Day 635: Tuning In The Toxic – Worst Music Part 1

originally published September 26, 2013

After having penned over a dozen entries in this category of the most stench-laden drippings off the roasted fatty carcass of popular culture, I’m stricken by the uncharacteristic neglect on my part in addressing the scuzz at the bottom of the music bucket. Perhaps I’ve been burned too often by treading my cleats upon others’ beloved tuneage – hey, I even caught some flack when I accused “We Built This City” of being the worst song of the 1980’s.

But there are a handful of records that have earned the label of ‘worst ever’. Any defenders of these songs and albums – even the artists themselves – will most likely keep their devotion buried deep in the closet, far beneath other less-embarrassing secrets, like eating an entire shrimp ring whilst indulging in a Katherine Heigl movie marathon, or harboring a deep childhood attraction to Tina Yothers.

These are the ingredients for the world’s worst mixtape. Listen at your own peril.

If you’re not a manic Elvis fan but have been considering exploring some of the deeper tracks in his vinyl vault, you may want to skip over Having Fun With Elvis On Stage. This is not a live album that will showcase the rockin’ talents of the TCB Band, finding heretofore unexplored pockets of groove behind Elvis’s impassioned plea for tolerance and understanding in the ghetto. In fact, there’s no actual music on this record at all.

This is entire album of between-song banter. It’s Elvis telling jokes. Elvis telling brief, disjointed stories. Elvis humming and setting up a segue into the next song which you’ll never hear because that’s not what this ridiculous release is about. Colonel Tom Parker initially put this out to be sold only at Elvis’s concerts but RCA eventually spewed it upon the general public. Elvis was furious – he felt that it was an embarrassment. If you’re morbidly curious, you can listen for yourself and find out just how right he was.

After having listened to a few samples, I’m not convinced this belongs in the same basement scrap-heap as some of the other records on this list. Lord Sutch And Heavy Friends was the debut album of Screaming Lord Sutch, an English singer who would eventually hold the recoed for losing 40 parliamentary elections as the leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

This 1969 release featured Lord Sutch, who had earned his reputation as a founder of the ‘horror-rock’ genre by kicking off his live shows by emerging from a black coffin, calling in some favors to get this album made. Session musicians included Jimmy Page and John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Hendrix’s bassist Noel Redding, and Nicky Hopkins, whose keyboard work can be heard front-and-center on the Beatles’ “Revolution”.

Thing is, the guest musicians thought they were just goofing around, jamming for fun. They didn’t know this would be a massive release, and they disowned the album just in time for it to receive scathing reviews. I don’t know, I’d still rather listen to this than a Nickelback album.

I don’t think they have invented the drugs that can make Lou Reed’s Metal Music Machine a listenable album. I like Lou – his singing style is an acquired taste but he’s got a personality to his voice and a great talent for lyrics. This album features none of that. But if you’re looking for over an hour of guitar feedback at various speeds, amounting to nothing that even remotely resembles a song, this 1975 release might be the perfect addition to your collection.

Some speculated this was done as a contractual obligation, or perhaps as a mean-spirited joke on his fans. Lou claimed he had invented heavy metal and was bringing it to its logical conclusion. Rolling Stone called it “the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator”. Other critics were kinder, thus proving that some people will praise the hell out of a turd because they want to be known as the brilliant minds who saw how that turd foretold the future of music.

I don’t buy it. A turd is a turd. All this inspired was the insipid tradition of ‘noise music’, which is unfortunately an actual thing. Have a listen.

Remember when John and Yoko put out those awful albums of toilets flushing and the two of them talking in bed? Well they aren’t the only married music couple to have pooped their love all over the shelves of your local record store. In the middle of Gregg Allman’s late-70’s marriage to Cher, the two of them released one weird album together: 1977’s Two The Hard Way, billed to Allman And Woman (get it? yeah, we all get it).

Gregg Allman is a founding member of one of the most respected and consistent rock bands in the history of – oh my god, this is disco. No, no, no, no, no! This can’t be happening! Listen to this crap.

Okay, the remainder of the side doesn’t live up to the fetid sludge of ear-staining goo that is the first track. The album was never released on CD, and was quickly wiped from print shortly after its release and subsequent tanking. I don’t know how Cher feels about this one, but there’s no question it’s one memory Gregg Allman would no doubt love to erase.

And from the douchey teen-pop shelf, here’s Eoghan Quigg’s 2009 debut album. It’s probably a little unfair to pick on a genre that is founded on the principle of disposability, and which relies more on topless shots of its spindly auto-tuned singers than actual quality musicianship, but Quigg (a byproduct of Simon Cowell’s X-Factor in the UK) sunk beneath the style’s ugliest depths with this one.

The Guardian called this “the worst album in the history of recorded sound.” I think reviewer Peter Robinson needs to drop a needle onto that Gregg & Cher album personally. This is simply flavorless pap-pop, not particularly offensive and no doubt accomplishing its intended mission of inducing chills and squirms among tween girls across the country. It doesn’t sound particularly awful, at least no more so than what passes for teen pop these days.

Maybe I’m just at that age when I realize that these kids today, they just listen to noise. Nah, forget that. This isn’t noise, it’s just the same tepid pop that aspiring semi-talented schmucks have been putting on record since the mid-70’s, only with modern instrumentation and a 21st-century marketing scheme behind it.

But some have called it among the worst ever. Who am I to yank it off that list?

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