By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
6. The Brady Bunch
(years of 16 popularity: 1970-73)
As responsible parents, Carol and Mike should've 86'ed the Brady Six after hearing their kids mangle the show's theme song. And then they should've fired Alice for showing them which end to blow in to a pitch pipe. There wasn't one Brady in the sextet who could be counted on to find the right note at any given time. And two of 'em even had spinoff solo singing careers! Most cringe-worthy Brady moment--the flaky cover of "American Pie." If the music hadn't died yet, this would've sent it spiraling into cardiac arrest.
5. Leif Garrett
(years of 16 popularity: 1975-80)
Mispronouncing Garrett's first name is about the only way to extract "life" from his limp discography. (Hint: His name rhymes with "safe.") His albums are treacherous mine fields of tepid disco numbers like "I Was Made for Dancin'" and bad Beach Boys covers that make people grateful for the little rills of silence they put in between cuts. One suspects that the popular teen-idol practice of "sweetening" his voice (i.e., masking it behind background session singers) is in practice here since Garrett's voice sounds different on almost every cut. Undistinguished, but still, different. If you can name what unsuccessful TV show this idol was plucked from, you already know way too much about Leif.
4. John Travolta
(years of 16 popularity: 1976-78)
Even though Travolta's mug is plastered on one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack featured not even a single note of Travolta singing. Unfortunately, his two embarrassing teen-idol albums contained more than their share. Both LPs were repackaged under the misleading title of Travolta Fever in the hopes some brain-dead Vinnie Barbarino fans would mistakenly purchase it and somehow not miss the Bee Gees. On Travolta's only chart hit "Let Her In," the Sweat Hog barely stays on top of the studio mike long enough to deliver the last syllable of each line. He sounds very much like someone in the grips of a posthypnotic suggestion waiting for a bell to spur him into action or at least wake him up for Mr. Kotter's next class.
3. Jimmy and Kristy McNichol
(years of 16 popularity: 1977-80)
Kristy's the one with the deep booming voice, right? If one had to isolate the worst moment here that doesn't have anything to do with desecrating golden oldies, it's "He's a Dancer": "He's the king of moves and the music is his crown." Wonder what his throne is?
2. Pat Boone
(years of 16 popularity: 1958-62)
Though Pat excelled at singing ballads like "April Love," when he applied that same smooth baritone to rock tunes, he bordered on musical retardation. According to the liner notes of his first LP, Boone seriously toyed with the idea of changing Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" to "Isn't That a Shame" to make it grammatically acceptable. He did change a line in "Tutti Frutti" from "Boy, you don't know what she's doing to me" to "Pretty little Suzy is the girl for me." Reasons Pat, "it worked just as well. The kids didn't care." Guess that's why when Pat took to metal, he wore rub-on tattoos and sang "Enter Sandman" like it was "April Love." The kids didn't care. No, Pat couldn't rock. Not for shit. Not for anyone.
1. Bobby Sherman
(years of 16 popularity: 1969-71)
Here was the ultimate nice idol, always concerned about giving his fans "quality Bobby Sherman." The gatefold sleeve to his Here Comes Bobby album opened up to a life-size poster of Bobby, if you were three feet tall. With Love, Bobby came loaded with a scrapbook album of maddeningly dull photos ("At Age 6, He Liked to Pose Next to Flowers," "Telegram Sent to Bobby From His Baseball Coach"--even an elementary school Safety Certificate of Merit is deemed worthy for inclusion. What you wouldn't give to see a bad report card!). Bobby reportedly still maintains friendships with old fans to the extent of accompanying one to her 10th-year high school reunion in 1988. Try picturing Davy Jones doing that now without insisting on money up front!
Part of Bobby's appeal was his selflessness. Half the Bobby pix published in his 1996 autobiography Still Remembering You have him pointing at the camera, as if to divert attention away from himself and back toward you, the ever-lovin' fan! Even describing his darkest day in 1979 after his wife and kids left him, Shermy still manages to sound like a polite, well-mannered 16 Dream Date: "I drank a lot of Scotch and the next thing I remember I woke up under the pool table. I don't remember how I got there and that scared me." Sorta sounds like Keith Richards' best day, don't it?
Fave Rave authors agree that "if you could gather all the components of a perfect idol and download them onto a computer, Bobby Sherman would appear on the screen." But doncha dare download any soundbites! Anytime Mr. Easy Come, Easy Go destroyed a perfect smile by separating his choppers to sing, the sound emanating was not unlike someone yelping after a runaway St. Bernard (remember "Hey, Little Woman"?). It's the two allotted showcases for Bobby's songwriting on each album that reveal the inner Bobby girls read 16 to know. He'd progress to a reasonable facsimile of Rod McKuen by album four's "Runaway" ("I runaway with my dreams 'til the light my eyes can see disappears behind the visions of my mind." Whaaa?), but on his eponymous debut, he already had enough confidence to tackle two weighty subjects--"Love" and "Time."