By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
Close your eyes, if you will,, and imagine such a creature - waving his arms in front a wall unit brimming with thousands of LP's. howling, "They're never going to put out all of this stuff on those damn space-age mini-Frisbees!"
That may have been true back in '86, when the only titles available on CD were new releases and classic-rock touchstones like Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin II, both of which had to be digitally remastered twice because somebody botched the first batch. Boooooo, tape hiss!
But now it's a different world--one in which every classic Frank Zappa and Partridge Family album is readily available on compact disc. And since the lion's share of significant or even mildly noteworthy rock albums has seen at least one digital transfer, there's little left for record companies to reissue but utter crap.
For example, only the most masochistic Beatles fans are running out to buy Ringo Starr's Sentimental Journey on CD. When the album first came out on vinyl in 1970, Ringo told an aghast rock press, "I did it for me mum." One can only imagine Mrs. Starkey's inner struggle to keep from braining her son with a rolling pin as he played her his wholesale butcherings of "Night and Day" and "Stardust."
Truly, the record companies are starting to scoop the dregs of their vaults. But they haven't hit bottom yet! From the Osmond family's one and only glam-metal record to Sonny and Cher picking at the carcass of their marriage in a Las Vegas lounge act, here are some of the oddest, most awful albums ever made. None of them has found its way to compact disc yet, but, after perusing this litany of horror, you may want to trade in your CD changer for a minidisc player just to be on the safe side.
S/Sgt. Barry Sadler
Ballads of the Green Berets
Truly a case where "This ain't rock 'n' roll--this is genocide" directly applies.
The jacket copy for Ballads of the Green Berets says that "fighting men have sung their songs since the dawn of civilization." That may be so, but never has a fighting man sung about an unpopular "police action" in such loving detail--with fuzz bass in the background, no less! Sadler does everything but spray napalm on his rock audience to glorify the Vietnam war experience (the record's title song actually hit the top of the pop charts in February 1966).
Despite Sadler's tightlipped Aryan visage on the cover, this LP has its lighter moments--"Garret Trooper" pokes fun at nancy boys with spit-shined boots ("Whenever he leaves that nice soft garrison, he always looks pretty"), while "Saigon" has a "girl with almond-shaped eyes" rolling a besotted special-forces officer for some Yankee greenbacks. Sadler penned his war-torn ballads while recovering from a leg wound he received after falling into a Viet Cong "man trap" and getting skewered by a poisoned bamboo spear like a human hors d'oeuvre. Two inches to the right and he would've become S/Sgt. Barry Gibb!
No wonder Sadler titled one of his songs "I'm a Lucky One," an "Oh Lonesome Me" sound-alike that anticipates postcombat traumatic stress syndrome: Sadler keeps waking in terror to the sound of crashing mortars and the grim realization that "all my friends are dead." Why did they die, Barry? "Answering freedom's call."
Back in the real world, this fearless balladeer shot a civilian to death in a 1978 bar fight. Say your prayers, peacenik.
Ode to Billie Joe
Hands down the scariest, bad-trippiest album released in the Summer of Love. Not even Syd Barrett could top this record's flipped-out title cut, where Ms. Gentry plays a cheap-sounding guitar and recounts backwoods memories while Twilight Zone strings keep darting out from behind bushes to spook you. Even worse, every song on this album is indistinguishable from the odorous "Ode." Who knows how many Chickasaw country flower children hurled themselves off the Tallahatchie Bridge after dropping acid to this recurring nightmare of an LP?
Sonny and Cher
Sonny and Cher Live!
Most people will tell you that Shoot Out the Lights is the definitive disintegration-of-a-marriage album, but even Richard and Linda Thompson had enough decorum to keep "your mother is so fat" jokes to themselves. "We throw a sheet over your mother and show movies," Cher snickers to a tanked-up Las Vegas crowd. Touch!
Sonny works in his dirty digs during "The Beat Goes On." "Nothing goes on after the show," he says. "She doesn't move that way offstage." And later: "She not only has headaches, she tells me what time they're coming."
Speaking of headaches, also missing among the digital archives is the excruciating Two the Hard Way, Cher and Gregg Allman's sole collaboration (aside from their son Elijah Blue). Two's only redeeming feature is its laughable cover art--a photo of a totally zonked-out Allman plonked on top of a perfectly coifed Cher. The shot looks like the photographer stashed Gregg's dope in Cher's bustier. Not surprisingly, that particular celebrity union barely outlasted Two the Hard Way's playing time.
Victim of Love
Most people blame Elton's admission of bisexuality for his commercial fall from grace, but it was really records like this one that trashed the Crocodile Rocker's rep. Elton must've lost his prescription glasses the week Victim was recorded. Why else would he willfully enter a studio to lay down an album's worth of tunes written by Donna Summer's co-producer Peter Bellotte, and a nine-minute disco version of "Johnny B. Goode"? Elton B. Bad. Berry, Berry bad.
So reviled are the Osmonds that, to this day, no oldies station will touch them, and you can't even find a "Best of" disc on the racks. We're talking nothing on CD--no camp classics like Donny and Marie's Goin' Coconuts soundtrack or Love Me for a Reason, the cover of which has the Osmond brothers preening in pimp wear like five vanilla versions of Huggy Bear.
Surely, however, an exception to the ban on digital Osmonds could be made for Crazy Horses, the first long player where the morons, er, Mormons had complete artistic control. And what did they do with their newfound power? They invented glam metal! In Chuck Eddy's head-banger reference tome Stairway to Hell/The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe, Crazy Horses comes in at "Number 66.6," just ahead of Motrhead's Orgasmatron and Black Sabbath's Master of Reality.
Aside from offering the best love advice around ("Hold her tight but hold her like a baby"), "Hold Her Tight" appropriates (hey, Mormons don't steal) the riff from Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," features a talk box four years before Peter Frampton took credit for inventing it, and sparkles with horns like a latter-day Aerosmith.
Another unrecognized cut of classic Osmond metal is "Hey Mr. Taxi," in which the brothers rev up the power chords and actually get belligerent toward their "wacky" cabbie ("Think you've got a heavy shoe yeah/Mercy, crazy driver, how did I get stuck with you?"). Play it backward and you can almost hear Donny chanting, "Sweet Satan, bring me the head of Tito Jackson."
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Unfinished Music No. 2/Life With the Lions
The entire trilogy of the Lennons' avant-garde albums is unavailable in digital. With good reason. The couple seemed intent on chronicling every waking moment of their early years together--including the tragic ones. The front cover of Unfinished Music No. 2 is a grim shot of John at Yoko's bedside just after she miscarried. The record inside is an even bigger bummer--five minutes of the actual "Baby's Heartbeat" are followed by "Two Minutes of Silence." McCartney this ain't. One wonders--if the downer duo had stayed on this morbid jag until John Lennon's death, would Yoko have had the temerity to record the sound of her husband's cremation and release it as a single?
Having Fun Onstage With Elvis
Sure, you can get most of the God-awful Elvis soundtracks like Girl Happy and Harum Scarum on two-fer CDs, but not this travesty billed as a "talking only" album. Evidently, Having Fun Onstage With Elvis translates to suffering through 40-plus minutes of scintillating sound bites like "Where was I?" and "I got my scarf caught in my mouth."
The King wasn't even dead yet when this stinker was released, so it lacks the posthumous excuse of Elvis Sings for Kids and Grownups Too!. The centerpiece of that sing-along album is Elvis' version of "Old MacDonald," on which he genially obliges every "oink, oink," "moo, moo" and "cluck, cluck" the ditty demands. Not to be missed.
Of course, everything Jimbo ever did is available on disc, including his crappy poem fest An American Prayer. But the two albums the Door Stops made without their Lizard King have been swept under the rug. Thank God. It's rather frightening to see the familiar Doors logo on the label of a record that has Robby Krieger singing "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned" and Ray Manzarek fashioning a boogie showpiece called "Get Up and Dance" that comes complete with girlie singers. If Mr. Mojo ever does rise again, he'll probably take one listen to this horror show and head for the nearest half-filled bathtub.
Beach Boy Brian Wilson once toyed with the idea of cutting a physical fitness album, but it was left to the world's most annoying talk-show guest to come up with rock's first "exercise album for the ears."
Reach is nothing less than Stuart Smalley's disco inferno, an album pickled with sticky self-affirmations like "You're much too smart to break your heart" and "No one means more than you this time."
Simmons' voice lies somewhere in the uncomfortable spectrum between Frankie Valli and Carol Channing, and the manual that accompanies this album is not for the weak of stomach, as it contains 226 action poses of Simmons imitating a Leo Sayer inflatable sex doll.
In 1970, Dylan released Self Portrait, an inexplicable double set of reject songs that included miserable cover versions of Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell tunes. Bad as it was, however, Portrait was nothing compared to Dylan--Columbia Records' revenge for his jumping ship to the Asylum label in 1973. Among the lowlights on this album of abysmal outtakes is Dylan's painful reading of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love," in which he seems to drift in and out of consciousness like he's anticipating the King's last concert. Surely one of the terms of Dylan's return to Columbia in 1975 was to see the master tapes for this embarrassment smoldering in a Dumpster.