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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Absolute, No-Debate Worst Song Any Beatle Ever Recorded

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Young McCartney always dreamed of the day he would become a real boy.
  • Young McCartney always dreamed of the day he would become a real boy.
Last week, our colleagues in Broward County and Los Angeles shared their lists of the five worst Beatles songs. While amusing, both omitted what objective science tells us are, in fact, the honest-to-God stinkiest Fab Flops: "Mr. Moonlight," "The Fool on the Hill," "Blue Jay Way," "Piggies," and, of course, that ear-bleeding, makes-time-slow-down crapsterpiece "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite."

(And, for what it's worth, here are the Five Most Underrated Beatles Songs that Should Replace "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on All Classic Rock Radio Formats: "You're Going to Lose That Girl," "Hey, Bulldog," "Rain," "I've Got a Feeling," and "No Reply.")

Now that that's settled, let's take on a much tougher question: What is the single worst song written and recorded by an ex-Beatle?

The "written" requirement rules out most solo Starr. Most solo Harrison is simply too middle-of-the-road and earnest to inspire much distaste, although "Got My Mind Set on You" is a bubblegum snakebite: it sticks, and it's poison.

Solo Lennon ranges from searching, good-as-the-Beatles rock ("Instant Karma"; Plastic Ono Band) to tuneless, kind of dumb agitprop ("Woman Is the Nigger of the World"), to settled, would-shame-the-Monkees twaddle (Mind Games and "Whatever Gets You Through the Night," which sounds exactly like G.E.Smith's Saturday Night Live band coming back from commercial.)

But none of that comes close to the la-di-da disasters routinely banged out by Sir Paul McCartney, England's noble knight of songfail. The wholly unnecessary new reissue of his 1980 doodle-slop electro solo record, McCartney II, makes further argument moot: "Temporary Secretary" is far and away the worst ex-Beatle song. Pop on McCartney II, get to track two, and you'll feel your brain explode like a Gremlin in a microwave.

Recipe for a musical horror: Take the No-Whammy spinning-board sound effect of the old Press Your Luck game show, layer above it a not-quite-in-time lyric fantasizing about old-school workplace sexual harassment, and then let some slumming Liverpudlian screech "Temporary! Secretary!" ad nauseam entirely through his nasal passages, and, well, if you had any honor you would then take the resulting mess out behind the barn like Old Yeller.

In fairness, the song -- like much of McCartney II-- exemplifies many of McCartney's rare strengths. First, the willingness to experiment, here with computers and sequencers awfully early in the history of electronic pop music. Second, that cheeky horniness that lent so many midperiod Beatles songs the gentlest edge of humor and danger: Here's the man who nearly made it with a sister or two, who savored "finger pie," who savors Lady Madonna's breastfeeding. ("Hello Goodbye" could have used some of that.) Finally, there's no denying his gift for the ditty -- the secretary might be a temp, but the song will be lodged in your head forever.

But, experiments can fail, especially when overseen by an inattentive scientist who never breaks a sweat. Plus, boyish cheek charms less and less the older a man gets, and there's a big difference between a man-on-the-make daydreaming about a meter maid's sister and a made man daydreaming about the broke-ass subordinate. Finally, there's no denying that gift for the ditty is too rarely paired up with discipline to craft full-fledged songs. This is from the man who wrote "Spies Like Us" rather than the man who wrote "Maybe I'm Amazed" -- which, incidentally, is the all-time best ex-Beatle song.

Oh, and while we're here ...

Number two with a splash!

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Alan Scherstuhl

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