Stupid Texas songs

John Nova Lomax continues a good run with his “Racket” feature in the Houston Press by presenting us with the Thirty Worst Texas Songs. Unlike Texas Monthly and their recent Best Texas Songs list, he’s pretty darned broadminded about what constitutes a Texas song or artist, but the end result of that is to make the list more fun, so it’s okay by me. Though I disagree with him on a couple of selections, he gets enough credit for being so right about so many others that I’m willing to overlook them.

I’ve included the article below, with my comments. Be warned – as Dave Barry mentioned in the introduction to his Bad Song Survey (referenced several times below), this comes with a severe Brain Takeover Alert. You may find yourself incessantly humming some of these awful songs, and there’s not much you can do about it short of a lobotomy. So have fun, but be careful.

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.

We’ll start right off with a disagreement – I like this song. I will admit that that as earworms go, though, it’s pretty pernicious, so if you’re not that fond of this song, the number of times you’ll hear it in your head over and over again will surely magnify the effect. Nonetheless, I would not have chosen this song.

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.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my answer to that question is because I don’t know those songs. It’s still better than “Texas, My Texas”, and it has the Pee Wee’s Big Adventure thing going for it. Which is nice.

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.

Man, I remember “Beat’s So Lonely”, and I remember the hype over Charlie Sexton. What in the world happened to him?

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.

Another song I don’t really dislike but can’t really disagree with. I remember a parody version of this song where the lyrics went “Philosophy/Is a subject I never passed/ In high school”. I usually sing that when The Point plays this tune.

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.

Hard to argue with that, and I like “Piano Man”.

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.”

I always thought that was “Wookin Pa Nub”, but that’s not important. I can’t hear this without thinking about the Buckwheat Sings! version, either.

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.

The first Dave Barry Bad Song to appear on the list, precisely for that lyric.

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.”

Another Dave Barry Bad Song.

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

Damn straight. This was wonderfully parodied by Wammo of the Asylum Street Spankers with his (sadly no longer performed) “Children of the Cornnuts”, in which he proclaims that he “was flannel, when flannel wasn’t 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.

And another Dave Barry Bad Song. This one got an entire page in his “Book of Bad Songs” thanks to a letter he received from a guy who pointed out that a “killer frost” occurs on a clear night and is a hazard to one’s vegetable garden.

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.

Sad but true. “Bat Out Of Hell II” blew chunks – it’s high on my list of CD Purchases I Most Regret. Say what you want about the original, Jim Steinman utterly failed to capture any of its charm or magic.

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.

Yet another Dave Barry Bad Song. To quote Steve Dallas: “There will be no – repeat, NO – duets with Julio Iglesias this session!”

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.

Sacrelige! The original “Bat Out of Hell” is a desert island CD for me. Yes, I know, it’s cheesy, overproduced, overwrought, melodramatic, and pretentious. What’s your point? It still kicks ass. “Bat II” just proved that it was a once in a lifetime accomplishment.

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.”

Though it’s to the tune of another mindless “country” hit, I’m convinced that this was the inspiration for the Austin Lounge Lizards‘ wonderful Stupid Texas Song.

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.

The really amazing thing about this is that Lomax didn’t mention my personal “favorite” Kenny Rogers atrocity, which is “She Believes In Me”, or more accurately “She Be-LEEEEEEEEEVES In Me”. Hard to believe one artist could have that much concentrated crap in him, but there you go.

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.

(raises hand sheepishly) Yeah, I like the “Arthur” theme, too. Sue me. How exactly is Chris Cross a Texan, though? That just seems so wrong.

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.

If I ever do move out of Texas, it’ll be because of the godawful truck commercials. This one, which mutates into “Ford Is The Best In Texas” for commercial purposes, is worthy of the death penalty. You think those “Like A Rock” ads are bad? You have no idea.

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 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!

‘Nuff said.

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15 Responses to Stupid Texas songs

  1. I guess A.L.L.’s “Pflugerville” isn’t mainstream enough.

  2. David says:

    According to VH1, via Google, Chris Cross was born in San Antonio, pretty much making him a real Texan.


  3. William Hughes says:

    I know this might sound blasphemous, but I have to put Stevie Ray Vaughn / Jimmie Vaughn’s “Hillbillies From Outer Space” on the list. Hell, I can put the entire “Family Style” album on the list, but this particular song reminded me of when I would go ice skating at my local rink as a kid. (And I’m a SRV fan from the early 1980s.)

    To think that American Express used that in a commercial.

    Also, the shame of Port Arthur, TX, Janis Joplin deserves a lifetime achievement award for a vocal style that most resembles a chicken.

  4. William Hughes says:

    I just thought about this inclusion, and I’m sure University of Texas alumni are going to roast me, but it deserves to be on the list. “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You” has got to be one of the dumbest fight songs ever written. First of all, it’s done to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. Second, the lyrics are insipid:

    The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
    All the live long day..
    The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
    You cannot get away.
    Do not think you can escape them,
    At night, or early in the morn..
    The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
    Till Gabriel blows his horn!

    You must be kidding me.

    P.S. I like Lisa Loeb’s “Stay”.

  5. elizabeth says:

    The scary thing is that one of the songs on this list is the Lager Rhythms’ newest arrangement, and I’m the soloist.

    However, I refuse to admit which song. You’ll just have to come to the show to find out. (Pockets will be checked at the door for rotten fruit.)

  6. Mike Thomas says:

    This has to be one of the worst worst lists I’ve ever seen.

    Luckenbach, Texas ??

    Do I even have to defend this song? It was a huge hit when it came out. I was just in junior high school and I still remember the impact it had.

    Deep In the Heart of Texas??

    Isn’t that like the Texas National Anthem or something? And it is a fun song to sing and everyone knows (most of) the words. What more do you want from a song?

    Lookin’ For Love ??

    Urban Cowboy was a lousy movie, but it was a great soundtrack album. This was a staple of my high school years. A great song for those times when you are standing around at a dance or some other social function trying to look like you’re not too scared to ask someone to dance even though you are.

    Abracadabra ??

    A staple of the early MTV years with a funky video. Has nothing to do with Texas.

    Sunshine on My Shoulders ??

    Alright, this guy just clearly hates music. There is no other explanation. I suppose he also hates “Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder. This is such a sweet song that I put it on a mix tape for my wife when we first started dating.

    I really hate lists like this. I think I’ll let Ray Wylie Hubbard sum up my reaction to John Lomax’ musical tastes:

    “Screw You, We’re From Texas”

  7. citizen Able says:

    Q: What happened to Charlie Sexton?

    A: Married a beautiful dame, had a lovely kid, toured for years, backing Bob Dylan on lead guitar ’til he couldn’t stand being away from his family. Stayed home and produced some Lucinda Williams’ recordings.

  8. musicfan says:

    It does’t take any skill to be a critic. Let’s see your best list. It’s probably at least as offensive as your best list. Luckenbach, Texas- Please, if you don’t get the idea of the song, you don’t get. Have you ever been to? Can you imagine what the place was like before the tune let alone how many mainstreamers this song exposed to country and Texas music? I could carry on endlessly here, but the search that brought me to your page, Ray Wylie Hubbard– Have you listened to any of his albums front to back and more than once?? You are definitly missing something. As for Pat Green and Steve Earle, I think you either need to travel extensivly or move from Texas for a while. You will develop an appreciation for getting a taste of Texas in a song. Maybe you should write and play your own music, I’d love to see lyrics and I’d love to hear you play.

  9. musicfan says:

    It does’t take any skill to be a critic. Let’s see your best list. It’s probably at least as offensive as your best list. Luckenbach, Texas- Please, if you don’t get the idea of the song, you don’t get it. Have you ever been to? Can you imagine what the place was like before the tune let alone how many mainstreamers this song exposed to country and Texas music? I could carry on endlessly here, but the search that brought me to your page, Ray Wylie Hubbard– Have you listened to any of his albums front to back and more than once?? You are definitly missing something. As for Pat Green and Steve Earle, I think you either need to travel extensivly or move from Texas for a while. You will develop an appreciation for getting a taste of Texas in a song. Maybe you should write and play your own music, I’d love to see lyrics and I’d love to hear you play.

  10. Rich says:

    Re: Charlie Sexton – run, do not walk, and get “Arc Angels” by Arc Angels. Sexton and Bramhall, and 2 members of SRV’s band. Excellent stuff. And then he finished with touring.

  11. Joe Lefebre says:

    Ok I love catchy lyrics, especially if they allow you to express a thought, feel an emotion, spread it to your friends. Sure they can drive you batty while the ensuing emotion drives you nuts. However, in defense of John Denver’s Sunshine On My Shoulders. His song came shortly after a time when Johnny Cash “hadn’t seen any sunshine since I don’t know when”; the arrival of a Big yellow Sesamie bird, a yellow smiley face, Dawning of the Age of Acquarias, “let the sunshine in” were all making the rounds. The song fit in with his natural environmental grass roots appeal. There were a bunch of sunshine songs that followed it. Ok I feel better, had to get that off my shoulders. By the way I don’t agree to disagree with some of the others. Joe Lefebre

  12. Joe Lefebre says:

    Ok I love catchy lyrics especially if they allow for a feeling, an emotion or can be inflicted upon one’s friends. Sure they can drive you batty, but no more then a sunburn. In defense of John Denver’s Sushine on my Shoulders. John’s song came shortly after “Dawn of Acquarias – let the sunshine in; “Johnny Cash “hadn’t seen any sunshine since I don’t know when”; a big yellow sesamie bird landed upon us; and a circular sunshine smile had begin to fade. The song fit John Denver’s natural, environmental, grass roots support. Sunshine songs followed of course. Now that these ray’s of light are off my shoulders, I must confess to not agree to disagree with some of the other fine works mentioned on this list.

  13. Find another state with such musical diversity.
    So, screw you, we’re from Texas!

  14. Rebecca says:

    This list is actually the worst compilation I have ever seen. Not only are the majority of songs on this list not even country, but also the singers are most certainly not from Texas. I hope that you arenÂ’t from Texas yourself, and anyone who is a Pat Green fan, or a Texas fan, or even a country fan would disagree with the review that you gave his song. I would agree with you that there are some crazy songs about Texas that have weird or bad lyrics, but your list is far worse than those songs will ever be. I hope that you don’t think that you are witty or clever because you created this list, because it sucks and everyone that has commented agrees. I agree with Mike Thomas…screw you.

  15. Mark says:

    This list is unbelievable. Not being from Texas it gets tiring hearing the praises for Texas from Texans. BUT, in my opinion, this list proves that THE TALENT IN TEXAS IS ENDLESS!

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