I was looking at my very long list of “best and worst” music today, and found an old section called “The worst lines in popular songs”. I present them to you as an inspiration. There are many more, of course: I expect people may bring up “MacArthur Park” or “I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates,” but those are just overall bad songs. Bad songs needn’t contain bad lines, though. Here’s some of the lines that I’ll never be rid of as earworms:
This is a story about Billy Joe and Bobbie SueTwo young lovers with nothin’ better to do Than sit around the house, get high, and watch the tube And here is what happened when they decided to cut loose They headed down to, ooh, old El Paso That’s where they ran into a great big hassle Billy Joe shot a man while robbing his castle Bobbie Sue took the money and run
. . . . Hoo-hoo-hoo, Billy Mack is a detective down in TexasYou know he knows just exactly what the facts isHe ain’t gonna let those two escape justiceHe makes his livin’ off of the people’s taxes
—Steve Miller “Take the Money and Run”
Rhyming “El Paso” with “hassle” and “Texas” with “facts is” are just not rhymes. And someone should remind Mr. Miller that “facts” is plural. Steve Miller may in fact be the producer of the worst lines in music. Don’t forget “Abracadabra” and the immortal lines in “The Joker”:
Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
‘Cause I speak of the pompatus of love
There is no such thing as “pompatus,” at least not in the Oxford English Dictionary
Here’s an example of a not-bad song with terrible lines. The first two just make me cringe, and the words “when we rode the horse we got some thrills” does likewise. Only one horse? Some thrills?
“Sittin’ in my car outside your house
Remember when I spilled Coke all over your blouse.
. . .Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills(Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills) When we rode the horse, we got some thrills.”
–Beach Boys, “All Summer Long”
This is a good song but Loretta strains for rhymes several times. Here’s one example:
“The work we done was hard
At night we’d sleep ‘cause we were tard.” [“tired”]
–Loretta Lynn, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”
Here we have one of at least three uses of the word “chicken” in a rock song (can you name another?), but rhyming “chicken” with “bit me” doesn’t work. That said, I love this song; it’s bouncy and one of the best songs Stevie wrote:
“I was knee high to a chicken
When the love bug done bit me.” (a rhyme)
–Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made to Love Her”
This speaks for itself:
Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
–Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, “Wooly Bully”
This song was on the jukebox in the greasy diner where we ate every night in college (99 cents per meal, including rice pudding!). It is one of the worst songs of that era. And the verse just cuts off: we don’t know what they will find in 2525!
In the year 2525,
If man is still alive,
If woman can survive
They may find.
–Zager and Evans, “2525”
I never understood this verse. These words may make some arcane sense to Chicago, but didn’t to me:
Should I try to do some more?
25 or 6 to 4.
–Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4”
I’m a huge fan of Steve Stills, but when he got it wrong, he got it wrong big time. And here’s one of those times!
The deeper you go ’cause of the pressure of the air
The nitrogen comes and goes (gets you high)
It’s an alien atmosphere
They call it rapture of the deep
Be you not afraid
You’re too far down by now to be scared
Two hundred and eighty-seven feet
I saw Jesus and it made sense that he was there
–Stephen Stills, “Black Coral”
This comes from my late friend Kenny, who found the lyric:
“Ooooh, poor Romeo
Sitting’ all on his own-e-o.
Ooooh, poor Romeo.
–Phil Lynott, “Romeo and the Lonely Girl”, from “Jailbreak”, byThin Lizzie
UPDATE: I’ll retract the last quote as “bad rhyming” based on one a comment in the thread by Brendan Teeling, who says that “own-eo” was normal Dublin parlance at the time. Also, this was the only quote that was given to me by someone else; all the rest I’m well familiar with.
You know the drill: NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! Put your worst lyrics below.