The first LP that Fragmented Frequencies ever purchased with his own piggy bank savings was Footy Favourites (1981 on wait for it, Studio One). It’s a devastating collection of tunes like Danny Boy and Macho Man being murdered by the footy heroes of the day. Surprisingly Mark Maclure’s take on Lennon’s Imagine isn’t that bad but Tim Watson sounds like someone’s juggling his testicles with a cheese grater, pitching all over Kenny Rogers classic Ruby (don’t take your love to town) with the emotion of, well an impotent newsreader. In a world before autotune this album is nothing short of classic. Particularly if you think bad karaoke is classic.
But more than just a nostalgic trip into 80’s football culture, reliving this album now makes you realise that there are a lot of truly terrible albums out there. Music so bad it’s bad. Music without redeeming features. Music where you’re in too much pain to find some kind of patronising cynical humour in their earnest attempts at art.
“It’s hard to talk in a world with nothing to say,” offers John Laws on Just You and Me Together Love (RCA 1977). Of course it didn’t stop him for one second in indulging us with his delicate poetry, that of a swinging truck driving stud deep in love, over Henry Mancini’s uncharacteristically bland orchestrations. It was hard to choose between this and You’ve Never Been Trucked Like This Before (RCA 1976), where on the cover Laws, standing in front of a truck is simultaneously being served a Jack Daniels, having his shoe shined and staring down the cleavage of three hot chicks. Ultimately however his turgid, faintly misogynist wordplays of a bold adventurer with a sensitive side win out as he discusses his “thoughts of nameless women in cheap rooms.”
The 80’s were a devastating decade for many, Neil Young’s awful awful attempt at rockabilly Everybody’s Rocking only escaped this list by the width of his pink tie. Instead Lou Reed’s unbelievably lame Growing Up in Public (Arista 1980) gets a guernsey. “I don’t care if you pick my head as long as we end up in bed,” he offers at one point and when the next song begins with him repeating “Love is here, here to stay,” you’re ready to stab your record player. Apparently a year later he would clean up from his well documented drug and alcohol problems. Drug addicts talk of needing to hit rock bottom before being able to change. This is rock bottom. Then it bottoms out again. Each song is progressively worse. This album is an intervention.
The Switched On series has a certain kitsch charm. Wendy Carlos’ 1968 Switched on Bach, is of course a classic of Moog synthesizer virtuosity. The brand has been progressively weakened through Burt Bacharach and Beatles cover albums, even a Country Music outing, but they hit a new low with 1977’s Switched on Christmas. The Moog has disappeared and Santa is on the cover happily shooting lasers out of his hands. The christmas carols are of course a kind of disco easy listening muzak. Funky soulless and unbelievably bad. The demented Chipmunk funk and schmaltz of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a dead set classic. Particularly if you’ve never heard music before.
You know when you watch those movies from the 80’s and there’s this uplifting moment, the beat kicks in, a bit of sax and then someone wails some kind of earnest fist in the air song about touching a fire or escaping the darkness, totally ruining the moment. Well imagine if it was sung by perky precocious kids in bright clothes. Then imagine if the songs were all about Jesus. Prism Yellow (1987 Reunion) is not as good as it sounds.
Colette, Samantha Fox, Craig McLachlan and Check 1-2, Jason Donavon, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, even Jacko aint gonna make it to this list. Even at their worst at least there’s some spirit in their music. Christmas with Your Neighbours: 20 All-Time Christmas Favourites (1989 EMI) however takes it to a whole new level. Voices are totally indistinguishable. Sure your favourite Neighbours like Paul and Harold and the rest of the gang are here but they’re all mashed together, so for all you know it’s the Korean Orphans Choir. It’s so bland it’s almost over the top. Hark the Herald Angels sing makes you feel like trapped in time before morphing into the Twelve Days of Christmas which sounds more like the 12,044 years of christmas. This is what you’re forced to listen to if you’ve misbehaved in hell.