To dull the stress of my work, I’ve taken to spending one day each weekend slowly BBQing a chunk of meat (usually pulled pork), reading a book and sipping the odd G&T. It’s the middle of winter, but seeing as this is South-East Queensland and I live on the edge of a rainforest, that just means that I’m wearing long sleeves and that there are fewer snakes around than normal. The only brown leaves in sight are on the Japanese Maple that hangs above the BBQ, a victim of my over-exuberant lighting technique.
My musical accompaniment for the last month, besides the bellbirds, whip birds and parrots, has been a playlist of classic period Stevie Wonder, and I think that Stevie and I have made a deep connection this year. The connection is strained, however, whenever he breaks into the Muppet Show voice he uses in the back half of Living for the City, and a couple of others. He’s trying to sound hard and gritty, but the result is pure Fozzie Bear. It punctures his lyrical intent immediately.
So this got me thinking about other bits in great songs that make me cringe. I’ve documented before on this site how the telly/smelly couplet in Up the Junction gives me a visible tic and how I need to be in the right mood to withstand Van’s porcine grunting on Veedon Fleece, an album I otherwise adore. I also remember as a kid loving the Wings song Rock Show, but wincing when it got to the novelty spoken word section (see also Uncle Albert). Truth be told, some days I even wish A Day in the Life skipped the atonal orchestral crescendos and popped in a few more of John’s/Paul’s ”Ahs”.
In all of these cases, my immediate thought is “what the fuck were they thinking?”. In all these cases, the artists were at or near peak fame, so maybe there was no one in the studio game enough to raise their head above the console and tell Stevie to pull his head in and give it another crack.
What examples do you have? Remember, they have to be songs you otherwise love with a single jarring element.