Worst lyrics ever?

There have been some truly bad lyrics since “rock” music appeared lo those many years ago. One set of lines that manages to still stick in my head years later is a famous Backstreet Boys chorus,

“I don’t care who you are
Where you’re from
What You did
As long as you love me.”

I mean, I get the sentiment. All this boy wants is for a girl to love him. Aww. Even if she’s from Fredericton, that’s okay. Even if she’s committed a few misdemeanors in the past, that’s okay. Even is she’s a bitch, that’s okay.

That’s the part I don’t get. Of course every person cares who their significant other is. What a stupid thing to say. And if this was a girl singing these lyrics instead of a guy, which would have been an easy possibility given that the song was produced by a factory, it could have been more like: I don’t care that you’re a serial rapist, as long as you love me.

I’m sure there are countless other terrible pop lyrics, and countless other terrible Backstreet Boys lyrics. I wouldn’t know. I pretty much stopped listening to commercial radio after I did a few years of amateur radio myself. I don’t listen, so I wouldn’t know. I catch the odd terrible music video, but I don’t see them enough to remember the trash. So for truly memorable bad lyrics I have to go to what I know, which I would normally regard as good music.

My favourite worst lyrics come from a time when people were allowed to get away with a lot of terrible bullshit in song. The Psychedelic Era featured lots of people trying to be poetic, because of Dylan and his followers, and lots of people using drugs, thereby thinking they were poetic. There are no doubt many bad lyrics from this era as well, but my absolute favourite are these, courtesy of Burton Cummings of the Guess Who:

“I gotta get a two-ton truck
I gotta get a two-ton truck
I gotta get a two-ton truck
I gotta get a two-ton truck
I gotta do it to a duck on a two-ton truck
And fade away
Like Ron Rene
All right”

Not being a car aficionado, I don’t know what kind of truck this is. Is it a pickup? Is it something bigger? Off-hand, I’d guess it’s a large pickup. But I don’t know. I’m guessing it has a flatbed? Why? Because of the duck sex, of course. I don’t suppose duck sex is particularly easy in any moving vehicle, but in the cab of a truck it must be really difficult. So I’m thinking that this two-ton truck must have a flatbed on which Mr. Cummings intends to fuck that fowl.

Of course, after committing an act of possibly public bestiality, who wouldn’t want to disappear from the spotlight? I understand. It would make more sense if the reference was to someone we had heard of, instead of some obscure Manitoban singer. I mean, even the most esoteric pop culture references need to have some kind of currency. But it seems like only those into the Winnipeg music “scene” of the late 60s would have any idea who this guy is, all right? Had he really faded away as early as 1968? That’s quite the career.

Perhaps the worst part of this is that these lyrics are part of an extended Jim Morrison impression, the likes of which weren’t seen again until Ian Astbury. These lines themselves aren’t delivered in the most Morrison-esque way, but much of the lyrics are. The whole tribute is surrounded by what is a fairly competent, if overlong, multi-part psychedelic rock jam. Moments later Mr. Cummings notes:

“You got the magical mystery tour
You got the magical mystery tour
You got the magical mystery tour
You got the magical mystery tour

And Kurt is the Walrus
And Kurt is the Walrus
And the Walrus does funny things to the veins in his left arm, yeah
All right”

Not only is he content to rip-off Morrison, but now he’s referencing the Beatles. And not just one Beatles song but two. Apparently, “I Am the Walrus” is part of the Magical Mystery Tour. Obvious enough, the song is on that album. And further, “I Am the Walrus” may be about drugs, if we are to believe Mr. Cummings. Well it was certainly inspired by drugs, but the lyrics don’t appear to mean anything. Lennon has said as much. But Mr. Cummings suggests that the Walrus is a symbol for Lennon’s heroin addiction, or is it his friend Kurt’s? I don’t know whether or not Lennon was addicted to Heroin in ’67, and I don’t know anything about this guy named Kurt. I do know that “I Am the Walrus” is one of the landmark recordings of the 60s, it contains the first widely heard extended sample in a rock record, not to mention numerous other fascinating and innovative effects.

Then, of course, there are the lyrics (the theme was later taken up more clearly in “Glass Onion”). Mr. Cummings is linking him, his song and his band to this landmark. At least when Pink Floyd referenced the Beatles, they were a good band. What these lines have to do with duck sex on trucks, or what either set of lyrics has to do with Flanders Fields, I don’t know. Perhaps the trial section, which seems part of either a terrible attempt at recreating “The End,” or a terrible parody of it, is a trial for bestiality or drug use. But I don’t know what it has to do with Flanders Fields either.

One of the most shocking things about this terrible song is the reaction it gets. As a DJ, I was compelled by our wonderful government to play 35% Cancon. Because my parents did a horrible job of educating me musically, I pretty much owned records from only two Canadian bands at the time: Rush, and the Guess Who. So I played the Guess Who a lot. I believe I played “Friends of Mine” three or four times in my seven semesters at CJMQ, and another time during my one summer at CFMU. I always prefaced these spins with a disclaimer that I thought the song was terrible, that I was playing it because I had to play something but I couldn’t keep playing the same Canadian songs over and over, and that I wanted to contrast good and bad lyrics. The result was shocking.

I received more phone calls about “Friends of Mine” then perhaps any other obscure psychedelic or prog nugget I ever played on air. The calls were uniformly positive and inquisitive: “what is that song? what album is it on? is that album widely available?” At first I blamed this on the white trash of the Eastern Townships  /Northern New England, but the response in Hamilton was the same. Shocking, like I said.

My only conclusion can be that, as my friend noted many years ago, very few people care about lyrics. So what does it matter whether they’re any good or not?

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