Five Stupid Songs

by AnomalousArtist's can be beautiful, thought-provoking, scary, irritating...and stupid!

There is very little more personal than musical taste. People can agree on food, film, literature and even sometimes religion easier than determining what is, and isn't "good" when it comes to audio entertainment.

Below I've listed, in no order whatsoever, five songs that got radio play, were even big hits, were beloved by someone, somewhere (maybe even ME) and are, in my opinion, incredibly stupid! Why is this the case? What's the definition of "stupid?" Why make a list of stupid songs? Don't be stupid! Just keep reading and enjoy!

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1) "The Telephone Man" (1977) Meri Wilson

Here's a song that has been swept under the carpet of time.  Outside of retro 70s stations you're unlikely to hear it, but the summer that the original "Star Wars" appeared you couldn't get away from it, and it's about as stupid as it gets!

The song consists of a rather giggly, perhaps inebriated, woman describing an experience she has had with a telephone repairman (this was back when everyone had land lines!).  She describes the encounter breathlessly and it's full of suggestive innuendo...or something...lyrics include, "My heart began a-thumping and my mind began to fly and I knew I wasn't dealing with no ordinary guy..." a Shakespeare sonnet, this ain't!

Aside from the rather obvious repeated chorus about the telephone man looking for a place to "put" the phone, as a kid I didn't have a clue what the song was implying, I just knew it must be dirty because of the way the singer was going on and on, and all the kids on the playground would repeat the "hey la li la li" chorus. 

When I heard the song again as a grown up, with its tacky Wurlitzer instrumentation and running time of less than two minutes, I was astounded that it ever got airplay, let alone was something of a hit (it reached #18 on the top 100 and went gold!).  I found out later the singer, Meri Wilson was an accomplished vocalist who hoped to have a "real" career after this novelty song but was, of course, forever identified with it.  Here's hoping if nothing else she is enjoying life in a cocktail lounge somewhere, singing, "hey la li la li, get it any way you can." 

2) Disco Duck (1976) Rick Dees

Speaking of the 70s, there are a lot of stupid songs from the era but very few were as utterly stupid and obnoxious as THIS one!

The story goes that Memphis DJ Rick Dees recorded some novelty songs for his radio show.  Eventually he managed to convince someone to play a dumb song he'd recorded with a friend who did a "duck" voice (his logic was that there had been a 60s novelty song called "The Duck," why not a similar song capitalizing on the disco craze?)

Fueled by the "disco" craze, the song broke in the south and spread like wildfire, eventually becoming a huge hit (number one on the charts and staying ON the charts for 25 weeks!) and getting Dees fired from his DJ job. 

Dees never had another hit like "Disco Duck" but don't feel too bad for him--he became a famous DJ in LA (and one assumes fairly wealthy) and was a staple of the radio scene in Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s, with or without a duck voice or disco moves.

As for the song, once you've heard it it's very hard to UN-hear it...The song relates how the singer is at a party and has an uncontrollable urge to flap his "wings" and "get down," and his absurd moves catch on, and then you hear "disco, disco duck" repeated around 37,000 times in the space of 3 minutes. Whenever I hear it (and I listen to a 70s station where they play it all the time) I wonder by the end of the song if the recording has somehow gotten stuck and is endlessly repeating...til I go out of my quacking mind...!

3) "Muskrat Love" (1976) Captain And Tennille

Speaking of stupid songs about animals, this one always puzzled me...Apparently it was written by an Austin songwriter (Willis Alan Ramsey) and recorded by soft-rock group "America."  The Captain And Tennille, who had a huge hit with a song called "Love Will Keep Us Together," felt compelled to record "Muskrat Love" and release it in 1976.  The song went to #4 and was one of the duo's biggest hits.

The question isn't so much "why" as "what?"  If you listen carefully to the record (and I have, specifically so you don't HAVE to, thank me later!) it really does detail the romance between two muskrats...named Sam and Suzie...who nuzzle "muzzle to muzzle"...tickle each others' "fancy" and...well, never mind.  Do you really want to think about it?  Muskrats, we learn, are cousins to rats who live in swamps and have nostrils shaped like a seven.  Of course there had to be a pop song about it, right?

The somewhat disturbing lyrics are sung in lullaby fashion by the amazingly talented Toni Tennille, a powerhouse vocalist, and accompanied by synthetic bleeps and blurps by outstanding keyboardist Daryl Dragon.  Putting these two artists to a song like "Muskrat Love" is something akin to having Josh Groban sing...well..."Disco Duck..."  But the song was a huge, inexplicable hit.  Stupid sometimes means profitable, apparently!

4) Pac Man Fever (1983) Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia

Here's a song that is both stupid and crass--to be sure, the lyrics are really lame ("I got a callus on my finger and my shoulder's hurting too, I'm gonna eat 'em all up just as soon as they turn blue") but the obviousness of the "song" is far worse than anything it has to say. 

Pac Man is, of course, the early 80s video game that took the world by storm at the dawn of the "arcade era."   The game, for those of you who may have lived under a rock for the last 30 years or so, had a little yapping yellow circle gliding around a maze eating pellets whilst being pursued by wide-eyed ghosts who attempted to kill the creature...not exactly something that lends itself well to a 3 minute pop song, but then, neither, I suppose, was that doggie in the window...

Bruckner and Garcia were radio jingle writers living in Atlanta who saw cash to be made off the wild phenomenon of video games.  They threw together a song and released it as quickly as possible and "Pac Man Fever" was the result, a record that went gold and reached #9 on the Billboard charts, and was their only hit.

The only way to explain such a vapid song becoming a hit is to remember there was once a world where things weren't available all that immediately or easily--many kids wouldn't even have had access to an arcade in the 80s, let alone a personal computer, and would have longed to have been a part of the "arcade action."  "Pac Man Fever," which included sound effects from the game, was like a souvenir, something to take home with you and cherish while you were saving up your (or your parents') quarters to toss into a Pac Man machine soon.

For my part, I had access to a local arcade, was a "Pac Man Addict" officially, and found the song, which resembled something "The Oak Ridge Boys" might record trying to sound "new wave," pretty stupid!

5) "Surfin' Bird" (1964) The Trashmen

I risk offending someone, somewhere by including this song on this list.  I make no apologies; the song is classic, fun, "groovy," unique and well made...but it's awfully stupid all the same! 

Inspired by "surf" music, a genre popular at the time, four young men from Minneapolis were inspired by a local group performing two songs that had not gotten much airplay, "Papa Oom Mow Mow" and "Bird Is The Word."  The boys put their own medley of the song together with improvised lyrics and the response was so good they decided to cut a record and release it.  This resulted in a song that reached #4 on the charts and continues to play on retro radio stations to this day.

Again, this is not to take away from what is a fun, classic party song...the point is simply that the song is really, really...REALLY...stupid! 

The lyrics consist of someone who sounds like, well,  your local trash man repeating the word "bird" something near 2 million times, alternated with "bird is the word," "has everybody heard" and "Papa Oom Mow Mow."  It's all set to a grungy, two-chord grind without introduction that pre-dates punk rock by nearly 20 years.  It bears little resemblance to a traditional verse, chorus, bridge pop song and includes a psychotic break in the middle that either is spawned from a mental institution or would drive someone to one.  Just when you think it can't keep going the song...starts over!  And just as quickly as it ends, with a quick fade, no resolution, nothing learned...but with anyone listening changed for all time! 


"Stupid songs."  You know you love them...laugh with them or at them, but enjoy them without shame!

The Night John Died

{WARNING: This novel contains frank language, graphic violence and scenes depicting alternative life-style sexuality and is not intended for younger or more sensitive readers} J...

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Updated: 10/17/2013, AnomalousArtist
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AnomalousArtist on 07/24/2013

Ha ha, I do not believe you are alone in this opinion :)

MaggiePowell on 07/24/2013

I listened to Rick Dees in his LA DJ days... Disco Duck is best forgotten.

AnomalousArtist on 07/22/2013

Thanks you guys! Yeah, it's all tongue in cheek...I actually feel fondness for ALL these old songs and laughing at them is sort of laughing at myself in a lot of ways, thanks for the comments :)

Ragtimelil on 07/22/2013

Ha, too funny. I never liked Muskrat Love but admit to enjoying the Surfin Bird. (I was much younger then.....ahem.) And now I know where Disco, the famous parakeet, got his name! (see youtube)

EliasZanetti on 07/22/2013

I was quite surprised to see 'Surfin' Bird' in your list but I was convinced by the arguments you put forward! :) also it was quite interesting to read about the background story of the song. Back in my teenage years I was first introduced to that song by Ramones cover and they kinda did hailed stupidity so I see your point.

katiem2 on 07/22/2013

Thanks for the chuckle, I needed that!

WriterArtist on 07/22/2013

Very nice review of the songs - I would love to hear these hilarious songs.

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