In a poll conducted by Rolling Stone Magazine, Starship’s 1985 #1 smash ‘We Built This City’ was named the worst song of the decade.
The top ten chart of supposed duds ran as follows:
1 – Starship – ‘We Built This City’
2 – Europe – ‘The Final Countdown’
3 – Chris De Burgh – ‘Lady In Red’
4 – Wham! – ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’
5 – Men Without Hats – ‘The Safety Dance’
6 – Falco – ‘Rock Me Amadeus’
7 – Bobby McFerrin – ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’
8 – Toni Basil – ‘Mickey’
9 – Taco – ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’
10 – Rick Astley – ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’
Okay, Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady In Red’ is sickly and a few of the other nominees are hopelessly disposable, but are these ten tracks really the worst of the decade? At REAL GONE, we disagree. The 80s threw up so much bad music, Starship and Europe shouldn’t even qualify.
Ignoring obvious novelties (Joe Dolce’s ‘Shaddap You Face’, The Tweets’ ‘Birdie Song’, the works of Black Lace et al), since nobody ever claimed they were ever meant to be any good, we’ve compiled a gallery of horrors we think puts the Rolling Stone chart to shame. This is by no means definitive, or in any particular order – just a selection of ten painfully bad songs from a decade which, between some absolutely fantastic stuff, offered more than its fair share of musical mistakes.
GLENN MADEIROS – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You
This is so weak it hurts. Far worse than Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady In Red’, quite frankly. Possibly even worse than the overwrought ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ by Michael “Two Haircuts” Bolton. According to the blurb inside the “Smash Hits 88” compilation CD, Madeiros has “a dog called Rambo who undoes shoelaces, has never worn a grass skirt and is hard to wake up in the mornings”. We assume the second two factoids refer to Glenn himself and not the dog, but their blurb is so badly written it’s impossible to tell. In the early 90s, comedy duo Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer described Glenn’s work as being (paraphrased) “so bad, it’s the kind of music that, if you shut yourself in a fridge by accident and left the music on really loudly to alert passers by to your predicament, they would never come and help”…
SHEENA EASTON – Morning Train (9 To 5)
A hopeless diddly-dee arrangement that your gran would love isn’t even the worst thing about this. This kind of variety show easy listening makes The Nolans look hip. If this was the pinnacle of what Sheena could offer the UK’s pop chart in 1981, we’re quite glad this pint-sized Scottish lass buggered off to America. You have to wonder how Prince saw any potential.
ANEKA – Japanese Boy
Okay, this wobbles on the side of novelty, but nobody ever really marketed it as such. Jobbing “singer” Mary Sandeman donned a geisha’s outfit and tormented us all with this slightly Oriental flavoured piece of nastiness. Follow up singles saw Sandman dropping the costume and ultimately they flopped. If only this one had achieved a similar level of success…
CLIFF RICHARD – Mistletoe & Wine
It’s been too easy to knock Sir Cliff over the years, but it’s not always been entirely justified. Let’s not forget that in the late 50s and early 60s he was the UK’s best rock ‘n’ roller and later, ‘Devil Woman’ and ‘Wired For Sound’ represented more than reasonable pop fare. This, his first festive faux pas, has no such redeeming qualities.
MARTI WEBB – Take That Look Off Your Face
What could be worse than something from one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shite musicals? An awful number from a Lloyd Webber musical which most people don’t even remember! A leaden arrangement and bad vocal make this number listening hell. How it reached #3 in the UK charts for three weeks in 1980 is a mystery. Who was it buying records that week? For people with actual musical taste, some solace came on the third week when The Jam’s ‘Going Underground’ entered the charts – straight in at #1.
STEVIE WONDER – I Just Called To Say I Love You
The whole of the 80s ought to unearth far worse musical crimes than this, but Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called…’ is a number we ought to see in context. In the 60s Stevie lent his vocal to a timeless classic (‘Uptight’). He entered the 70s with a great feel-good tune (‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’), while later in the decade he gave us unmatchable clavichord funkiness (‘Superstition’) and political anger (‘Living For The City’). Given that Mr Wonder is unquestionably talented as both a writer and musician, what was his excuse for this “tune” in 1984? It’s weak, uninspired, not much more than a pre-programmed Casio keyboard loop. It even ends with a cha-cha-cha, for Christ’s sake. Even the sappy ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ is better – at least that can claim to have a half-decent harmonica line. …And yet, the Great British Public once again proved their questionable taste by buying this in such huge numbers it stayed at the top of the chart for six weeks.
SABRINA – Boys (Summertime Love)
The Stock, Aitken, Waterman Hit Factory did exactly what it said on the tin. During the second half of the 80s, the three producers churned out similar sounding hits by the truckload, each one pummelling the chorus into the listeners’ heads even before the intro had ended. Having already made musical stars of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, having discovered Rick Astley, Mel & Kim and Sinitta, they cast their expert eye over Europe and upon something a bit fruitier. Enter glamour model Sabrina Salerno. The song ‘Boys (Summertime Love)’ is a rather questionable piece of Euro-pop, while the video is an unquestionable excuse for a badly fitting bikini and wet t-shirt. Obviously one for the dads, ‘Boys’ represents one of the times that The Hit Factory didn’t do it so well. It’s possibly worse than ‘I’d Rather Jack’ by The Reynolds Girls…but only just. [Video is vaguely NSFW].
ANITA DOBSON – Anyone Can Fall In Love
Take a well-known TV theme tune. Spend about ten minutes writing words for the melody. This is the result. It’s unlikely we should have expected any better from Anita Dobson. This appalling dirge based around the ‘EastEnders’ theme was produced by her future husband and sometime haircut sharer Mr Brian May, clearly aiming for a career low. The song spent a staggering 11 weeks on the UK chart, peaking at #4. Interestingly, the chart on 25th October 1986 featured a hat-trick of ‘EastEnders’ related badness, as Dobbo was joined by Nick Berry’s ‘Every Loser Wins’ (a #1 hit which makes Chris DeBurgh’s ‘Lady In Red’ sound like a masterpiece) and ‘Something Outta Nothing’, a badly arranged duet between Letitia Dean and Paul Medford. Paul Medford was rarely seen after this – maybe he retired in embarrassment.
MC MIKER G & DJ SVEN – Holiday Rap
Mmm. Forgotten by many and with good reason, the only redeeming feature here is the borrowed Madonna tune. A couple of Dutch guys, some leather trousers, a questionable moustache and some truly bad rapping (and worse beatboxing) makes this one the gold standard of awful.
STEFAN DENNIS – Don’t It Make You Feel Good
In 1989, Stef was one in a long line of soap stars whom wanted to expand their range of talents. Like Kylie and Jason before him, superstardom beckoned, but his raw emotion and powerhouse performance couldn’t match that of his contemporaries. His biggest hit, ‘Don’t It Make You Feel Good’ didn’t even trouble the top ten. To be fair, there are probably worse 80s hits than this, but the all-round earnestness of the video makes it too funny not to include.