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Apparently this compilation came into being after Keith Chegwin (of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Cheggers Plays Pop and Naked Jungle fame) presented a TV programme featuring the worst records ever made. After this TV show was broadcast, Keith was inundated with people telling him what songs they thought should have been included in the show. Thus this double CD set was compiled, a result of genuine public feedback.
This double CD package claims on the front cover, to contain "40 CLUCKING AWFUL TRAX" and to be "The WORST album on the planet". Whether or not you will agree with this depends on your music tastes, and on your sense of humour and fun, I think. Depending on tastes the tracks may be considered, fun, so bad they're good, irritating but catchy, or just plain irritating.
In this review I'll examine each track and judge them on their own merits, as not everyone may have heard, or heard of, some or all of these tracks. Personally I quite like some novelty / daft records, especially the ones by celebs not usually known for their singing abilities!
Anyway here goes music lovers .
Track 1 JOE DOLCE - SHADDUP YOU FACE
Shaddup You Face was novelty record based on Italian humour, and had the chorus "Whassamatta you, ey?/Gotta no respect/Whaddaya think you do, ey?/Why you looka so sad?/It'sa not so bad, ey/It'sa nice-a place/Ah shaddap you face."
This tune got to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1981 and stayed there for three weeks. It was quite funny when you first heard it, Joe Dolce sounded a bit Like Chico Marx from the Marx Brothers. However, as is the case with a lot of novelty records it soon got annoying, as you couldn't turn on "the wireless" or the TV at the time without seeing/hearing it. It was also Number One in about 15 other countries, probably enabling Mr Dolce to take early retirement, so fair play to him.
Track 2 THE TWEETS - THE BIRDIE SONG
The dreaded Birdie Song, the Grannies/Aunties favourite. Who hasn't seen the old dears get up and do the actions to this tune at a disco, wedding or function after they've "had a few". It got to Number Two in the UK singles chart in 1981. Possibly based on a Swiss accordion oom-pah tune), it still tops some polls as the most irritating song of all time. However anything that keeps your old Gran happy can't be all bad.
Track 3 BLACK LACE - AGADOO
Sometimes called a Nonsense Song due to it's seemingly nonsensical lyrics, not many realise it was actually a (translated) cover version of a 70's French Euro Disco song "Agadou". Agadoo reached Number Two in the UK singles chart in 1984 and is still popular at kid's parties and 80's nostalgia discos. It also inspired the brilliant "Chicken Song" parody on TV's Spitting Image.
Track 4 CHICORY TIP - SON OF MY FATHER
Normally more of a heavy rock group, Chicory Tip recorded this more poppy tune after being persuaded by a studio manager of its potential. It paid off as this single was a Number One in the UK singles chart in 1972. What most grabs your attention on this track is the Moog synthesiser taking a lead role in the backing. Indeed it is one of the earliest hit records to feature a synth prominently. Still a good tune I think, and undeserving to be on an "Awful" compilation.
Track 5 PAPER LACE - BILLY DON'T BE A HERO
I don't really think this record deserves to be on this collection either, as it is perfectly o.k. pleasantly sung and played pop tune with an anti-war theme. This one was a Number One in the UK singles chart in 1974.
Track 6 LIEUTENANT PIGEON - MOULDY OLD DOUGH
I remember seeing this on Top Of The Pops when it came out, and only being a kid, was fascinated to see what looked my Granny playing the piano. It was the mother of one of the guys in the group. It was similar to the first time seeing the group Sparks on TV, seeing what looked like Hitler playing keyboards. This tune is largely an instrumental the only real lyrics being the title itself, it still managed Number One in the UK singles chart in 1972. Doesn't do a lot for me bar bring back memories of being little.
Track 7 JONATHAN KING - UNA PALOMA BLANCA
I remember this being played a lot at discos in the mid to late 1970's, another favourite of the Grannies and people just back from a package holiday to Spain, it got to Number Five in the UK singles chart in 1975. I prefer the original by The George Baker Selection.
Track 8 RICK DEES & HIS CAST OF IDIOTS - DISCO DUCK
A good satirical disco novelty song, with a lot of humour, including someone doing a pretty good impression of Donald Duck. Also features some nifty bass playing. Reached Number Six in the UK singles chart in 1976.
Track 9 THE SCAFFOLD - LILY THE PINK
This is (a cleaned up!) adaptation of a folk tune based on a woman called Lydia Pinkham who developed a patent medicine in the 19th century, which proved very popular. Probably due to it's high (20%) alcohol content. This is a good rousing tune by the Liverpudlian comedy group and got to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1968.
Track 10 MIDDLE OF THE ROAD - CHIRPY CHIRPY CHEEP CHEEP
This is another favourite from the dodgy discos of the 70's and played a lot in Spanish holiday resorts. Best described as Bubblegum pop, the lead vocalist does have a distinctive slightly warbly voice. Played to death on the radio by Tony Blackburn, it was propelled to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1971
Track 11 CLODAGH RODGERS - JACK IN THE BOX
Famous as the UK's 1971 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, in which she reached 4th place and also reached Number Four in the UK singles chart in the same year. Great singer, bouncy but at the same time quite a bland song.
Track 12 BUCKS FIZZ - MAKING YOUR MIND UP
Another UK Eurovision entry, but this time they won it, in 1981. Good catchy party song with a strong driving beat and nice Flanger effect on the guitar. Good video as well, in which the two girls had their skirts ripped off to reveal shorter skirts below. On first my first viewing of this as an impressionable 16 year old, I was impressed. Reached Number One in the UK singles chart in 1981 of course.
Track 13 GARY GLITTER - I'M THE LEADER OF THE GANG (I AM)
This CD set came out before all the hoo-hah surrounding Mr Glitter. I'll just say it got to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1973.
Track 14 TIGHT FIT - THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT
A frequently covered song with many variations over the years, Tight Fit do a good job on this version. The lead singer's trousers may indeed have been a tight fit to sing this high. Number One in the UK singles chart in 1982.
Track 15 DAMIAN - TIME WARP
A much covered song originating from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and still a floor filler at some discos and when played by covers bands. Damian hams it up well here but it's spoiled a bit by some of the digital samples and Rap sequences, not as good as the original. It got to Number Seven in the UK singles chart in 1987.
Track 16 REDNEX - COTTON EYE JOE
Manufactured Swedish novelty band Rednex started a fad of Country House music with this. A high energy blend of Country and Rave/Dance music, it's not for the faint hearted. Number One in the UK singles chart in 1994.
Track 17 LOS DEL RIO - MACARENA
This is the Bayside Boys Mix of this hit form the Spanish music music duo. Well produced Euro Disco tune if you like that sort of thing, annoying if you don't. Number Two in the UK singles chart in 1995.
Track 18 SINITTA - SO MACHO
Good voice, but not a great song and has some corny fake sensual groans. Number Two in the UK singles chart in 1986.
Track 19 SAM FOX - TOUCH ME (I WANT YOUR BODY)
Similar to the Sinitta tune, without the great voice. She was better as a glamour model. Pretty, with an impressive bosom, long before all this implants nonsense. It got to Number Three in the UK singles chart in 1986.
Track 20 THE NOLANS - I'M IN THE MOOD FOR DANCING
Cashing in on the disco craze of the time this was a hit for the seemingly endless stream of Nolan Sisters. Mainly a dancey track for the ladies. Every time I hear this I'm reminded of a comedy act which used to be on TV, where this guy had a row of fake heads with his head in the middle and a sheet of material hanging down, miming to this song. It was daft really. Number Three in the UK singles chart in 1979.
Now we've reached the half way point there's only another twenty to go!
Track 1 KEITH HARRIS - ORVILLE'S SONG
Ventriloquist Keith Harris along with his bright green duckling sidekick Orville got into the charts with this tear jerker reaching Number Four in the UK singles chart in 1982. When listening to this on the CD you can clearly hear crackling as if this was recorded from a vinyl single or LP. Surely they haven't lost the precious master tapes? One for the kids this.
Track 2 BENNY HILL - ERNIE (THE FASTEST MILKMAN IN THE WEST)
This is one of those "Story Telling" records with the lyrics talked through rather than sung. Benny did have some other properly sung recordings, but he was better sticking to comedy TV I think. His Fred Scuttle and Chinese Businessman characters are still funny today I think. It still got to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1971.
Track 3 ROLF HARRIS - TWO LITTLE BOYS
A huge hit from the multi-talented Rolf Harris. Another "Story Telling" record and a tear jerker. No criticism here really, a great guy. Number One in the UK singles chart in 1969.
Track 4 ST. WINNIFRED'S SCHOOL CHOIR - THER'E NO-ONE QUITE LIKE GRANDMA
This is either cute or cringe inducing depending on how sentimental you are. Very dull, but got to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1980.
Track 5 CLIVE DUNN - GRANDAD
Sung by Clive Dunn, famously known as Lance-Corporal Jack "Don't Panic!" Jones in Dad's Army, with the chorus sung by kids not unlike those in the previous Grandma record. However this is quite a charming and whimsical track. This reached Number One in the UK singles chart in 1970.
Track 6 GOOMBAY DANCE BAND - SEVEN TEARS
This track is like folk music meets ABBA and kind of drones on without getting too exciting. Not fun or annoying really, managed to get to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1982.
Track 7 TINY TIM - TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS
Sung in a crazy vibrato falsetto voice and accompanied by Tim's own ukulele playing this is a true novelty record quite funny but mercifully short, it hit Number One in the UK singles chart in 1968. Poor old Tim died just after playing this song live and collapsing on stage.
Track 8 THE WURZELS - COMBINE HARVESTER
This is a great "Scrumpy and Western" record sung in thick Somerset accents and featuring traditional instruments. Good fun and made Number One in the UK singles chart in 1976.
Track 9 MR. BLOBBY - MR. BLOBBY
This got into the charts as a spin-off from the Noel's House Party TV show and shows that anything can get into the charts. Loved by kids, loathed by adults it got to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1993.
Track 10 KENNY EVERETT - SNOT RAP
Featuring characters from his popular Kenny Everett Television Show i.e. Sid Snot and Cupid Stunt. Quite funny with some good banter between the two characters. "It's all done in the best posssssible taste!". This go to Number Nine in the UK singles chart in 1983.
Track 11 GAY GORDON & THE MINCE PIES - THE ESSENTIAL WALLY PARTY MEDLEY
Quite a dull medley of songs pleasantly sung but unexciting. Never made the Top Twenty.
Track 12 ST. CECILA - LEAP UP AND DOWN (WAVE YOUR KNICKERS IN THE AIR)
Sounding not unlike a Black Lace record, the message of this track is for women to take their knickers off and wave them in the air, to get men's attention. I think it would do and it reached Number Twelve in the UK singles chart in 1971.
Track 13 THE KRANKIES - WE'RE GOING TO SPAIN
Released to support the Scotland football team at the 1982 Spain World Cup not really funny but quite annoying. A better choice on here would have been the single "Fan'dabi'dozi" Never made it into the Top Twenty.
Track 14 PIGLETS - JOHNNY REGGAE
A cockney bubblegum cod-reggae song about a "real tasty geezer" adored by the woman who sings the song, and tells her friend about him. Not very exciting or funny, this go to Number Three in the UK singles chart in 1971.
Track 15 MARGUERITA PRACATAN - HELLO
This woman was featured on the Clive James Show several times and works better on TV, because as well as the bad singing you can see the bad dancing, the outrageous costumes and the funny facial expressions. Still quite funny as an audio track though, and yes it is the Lionel Ritchie song. Never made it into the Top Twenty.
Track 16 STARTURN ON 45 PINTS - PUMP UP THE BITTER
I think this is one of the better tracks on the CD set. It's a great parody of pub singers and workingmen's clubs in general. I can thoroughly recommend their LP "Are You Affiliated". It's quite rare, but I managed to get a copy and transfer it CD, very funny stuff. This single got to Number Twelve in the UK singles chart in 1988.
Track 17 THE DUBLINERS - SEVEN DRUNKEN NIGHTS
This is a song about a bloke who comes home every night blind drunk and sees evidence that his wife has been with another man in his absence, his wife then unconvincingly explains this away. This version is a bit sanitised compared with the full version but is a good rousing song all the same and got to Number Seven in the UK singles chart in 1980.
Track 18 ANITA DOBSON - ANYONE CAN FALL IN LOVE
A vocal version of the Eastenders theme tune sung by one of its stars. This is a bit slushy, but her singing isn't that bad at all. It reached Number Four in the UK singles chart in 1986
Track 19 PATRICK MCNEE / HONOR BLACKMAN - KINKY BOOTS
A great slice of fun 1960's kitsch this. Recorded by the two stars of the cult 1960's TV show The Avengers. Apparently they were a bit tipsy when they did the recording session, which probably adds to the general fun atmosphere of the record. It reached Number Five in the UK singles chart in 1964.
Track 20 ESTHER AND ABI OFARIM - CINDERELLA ROCKEFELLA
This husband and wife sound as if they were on something while recording this. Very distinctive and crazy vocal styles, it has a certain charm though, probably why it made it to Number One in the UK singles chart in 1967.
THOUGHTS / CONCLUSIONS
There you have it 40 tracks of varying degrees of quality and fun value. This CD set would probably be hard going for someone who is not into novelty and "naff" records, but for use at a party or a DIY pop quiz it is excellent, particularly if you've "had a few". If you buy it, enjoy.
Just because everyone says something is bad, it doesn't mean that it is. This is a compilation of what are supposedly the worst songs ever released. In 1999 Keith Chegwin introduced a show on Channel 4 about the 10 worst songs of all time. This 40-track album appeared shortly afterwards. There's a picture of Chegwin dressed as a chicken on the front - I have no idea what chickens have to do with bad music. (Possibly Cheggers just wanted to dress as a chicken. This was only a couple of years before he got his knob out for Channel 5.)
Thing is, though, I actually find a lot of this music enjoyable. Basically, it's a collection of novelty records and unfashionable pop songs. I dislike the rather sneery attitude that people like to adopt towards the popular culture of recent decades (as if that of our present one isn't going to seem just as dated and ludicrous in 20 years time). A lot of these songs are meant to be funny, so laughing at them is surely the whole point? It seems a hideous injustice to criticise something from the early 80s just because it isn't fashionable today.
The compilation boasts 35 top tens, including 19 number ones. And therein lies the problem - a lot of this stuff was wildly popular. So in buying into the idea that this music is bad, we are surely attacking the very fabric of British society itself. And if we, as a society, can't be trusted to buy the right music, how can we possibly be trusted to, say, vote? Hmm?
Disc 1 begins with a well-known comedy song, Shaddup You Face by Joe Dolce. It's OK, mildly entertaining, nothing more, nothing less. Then we get the Birdie Song by The Tweets. This as much as any other song has come to epitomise the church-hall disco style of 80s novelty record that people affect to despise these days. But it's actually bloody good - forget all about being forced to do stupid dance moves by drunk holiday-camp DJs, and just listen to the actual music. It's jolly as hell, with a great barrel-organ vibe, and if it didn't have silly bird-call effects in the background it would probably be a lot more highly regarded. Next up is Agadoo by Black Lace - I have to admit to not liking this one so much, although I'm a little puzzled as to why it's almost universally regarded as the worst song ever.
Next is a rather nondescript but entirely inoffensive pop song called Son Of My Father by Chicory Tip. Then comes Billy Don't Be A Hero by Paper Lace - I'm sorry, but why is this song on here? When did it become part of the pantheon of awful songs? It's a bubblegum masterpiece, and an anti-war song to boot! (The Dixie Chicks' heart-rending Travellin' Soldier is essentially a remake of this song.) This is followed by an odd but loveable instrumental called Mouldy Old Dough (by Lieutenant Pigeon, who probably wasn't a real Lieutenant). The weird, occasional chant of the song's title in the background (mixed way back so it's quite hard to hear) elevates this track to the ranks of the genuinely strange. Then there's Jonathan King's Una Paloma Blanca, an agreeable enough tune that promises more than it delivers (although given King's fall from grace I doubt it'll be turning up on many more compilations).
Next is - oh yes! - Disco Duck, by someone called Rick Dees. Who but the British would react to a strange new form of popular music (as disco was when the song was released) by buying a humorous novelty record about a man being out-danced by a duck at his local discotheque? The synthesised duck noises are tremendous, and the duck's laugh sounds genuinely malevolent. Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road is immortal, an entirely charming little song that has always received more than its fair share of opprobrium. Its drum intro reminds me of Up The Junction by Squeeze.
Next we arrive in Eurovision land, with Clodagh Rogers' Jack in the Box and Buck's Fizz's Making Your Mind Up - very different songs, but they epitomise the glory years of the Song Contest, when the challenge was to write songs that sounded good no matter what language they were sung in. Next up is I'm The Leader Of The Gang by Gary Glitter - not really a bad song, just a glam rock chant. The fact that Glitter's disgraceful behaviour had come to light when the album was released suggests that the song was included purely because of who sang it. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Tight Fit is an old African-flavoured piece of lounge music fused with some kitsch lyrics about lions - it's the pop equivalent of those plates with pictures of elephants on them that you see advertised on the back of magazines.
The Time Warp by Damian is the first song on here that I can't listen to. This cross-dressing jackanapes was trying to be the new Boy George, but he was rubbish; his cover of the classic Rocky Horror number sucks profoundly. After this little blip, though, we're back on safer ground. Los Del Rio's Macarena is good - the vocal combination of Eurotrash chicks and sober sounding middle-aged men creates something that I'm rather fond of. Sam Fox's Touch Me is a song that caused an immoderate amount of excitement amongst my peer group when it was released (we were 12) - it tries and fails to be powerful and erotic, but fails well - it is to Total Eclipse of the Heart what Confessions of a Driving Instructor is to Last Tango in Paris. The only problem is that the version on this CD is some kind of remix, with the verses removed. This disc finishes with I'm In The Mood For Dancing by The Nolans, a song that's perhaps a bit *too* cheerful, and the very vague hint of sexual favours to come actually sounds more like a threat than a promise.
Disc 2 is a let down, although the first half is good. It begins with Orville's Song, in which popular 80s ventriloquist Keith Harris sings a dark song of existential despair to his alter ego, a flightless green duck. A curiously upsetting children's song, especially when you bear in mind it's a man singing *to himself* about how his sadness will never end. Benny Hill's Ernie is a comic song about the death of a milkman, and isn't quite as memorable as the songs that surround it. Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris has no business being on a compilation of bad music. Apart from being one of the least bombastic (and therefore most effective) anti-war songs ever, it's actually rather moving. When I saw Harris at Glastonbury, I was choking back a manly tear when he sang this.
St Winnifred's School Choir's song about how great grandmas are is a bit much, to be honest - grandmas are great and all, but I don't really need dozens of schoolchildren to tell me that. Clive Dunn's Grandad is a masterpiece - the old buffer reminisces about things he used to do when he was a lad, while an adoring chorus of girls assures him that he's lovely. Quite touching, really, and *everyone* likes it, which makes its appearance on this album mystifying. Seven Tears by the Goombay Dance Band is another great, great song. Utterly incomprehensible lyrics, and a tune that resembles Auld Lang Syne - great stuff, and if it only had a spoken-word bit in the rather lengthy instrumental break it would be up there with the best.
Sadly after that the album goes rapidly downhill. The Wurzels' Brand New Combine Harvester is good fun, but otherwise we get genuinely appalling songs by the likes of the Krankies, Mr Blobby and Kenny Everett (yes, I realise this undermines my rant way back at the start of this opinion, but there *are* limits). Tiny Tim was a lot less funny than he thought he was, Patrick McNee and Honor Blackman should stick to acting, and Johnny Reggae by the Piglets is simply awful. The only ray of light is provided by Anita Dobson's Anyone Can Fall In Love, basically the EastEnders theme with agreeably insipid lyrics. Disc 2 limps to a halt with the rather trying Cinderella Rockefella.
The real disappointment about so much of disc 2 being so bad is that there's some great stuff they could have included - Save Your Love by Renee and Renato is missing, as is Star Trekkin' by The Firm. Ah well. The point is, don't dislike things just because you're told to; listen to them first, and then dislike them. I realise that very few people will have much patience with the likes of Keith Harris or Disco Duck, but I really regard them as a lot more entertaining than a lot of the more popular acts of their day (and of ours).
Ha ha ha, I've just blown all my credibility, haven't I?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Joe Dolce - Saddup You Face
2 Tweets - The Birdie Song
3 Black Lace - Agadoo
4 Chicory Tip - Son of My Father
5 Paper Lace - Billy Don't Be A Hero
6 Lieutenant Pigeon - Mouldy Dough
7 Jonathan King - Una Paloma Blanca
8 Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots - Disco Duck
9 The Scaffold - Lily The Pink
10 Middle of The Road - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
11 Clodagh Rodgers - Jack In the Box
12 Buck's Fizz - Making Your Mind Up
13 Gary Glitter - I'm The Leader of The Gang (I Am)
14 Tight Fit - The Lion Sleeps Tonight
15 Damian - Time Warp
16 Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe
17 Los Del Rio - Macarena
18 Sinitta - So Macho
19 Sam Fox - Touch Me (I Want Your Body)
20 The Nolans - I'm In The Mood For Dancing
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Keith Harris - Orville's Song
2 Benny Hill - Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)
3 Rolf Harris - Two Little Boys
4 St Winnifrieds School Choir - There's No-one Quite Like Grandma
5 Clive Dunn - Grandad
6 Goombay Dance Band - Seven Tears
7 Tiny Tim - Tiptoe Through The Tulips With Me
8 The Wurzels - Combine Harvester
9 Mr Blobby - Mr Blobby
10 Kenny Everett - Snot Rap
11 Gay Gordon & The Mince Pies - The Essential Wally Party Medley
12 St Cecilia - Leap Up and Down (Wave Your Knickers In the Air)
13 The Krankies - We're Going To Spain
14 Piglets - Johnny Reggae
15 Maguerita Pracatan - Hello
16 Starturn On 45 pints - Pump Up The Bitter
17 The Dubliners - Seven Drunken Nights
18 Anita Dobson - Anyone Can Fall In Love
19 Patrick McNee / Honor Blackman - Kinky Boots
20 Esther and Abi Ofarim - Cinderella Rockerfella