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Top 10 Worst Number One Hits of the Oldies Era, Part Two


The Billboard chart rankings, at least in rock's first golden age, were well-known for their accuracy. Which means somebody must have loved these songs... but time has not been kind to these smash hits, all of which were the most popular songs in the US for at least one week of glory. (Click on "compare prices" to hear a clip of the song in question and, maybe, buy it anyway. Got a suggestion for another horrible Number One hit of the Fifties, Sixties, or Seventies? Feel free to e-mail me!)

1. The McGuire Sisters, "Sincerely"

(six weeks, February 12 - March 19, 1955)
The McGuires, that last bastion of WWII harmony, had a pleasing vocal blend, to be sure. But there was never a more vivid example of how pop music tried to bland out R&B -- in this case, the far superior Moonglows original. That version sounds like everything in the world hinges on an unrequited love; this one merely indicates loneliness and desperation without actually reproducing it. A good example of where cultural battle lines were being drawn.
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2. Shelly Fabares, "Johnny Angel"

(two weeks, April 7 - 14, 1962)
Yes, you loved her on Donna Reed, in Elvis movies, and even on Coach. But this was perhaps the most famous example of what an echo chamber can do for a flat vocalist... dear Shelly's hardly there, if you actually listen closely, and the song itself's not much more vibrant. See also anything by Annette Funicello. (For the record, "Reed" co-star Paul Petersen's "She Can't Find Her Keys" and "My Dad" are even worse. But they didn't make it near Number One, thank God.)
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3. Freddie and the Dreamers, "I'm Telling You Now"

(two weeks, April 10 - 17, 1965)
Pop historians love to point out how the Beatles wrote some duff songs back in the day, but the pop idol mill has to start working sometime. Not so, apparently, for Freddie and co., who wrote this nothing of a Merseybeat wonder themselves. "I`ll be staying for many a day"? Oh, my. The heart reels. In fact, the extraordinary lameness almost makes it a parody of what the Invasion's poppier elements were up to. And it makes The Dave Clark Five sound like the Animals.
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4. Frank and Nancy Sinatra, "Somethin' Stupid"

(four weeks, April 15 - May 6, 1967)
Father-daughter duets are the bane of music's existence, and while we all loved Nancy in her go-go boots, even The Chairman of the Board can't make this monument to sap take off and fly. It doesn't help that the verse structure is as circuitously confusing as, say, "Gentle On My Mind." And can anyone explain why a father-daughter duet would focus around a love song, anyway, especially one so kittenish-cute about the early stages of romance?
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5. The Carpenters, "Please Mr. Postman"

(one week, January 25, 1975)
The Seventies oldies revival led to a number of washed-out reproductions of classic oldies -- Linda Ronstadt practically made a career out of it. But you simply cannot replace the woozy, mashed-potato good time of the original's Motown stomp with California soft-rock ooze and expect it to work. Karen, bless her soul, sounds as if she's waiting on her Publisher's Clearing House envelope. And not to enter the sweepstakes, either, just to get 40 percent off Redbook.
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6. The Partridge Family, "I Think I Love You"

(three weeks, November 21st - December 5, 1970)
No one's denying the Nixon-era joys of the theme song, or the Monkees-as-nuclear-family spirit of the original TV show, or even superior followups like "Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted" or "I Woke Up In Love This Morning." But I'd be willing to bet most folks who love this song rarely listen to it, at home, all the way through -- it's a load of half-baked ideas in search of a hook. And when we get a hook (like that intriguing intro), it's gone.
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7. Sammy Davis Jr., "The Candy Man"

(three weeks, June 10 - 24, 1972)
Two great tastes that taste bad together. Sammy can make anything hep, but he usually started with material that was somewhat hep to start off with -- kids songs and Rat Pack vocal stylings do not mix. Most of what's wrong with this Willy Wonka number turned hit 45, however, has to do with the awful Up With People style production. I realize that the innocence of children was considered a major selling point in those more idealistic days, but come on.
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8. Vicki Lawrence, "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia"

(two weeks, April 7 - 14, 1973)
Story songs reached their peak around 1973, when this Carol Burnett star made her vinyl debut. But it helps to have a coherent story, one not so packed into the grooves that you have to take an extra chorus just to lay it all out. We know now that Vicki's narrator was the killer in question, thanks to Reservoir Dogs. But who did she kill, again? And why? Whose footprints were those? Was that judge corrupt, ot just incompetent? It's not worth going back to find out.
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9. Paul Anka, "(You're) Having My Baby"

(three weeks, August 24 - September 7, 1974)
Ew. The touchy-feely leftovers of the hippie movement ripen and go bad on this smash, which finds Paul assuring his woman that she looks great, really. If only he'd written followups like "What Kind Of Ice Cream Was I Supposed To Get" and "She's Vomiting Again." Actually, you yourself may feel a bit queasy when Anka tells the woman he's knocked up that she "didn't have to keep it" and she could have "swept it from (her) life." I repeat, ew.
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10. Donna Summer, "MacArthur Park"

(three weeks, November 11 - 25, 1978)
For many, this was the nadir of pop music in the Seventies -- marrying one never-ending cultural trend (disco) with memories of Richard Harris and cake recipes lost forever. Summer's one of the world's great vocalists, but even her talent and dignity can't save this one, an epic tale of regret being played out like a glitter-ball marathon. And yet, it could have been worse: that disco I Love Lucy theme could have been hyped all the way to the top.
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