Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs
by Dave Barry

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Andrews McMeel: Kansas City, 1997
94 pages

October 2009

Just how bad is popular bad?

Dave Barry thoughtfully warns us first:

... I can guarantee you that many, if not most, of the bad songs discussed in this book are aleady festering somewhere in your brain. The good news is, most of the time these songs are dormant. The bad news is, every now and then something will wake one of the songs up, and you will have a hard time making it go back to sleep. ...

Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs can't cover everything where badness and music intersect, of course. Dave Barry, via his newspaper column, held an incredibly popular survey in 1992 which necessarily had applied and natural limits:

... this survey does NOT attempt to cover all songs ever written. It basically covers pop and rock songs that were popular in the United States from roughly 1960 through 1990 because this is the era that shaped what is left of the brains of the vast majority of the people who responded.

The four newspaper columns in which this survey was developed and promoted are reprinted in the collection Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up. If you haven't yet seen that review, please do read it. I recommend that you start with Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up because (in addition to much else) the four bad-song columns in that book show how the process unfolds of survey and tallying, of dismayed remembrance and hilarity and commiseration. There is material in Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs (a much smaller book) that is not in those four columns, and vice versa. If you enjoy those columns and demand more about bad songs (I mean, who wouldn't?) then definitely go ahead and read this little book. You really want to ensure these outstanding lyrics don't escape your memory, even if you've succeeded already in forgetting them years ago.

This is music that's hard to disremember — even if you try. Some of these deprecated songs will turn out to be among your own favorites, perhaps, or at least among your fond tolerables. Dave Barry found that true for himself, and I do also. In addition to "The Big Vote Getters" (the big bad hits, the baddest of the bad for untold thousands of listeners), he has sections on "Weenie Music", "Love Songs" (sappy, or non-rhyming, or weird, or incomprehensible), "Songs Women Really Hate" (hmm, wonder why?), "Teen Death Songs", and "Songs People Get Wrong" (fun with other folks' imaginations).

Thanks to the MP3 revolution, it's now usually possible and often easy to locate the songs, allowing us to engrave the lines even deeper in our memory, or incise new channels. For instance, at the time of his survey, Dave Barry had been unable to locate one that clung to his mind from his youth, "Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys". Turns out it's by the Cookies from 1964, and I found an MP3 copy for my iTunes library. Dave Barry's Bad Song Survey is a treasure.


© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson

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