Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's the worst crime song ever?

I've asked readers to choose the greatest crime song ever, but what about the worst?

I owe this one to Sean Patrick Reardon, who was joking – I think – when he called "The Night Chicago Died" the best crime song.

(I have just discovered that the same germ-spreaders who wrote "The Night Chicago Died" also composed "Billy, Don't Be A Hero," its only rival for worst song of my youth. The Wikipedia entry on the former song convinces me that however head-cracking a strongman he may have been, Chicago's first Mayor Daley had excellent musical taste.)

Can you name a crime song as bad as "The Night Chicago Died"? Is your musical sensibility as finely calibrated as Richard J. Daley's? What's your choice for worst crime song ever?

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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62 Comments:

Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

I finally got a chance to listen to that.

OMG you are correct sir.

Zero redeeming features.

Do any of those motorcycle wreck songs of the 60's count? Technically a high speed motorcycle crash is a crime...

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, but the low genre of motorcycle songs is forever redeemed by this.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I thought of posting a link to "The Night Chicago Died," but I could not bring myself to tempt anyone to the demeaning experience of listening to it. I'm sorry you went ahead and did so anyhow. I hope you are stronger for the experience.

I think I had a friend in high school who actually liked that song. He was a real wanker.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

I still think Richard T's finest hour was during the Sandy Denny years of Fairport Convention.

Here's a pretty cheesy version of an Irish "classic" about theft, the Brits, Botany Bay, you know the drill...Yikes.

And before anyone gets on my case, yup I used to sing this song and play it on the guitar until I was about 23 or 24 and suddenly realised with an enormous pile of Coleraine Cheddar it actually was.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Too late, Reb Yankel. You're on record as admitting that you sing your daughters to sleep with that song.

Yep, that a cheesy one, all right. I guess Irish music has its schmaltzy side. Not when Luke Kelly was singing it, though. I still think your only discernible lapse as a human being is that you prefer Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey in the Jar" to any of his versions.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

Peter

Yeah and I have been known to sing it at Landsdowne Road when we're playing England.

Its a tricky business this whole cultural identity thing.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous syconior said...

I still think your only discernible lapse as a human being is that you prefer Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey in the Jar" to any of his versions.

He has many discernible lapses as a human being, but this isn't one of them.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Peter,

Thanks for the link to my blog. Very cool of you. I think I may have found a potential trump card.

"Run Joey Run". Just listened to it and it is soooo bad.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

That Nick Cave & Kylie thing. It was on the Polish version of Dancing With the Stars the other month & it sounded, well, rubbish.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

The Clancy Brothers were a huge part of my childhood. Such good memories.

Speaking of guitars, right after Kurt C died, I purchased a Fender Jag Stang as soon as they came out. Went with the Sonic Blue. The floating bridge is a challenge to keep it tuned, especially with 11's on it. Other than that, I love it.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That Nick Cave & Kylie thing. It was on the Polish version of Dancing With the Stars the other month & it sounded, well, rubbish.

Paul, this is the first I've heard of it, but I'm wary of anything involving anyone named "Kylie."

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Run Joey Run". Just listened to it and it is soooo bad.

Sean, that's not a bad choice, but it's not as bad as mine.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

adrian.mckinty said...

Yeah and I have been known to sing it at Landsdowne Road when we're playing England.

Its a tricky business this whole cultural identity thing.


I remember your musing about what people from Northern Ireland claim to be, depending on whom they're talking to and about the horrible things they yell about the queen when NI plays England. At the very least, you had a good comedy sketch there.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

syconior said...
...

He has many discernible lapses as a human being, but this isn't one of them.


I know a couple of Irishmen who prefer Thin Lizzy's version to the Dubliners'. I put that down to sociology.

I'm an outsider new to Irish music and captured by gritty authenticity, and all that shite. My Irish friends are of a time when they could have been wowed by music that put paid to jolly fellow in Aran sweaters.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or it could be that the viceo I saw of Thin Lizzy's version is extraordinarily cheesy.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Clancy Brothers were a huge part of my childhood. Such good memories.

I've been listening to some of their music since my first trip to Ireland two years ago. What can I tell you? These guys were clean-cut but good.

Speaking of guitars, right after Kurt C died, I purchased a Fender Jag Stang as soon as they came out. Went with the Sonic Blue. The floating bridge is a challenge to keep it tuned, especially with 11's on it. Other than that, I love it.

I was already past it musically by the time Nirvana came along. I liked "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but it wasn't life-changing, or anything. Of course, I never had revelations through pop music even when I was the right age for such things.

I ought to whip out my Taylor acoustic and play some Dubliners tonight.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

That Nick Cave & Kylie thing.

It's a classic .
Go listen some Hellish Polish Hip-hop, you gonshite!
;)

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Aye, it was a wind up. Good song.Weird choice of song for Come Dancing, though.

Mind you I like Thin Lizzy, so what do I know!

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, current circumstances restrict me to watching the clip with the sound off. It reminds me of a shampoo commercial in which girl’s bouncy hairdo leads, if not to marital bliss, at least to a pleasant roll in the meadow.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, I've got nothing against Thin Lizzy. Not only do I like the studio version of "The Boys Are Back in Town," but I just picked up Ken Bruen's The Killing of the Tinkers because of the Thin Lizzy reference with which it opens.

It's just that the video is dated and was probably dated even when it first appeared, Phil Lynott had a bad haircut, and he changed "Jenny" to "Molly." And it's no knock on him to say that he could not hold a candle to top-shelf Luke Kelly. Few singers could.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

The Killing of the Tinkers sounds like my kind of novel. It's now on the list.

Recently on a discussion board, Woundlicker was mentioned as a good read. The premise sounds interesting. Anyone read it?

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Wasn't "La Noche en que Chicago se murió" playing in the background in a bar scene in Fifty Grand?

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"The boy is back in town. As the coach pulled into Galway, Thin Lizzy was loud in my head. One of the great solo blasts from Gary Moore. I saw them at their last gig in Dublin. I had pulled crowd duty for the biggest concert of the year. Phil Lynott, head to toe in black leather, coked to the gills. He stalked that stage like Rilke's panther. He'd never stalk a stage again."

That's the opening of The Killing of the Tinkers. I haven't read Woundlicker, but you might try the Crime Scene NI blog.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wasn't "La Noche en que Chicago se murió" playing in the background in a bar scene in Fifty Grand?

I think not, but there's some crime-fiction character who likes nothing better than to come home to his apartment at night and unwind with a little "The Night Chicago Died." I can't remember if it was Michael Forsythe, Matt Scudder, Jack Taylor or Hannibal Lecter.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, if there's anything worse than those Paper Lace songs, I don't want to know about it, let alone hear it.

Some people might complain about Rubber Bullets by 10cc, but I've always liked it myself

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't remember "Rubber Bullets" off-hand, but I may well recognize it when I play that clip. "Progressive" music was pretty popular in Montreal when I was growing up.

Wikipedia will give the songs that were #1 immediately before and after a song about which one is reading. Some truly wretched crap turned up before and after Paper Lace: "Seasons in the Sun," for example.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

'Seasons in the Sun' is a 'good' one. If I was born Terry Jacks (A Canadian!) I'd change my name. In a similiar vein, 'Honey' by Bobby Goldsboro comes to mind.

Clicking that link to your July 2008 post turns up a big Triffids and Dream Syndicate fan who posted as Anonymous. My guess is that guy would be Italian.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That would probably be Marco.

"Jacks" -- an appropriate name in certain parts of the world.

Years after that song clogged the airwaves with treacle -- relatively recently, in fact -- I learned that "Seasons in the Sun" was, in fact, a loose rendering of a Jacques Brel song and that Brel's French version has a much harder edge. It has the narrator saying goodbye to a person he or she did not like, for example.

One of the other before/after songs in my Paper Lace search may be the worst of them all: "Having My Baby" by Paul Anka.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

"Having My Baby" by Paul Anka

A man would need a strong stomach to keep up with this thread.

Dream Syndicate had an LP called Medicine Show which reminds me of a song of the same name by Big Audio Dynamite, a band formed by Mick Jones after he left The Clash.

The song samples dialogue from Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo which provides it with one of the best lists of crimes I've come across:

Wanted in 14 counties of this state
The condemned is found guilty for the crimes of
Murder
Armed robbery of citizens, state banks and post offices
The theft of sacred objects
Arson in state prison
Perjury
Bigamy
Deserting his wife and children
Inciting prostitution
Kidnapping
Extortion
Receiving stolen goods
Selling stolen goods
Passing counterfeit money and contrary to the laws of this state, the condemned is guilty of using marked cards
And therefore, according with powers invested in us we sentence the accused here before us
Tuco Benidicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez (Known as "The Rat")
And any other aliases he may have to hang by the neck until death
May god have mercy on his soul
Proceed

May 13, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

Seasons in the Sun...

What a crock of absolute keek. High candidate for worst song ever.

And, funnily enough we also used to sing a version of it at Lansdowne Road:

We had joy, we had fun, we had England on the run, but the joy didn't last cos the bastards were too fast...

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seasons in the Sun...

What a crock of absolute keek. High candidate for worst song ever.


It sure is. On the other hand, "Le Moribond," as Jacques Brel called his original, is, yeah, sentimental, but touching and even redeemingly tough-minded, at least in the recording by Mich en Scène.

Did Ireland ever sing: "We had joy, we had fun / We had the Frenchmen on the run / But the lead didn't stand / Because Henry used his hand"?

May 13, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

The whole Henri thing was karma for the Micks laughing at the English following the Maradonna incident.

Everyone says Spain are the favourites but my money's on Brazil to win yet again.

New Zealand BTW are 2000:1 against to win the World Cup. Thats got to be worth a couple of quid.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Having My Baby" by Paul Anka

A man would need a strong stomach to keep up with this thread.


The Grammys have awards for song of the year and record of the year. The first is a songwriter's award and the second is for performers, if I'm not mistaken. "Having My Baby" is a contender for worst song ever, up there with some of the ones we've mentioned and also "MacArthur Park." As worst record ever, I'm not sure anything can touch it.

And thanks for having the good grace not to mention that Paul Anka is Canadian.

(Sony has blocked access to the clip to which you linked. I'll look for it elsewhere.)

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

And, funnily enough we also used to sing a version of it at Lansdowne Road

You know I might have bumped into Adrian at Landsdown Road, but then again perhaps not, Northern Prods being so common there it would be hard to tell one from another.

If I had actually bumped into Adrian, though, I'd be happy to buy the guy a drink. As far as I'm concerned writing erases all boundaries.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

This was alot of fun. Worst movie(s) of the Seveties, would also be a nice topic for a future debate.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, re Paul Anka, thanks for assuming good grace, but I'm afraid the real reason was ignorance on my part. But then you've got Neil Young so I think you can tell everyone else to feck off.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I don't know much about soccer, but you'll always do well in the long run betting on Brazil.

America loves to pick some adorable underdog with a cute nickname because we love that sort of thing and because American sportswriters who don't know the game need to be able to write about something. I wonder who that team will be this year.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"This was alot of fun."

Whaddya mean was?

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Speaking of "Honey," have you ever seen the Smothers Brothers skit acting out the song?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGBdbRqflUg

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But then you've got Neil Young so I think you can tell everyone else to feck off.

But you've got Paul He–- Er, never mind.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As far as I'm concerned writing erases all boundaries.

No, solo, as I sit and reflect, I realize it's something other than writing that brings us together.

You see, one person might like classical and another jazz. One might like Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey in the Jar," and another Luke Kelly's.

But when it comes to "Seasons in the Sun," Paper Lace or "Having My Baby," we all agree. Shite music is the universal language.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, are you mentioning Neil Young and Paul He-- in the same breath? You fecker. I'll have you up before the War Crimes Tribunal.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I dig the wordless heavenly chorus.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I can almost hear the screechy fecker wailing "In the NAAAAAME of LOOOOOOOOVE!" now.

I have a cool Neil Young story, but I'll save it for later. I have to go make a phone call now.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Enjoyed Linkmeister's link to the Smothers Brothers version of 'Honey,' although it would have been better without the laughtrack.

Being Irish I have no idea who the Smothers Brothers were, but thanks to the internet I'm gradually figuring that out.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Sham 69's 'Borstal Breakout' must be right up there; arguably even more unlistenable than either 'Paper Lace' hits which at least had the benefit of not being 'sung' by Jimmy Pursey

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I guess from the title that "Borstal Breakout" is a youth-prison escape song, but you'd never learn that unless you had a lyric sheet.

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think the Smothers Brothers made their reputation with an anti-Vietnam War stance that was controversial at the time. I suppose that does make their use of such a cheesy Hollywood device as a laugh track disappointing.

Late-night television doesn't need laugh tracks these days. All those hosts supply all the forced, raucous laughter at moments funny and unfunny that anyone could ever need. More than that, even.

May 14, 2010  
Blogger adrian.mckinty said...

Solo

Another difference between Neil Young and Hewson and his ghastly crew is that Neil pays his taxes.

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You think Paul He--'s stance on taxes has something to do with his popularity? I don't know as much about him as you do, but a life of telling others to act ethically while evading one's own responsibilities and obligations sounds like a liberating fantasy to me.

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I thought the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hours was in front of a live audience, but Wiki doesn't mention that, so maybe not. I sure remember watching it when it was first on, though.

May 14, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Love the Clancy Brothers, grew up listening to them, especially while visiting my Irish uncles.

Hands down, the Dubliners for "Whiskery in the Jar," no contest!

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

In 'Jailbreak' Phil Lynott sang 'Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak/ Somewhere in this town.'Maybe at The jail?

May 14, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

My guess is that guy would be Italian.

That would probably be Marco.


My impeccable taste betrays me once again.

Apropos impeccable taste, I've met this guy, intelligent, genuinely nice, he even plays amateur rugby (he actually is in England now - some competition for 40+ olds) BUT he's a great fan of U2.
So I ask all you Dark Hearts - should I mock him ceaselessly and/or try to shatter his fond memories of the group?

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So I ask all you Dark Hearts - should I mock him ceaselessly and/or try to shatter his fond memories of the group?

You could cultivate his friendship in real life under the name Marco while mocking him ceaselessly online under an assumed name. Sometime dishonesty is the best policy, or at least the easiest.

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hands down, the Dubliners for "Whiskey in the Jar," no contest!

I've said this many times, and I'll say it again: I heard this song for the first time sung to live accompaniment at a bar in Belfast, and not decades ago, either, as recently as 2008. Even young people sing the old songs in pubs in Ireland. Of course, that's not all they sing, but a tradition is still alive, and that's nice to see.

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In 'Jailbreak' Phil Lynott sang 'Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak/ Somewhere in this town.'Maybe at The jail?

Brilliant, Paul. Are nominating "Jailbreak" for a place on this list?

I always roll my eyes at lines or words in songs whose only function is to fill space or complete a rhyme. The classic you cite fits the bill.

There's a certain charm to Phil Lynott's singing such a dumb line with such gusto and apparent conviction. It's called ... rock and roll!

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, maybe they did shoot in front of a live audience. Perhaps the sound quality of television recording at the time makes the laughter sound articificial. I wonder when laugh tracks came into wide use.

May 14, 2010  
Anonymous ocram said...

Good idea!

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fiendishly clever! He'll never figure that one out.

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

According to The Straight Dope, the first laugh track was used in 1950. Cited in that post was TVparty's short history of the laugh track. It says the use of the device became fairly common in the 1950s, but in rudimentary form: "'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet' used only one laugh throughout its half-hour running time, and 'The Abbott and Costello Show' used an uproarious laugh track which ran continuously, regardless of the action on screen. Even 'I Love Lucy''s sound engineer regularly peppered many of the episodes with a handful of easy-to-recognize laughs."

Egad. A single laugh sound for an entire show? A repetitive laugh for an entire half-hour?

May 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for that grim bit of television history. Listen, if you can bear to do so, to Davidjay FergusO'Brien, and you'll hear "a single laugh sound for an entire show" "regardless of the action on screen."

May 14, 2010  

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