Tuesday, 13 October 2020

sixties music: the bottom ten

Ten years ago, I published a list of tracks from the 1960s under the title ‘Sixties Music: the Top Ten’. This wasn’t a list of what I considered the best songs of the decade; it was a compilation of what I regarded as the most significant. For example, I included the Beatles’ Please, Please Me rather than a track from their later catalogue; Hendrix’s Hey Joe rather than All Along the Watchtower (a rare example of a cover version that improved on the original); and Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues rather than, for example, Like a Rolling Stone.

If you were around in the 1960s, you may still be telling people how great the music was back then, but that’s the result of more than half a century of hindsight. I would wager that you’ve already forgotten most, if not all, the songs that I’m about to list. The only criterion, other than their sheer awfulness, that qualifies a song for inclusion in this list is that it had to have reached #1 in the UK singles chart. Prepare to be horrified!

1. Elvis Presley — Are You Lonesome Tonight? (1961)
Presley had been on a downward musical trajectory for several years by the time this record was released, but this is the nadir. However, it could almost be considered bearable if you treat it as a comedy record, with its earnestly recited—an embarrassingly silly—middle eight.

2.  Cliff Richard — The Next Time / Bachelor Boy (1963)
Cliff did record a few half-decent songs in the early years of his career (e.g. Move It!, Dynamite), but this was a double horror. The people who bought this record clearly didn’t notice that the musical scene was changing.

3. The Dave Clark Five — Glad All Over (1963)
This song’s claim to fame—or notoriety if you prefer—is that it replaced the Beatles’ at #1 in the UK charts at a time when Beatlemania in the UK was at its peak. It may be that the mainstream media emphasized this fact because the record itself is so awful. By the way, I single out the Honeycombs (#5 below) for its poor drumming, but Dave Clark couldn’t play the drums either.

4.  The Four Pennies — Juliet (1964)
I imagine that this ‘band’ secured a recording contract as a result of the rush to sign up any guitar-based outfit in the immediate aftermath of the appearance on the scene of the Beatles in the hope that they would emulate their success. Unsurprisingly, the Four Pennies were a one-hit wonder that quickly disappeared from view. Thankfully.

5.  The Honeycombs — Have I the Right? (1964)
I remember the main selling point of this ‘band’ being that it had a female drummer. It is not my intention to suggest that women can’t play the drums, but this one certainly couldn’t.

6.  Tom Jones — Green, Green Grass of Home (1966)
My abiding memory of this song is of a fellow student in Manchester asking to borrow my copy of Melody Maker, opening it at the charts page and collapsing in a fit of hysterical laughter when he saw that this record was #1. Say no more.

7.  Scott McKenzie — San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) (1967)
Although this song acquired the status of an anthem for the so-called ‘summer of love’, I regarded that movement then—and still do—as bullshit, with its rallying cry of ‘flower power’. The song doesn’t get any better with age.

8.  Engelbert Humperdinck — Release Me (1967)
It beggars belief that this song broke the Beatles’ run of #1 hits, especially as the record it kept off the top spot, the double A-side Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever, was arguably the band’s best single. ‘Sentimental garbage’ is my opinion of this vomit-inducing song. I wonder who bought it.

9.  Peter Sarstedt — Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? (1969)
Pretentious. That was my verdict when this song was released, and it would probably be my reaction now if I heard it again (I’m not about to test this assertion).

10.  The Archies — Sugar, Sugar (1969)
‘Bubblegum’ music had a brief period in the spotlight in the late sixties, and I suspect that this song—and Simon Says by the 1910 Fruitgum Company, also a #1—was bought by the parents of very young children to keep them amused. It certainly didn’t amuse me.

11.  Rolf Harris — Two Little Boys (1969)
The only comment that I can make about this execrable rubbish is that it had a remarkably prescient title.
*  *  *
It will not have escaped the notice of alert readers that I failed to keep my list down to the advertised number of ten. I was reading through the comments on Black Music of the 1960s (link below), where I’d proposed Herman’s Hermits as an example of the kind of garbage that was being promoted at that time. One of my readers countered with the Dave Clark Five, and I realized that I’d completely forgotten what may well be the single most overrated outfit of all time—it has been inducted into the so-called ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame’! The Rock ’n’ Roll Dustbin of History would have been a more appropriate repository.

the more positive side of sixties music
Black Music of the 1960s
Alternative Sixties: Part 1
Alternative Sixties: Part 2

These posts include YouTube links, so you can check out tracks with which you’re unfamiliar. For obvious reasons, I’ve not done this with the main list.

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