Apr 062012

A fair amount of time here is spent ripping performers. But let’s face it: sometimes someone you like a lot gets ripped, and that pisses you off. So I got to thinking: there must be someone who everyone here can rip, who we can all agree is completely loathsome, nauseating, run-from-the-room-screaming horrible. A benchmark of badness. Has to be more or less recognizable as rock and roll: so that rules out someone like Barry Manilow. My first thought went to Styx, but sometimes their awfulness actually cracks me up. Journey comes pretty close to covering all the bases for me, but I am sure someone out there has warm feeling for them.

As bad as it gets?

Which brings me to Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. When I was a kid I knew they were terrible. “Sylvia’s Mother,” “Cover of the Rolling Stone”? Gag. “Only Sixteen,” “Sexy Eyes,” “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman,” “Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk”? Double gag. Time has passed, and they are still bloody horrendous, and in a variety of ways. They get bonus points for sucking at country-ish tunes, ballads, rock, and disco.  Also, their Look is as bad as their sound.

What’s hard to square with all of this is that the rather talented Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends) wrote some of their songs, including the truly execrable “Sylvia’s Mother.”

So, with near total confidence, I offer Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. No one could like them. It can get no worse. (Right?)


  67 Responses to “It Just Doesn’t Get Any Worse”

  1. Good god, misterioso, you may have hit on something. I kind of liked “Cover of the Rolling Stone” when I was 11 years old, but I’d forgotten about most of those other songs you listed. I hadn’t heard that blue jeans one since it was out, and until now I hadn’t realized how much better my life was. I don’t recall ‘Sylvia’s Mother,” but it’s as if they entered a contest to come up with the worst song ever – and WON! That may have been the first time I heard that song and yes, it was too much.

    Do you think they expected the abrupt ending to go down as a memorable moment in rock history, like Elvis Costello cutting “Less Than Zero” short on SNL?

    Finally, I did not recall how they came off live on television. I didn’t realize Dr. Hook was more of a cheerleader than lead singer. We need to catch up with someone from that band and get the inside story.

    Well, that wasn’t “finally”; this is: do you think Huey Lewis studied their act? I get the feeling they were a big influence on him.

  2. shawnkilroy

    holy crap! even I don’t like that!

  3. Early contender for POST OF THE MONTH!

  4. misterioso

    Mod, as you know, I am all about Bringing People Together.

    I, too, had forgotten about “Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk,” and I feel unclean even making reference to it.

    Also, likewise, until a few weeks ago, I had assumed the eye-patch piraty guy was the main man, and not the second fiddle.

    Let me just add that they have a song called “Roland the Roadie and Gertrude the Groupie” that I cannot even bring myself to listen to. One has to draw the line somewhere.

  5. I feel you need to do a Saturday Night Shut-In featuring the music of this band.

  6. tonyola

    From what I understand, Huey Lewis now looks back on his hitmaking days with a little bit of embarrassment. He and the News were actually a better-than-competent blues bar band, but once they got signed, they were under increasingly intense pressure to go commercial – particularly as the records began to rise in the charts. Then came all the “funny” videos and slick production touches. Huey was quite relieved when the gravy train ended around 1990 or so, and he and his band returned to their roots.

  7. tonyola

    Dr. Hook was indeed horrible – “Sylvia’s Mother” is the worst sort of bathos even if it’s intended to be ironic. The “Blue Jeans” video is almost disturbing with scruffy middle-aged men openly slavering over girls.

    However, are they really worse than Sha-Na-Na? What seemed like an amusing novelty at Woodstock quickly became one of the rancidly cheesiest acts to grace a stage or TV screen and they managed against all sense to remain popular even into the 1980s.


  8. Can I sue anyone for this post? “Egregious, outrageous…disgusting!” – JChiles


  9. 2000 Man

    I have a friend that likes them. I don’t know if he actually likes any other music, but he has their greatest hits cd in his car, and he’s had it in there since the 80’s. I can listen to Cover of the Rolling Stone, but I certainly don’t have to.

    Why did they make the Punk Rock guy paint a line on the road with his mohawk? That was a real dick move.

  10. Wow. I had completely forgotten about these guys. Don’t forget to add “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” to the charges that will be filed against them.

  11. Never mind, you did submit that one.

    However – for honorable mention – I present “Sharing The Night Together”:


  12. You’re right — that’s the song that really sucks!

  13. Ugh — I remember this one too! Even suckier.

  14. cliff sovinsanity

    Sha-Na-Na is certainly loathsome and nauseating, but there is a nostalgic factor that doesn’t make me run from the room.
    I thought for sure Toto would have been mentioned by now.

  15. tonyola

    Toto managed to disguise their evil loathsomeness with a polished veneer of slick “tasty” musicianship. If you didn’t pay close attention, you could be convinced that you were listening to harmless ’70s-cool muzak – something like Steely Dan but without cleverness or teeth.

  16. Worse than Leo Sayer? All signs point to yes!

  17. Rowing to America

    As putrid as this is, it’s only a small step down from Thin Lizzy.

  18. underthefloat

    They were horrible. Sort of like they were Jimmy Buffet’s drunk, seedy Uncles. They work so hard to have a good time that it hard to watch.
    I’m guessing they were always the happiest guys in the room at any show they played.

  19. I can agree that Dr. Hook was horrible. “Sexy Eyes” gets my vote for their worst. I still find “Cover of the Rolling Stone” amusing though.

  20. Happiness Stan

    That’s reassuring, but I still think that I would struggle to forgive Huey Lewis, whose music I enjoy far, far less than Dr Hook, even without the memory of his videos.

  21. Happiness Stan

    I actually bought (or persuaded someone to buy for me) Sylvia’s Mother, although in my defence I was not quite ten. I think I thought the eyepatch looked cool on Top of the Pops.

    I have been surprised and somewhat puzzled by the rehabilitation of Dennis LeCorriere (the lead singer) in terms of credibility and his regular live appearances over here at least at venues which generally book halfway decent acts, although I’ll admit that I didn’t go to see him any of the times he played Glastonbury.

    I’ve not yet heard the song on the video above, and think that I need to build up to that one.

  22. That punk dude painted a pretty straight line.

  23. ladymisskirroyale

    I am willing to go out on the line and admit some nostalgia for “Cover” and “Sylvia” – they remind me (fondly) of the am radio crap I heard growing up in AZ in the 70’s. However, I will never forgive Dr. John for the most horrible song of all: “Sharing the night together” which is in a tie with the “Piña Colada Song” as the worst of the worst. Can we agree that those 2 songs are universally despicable?

  24. You can forgive Dr. John.

  25. Happiness Stan

    I thought I was the only person in the whole world who dislikes Thin Lizzy. Am I not alone?

  26. alexmagic

    I don’t feel comfortable badmouthing Sha-Na-Na, they seem like some pretty badass street toughs, and I have little interest in pissing them off.

    It is weird, though, realizing that they were at Woodstock doing a retro-50s schtick and were still around doing it in the early ’80s doing the same bit, famous enough that I remember watching their show. How did they get away with doing a ’50s throwback act that early and keep it going for a decade plus?

  27. alexmagic

    misterioso’s instincts to go with Styx have some RTH history, as they were among the leading contenders back when we wondered who brought the most shame to rock a few years ago: https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/index.php/rock-n-roll-hall-of-shame/

    Re: Doctor Hook, I’ve long been aware of Sylvia’s Mother and Cover Of The Rolling Stone (though I don’t know why), but I was never sure if they were supposed to be a serious band or just some goofy put-on. Still not sure, but if they were just some goofy novelty act that managed to churn out a lot of songs, I think that takes away from their ability to be All-Time Worst, since I think there needs to be some earnestness involved to truly claim the title.

  28. BigSteve

    You are not.

  29. tonyola

    Street toughs? Psh. The guy who played Bowser attended the Julliard School as a child.

  30. tonyola

    Though I wasn’t around for the original most-shame article, I will say now that even as a committed prog fan, I find Styx to be completely vile. First off, they are monumentally unoriginal with the wholesale lifting of musical ideas from their betters. Sheesh, even Kansas had more vision. Second of all, Dennis DeYoung’s keening, trebly, icepick-in-the-ear vocals rank among the worst in rock.

  31. alexmagic

    He probably had the run of the place! I can only imagine the rackets he had set up there because nobody had the guts to cross him.

  32. tonyola

    Nonsense. I bet the flute and viola players routinely beat him up for lunch money behind the chorus room.

  33. ladymisskirroyale

    Once again, I am willing to sacrifice myself to the RTH style police and admit a nostalgic semi-fondness for “The Grand Illusion.” I’m not proud of knowing most of the words to “Renegade” but they were wired there when that album came out and my lack of exposure to other types of rock made them seem pretty cool.

  34. Rowing to America

    We may not make a lot of noise, but I suspect there are some major numbers behind this quiet crowd.

  35. tonyola

    Another candidate for worst – America. “Horse With No Name”, “I Need You”, “Ventura Highway”, “Tin Man”, and other preciously wimpy classics. Take CSN&Y, remove all traces of grit and roughage, soak in bleach for a week, and America is what you get. Seals & Croft seemed like Sam & Dave by comparison.

  36. alexmagic

    I think the “not proud” part is key. I’ll freely admit to knowing possibly all the words to Renegade and probably more than a fair share of their other songs, too (Mr. Roboto included, naturally).

    But there’s something inherent about Styx that makes them impossible to take seriously or enjoy without cringing or pangs of shame, especially when they get down and try to rock like the breakdown in Renegade.

    Which I think is why they probably do qualify as the most embarrassing rock band, but not the worst, since the individual pieces of the band are talented, just not necessarily talented at the same thing, which for some of them is rock music.

    (Also, the jig is up: I mostly just posted that link since I think that was my first RTH lab entry, and the idea of Tommy Shaw fuming over Dennis DeYoung trying to hang out with the band on stage still makes me laugh.)

  37. alexmagic

    That’s probably as good a description of America as there is. I really hate “Ventura Highway”, though not entirely because of lack of merits of the song itself.

    “Sister Golden Hair” isn’t terrible, though. I’d say it’s the least worst America song.

  38. Let me try to narrow this down. If I had to listen to a song by ____, I’d listen to _____

    Styx, Blue Collar Man
    REO Speedwagon, Riding the Storm Out
    America, Sister Golden Hair
    Journey, Stone in Love
    Meatloaf, nothing
    Dr Hook, nothing
    Kansas, nothing

    It’s either Meatloaf, Dr Hook, or Kansas.

    Dr Hook comes off like a bunch of pussies because they are playing both side of the fence: If you think their songs are goofy, so do they because they’re just some laid back stoners having a laugh. But if you like their songs, then you have to give them credit for coming up with a good song effortlessly while they were just messing around. I don’t like this insipid bet-hedging. But as someone else mentioned, their lack of commitment ultimately gets them off the hook for worst ever.

    Kansas is committed but slightly less bombastic than Meatloaf. Also, the philosophical pretensions of their lyrics (at least the 3 songs that I’ve heard) are hilarious.

    That leaves the Loaf. I can’t think of one good thing to say about him or Jim Steinman.

  39. hrrundivbakshi

    Kansas at least has “Carry On My Wayward Son,” which — though awful — at least has the rockin’ breakdown near the end there. Dr. Hook is awful from one end to the other — and I say that as a guy who bought “Sloppy Seconds” off his hippie math teacher in 6th grade because the guy with the eyepatch looked cool. (If you can’t get behind an album you buy as an 11 year-old, it must *really* suck.) But Meat Loaf? Yeesh, that guy is worse. Styx at least gives us something to laugh about (just thinking about the drummer in his sailor suit, or the 7 foot-tall rhythm guitarist in his sparkly outer-space garb, makes me laugh out loud) — but Meat has NOTHING. He’s the worst of this bunch.

  40. ladymisskirroyale

    But have you been on the Ventura Highway? I think about that song every time I travel on it “in the sunshine.” It has a very catchy chorus.

  41. hrrundivbakshi

    I realize this is a major music nerd comment, but: are there any America songs that *don’t* overuse the maj7 chord? “Venture Highway” may be the worst offender here, but still.

    Also: “America” is one of the worst band names ever.

  42. ladymisskirroyale

    I have many fond memories of riding around with my friend Cathy in her pickup and listening to any of the first 3 Kansas albums. I also saw them live several times. I think I liked the bombastic style (with keyboards!) but I don’t know if I could stomach any of those deep cuts now.

    Meatloaf should be treated as musical theater, not as rock.

  43. 2000 Man

    Meat Loaf should be treated as supper theater. And I didn’t think of that because he’s named after supper, but it does work on more than one level!

  44. ladymisskirroyale


  45. hrrundivbakshi

    I’d just like to point out that the ad network RTH pimps for is now offering an album entitled “The Essential Dr. Hook & the Medicine Company.” Talk about an oxymoron!

  46. misterioso

    Dear God, yes! Leo at least gave was at least likeably silly and gave us the deathlessly joyous “How Much Love.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruaPD6eaNLk

  47. misterioso

    I can’t say they interest me enough to actually dislike them. Perhaps if I thought about them I would mange to dislike them as opposed to really not care about them.

  48. misterioso

    Wow, that’s quite a confession there! Meatloaf is pretty awful, that’s for sure. But when I get right down to it, in my prime top 40 radio listening years, I only had to endure one or two of his songs. Whereas Dr. Hook had a 10-year run of crap.

  49. misterioso

    America is awful, really, but their fake Neil Young makes me laugh. I don’t mind Ventura Highway but isn’t it properly Ventura Freeway? I admit to being a big fan of Sister Golden Hair.

  50. misterioso

    Yes, we can agree, ladymkr but let Dr. John off the hook. So to speak.

  51. misterioso

    Oh, that one’s a real treasure, for sure.

  52. ladymisskirroyale

    That was a very impressive post and debut.

  53. misterioso

    Admittedly, Sha Na Na were an abomination but has anyone ever heard them on the radio? True, one sometimes accidentally caught a glimpse of them on TV, and that was terrible. But mostly avoidable.

  54. misterioso

    HS, I wondered if there was some sort of rehabilitation of Dr. Hook going on across the pond. When I was in Ireland some 10 years ago I had the weird experience of encountering Dr. Hook being played in at least three separate places. Let’s just say it gave me pause.

  55. Happiness Stan

    I can’t speak for Ireland, but as far as I am aware the Dr Hook revival has gained not a large amount of traction here in England, and even Dennis LeC’s live popularity would appear to move him closer to a Jonathan Richman-style cult following than Brit-dominance. I shall now go and do something to atone for comparing the sainted JoJo to Dr Hook…

  56. Happiness Stan

    Thinking of Meatloaf, which is not something I do very often, I remembered the recent thread asking about people you don’t like who do great interviews – I’ve heard Meatloaf on the radio over here a few times and he is always tremendous value for money, and very funny. A couple of times I’ve even thought I might go back to re-evaluate some of his songs, at least until I actually hear one of them.

  57. Happiness Stan

    That’s almost as good (and only very slightly less tempting) than The Sound of Bread.

  58. The problem with Meat Loaf in this conversation is that too many people have a soft spot for him. A close personal friend and Townsman who shall not be named, for instance, was a fan of the Loaf in his youth.

  59. tonyola

    That’s about where I stand with Thin Lizzy. I don’t like them, but they don’t get enough attention from me to warrant active hatred.

  60. Rowing to America

    What a great analogy, “sort of like…Jimmy Buffet’s drunk, seedy Uncles.” Love it!

  61. pudman13

    You didn’t even mention “A Little Bit More,” which is the worst of all of the awful Dr. Hook songs and possibly the most barf-inducing song of the 70s. I just can’t describe how awful it is. Maybe there’s someone out there who is amused by all of those 70s songs that were sexually explicit (but careful enough to pass by the censors) in a braggadociao way, but as far as I’m concerned they should all be burned, and only “Miracles” can even come close to this one. The thought that any woman could be seduced by those guys makes me very sad indeed.

    Re: REO Speedwagon…not fair! R.E.O. T.W.O. is a masterpiece (no exaggeration from my point of view), they have hot moments on just about all of their early albums, and other than the two ballads, even HI INFIDELITY is loaded with good songs. They’re a much more complicated band than people give them credit for. It’s really only on the lyrical front that they consistently fail me (except for T.W.O, which is the ultimate bar band record).

    But, to play the game:

    If I had to listen to a song by ____, I’d listen to _____

    Styx: “Too Much Time On My Hands” I like the hook. Either that or “Porcelain Toilet,” which sucks but would be a lot more fun to hear on the radio than “Best Of Times.”

    REO Speedwagon: see above.

    America: I like this band somewhat; their albums are really weak but I like the hits, even “Magic.” If you want to pick a loathesome post-CSN folk-rock band, why these guys and not the truly awful Seals & Crofts?

    Journey. Their first three albums actually have a lot of interesting songs, some of which are legitimately good 70s hard rock or heavy prog. Check out “Hustler.” That song ROCKS! Now…if you’re only allowing me to discuss the Steve Perry years, I suppose I’ll have to live with “Wheel In The Sky.”

    Meatloaf. I don’t mind Meatloaf either, to be honest, even though he did put out a lot of crap. He figured out how to make rock pomp interesting in a unique way. “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” sums up rock and roll, really.

    Dr Hook. Even their novelty songs and dirty songs suck.

    Kansas. I actually made an attempt to listen to several of their albums to see if there were any good lost prog songs on them and I found nothing. But I’m OK with “Wayward Son,” which does have a great hook.

    I’m easy—I can find something to like in just about any lousy 70s genre…

  62. Good question, cdm, but it may get away from the broader issue of who is, hands down, the least-liked artist in rock. Nevertheless, I’ll play.

    Let me try to narrow this down. If I had to listen to a song by ____, I’d listen to _____

    Styx, “Come Sail Away”
    REO Speedwagon, I can’t remember any songs by them other than “Heard it Through a Friend,” so I’m stuck
    America, “Sister Golden Hair”
    Journey, “That’s the Same Way She Loved Me” – I fucking HATE Journey more than any other band, that’s for sure, but at least this song and “Wheel in the Sky” make me laugh while thinking of how bad they are.
    Meatloaf….the sound of him taking a dump would be preferable.
    Dr Hook, “Cover of the Rolling Stone” (and what’s with the Rolling Stone?)
    Kansas, I hate Kansas but their secondary hit – the name escapes me – isn’t that much worse than a good Boston song, and I can listen to a good Boston song once a year without wanting to vomit.

    Meat Loaf is really bad, but so it Billy Joel. Too many people, including Townspeople, have a soft spot for those guys. I think Dr. Hook is still in the lead.

  63. No joke, pudman13, you deserve an RTH Rock Badge of Courage for sharing your appreciation of, let alone knowledge of, early works from REO and Journey.

  64. tonyola

    I ranked Seals & Croft a smidge above America because S&C were, if nothing else, experienced pros who actually attempted to musically swing once in a while (“Diamond Girl”). The guys in America would probably hurt themselves trying.

    Meatloaf is spared the abyss because he and Steinman made bad-“epic” songs while being totally in on the joke.

    REO is terminally-friendly blandrock – utterly forgettable but not actively offensive. They slide through me without sticking like a greasy burrito. Now if they had a high-decibel lead singer like Steve Perry or Brad Delp, they would be worthy of hate.

  65. misterioso

    Took the words out of my mouth, more or less. For myself, I find REO and Journey truly loathsome. REO I can more or less laugh off but somehow Journey really sticks in my craw. If push came to shove I might hate them more than Dr. Hook, but I felt that Dr. Hook was a band we all could get behind–and kick in the ass.

  66. alexmagic

    You know what? “Blue Collar Man” – which I’ve heard dozens of times but didn’t realize was called that – not terrible. I think Deep Purple may have inadvertently ripped it off for “Perfect Strangers”, too.

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