elvis had a cool voice and he can dance, Pat Boone was legitimately terrible, making the most vanilla, saccharine music ever. Comparing these two is like comparing Eminem to Post Malone. Anyways, here’s Moody River, which is yet another teen tragedy song. In this song, a guy goes to see his girl at an oak tree where they usually meet up. But the girl committed suicide and left a note saying that she cheated and that she can’t live with what she did to him. And because Pat’s a Christian fundamentalist, there’s a few religious references. Now suicide is an issue that’s not to be taken lightly. It is possible that the girl who killed herself had some mental health issues, but considering that people didn’t know as much about mental health back in the 60s as we do now and there’s nothing in the song that indicates such, I doubt it. From what I got in Moody River, the girl killed herself because she felt bad about cheating on this dude, which feels a bit extreme. In conclusion, the subject matter of the song was poorly handled and the music and Boone himself are as boring as plain bread. Congratulations to Moody River for being the worst song of 1961.
And those were the worst songs of 1961. In three weeks, BACK TO THE 60s continues with the Worst Songs of 1962.
SONG OF THE WEEK
Open Your Eyes-Bobby Caldwell