The WashPost linked to this, the results of a Q magazine poll of Uncool Songs It’s OK to Like. No. 1 on the list: “Livin’ Thing,” by Electric Light Orchestra.
No one asked me, but if they had, I’d say that’s definitely uncool, top to bottom, and not OK to like.
But of course I started thinking about my own list. It’s all on my iPod, and I share it with you now:
Very Uncool Songs I Secretly Adore
“Midnight Blue,” Lou Graham He’s the lead singer of Foreigner, and this sounds like Foreigner, but it’s somehow even worse. I treasure it for the lyrics: I remember what my father said/He said, “Son, life is simple. It’s either cherry red or midnight blue.” Dude, quit bogarting that roach.
“Magnet and Steel,” Walter Egan I guess if you’re looking for a metaphor for attraction, this is as simple as it gets, eh? I like the chick singers oooooing in the background, the memories of my life when this was on the radio, all of it. Uncoolness factor somewhat mitigated by its inclusion on the “Boogie Nights” soundtrack, later restored by the claims of WalterEgan.net, which identifies him as “renowned and enduring singer and songwriter of the million-seller rock classic ‘Magnet and Steel’.”
“Float On,” the Floaters A guy I used to work with remarked, “That’s pretty much says one-hit wonder, doesn’t it? When the name of the band is incorporated in the name of the first single?” Ayup. And never mind the many unpleasant images associated with the word “floater,” from police slang for corpses discovered in water to what we deposit in the toilet every day. Still, how can you not love a song in which the members of the band each take a verse, identifying themselves by name and zodiac sign, and then tell us what kind of woman they love? Libra, and my name is Charles/Now I like a woman that’s quiet/A woman who carries herself/Like Miss Universe Bonus uncoolness points: They may have been the only soul group from Detroit that couldn’t make a second hit record.
“30 Days in the Hole,” Humble Pie A fine example of false-start recording, where before the music actually begins we get 30 seconds or so of studio dreck — coughing, chairs scraping, or, in this case, the band’s singers trying to harmonize, a capella, on the title phrase. It’s so Spinal Tap. You know, like they’re really Robert Johnson, and someday music scholars will want to hear every peep they ever made in an attempt to divine their true greatness.
“Indian Giver,” 1910 Fruitgum Company Bubblegum was teenybopper music, something for 12-year-olds to squeal over while their older sisters sneered and went back to the liner notes on their Doors records. But a lot of it was plenty catchy, and this one is my favorite with its tom-toms-around-the-signal-fire chorus, and– Oh, hell, it’s simpler than that: When I hear it, I think of the pool and summer. I can practically smell the chlorine.
“The Yellow Rose of Texas,” Mitch Miller Yes, I said Mitch Miller. Follow the bouncing ball, and all that. On the uncoolness scale, he’s in league with Lawrence Welk. And yet. This song always comes on the iPod when I’m laboring up a hill on my bike, and it gives me the strength to go on. It’s a march — how can you not fall in step? The last time I heard it, I finally noticed the “yellow rose” part, which I only recently learned was southern slang for a pretty mulatto girl. I went a-Googling, and became perhaps the last American to learn the story of Emily West, the original yellow rose. I noted with pleasure that Miller utterly bowdlerized the lyrics — how uncool!
“Gimme Dat Ding,” The Pipkins A source and I once bonded over our shared secret love for this silly novelty hit, a ragtime piano number with what sounds like Tiny Tim at the mic with Wolfman Jack singing descant. And they knew exactly how much a person could tolerate of this: It clocks in at 2:14 seconds.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Diana Ross Sure, it was a No. 1 hit, but I think it rates major uncoolness points because it captured Diana Ross at her most awful — in her Miss Ross/Miss Thing diva-be-too-cool-for-the-room period (which, yes, she never left). And yet, I love it for one reason: I saw Miss Ross sing this in concert, in Dayton, Ohio. She spent most of the show swanning around the stage, talking to the audience and only intermittently bothering to break into song. When she sensed interest flagging, she’d fling her arms upward and her hair back, and everyone would scream. It was ghastly. Some years later, I saw a drag queen do the same song, in a crummy gay bar, and she put so much goddamn mustard on it that I was nearly in tears — that was a performance. Every time I hear the song now, I think of the night a man named Eric outworked a woman named Diana.
“Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” Glen Campbell OK, this one I don’t have on my iPod; it really is wreck-on-the-freeway awful, and my fondness for it is rooted in the numb horror it inspires. People forget not everyone was young and getting laid in the ’60s, and lots of them listened to top-40 radio, too. I’d put this on a CD called Traditional Womanhood, along with Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” “Wives and Lovers” by Jack Jones and the collected works of Bobby Goldsboro.
“Real Live Girl,” Robert Goulet I link this one with the Campbell tune. It really hasn’t aged well, has it? Not in a world with $6,000 sex toys and “Silence of the Lambs.” What lyrics: Pardon me miss, but I’ve never done this with a real live girl/Dreams in your bunk don’t compare with a hunk of a real live girl… Ewwwww. And yet, it’s Robert Goulet — how can you not love it?
“She’s Gone,” Hall and Oates This blue-eyed soul duo had many, many hits; someone must have liked them. But I always thought of them as the Taylor Hicks of the ’70s; totally uncool. Except for this number, which I turn up when it comes on the radio, but only if the windows are up. Oh, and “Sara Smile,” too. Um, and “Out of Touch,” but that’s IT. And I still hate Hall and Oates, but especially Daryl Hall; I once read the particulars of a paternity suit against him, filed by a girl who was recruited from the crowd at a show by one of his pimps. Cattle in the auction ring are treated with more dignity. Ewwww.
“I Love,” Tom T. Hall I love coffee in a cup, little fuzzy pups, bourbon in a glass, and grass. I can’t believe it! SO DO I!
Oh, God, stop me before I spend all day on this. Any additions? You know where to leave ’em.