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Barry writes to tune of worst songs

As Dave Barry, the noted neuroanatomist, points out, our brains have a four-tiered memory-monitoring system. Here's how it works: The lowest memory priority is assigned data such as your ATM number and your blood type, whereas highest priority is given to commercial jingles for defunct products, such as "I love Bosco! That's the drink for me!"

And the ultimate highest priority is, of course, given to "songs you really, really hate."You know which ones we're talking about. "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro. "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson. Anything by Barry Manilow. Songs whose cloying melodies and inane lyrics are lined up on the runway of your brain ready to take flight. Songs that can suddenly, without warning, circle for days in a holding pattern inside your head.

Unfortunately, until now no one has cataloged these awful, annoying, stupid, irritating songs into one easy-to-read volume, which meant that even if you, for example, got the tune of Neil Diamond's "I Am, I Said" into your head, you might not have remembered that the lyrics went like this: "I am, I said/ To no one there/ And no one heard at all/ Not even the chair."

Barry has remedied that with his latest book, "Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs."

The book is based on the results of his reader survey of The Worst Songs Ever Written, a survey that eventually drew more than 10,000 responses. Categories include Teen Death Songs, Songs That People Always Get Wrong, Songs Women Hate and Weenie Music.

According to Barry, the survey unleashed a lot of latent hostility, as well as fierce debate. It seems that we all have songs we detest, but they aren't necessarily the same songs (e.g., some people voted "Louie, Louie" as a worst song, when anybody with a brain knows it is an excellent song).

Still, there was lots of unanimity. Songs getting the most votes as the best worst songs were: "MacArthur Park," "Yummy Yummy Yummy (I Got Love in My Tummy)," "(You're) Having My Baby" and "Timothy."

Those were deemed the worst, but the songs that generated the most reader hatred were "In the Year 2525," "I've Never Been To Me" and "Seasons in the Sun."

"Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs" is a short, lightweight book. But that doesn't mean it won't make you laugh at loud. Or that it won't take you on a fun-filled ride down memory lane after which you will have the tune of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" stuck in your brain.

Or that you won't learn something. Consider this bit of meteorological insight from Dave-Barry reader Steele Hinton, who offers this analysis of the lyrics "Oh, they say she died one winter night/ When there came a killing frost" (from "Wildfire" by Michael Murphey):

"Evidently Mr. Murphey is a Southern Californian and imagines that a `killing frost' is equivalent to a `killer blizzard,' with blinding snow, wind, hail, lightning, sleep, fog and deep darkness. Actually, `killing' in `killing frost' refers to your flowers and garden vegetables, and when one is forecast you should cover your tomatoes that are green and pick your ripe ones. A killing frost only happens when the sky is very clear and starry by night and deep blue in the morning - a fine day, if you don't have tomatoes. Nobody ever got lost in one who wouldn't get lost in July as well."