Let me take you back to your childhood (cue horrendous memories of shellsuits, Michael Barrymore, novelty board games and – if you’re lucky – images of the twins from Pat Sharp’s Fun House). Chances are that Sunday nights meant sitting in your room with a shitty tape recorder listening to the top 40, index finger cocked, ready to punch record when your favourite song was played. If not, you must have been one of those losers who watched Heartbeart, which attracts an even greater level of social stigma. While sounding easy enough, taping tracks from the radio was a tricky business and the success or otherwise of each Sunday night depended on a keen appreciation of timing, and a good element of chance. More often than not, panic would set in and I would press record too early, thereby taping ten seconds of jingles and high octane introductions, before getting to the goods. If done while the countdown was still in the thirties, the pressure would build for the rest of the show and by the time I was in the top five, I’d be a nervous wreck, pressing multiple buttons every few seconds with no concept or understanding of what the hell I was trying to achieve.
This nostalgic trip down memory lane was prompted by Sting’s recent verbal barrage against reality TV juggernaut, The X Factor. In some shameless PR rant to coincide with the release of yet another piss-poor album, the tantric shagger branded The X Factor “a preposterous show” that has “put music back decades.” While he was right on many levels (and simply repeating what any half-intelligent being already knew), Sting’s claim that The X Factor has put music back decades was intriguing, as it implied that popular music was once in rude health. My gut reaction was to think that the charts in my time were pretty good; however a sustained period of recollection allied with some research informed me otherwise.
Below is a list with video links to some of the most shameful singles of all time, largely derived from my youth, and also from more recent times. I’ve deliberately stayed away from some of the more obvious choices, for example La Macarena, the Crazy Frog, anything by Meatloaf/Bryan Adams, as mere references to those songs/”artists” bring me out in a cold sweat.
10. Blazin’ Squad – Flip Reverse
For those unfamiliar with this seminal UK band, Blazin’ Squad (we’re dropping the ‘g’ ‘cos we’re FUCKING hard) were a collection of ugly, horny chavs who sung about shagging. Key to their appeal was hair product, derivative crutch-grabbing and over-sized T-shirts. Against all odds and despite widespread derision, they sold some records including the horrific Flip Reverse, before one of them appeared on Big Brother and lived out his life’s ambition – shagging Jodie Marsh.
9. Scatman John – Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)
Imagine a world where the only things that exist are you, Scatman John, a desert island, a CD player and a copy of the Scatman. To make things worse, let’s assume that you accidentally killed Scatman John’s wife in a fishing accident, so he doesn’t like you very much. Overtaken by rage, Scatman John decides that he’s going to torture you. Rather than conventional torture, the wily Scatman adopts a long game and ties you to the only tree on the island, puts the Scatman on loop and leaves it tantalisingly close, but ultimately away from your feet, forcing you to listen to this utter cack until you draw your last breath.
8 Lisa Maffia – All Over
The self-named “First Lady of garage” and So Solid Crew member managed to creep into the top 15 with this tale of Crystal popping club action, featuring the extraordinary lyrics “if you no cook you get no dinner” (what about restaurants?) and “ladies in the club shake your booty like dice” (is it possible to dislocate your own buttocks?). The video remains one of the most amusing things I’ve ever seen, largely because of the joker with the Burberry visor who screams “tiiiiiight!” and “diiiiiiice!” at the chorus, and the little kid at 3:58 who dances like an out-of-control epileptic. Gold.
7. The Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe
Words fail to do justice to this musical aberration, where a bunch of pissed hicks bang some drums, massacre a violin and sing the same two lines over and over again. It transpires from a bit of internet research that “The Rednex” were in fact a Swedish techno band (featuring a member called “Ace Ratclaw”), which makes one wonder how such a racist piece of work ever got into production. This view is compounded by the video, which features long-haired peasants with no teeth, a bird in a bikini riding a motorised bull and a wooden sign saying “horses outside”. Most alarmingly, the band is still going, with an eagerly anticipated new album – Saturday Night Beaver – due for imminent release in no stores near you. If you’re blind deaf and dumb and like Cotton Eye Joe, have a listen to their follow-up, Old Pop In An Oak, which doesn’t feature drums or a violin and definitely doesn’t sound anything like Cotton Eye Joe. Honest.
6. Romeo Dunn feat. Christina Milian – Its All Gravy
The second UK garage sensaaaaaation on the list. Like Ms Maffia, Romeo Dunn is So Solid Crew alumni, spitting one of my favourite comedy lyrics (“two multiplied by ten plus one, Romeo Dunn”) in breakthrough song 21 Seconds. While 21 Seconds was fresh and not unpleasurable, this duet with American grinder Christiana Milian is unadulterated toilet; the kind of depressing by-numbers R&B fodder that populated MTV and the airwaves at the start of the millennium. When I first heard the title, I thought the song was a ripping yarn about Romeo’s failure to buy chicken for a Sunday roast. Having read the nonsensical lyrics, it still could be. The video sees Romeo wearing a ghastly array of jackets before resorting to type and getting his six pack out. According to Wiki, Romeo’s second album, announced for release in 2008 “has not materialised”. Shame.
5. Outhere Brothers – Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)
I remember buying the “explicit lyrics” version of this song from Woolworths (wipe away nostalgic tear) and listening in my room, with rampant disappointment, as my mother baked cakes in the kitchen, unknowing of the filth – lyrical and musical – that was corrupting my eardrums. The song starts off promisingly, but then goes dramatically downhill when you realise that there is no discernable difference between the beginning, middle and end, however the bit when the singer hurriedly says, “wiggle wiggle”, as if he’s overdosed on helium and being sexually assaulted by Dawn French , moderately amuses. Subsequent releases included the ludicrously titled and equally horrific, “Pass The Toilet Paper ’98”. Needless to say, it didn’t trouble the charts.
4. Whigfield – Saturday Night
I love the comments posted on YouTube videos. One of my favourites can be found on the link to this barrel-scraping slice of Euro-trash, which simply says, “I’d fuck Whigfield.” No musical appraisal, just a primal cry from a lone wolf surfing the net for semi-attractive nineties idols to add to the wank bank. Bleak. My loathing for this song dates back to a school trip to Spain where we were forced to perform “the Whigfield dance” for no reason other than our teachers’ sadistic sense of humour. The dance itself was a routine number involving much thigh-slapping, a few hand claps and some pelvic thrusts. Such was the trauma caused by this event, even the passing of a wig shop fifteen years later is enough to trigger an involuntarily bout of air shagging.
3. Michael Jackson – Earth Song
“What about elephants, have we lost their trust?” posses philosopher Wacko in this tawdry, never-ending eco-ballad, singularly responsible for the ubiquity of the key change in modern pop music. Personally, I struggle to recall the good old days when my elephant friend used to come up to me in the pub, gently rest his trunk on my shoulder and say, “thanks for babysitting last night, it’s great to have someone in the neighbourhood whom we can trust; fancy a leg of darts?” but then again neither did I have a pet monkey called Bubbles and a snake called Muscles. Check out the HOO HOO extravaganza at 5:34.
2. Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
Previously unheard extract from “the making of the X-Factor” – “Ok, guys, we’ve hit the jackpot here. Check out the working class family in the lobby sat behind Dermot. I’ve just spoken with the father and his wife died last week after being eaten by a badger. He was just about ready to blub but I told him to save it until the cameras were rolling.” Everyone leans forward while the researcher looks smug. “But it gets better. The youngest son has one leg, masturbates to Countryfile and thinks he’s Barry Chuckle, while the singing daughter is a mute who only ever speaks when she sings.” “This is gold, people, fucking gold,” says the head producer, “Lisa, get the Snow Patrol CD out of the car; this is gonna last three ad breaks.”
1. Black Eyed Peas – My Humps
After staring at the screen for nigh-on half an hour, unable to articulate the bowel-retching horror of this piece of musical leprosy, I’ve devised the below formula to do the job for me. Simply pick one option from Sections A and B and insert in the gap which appears in following sentence, “I’d rather [A+B] than be forced to listen to this shit.”
|Section A||Section B|
|Play twister with||Fred West|
|Stick my genitals in||Pat Butcher|
|Tell a bed time story to||Mr Motivator|
|Go to work dressed as||Louis Walsh|
|Stroke and cuddle||Keith Chegwin|
|Go out on the piss with||The Krankies|