My Anti-Playlist

By Cornelia Read

I am pretty much a fiend for music. I no longer listen to it when I write fiction, but that’s because I’m so sucked in by lyrics (good or bad) that I can’t delve into the world on the other side of my keyboard if there are tunes playing. My brain just can’t let go. This led, long ago, to my sister nicknaming me “bitch at the switch,” because I am such a control freak about what’s playing on the radio/stereo in cars.

I just cannot abide sucky music, and there’s a lot of it out there. Especially on the radio.

I’ve gotten pretty spoiled, what with being able to transmit tunes off my iPhone onto my car radio over the last couple of years with the aid of this little black plastic lollypop thing I bought at Walgreen’s for twenty-five bucks, since I don’t have an MP3 hookup-linky-thingie to plug into direct.

But that splendid little objet wasn’t my first foray into bitch-at-the-switchness…let’s just say I’ve been an early adopter of musical-control-freak technology since all we control freaks had was the AM dial (mix tapes, mix CDs, and now *sigh of bliss* iTunes. Even Sirius radio is not enough for me, sorry.)

I blame two things for this:


  1. Driving cross-country in a 1967 Ford Country Squire wagon with my mom at the wheel the summer that STUPID “Sundown” song was playing over and over again on every AM station from Salinas through Newark.
  2. Having my maternal grandparents play nothing but the former muzak station out of New York known as WPAT–“beautiful music for beautiful people”–nonstop in their Lincoln every time I spent any vacation time with them.
  3. Andrew Lloyd Weber. More on him later.


Oh, wait. That’s three things.

Shucky darn.

This all comes to mind because I drove to NYC a while back and my Walgreen’s lollipop thing doesn’t work when FM stations 88.1 through 88.7 are actually transmitting, so driving through Worcester, Hartford, New Haven, and the environs of Greater New York forces me to listen to the few CDs I have left or to actual radio stations.

Yes, I suppose I could listen to nothing at all, but that is just not an option for me. Especially on a five-hour road trip I’ve done several dozen times. I think I might end up bashing my head through the steering wheel in sheer desperation. I need a soundtrack.

But if I HAVE to listen to radio-that-is-not-programmed-by-me, there are certain songs I will avoid like the proverbial plague. These have been, to my mind, SO overplayed for the last several decades that I’m amazed more people don’t light their radios on fire. Seriously.

Here are my bottom ten–the songs that you’d have to totally Clockwork Orange me with the eyeball clamps and everything before I’d deign to listen to them from start to finish:

1. “Sundown,” Gordon Lightfoot. 

Dude, I would creep around your back stairs just to duct-tape your mouth shut, so I never had to hear this stupid damn song ever again. And I think I know why your girlfriend is messing around on you. She would like you to stop singing. Forever. This reached #1 on the Billboard charts. And was simultaneously #1 in Canada. And tortured me for 3000 miles in the back seat of an unconditioned station wagon in the summer of 1974.


2. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” also Gordon Lightfoot.

Have I mentioned duct tape? I’m very sorry that this ship sank and everything, but I would like to put all recordings of this fucking song in a leaky dinghy, then push it out to sea and shoot at the damn thing until it sinks. Blech. Blech, blech, blech.


3. “Riders on the Storm,” The Doors.

I think when your grocery store starts playing a song to let you know they’re about to turn on the lettuce misters in the produce department, it should officially be banned from airplay on actual radio stations. Especially when it’s raining.

4. Like a Virgin/Material Girl/Papa Don’t Preach. Ma-fucking-Donna.

I hate these songs. Hate. Like, to the point where I wish I could claw out my own ears level of not-enjoyment. I have felt that way since I first heard each of them on the radio, and don’t even get me started on having to watch the videos of them on MTV, back in the day. They make my skin crawl. They make my eyes itch. They make me break out in bad, bad Tourette’s episodes.


5. “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy I’ve Got Love in my Tummy,” Ohio Express

What, have these guys been hanging out in the back room of a bear bar? Ewwww. Twee, twee, twee, ptui. Double ptui. Triple.

6. “Just a Smalltown Girl/Don’t Stop Believin'” Journey

Okay, I must confess that there is a great deal of Journey that I actually LIKE. Which is probably because I listened to their album Evolution over and over again in this very cute surfer boy’s car in California the first time I ever did mushrooms. But these two songs are anathema to me, and they’re the ones that get played over and over and over again. I mean, seriously, you want a Journey song for the closing number on the final episode of the Sopranos, and you pick one of these? Gag me with the Garden State Parkway.

7. “The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers

You got to know when to fold up, and when to stop playing a really annoying song on the radio. I wish this train would just keep going, gambler and all, until I never have to hear about it again. In fact, the next time this comes on the radio, I would like to walk away. I would like to run.

8. “Ramblin’ Man,” The Allman Brothers

If you must play Allmans on the radio, please limit yourself to “Whipping Post,” “One Way Out,” or “Statesboro Blues.” These are brilliant songs. This one is just, basically, the anthem of those who refuse to pay child support. And lame.

9. Most country music apres Tammy Wynette, except for The Dixie Chicks and maybe some Roseanne Cash.

Really, I love me some good twangy pedal steel and a good shit-kickin’ beat, but “Achy Breaky Big Mistake-y” is enough to make me take a cricket bat to the speakers in my car doors. It’s like being force-fed a cocktail of grenadine, maple syrup, and ipecac.

10. Andrew Lloyd Weber. All of him.

I was tortured with Evita in my teens–long story–suffice it to say I saw the damn thing three times on Broadway against my will (matinee, Lupone-less, each time.) And then there was the endless night of Phantom when I first moved to Colorado… not to mention Cats.

If I am bad in this existence, my afterlife will consist of an eternity on a desert island with Andrew Lloyd and an accordion. Please GOD don’t make me listen to him in the meantime. Please. Please please please.

Okay, so if these ten things were permanently expurgated from the playlists of the world, I would be a happy woman. What ten songs would you Ratis like done away with? SPILL


32 thoughts on “My Anti-Playlist

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    I'll try not to create ear worms 🙂
    I don't like Led Zepplin. Don't know, just doesn't trip my trigger.
    I agree on Journey except one song, You're Tearing me Apart.
    Basically, though I was a teen in the 80s, I didn't like a whole lot of 80s music. And the big ballads of that era killed a lot good bands, example: REO Speedwagon.
    Heavy Metal. Metal period.
    Most country though I appreciate that others appreciate it. Yes, I'm from Montana, but I don't have to like country music.
    So what do I like to listen to? Love and adore The Beatles and The Who. Pink Floyd. U2. The Police. Queen. Boston. Yeah, classic rock makes me happy. When I have to concentrate I'll put on a channel of ambient (Peter Kater, Vangelis) or easy/jazzy (Zero 7) or movie soundtracks.

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Can I just apologise right now for Andrew Lloyd Webber? Nothing, not even the recent rampant rioting, makes me more ashamed to be British …

  3. Alafair Burke

    Oh, I love this as much as I hate most of these songs. Songs I hate even more: We Built This City (the band that used to be Jefferson Airplane); Abracadabra, rhymes with "Reach out and grab ya'!" (Steve Miller); Your Body is a Wonderland (John Mayer).

  4. JD Rhoades

    I had a great, long, reply to this that took a half hour to write and had video links and everything but fucking Squarespace ate it.

  5. JD Rhoades

    Trying again:

    I love this game! Name the worst songs you can think of and the one who gets the loudest groan from the crowd wins.

    My entries:

    “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks. For chrissakes, go on and die already.

    “Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes. Nostalgia or Pedophilia? You make the call.

    Actually pretty much any song with a children’s chorus in it, except “Another Brick in the Wall” and “Adiemus.”

    Nickelback-”Something In Your Mouth.” I was going to put “Burn It To The Ground “ here (“We got no class, no taste, no shirt, shit-faced”); however, I found the video of it live and I’ll admit that I probably would have liked it back in the day. But SIYM is just awful. “You know it’s over budget,but you’d pay her just to touch it COME AWN!”

    Dude. Really?

    I love Bruce Springsteen, but any time he straps a solo acoustic guitar on and goes all Woody Guthrie I hit the “skip” button. Except “Atlantic City” and even that sounded better with the full band.

    I’ve tried to like John Coltrane. I really have. And I can appreciate the musicianship, but it just doesn’t connect with me. Nor does most jazz from that era. Sorry.

  6. JD Rhoades

    "Most country music apres Tammy Wynette, except for The Dixie Chicks and maybe some Roseanne Cash."

    Lucinda Williams? Lyle Lovett? Steve Earle?

  7. PK the Bookeemonster

    Alafair, yes, I HATE that We Built This City song.

    The Bee Gees.
    Werewolves of London
    Do They Know It's Christmas
    Karma Chameleon
    Billy Don't Be a Hero
    Seasons in the Sun

    Eek. I must stop. I must go to work on my newsletter.

  8. Cornelia Read

    Louise, I'm so sorry!!!! It gave me wicked earworms, too… and now it's all a mashup with Copacabana on top.

    PK, you can DJ for me any time.

    Zoe… THANK YOU! We have many, many things that fill me with shame for being American, but I'm just so proud we don't have to lay claim to ALW.

    Alafair, I am SO with you on all of those songs. And "We Built This City" is possibly the greatest argument AGAINST giving up drugs I've ever heard. What the hell HAPPENED to those people? They used to be good…

    Dusty, THANK YOU for reposting all of that! You are as wonderful as the songs are awful. And yes indeed, Lyle, Lucinda, and Steve Earle are all mightily acceptable to me as post-Tammy music.

    And, to add to Billy Don't be a Hero and Seasons in the Sun, PK–The Night Chicago Died and Oh What a Night…

  9. Sylvia

    The Macarena
    White Cliffs of Dover
    Anything from The Carpenters
    If it was on the Gong Show – do away with it.

  10. Cornelia Read

    Alex, you LIKE Sundown? Wow… wow wow wow…

    Oh, Sylvia… FEELINGS!! How could I have left that one out? And I am not a big Carpenters person, but Shonen Knife does a rockin' cover of "Top of the World," I have to say. Mostly because I don't think they understand a WORD they're saying.

  11. David Corbett

    My joke when I worked the Michael Jackson case was: "I thought he should've been indicted for Thriller."

    Anything by U2, unless it's got African musicians doing it.

    Any of the mushy synthesized pap that MTV tripped on during the 80s. As in Depeche Mode and the thousand clones that marched in its wake.

    Anything pounding from a pimpmobile.

    Anything sung by some fool in a cowboy hat, unless he's named Hank Williams or Earl Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs.

    "I Want to Know What Love Is"

    "Both Sides Now"

    "It Never Rains in California"

    "Marakesh Express"

    And every tune that plays in my gym that makes me go: If I never hear that one again, I'll die with a smile on my face. Fortunately, none of them leap to mind at the moment.

    For whatever reason, no matter how many times I hear the Temptations, I never get sick of the tunes: Ball of Confusion, Can't Get Next to You, Psychedelic Shack, Cloud Nine, Papa Was A Rolling Stone. Well, maybe My Girl. Had enough of that one.

    Same with the Four Tops, btw. How many time have I head Reach Out, I'll be There. Still kills me, every single time.

  12. Jude Hardin

    "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band. I know Springstein wrote it, but the MM version goes on and on and on and classic rock stations play it about a million times a day.

  13. Cornelia Read

    David, you have awesome taste in music. Now if only I could find that incredible mix CD you made me, with the Mexican wedding band cover of James Bond, which I cannot locate ANYWHERE. Have downloaded all of Linda Thompson, though since you turned me on to "Katy Cruel," for which I am indebted to you for life….

    And Jude, YES that fucking Blinded by the Light song! I hate it. And the only thing they play more on the radio here in NH is Hotel California. Which just seems cruel, especially in February. In a blizzard.

  14. Murderati

    JT here – may I please apologize for all the troubles with comments? Squarespace is having issues, rolling out a new upgrade and it's just hosed everything.

    Now. I have to admit, I am not a Springsteen fan. But I can't think of anything else I really hate off the top of my head.

  15. billie

    Everyone has named the ones I might have come up with (if I hadn't tried valiantly to block them from my mind forever).

    I will add Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft.

    Having My Baby by … can't remember.

    And Gimme Three Steps by … blanking on the name of the band.

    And of course Free Bird.

    The last road trip I took was w/o Sirius and I forgot my CDs. Through a certain stretch of the trip there were only TWO radio stations I could get – one was Christian rock, which actually didn't sound too bad until I started listening to the lyrics and then I freaked out. The other was some kind of extreme Christian music that was constantly interrupted with warnings about breaking commandments and what would happen if one did so.

    I thought I was going to go insane. I turned off the radio obviously, but I do like music when I'm driving and the silence was deafening.

  16. Susan Paturzo

    PK, I don't know who you are, but if I find out I may have to kill you because my husband started singing Karma Chameleon just to annoy me after he read this and now that's my ear worm for the day. Ugh.

    I have to add:
    Ebony and Ivory
    MacArthur Park (someone left the cake out in the rain?)
    and anything by Ace of Base

    This was fun!

  17. Shizuka

    Detest that song by Kool and the Gang, so much so that I blocked out the name.

    Walking on Sunshine. Always seem to hear it when I'm in the foulest of moods.

    The Macarena. It's a horrific song and I was once an MC at a wedding (don't ask, it involved payment) where that was the theme.

    Thriller and Billy Jean by Michael Jackson. I'm not a fan, in general, but those two are so friggin repetitive.

    Most country music. I like Johnny Cash.

    Anything by the BeeGees.


    Cruel to be Kind.

    I could probably write a book if I listed all the songs that irritate me.

  18. David Corbett

    The playlist for that CD was:

    1. Hurt Feelings>>>>> Flight of the Conchords
    2. Listen to Me >>>>> Baby Huey & the Babysitters
    3. Oh My Soul >>>>> Susan Marshall
    4. It’s Gonna Be O.K. >>>>> The Aggrolites
    5. I’m Sorry, Baby, But You Can’t
    Stand In My Light Anymore >>>>> Bob Mould
    6. I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled & Crazy >>>>> The Derek Trucks Band
    7. Perla De La Medina >>>>> Javier Ruibal
    8. Are You Ready? (Mississippi Daze) >>>>> Markus James
    9. Comanche >>>>> Eddie Angel
    10. I’m at Home Getting Hammered
    (While She's Out Getting Nailed) >>>>> Banjo & Sullivan
    11. Bad Boy >>>>> The Last Real Texas Blues Band
    12. Behind Blue Eyes >>>>> Pete Townsend
    13. When the Trickster Starts >>>>> Gogol Bordello
    14. You Know The Rest >>>>> Steve Earle
    15. The Yessness >>>>> The Matthew Herbert Big Band
    16. Who Were You Thinking Of? >>>>> The Texas Tornados
    17. Fight For Your Right To Party >>>>> Big & Rich
    18. 007 (James Bond Theme) >>>>> Fanfare Ciocǎrlia
    19. Katy Cruel >>>>> Linda Thompson
    20. All Alone Am I >>>>> Brenda Lee
    21. You’re Just In Love >>>>> Kay Starr
    22. Tall Trees in Georgia >>>>> Eva Cassidy

    I might be able to piece it together again (new computer, not sure I have every tune) if you'd like me to. (Need a physical address for mailing.)

    And Fanfare Ciocǎrlia are actually a Romanian Gypsy wedding band, not Mexican. (I make that same mistake all the time.)

    Here's a YouTube clip of their 007 theme:

    They do a pretty mean Born to be Wild too:

    And for a bonus track, something completely different (but which I think you'll like):

    This kind of love
    Is good for you

  19. David Corbett


    Wow. You have excellent bad taste. Those tunes really do suck. I'm sure I've been to the party where they couldn't stop playing Something in Your Mouth. (And yet, full disclosure: not heeding the lyrics, I could imagine myself digging that tune through about two and a half plays.) And I'm sure I dated a woman whose favorite tune was Adiemus. If memory serves, I crawled out through the bathroom window.

    Which, of course, is how she came in.


  20. David Corbett

    Because I'm putting off doing any real work (excuse the minimalist videos — that's all there is):

    Linda Thompson, Katy Cruel:

    Flight of the Conchords, Hurt Feelings:

    Javier Ruibal, Perla de la Medina:

    Derek Trucks, I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled & Crazy (my current anthem):

    Susan Marshall, Oh My Soul (another homage to heartbreak):

    And a bonus track — Nacao Zumbi (imagine The Who if Pete Townsend had been born in Brazil, not Britain), with one of the weirdest videos I've seen lately (they seem to have a surrealist bent in their visuals):

    OK. I really must get to work now.

    Thanks for the opportunity to play disc jockey C-Girl.

  21. Cornelia Read

    Oh, David, thank you!! And I'm so happy to know that I confused Romania with Mexico. Must be this stomach flu… you are the absolute meister of cool tunes.

  22. Catherine

    Some time in the early 70s my sister used to sing the chorus of this over and over and follow me around to incite me to a response that led to a full serve of parental trouble descending upon my seething little self.

    1910 Fruitgum Company – Indian Giver

    When you grow up in a beach community Byran Adam's, The Summer 69 gets overplayed by horny old DJs. I now have instant recognition within two chords of it playing on a radio. I can switch that channel…and still have the entire thing earworm me like a nasty taunt all day.

    A couple of songs that my youngest would want to play on the drive to high school

    Bjork It's so Quiet

    I can't remember the name of the artist or song…but it was Japanese pop that would start off beautifully, and then descend into screaming.

    Not enough coffee in the world to help that be part of my morning.

    Anything Rod Stewart does that is a cover from another era. Older ladies in gift stores play some album he does where he kills an era. In particular his version of Wonderful World.

    Grim listenings.

  23. Kim Rafelson

    My all-time worst is ANYTHING from the show Annie. I was forced to sit through three performances (stone cold sober), and this may well have played into my decision to remain childless.

  24. PD Martin

    Some great (well, great in that they're exceptionally bad) ones here. I am, however, a closet Madonna fan but prefer her mid-career stuff.

    Macarena is a definite yuck, along with a few others mentioned above. I'd like to add another song but I have no idea what it's called…some song about rowing in a boat that was at an Irish wedding I went to once. Awful song, which I'd thankfully never heard before that night. But everyone else seemed to LOVE it and many were even sitting on the floor pretending to row boats! You just never know what the Irish are going to do 🙂


  25. Micki D.

    Howdy all… The more I replayed this in my mind, the more I thought… No… these are songs that I grew up with. Sung out loud to — only if no one was around. I find myself listening to an oldies station at times… and once again, when in the truck…I sometimes scare myself!!! All of these songs are part of my life, and listening to country mostly — they do the same thing, one song you hear over and over again.. and then POOF… hardly ever!!! I had CDs that up until several years back, when I quit listening, I would listen to them time and time again.. soundtrack from Chicago, from the traveling tour of Godspell – would like to find that one. I also amazed my teenaged daughter by knowing every song, by the intro, of the Beatles top hit album…???21 or 27?? — oh.. my 'listening' pleasure now are audiobooks… that I get would up in to miss exists, turns and have trouble getting out of the truck!!!
    Howdy and Hugs to All y'all….. enjoy the day

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