The Dirty Thirty

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Well, I'm sure some of you have seen Texas Monthly's latest list of the 40 greatest songs from Texas, and others of you have perused Blender's recent compilation of the 50 worst songs of all time. We Texans pat ourselves on the back enough, so I thought it was high time somebody combined those two lists. After close consultation with a number of associates, Racket has compiled this, the 30 worst songs from Texas -- a score and ten of the most annoyingly catchy, most disappointing and downright bad music ever to emanate from between the Red River and the Rio Grande. So without further ado:

30. Timbuk 3, "Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades." This song's so bad, I gotta wear earplugs. All right, all right, maybe it's not that bad, but it would take years to find rock any geekier than this. That "Ain't nothin' gonna breaka my stride" song tops it, but not by much.

29. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, "Luckenbach, Texas." Not a terrible tune, but terribly overrated and overplayed, and responsible for the plague of name-checking other Texas songwriters.

28. Various Artists, "Deep in the Heart of Texas." I've always hated everything about this tune -- the stupid melody, the moronic hand-clapping, the Up With People vibe. Couldn't we sing "San Antonio Rose" at baseball games instead? "Waltz Across Texas"? "Mind of a Lunatic"? Anything but this.

27. Fabulous Thunderbirds, "Powerful Stuff." After scoring a hit with "Tuff Enuff" on their previous album, the T-Birds watered down their signature sound still more for this turd off the Cocktail soundtrack.

26. Steve Earle, "Esmeralda's Hollywood." This slice of Earle's "vacation in the ghetto" interlude is of interest today only to those of a ghoulish bent. You could pretty much put about half of The Hard Way in here; not for nothing has Earle allowed that record, alone among his studio recordings, to slip out of print.

25. Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Screw You We're from Texas." It takes some doing to write a song that's even more obnoxious than "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," but Hubbard topped himself with this one from last year's Growl.

24. H-Town, "Knockin' Da Boots." Included here for introducing a dorky euphemism for screwing into the American lexicon.

23. Charlie Sexton, "Beat's So Lonely." Man, Charlie, you had it all. The chops. The looks. The three-album deal with MCA when you were 17. The Fabulous Thunderbirds and ZZ Top paved the way for you. You could have been a guitar idol for the ages. Instead, you got hornswoggled into thinking you were Duran Duran, and you released a piece of drum machine-encrusted, synth-addled crap. It's hard to hold it against you -- after all, you were 17 and just following orders. But, man, was I disappointed.

22. Edie Brickell, "What I Am." "I'm not aware of too many things / I know what I know, if you know what I mean." Dude, that's pretty heavy. If you're a 19-year-old philosophy student wearing a beret and smoking Gauloises.

21. John Denver, "Sunshine on My Shoulders." Denver -- an army brat -- went to Texas Tech, so we'll throw him in here. Washington Post critic Tim Page once said that 1974 was the worst year in pop music history. It was the year of "Seasons in the Sun," "Piano Man," "Waterloo," "The Way We Were," "Billy Don't Be a Hero," "You're Having My Baby," "I Honestly Love You"…Page honestly has a point. And the quasi-Texan Denver certainly carried the standard for the Lone Star State.

20. Johnny Lee, "Lookin' for Love." The standard-bearer for a bad era of country, unfortunately one that was centered on Houston. I still can't hear this song without thinking of Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat singing "Ookin' pa Nub."

19. Steve Miller, "Abracadabra." "I wanna reach out and grab ya." I want to reach out and grab a sledgehammer when I hear this song.

18. Stephen Stills, "Love the One You're With." This hippy-dippy blast of free-love propaganda is like the venereal disease it no doubt did much to promote. And like syphilis, after a dormant period, it has come roaring back with a vengeance in the repertoires in many of today's younger Texas Music artists. (Like Hubbard and Brickell, Stills and Miller are both Dallasites. Notice a pattern?)

17. Don Henley, "Witchy Woman." The Sting of Texas has a few options here, most notably this one and the Stevie Nicks duet "Leather & Lace," or hell, even that overblown piece of quasi-mystic '70s mumbo-jumbo "Hotel California." We'll go with "Witchy Woman." Or make that "Witch-eh Woman."

16. Willis Alan Ramsey, "Muskrat Love." This ode to rodent lust -- made famous by the Captain and Tennille -- well deserves a place on this list, or any such assemblage of the worst music of all time. Who could forget lines like these: "Nibbling on bacon, chewin' on cheese / Sammy says to Susie, 'Honey, would you please be my missus?' / And she say yes / With her kisses."

15. Barbara Mandrell, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool." Actually, Barbara, you were never either country or cool.

14. Michael Martin Murphey, "Wildfire." One of a million smarmy relics from a smarmy decade. As a matter of fact, that's not a bad nickname for that particular ten-year stretch: the Smarmy Seventies.

13. Meat Loaf, "I'd Do Anything for Love." A plus-size artist with a plus-size palette of bad music, the Dallas-bred Loaf's comeback record was a definite return to form. Unfortunately, what he was returning to was ludicrously over-the-top dreck. See also No. 10.

12. Drowning Pool, "Bodies." It was banned by Clear Channel Radio after 9/11, and people thought that maybe Clear Channel had some taste after all. Then it was reinstated to the airwaves and people came to their senses.

11. Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." Not even Willie is immune to putting out a bad record every now and then, and this is truly wretched. And if you've ever seen karaoke versions of it, you'll begin to be able to conceive of what awaits sinners in hell.

10. Meat Loaf, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." Hmmm, should I put this on the list? Let me sleep on it, baby baby, yeah, let me sleep on it. Yeah, I'll put it right here at No. 10.

9. Pat Green, "Songs About Texas." Old Cow Town, Old San Antone, taco meat, old Guy Clark, Hill Country rain, Jerry Jeff Walker, honky-tonk angels, dusty plains, and to top it all off, a fast-moving train. Green left out the Shiner Bock, Ol' Willie and the Guadalupe River, but managed to work in just about every other yee-haw-generating platitude under the, ahem, blazing Texas sun. He should have called this "Clichés About Texas."

8. Kenny Rogers, "You Decorated My Life." Rogers has released more crap than any Houston artist. Ever. Ask ten people their least favorite Kenny Rogers song and you'll get ten different answers. Some hate "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," while others opt for "Lady," "Islands in the Stream" or "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer." But then sing 'em a few bars of "You Decorated My Life." A consensus soon emerges.

7. LeAnn Rimes, "How Do I Live." Ye gods, this offering from the Dallas songbird is awful. Hum it a little bit. Now it's as stuck to your head as that old bumper sticker you can't peel off your car.

6. Christopher Cross, "Ride Like the Wind." Breaks like the wind, more like. It's tough to pick just one from the Chris Cross canon, and, um, I'll admit I actually like the Arthur theme. (Pull my hipster card -- I don't care.) "Sailing" is another matter, but "Ride Like the Wind" is even worse.

5. Little Texas, "God Blessed Texas." This song, more than any other, is responsible for the epidemic of ridiculously excessive fiddle and guitar solos that plagues the Texas Music (Bowel) Movement. Seriously, the typical solo in some of these bands sounds like a C-130 taking off. And goddamn it all to hell, bombastic truck-commercial-friendly crap like this is catchy as hell. Chev-eeehhh, driving Texas! I was born on the Llano Estacado! Bad, but catchy.

4. Lisa Loeb, "Stay." "I missed youuuuu…" Not. Loeb kicks off a four-tune Dallas Hall of Shame at the top of this list. Loeb, Tripping Daisy and Deep Blue Something were all active in the Metroplex at about the same time -- it's kind of like one of those great, fertile scenes like San Francisco in the Summer of Love or the Lower East Side in the mid-'70s, only all the bands were complete and utter abominations. Does SMU offer a postgrad degree in Crap Music Production or something?

3. Tripping Daisy, "I've Got a Girl." As an Austin-based poster on Velvetrope.com once put it, "an embarrassment, even for Dallas."

2. Deep Blue Something, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." "And I said, 'What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?' / She said, 'I think I remember the film / And as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it' / And I said, 'Well, that's the one thing we've got.' " Arrghhhh! Bores into your brain like a power drill, and blossoms there like the most malignant tumor on record. To paraphrase Robert Johnson, once this tune takes root, all the doctors at M.D. Anderson sho' can't save you now.

1. Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby." What, you were expecting something else? With this one song, Robbie Van Winkle destroyed a cool Queen tune and set back the cause of white people in hip-hop a decade. Word to yo' mutha!

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