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Houston's Ten Worst Songs

…and we're still not as bad as Dallas

For this damn-near mortal sin, I hereby sentence you to the following penance: Ten novenas to St. Elmore James for 60 nights straight, a thousand Hail Lightnin's and your endowed foundation of a basilica dedicated to St. Slim Harpo somewhere in the Upper Kirby District.

4. "Mr. Jones," Mike Jones. Right now, this utterly banal and annoying track is shaping up as a career-ender for Jones, who showed so much promise when he erupted out of Studewood shouting out his name and phone number ad infinitum. "Back Then" and "Still Tippin'" were both ace singles, but without beats by producers as dope as Salih Williams, you can only go so far with an M.C. of Jones's exceedingly limited skills. (Sample rhyme from another song: "I'm a pimp! I walk with a limp! I step inside Pappadeaux's eating on some shrimp!")

3. "You Decorated My Life," Kenny Rogers. The list of quality '60s and '70s artists turned '80s Monsters of Schlock is fairly long and honorable — Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Rod Stewart, Heart, Chicago/Peter Cetera and Crosby, Stills and Nash. And, alas, Kenny.

His 1968 single "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" was musically innovative, its dated LSD-fueled lyrics (courtesy of fellow Houstonian Mickey Newbury) notwithstanding. "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" is one of the better topical songs about Vietnam (or, as Kenny put it, "that crazy Asian war"), and "Lucille" remains a standard — as any song about a single father attempting to raise 400 children on his own is bound to be.

Twin late-'70s smashes "The Gambler" and "Coward of the County" were nothing less than all-encompassing pop-culture phenomena. But by that time, the wheels were already flying off Big Kenny's wagon — this turkey came out in 1979, heralding the advent of his declining years as a crooner of love ballads cheesy as a Green Bay Packers tailgate party.

This one edges out "Lady," "We've Got Tonight" and "Islands in the Stream" on the strength of its dental-drill melody and interior-design-as-love metaphor. It is also saved from strong consideration for the No. 1 spot by the producers of Malcolm in the Middle, who deployed it memorably in a key birthday-party fight scene.

2. "I Raq and Roll," Clint Black. Eager to goose a career long mired in the doldrums, Black jumped Ropers-first on the Dubya's Big Adventure bandwagon with this jingoistic 2003 turkey. Sample lyrics: "I rock, I rack 'em up and I roll, I'm back and I'm a high tech GI Joe, I've got infrared, I've got GPS and I've got that good old fashioned lead, there's no price too high for freedom, so be careful where you tread," and "They won't show us their weapons, we might have to show them ours."

In 2005, I mentioned the tune to Mike Hoffman, the director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Hoffman said the song made him sick. "There's this whole new form of war profiteering," Hoffman said. "Today, it's not just people making money off selling the government bullets and bombs, it's people making money off the war itself through 'artistic' things."

1. Patrick Swayze, "She's Like the Wind." You know that Internet lore about Chuck Norris, about how he's so badass his pulse is measured on the Richter scale and how he's the real reason Waldo is hiding?

All that glory could have been Patrick Swayze's, based on Road House alone. But it isn't, and this crusty bucket of tepid musical spittle is one reason you're not reading about Patrick Swayze karate-chopping Grand Canyons and stuff like that. (There's also his girly-man roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost. Chuck Norris, as everybody knows, does not dance. Or die.)

Also, David Hasselhoff has recorded this song. We need say no more.

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

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