Thursday, June 4, 2009

The party crasher

Worst songs of all time? The discussion had centered on which version of "MacArthur Park'' deserved the title of the baddest record ever: the 1968 release by Richard Harris, or the 1978 disco hit by Donna Summer.

Both songs are worthy of consideration, and prove that even a Hall of Fame songwriter like Jimmy Webb can have a bad outing. Or was the infamous line "Someone left the cake out in the rain'' simply misunderstood?

Wait, I started this discussion off-point. The proposed list of worst records also included the song that topped the Billboard pop chart on this day in 1963. And as the editor with the final say, I wasn't buying it. Sorry, but "It's My Party'' is not a bad song, not when there are hundreds and hundreds of other clearly inferior choices available.

Granted, if you play the song 50,000 times it might start sounding like "I'm Henry the Eighth'', and you probably won't be able to get it out of your head. And deejays back then tended to play the grooves off a hot record. But it was not a terrible song.

I had to defend Leslie Gore, who was a big-haired high school senior when she cut the record for Quincy Jones. It was the first No. 1 for both of them, as well as for the engineer -- Phil Ramone. The writer was not happy but, hey, you would cry too if it happened to you.

The Billboard Top 5 on this day in 1963:
1. It's My Party, Leslie Gore
2. If You Wanna Be Happy, Jimmy Reed
3. I Love You Because, Al Martino
4. Surfin' U.S.A., Beach Boys
5. Da Doo Ron Ron, Crystals

Now, about Richard Harris vs. Donna Summer: At least the disco queen brought some life to her version. Harris' headache-inducing cut, droning for more than 7 minutes, is dreadful and tops many of the worst-ever lists. And his near-falsetto at the end, well, I can't say more.

Did you know that Sammy Davis Jr. recorded this song TWICE? Maybe he was trying to clean up his first mess...

1 comment:

  1. The "best" version is by Jimmy Webb himself on on his record "Ten Easy Pieces." Mostly just Jimmy on piano and singing. Some of it is great (ie "Witchita Lineman" and "Galveston.")