What Are The Cheesiest Hit Songs Of All Time?
I used up almost all my sister’s voicemail the other day.
It couldn’t be avoided. There was something of vital importance I had to share with her.
Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” was on the radio and the event had to be recorded for posterity.
Especially the part where the robotic voice says “super duper.” You get the feeling that’s the part where the producers were trying not to cackle in Taco’s face.
I’m a sick man, I know. But what afflicts me is a malady that most of us share — a love of cheesy pop songs. Not bad pop songs, mind you, like Celine Dion or Michael Bolton pablum, but kitchsy goo, the tracks that are so bad, so unbelievably lame, they’re classics in hilarity. The ones you can’t help but laugh at when they come on the radio. The ones with names like “We Built This City,” “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” and “The Night Chicago Died.”
At one point, all of these songs was a gargantuan hit. Now, few of the millions of people who bought the singles would admit to owning them. But still, their warped genius holds a special spot on our hearts and it’s hard to stifle a smile when their first awful notes assault your eardrums.
There are different grades to the genre, without a doubt. You’ve got your obvious targets, the novelty hits which are supposed to be wacky and are always terrible. Nobody ever took a song like “Convoy” as anything but a lark and if there’s any deep meaning to “Disco Duck” it’s yet to be found.
Then there are the celebrity smashes. Again, very few people took these seriously. By very few I mean only the celebrities singing them. Don Johnson’s “Heartbeat.” David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us.” Anything warbled by William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy.
Not to be overlooked are the “What were they smoking?” selections, which are half-serious, half-joke, all bizarre. A track like Captain and Tennille’s “Muskrat Love,” with its Chipmunk-like voices on the chorus comes to mind.
However, the best/worst are the songs that you know were actually taken to be works of art at the time they were made. They meant something, man! Now, what they mean is great embarrassment for anyone caught jamming them loud on the stereo.
A pair of the worst are David Geddes’ gruesome twosome of story songs, “Run, Joey Run” and “The Blind Man in the Bleachers.”
In the former, a young Romeo can’t prevent his Juliet from being killed by her father with a bullet meant for the boyfriend. You’d remember this one by the “Daddy please don’t/it wasn’t his fault/he means so much to me…” chorus.
On the latter, the blind man in the bleachers finally gets to see his son play baseball…because pops is dead. Jermaine, hand me a tissue.
Another legendary tune is “I’ve Never Been To Me,” by Charlene. The one-hit wonder croons her story-song about a, ahem, “well-traveled” woman, who decides that what really matters is the right man and a baby.
According to Charlene, “she’s been undressed by kings, and she’s seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see…” Like what? Kanye West outside her window with a Net-and-YooHoo puppet?
Still, that line always kind of freaked me out when I was a little kid. What exactly DID she see? It sounded freaking creepy.
Straddling the line between parody and serious teen pop is “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” by Edd “Kookie” Byrnes. Former TV star Byrnes (“77 Sunset Strip”) got hip with his lingo in this ’60s rap song featuring some of the weakest slang ever uttered. Reeking of pandering to the youth culture, but still funny as heck, it includes the phrases “I’m splitsville,” “you’re the maximum utmost” and “baby, you’re the ginchiest.”
There are countless others worth detailing if I had the time and space. “Chevy Van,” by Sammy Johns, “Shannon,” by Henry Gross, pretty much anything by Gilbert O’Sullivan or Lobo, “In the Year 2525,” by Zager and Evans, “(I Am In Love With) The McDonald’s Girl,” by the Blenders and, of course, “The Night Chicago Died,” Paper Lace. The list goes on and on.
But let’s end this trek through the sonic carnage with perhaps the cheesiest song ever recorded. “MacArthur Park.” Originally spewed by Richard Harris (later known as Dumbledore) and written by the legendary Jimmy Webb, it was later turned into a disco hit by Donna Summer, once again proving that a gigantic portion of the population in the late ’70s was inebriated beyond comprehension.
“MacArthur Park” includes the immortal lyrics, “Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don’t think that I can take it/’cause it took so long to bake it/and I’ll never have that recipe again…A-GAAAAAINNN…”
That poor cake.
Maybe that’s what Charlene saw that was so traumatizing?
Judging from the quaky tremolo, the tale of bakery woe dampened the eyes of the singer and undoubtedly brought tears of laughter to anyone hearing this song on the radio when it was first released.
Probably just as many tears as my sister had when she heard her voicemail eaten up by Taco.