The Worst #1 Hits of the 50s, 60s, and 70s

The most ridiculous and lame #1 hits in AM radio history

The worst #1 songs ever in Billboard chart history, at least in rock's first golden age, must have been loved by somebody, but it's hard to imagine a whole nation being into songs this lame. Time has not been kind to these smash hits, all of which were the most popular songs in the US for at least one week of glory: some were boring, some were weak, some were just ridiculous, but they all made it to the top anyway. Think of them as bad fashion ideas for your ears.

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Pat Boone, "Love Letters In The Sand"

Pat Boone's "Love Letters in the Sand" 45
Pat Boone's "Love Letters in the Sand" 45.

(four weeks, June 8 - July 6, 1957)
Yes, you can hate Pat for watering down rock and roll from the very beginning, or by using the segregation of radio to steal the thunder (and sales) from the original Black versions of songs like "Tutti Frutti," or for hypocritically railing against rock ever since. But let's face it: this 1931 vintage ballad is surpassingly lame all by itself, and Boone's vocals don't help -- compared to this, "Moody River" is a blues song. A triumph of reactionary thinking, and also mediocrity.

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Brian Hyland, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"

(one week, August 13, 1960)
Novelty songs are easy to bash -- no one likes hearing the same joke over and over again. But this (Number) one's pretty awful, even if Hyland himself wasn't really to blame. (He went on to do a great, distinctive cover of the Impressions' "Gypsy Woman.") The bikinied girl wearing something too small to be seen in public is actually a toddler, or at least that's how it was written. Ew. Billy Wilder's 1961 film One, Two, Three uses this song to torture one of its characters... literally!

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Steve Lawrence, "Go Away Little Girl"

(two weeks, January 12 - 19, 1963
This one was actually penned by famed songwriting duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King, but that doesn't make this syrupy, loping ballad any less goofy -- like any Brill Building vets, they turned out lots of duds, due simply to the assembly-line nature of their job. We could blame Steve Lawrence, except that Donny Osmond came back with the very same song and a similar arrangement and owned the top spot all over again for three weeks in September 1971. Bleh.

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Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am"

(one week, August 7, 1965)
The Hermits were only as good as their material, and this WWI music-hall singalong seemed to be yet another attempt by their handlers to make them the most British of the British Invasion acts (which is pretty ironic, since the Brits had invaded in the first place by sounding American). Also used as a torture device, this time in the film Ghost. And -- get this -- never released in England. But in the US, it was the fastest-selling single of all time.

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Barry McGuire, "Eve Of Destruction"

(one week, September 25, 1965)
Hard to believe this was written by P.F. Sloan, who also gave the world "Secret Agent Man" and the Turtles' "You Baby." But it's true: he's the one responsible for rhyming "Red China" with "Selma, Alabama" and declaring "My blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin'." It doesn't help that former New Christy Minstrel singer McGuire hits the "social outrage" button with a sledgehammer, either. The most dated and terrifying of the era's many, many Dylan knockoffs.

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Bobby Goldsboro, "Honey"

(five weeks, April 13 - May 11, 1968)
Even for a death song, this one's really soapy... the narrator's young wife cries a lot, likes puppies and trees, and then gets carried off by the angels one day, for some unknown reason. (Although, since Bobby finds her crying in the middle of the day and she passes the following spring, I'm going to guess cancer.) Features the immortal verse: "She wrecked the car and she was sad / And so afraid that I'd be mad / But what the heck." Indeed.

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Zager & Evans, "In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)"

(five weeks, July 12 - August 9, 1969)
Scaaaaary. Five hundred years from now (and then some), we'll all take pills to think, have no use for our arms, and pick our children from a long glass tube. Okay, maybe that last part is accurate. But what you're hearing here is a society shocked and frightened by its own technology -- this was Number One when man landed on the moon. So why can't this tuneless, retrofuturistic wonder work itself up to a better climax than "man has cried a billion tears"?

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Minnie Riperton, "Lovin' You"

(one week, April 5, 1975)
Riperton was a fine vocalist, and this is, at heart, a pleasant little song. But it suffers from a very early-Seventies belief that love should be uncomfortably touchy-feely, like your creepster uncle. ("And every time that we... oooooh!") This in itself might not have made "Lovin' You" so embarrassing, and Minnie's jaws-of-life, I-hear-the-voice-of-spring vocal crescendos might not have hurt quite so bad. But God! The birds! The constant twittering of birds! Why the birds?!

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Rick Dees & his Cast of Idiots, "Disco Duck (pt.1)"

(one week, October 16, 1976)
Dees was, at one point, the most popular DJ in America (behind Dick Clark, if you count him, and definitely Casey Kasem). But it's not thanks to this horrid excuse for a novelty, in which Dees goes to a disco and somehow, for some reason, morphs into Donald Duck. It's just an excuse to do voiceover work anyway, which is also why, at the end, there's an impersonation of Elvis (still alive at the time). This isn't a song, it's a bad morning zoo.

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Rupert Holmes, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"

(three weeks, December 22 - 29, 1979, January 12, 1980)
Rupert was the pen behind the Buoys' bizarre hit "Timothy," an ode to cannibalism. So he knows how to get your attention. But this oily story song comes on like a hairy polyester lounge lizard who won't stop rubbing your arm. Rupert decides to leave his girl, places an ad in the paper, shows up for a one-night stand and finds... his girl, who was also looking for some strange. And no one's angry about it. Yet. (I wouldn't sleep too hard around her, if you know what I'm saying.)