Written by Phillip Mottaz
This should really be titled “My Least Favorite Songs from my Favorite Bands,” but “Worst of the Best” is much more catchy. Besides, where would entertainment journalism be without bold statements?
More importantly, where would entertainment journalism be without the useless list? Sitting back seat to Sports Journalism is exactly where it would be, and I for one will not let it happen. We must heroically carry forth with our ability to compare and contrast that which cannot be compared. We must label things with letter grades even though in art there is no curriculum or Finals Week. And we must determine the worst of the lot, even in our greatest performers.
Like many of you, I have my favorite and least favorite bands and songs. Like fewer of you, I can catalog the few of my favorite songs from my least favorite artists.* And like people exactly like me, I can determine the songs that blow from the artists I hold most dear. That is the premise of this essay, and I feel it is a strong one.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT:
1) Only studio-recorded tracks will be considered. No live-album covers or such.
2) Only official released tracks will be considered. If albums came out 20 years after the artists died, they will not be considered for this list. It feels weird.
2) I will deal only with bands that I hold dear to my heart. Because I am the creator, I get to determine who is, in the words of the title, “The Best.” These artists must have released more than five great albums and/or be in serious consideration for induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. This list will not only introduce a new kind of paranoid logic by picking on my heroes, but it will also serve to support and legitimize the completely ludicrous idea of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
And so… These are the worst songs by the best recording artists of our time.
“Mothers Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones
What a whiny song. The Stones have always been accused of posing like that’s a bad thing. Most of the time they’re great at it. But this song feels forced and annoying. Even the central guitar lick (“Bow-wah-wah, bow-wah-wah…”) sounds like a baby with diaper rash. If this is a choice, I can sort of understand it, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun to listen to.
“Your Mother Should Know” by the Beatles
The other “Hated ‘Mother’” track. This could have easily been “Old Brown Shoe,” due mostly to its mind-blowing inclusion in the Beatles “Blue” Greatest Hits (my introduction to the band). But at least “Shoe” doesn’t try to sound like grandparents wrote it. Tired, old, uninteresting grandparents. “Your Mother” is a wimpy, wimpy, wimpy song that sounds like what imitation Beatles groups would have written after hearing “Penny Lane.” Maybe I say that because in some parts it sounds EXACTLY like “Penny Lane!” My ire toward “Your Mother” may also come from those endless Sunday morning “Breakfast With The Beatles” radio shows, where DJ’s struggle to fill two or three hours with material that people don’t play a zillion times on their own. If that’s the only criteria, then they’ve found it in this track.
“Four Sticks” by Led Zeppelin
Remember in the 90′s when Zeppelin released that four-CD box set, cataloging around 85% of their music? And in doing so, remember how some of the omissions were maddeningly brainless, such as “Bring it All Home,” “How Many More Times?” and “Living Loving Maid”– even though “Ramble On” was included and you had never heard one without the other?! I felt everything about the choice to 85% the production was pointless until I realized that “Four Sticks” was missing. Then I said, “Good cut.” This song may also qualify as “Most Worst Song On A Classic Album.”
“Little Miss Strange” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
Okay, this one’s kind of cheap. It’s one of the few Experience tracks where Jimi himself didn’t sing, so that may have something to do with my desire to skip it every time it comes around. But even if he’d sung it himself, I doubt it would have jumped out at me. Hendrix is one of my favorite lyricists, using a kind of sci-fi blues in his best work. The lyrics for “Strange” just sound like standard hippie crap. “No one knows where she comes from” is right.
“Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by the Ramones
This is an “Encyclopedia Listing” dislike. Every time you read about the Ramones in some introductory way-in an encyclopedia or on a news report or something-they always throw some mixture of songs as examples of their style. This is ALWAYS one of them, and the charm is lost on me. To be completely honest, it might be a case of album placement. The first time I heard this song was on “Leave Home,” where it was a last minute replacement for “Carbona, Not Glue,” and the story goes that the song wasn’t 100% ready for release. I must admit that in its proper place on “Rocket to Russia,” it is not as irritating. But it’s not even close to my favorite song on that album or any of their big releases. Show me a person whose favorite Ramones song is “Sheena” and I’ll show you a person who hasn’t listened to “Too Tough To Die.”
“Sexy M.F.” by Prince
There are times when Prince is the sexiest motherfucker on the planet, and these times arise through his voice and guitar and music. It’s something you feel, not something you have insisted upon you from the title all the way through the end of the song.
Congratulations. You have graduated from yet another list brought to you by an authorized Ranking Official and Licensed List-Smith. But don’t waste your time simply enjoying this list. Applaud the list like the champion that it is. By acquainting yourself with this inventory, you can now appreciate the greatness within the remaining catalog from these artists. “The list is an absolute good,” said Ben Kingsley in Schindler’s List. That movie was about a list, had “List” in the title and it won awards!
*No matter how much I profess to dislike U2, I cannot deny some of their work. This is probably a mathematical phenomenon. Through sheer volume of work over a 20-year period, they were bound to come up with a few songs that don’t irritate me.