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The Worst Song Ever Recorded

Everyone knows I am a fan of the Beach Boys in general and Brian Wilson in particular. Seriously, I’m really annoying about it. Almost as annoying as I am when I talk nonstop about Guns N’ Roses history. But the history of G’N’R, while hilarious, can’t quite match the bizarre saga of the Beach Boys. It also can’t match the multiple accounts from various band members, friends, family, hangers-on, and industry insiders. Even more, nothing in the Guns N’ Roses musical canon can match the absolute horror of the Beach Boys’ lowest lows.

For my money, there are three types of horrible Beach Boys songs: the early, painful filler Brian Wilson wrote to pad out LPs (see: every song you don’t recognize from Surfin’ Safari and Surfin’ U.S.A.); the disastrous compositions of Beach Boy Mike Love* (“Student Demonstration Time,” “Transcendental Meditation,” and the “Big Sur” section of the 100% awful California Saga from 1973’s Holland); and hilarious songs that are so baffling and bad your jaw literally drops when you first hear them—hell, it continues to drop on repeat listens until you can figure out what the hell they were thinking.

Many of this last category of song comes from the late oeuvre of Brian Wilson. Sure, “Kokomo” (Mike Love again) is a bad song that may or may not have been written about a city in Indiana, but it doesn’t compare to Brian Wilson at his batshit-insane worst. Love You, from 1977, is by far the strangest album in the legitimate Beach Boys catalog (and really, that’s saying something), but you can’t forgot the dentist-drill-like Mt. Vernon & Fairway suite included as a 45 with copies of Holland, or his 1988 solo album that continued Love You‘s successful hybrid of overproduced synth-pop with incomprehensible lyrics and musical surprises (most surprising in the worst possible way). You have to be a real die-hard fan to take away anything positive from Brian Wilson or the 1998 (yeah, ten years later) follow-up, Imagination. These are terrible albums abusing the worst trends in music of that period. Unlike Love You, which has a disarming, goofy charm, these two solo albums are just crap.

But a legend was born: a long-standing rumor that an album, titled Sweet Insanity, was recorded in 1989 and ’90 as a follow-up to Brian Wilson. When Wilson submitted it to the record company, they rejected it out of hand. The album surfaced, in various forms, in the wild world of music bootlegs, and many agreed this was an astounding piece of work and the label was crazy to reject such a great album. Knowing that what came before was Brian Wilson and what came after was Imagination, I couldn’t help assuming that Sweet Insanity would be more of the same. Curiosity got the better of me, so when I found one of the many bootleg copies floating around, I pounced.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I found. Sure, most of the album continues the tradition of insipid lyrics and goofy synthesizers twangling and square-waving their way to our hearts. One thing I have to give Wilson credit for is that when he finally separated himself from creepy round-the-clock therapist Eugene Landy (who wrote or “influenced” most of the lyrics on “Brian Wilson” songs from 15 Big Ones through Sweet Insanity), his lyrics did get better. The music…eh, at least the lyrics got better. A little more introspective and thoughtful, a little less stupid and childish.

Unfortunately, Eugene Landy was still there for the creation of Sweet Insanity, which explains why it contains the worst song in the entire Beach Boys catalog (including all solo albums—yes, that includes Mike Love’s solo album and the bootleg demos of his never-finished follow-up solo album, and Bruce Johnston’s solo album, andSanta’s Goin’ to Kokomo.” I sat listening to this album, bored and unimpressed, until the last track on this particular version of the bootleg, a song called “Smart Girls,” awakened me.

Click here to listen to “Smart Girls.”

So many things go wrong here, it’s hard to identify the ultimate song-killer. The “Kidz Bop Performs Run DMC” drum loop? The terrifying pitch-shifted “hehehe” laughing? Brian Wilson choosing the medium of “bland white-man hip-hop” to apologize for decades of Beach Boys sexism? Apologizing for decades of sexism with a song that manages to be slightly more sexist than anything the Beach Boys has ever recorded? The terrible idea of sampling classic Beach Boys songs merged with the even-worse idea of adding “new” lyrics to the old songs? It’s a really tough call, but if I had to put money on it I’d say either Brian Wilson talking about breasts, or the line about “strokin’ me with hypotheses.” True, the Beach Boys have had their fair share of dirty songs, but there’s something very disquieting about a 50-year-old man rapping about how he’s had a lot of dumb hot girls but now he wishes he could bang a smart girl.

Also not helping? The chorus that manages to be catchy and annoying simultaneously. It’s harder to get out of your head than “Macho Man.”

Lyrics (approximated based on what I’m hearing; if you hear him saying something different, drop a comment and I’ll correct it):

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

My name is Brian, and I’m the man.

I write hit songs with the wave of my hand.

Songs of surf, and sun and sand,

I make great music with my band.

Songs you dance to and songs of joy

‘Cause I’m the original Beach Boy.

Everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ U.S.A.

All the songs I used to write

Talked about girls who weren’t too bright

‘Round ’round get around, I got around!

What I was lookin’ for, I never found!

But time goes on, and I’ve seen the light

Intelligent chicks are dy-no-mite!

When I grow up to be a man,

Giddy-up giddy-up 409.

Now some guys like the fashion types,

And some guys dig the archetypes,

I’m no different from the rest

I love hips and legs and breasts

But strictly on a higher plane

What really turns me on’s her brains!

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, I love you, smart girl.

You brainy babes with your attitude.

Smart smart smart smart girls!

Did I love you, little surfer girl

Or was it just your bod and long blonde girls?

Fun fun fun was all we heard

Cruisin’ in her daddy’s Thunderbird

Bar bar bar bar Barbara Ann

She ran away with another man!

She’s the littlest kid—

This is the worst trip—

Help me, Rhonda, yeah—

Get her out of my heart.

Rhonda help-help-helped me for awhile,

Not much goin’ on behind her smile,

I want it hot, hot—massive stimulation,

Women with more imagination.

Yeah, smart girls are my inspiration

Givin’ me… Good, good, good, good vibrations!

Wouldn’t it be nice if Ph.Ds

Were strokin’ me with hypotheses.

Gimme a gal who teaches school

Who’s not afraid to break the rules.

Women doctors and lawyers, too,

Can really make a man outta you.

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, I love you, smart girl.

You brainy babes with your attitude.

Smart smart smart smart girls!

Smart girls! I wish they all could be

Smart girls rhymin’ poetry!

A clever head is a real turn-on

You bright, you brainy amazons

Authors, scientists, and architects

Sultry babes with intellect.

Don’t worry, baby, ooh

(Everything will turn out)

God only knows what I’d be

Without smart girls, hip-hop, and harmony.

I’m wiser now, I know where it’s at

Intelligence is an aphrodisiac.

So if you’re seekin’ that perfect mate,

Listen to Brian, beauty’s good but…

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, I love you, smart girl.

You brainy babes with your attitude.

Big brains are awesome, dude!

Smart smart smart smart girls!

Smart girls, talkin’ ’bout smart girls,

Sexy legs with high IQs.

Smart girls, I love you, smart girl.

You brainy babes with your attitude.

I feel like the Mr. Burns excerpt at the end was tacked on by the bootleggers. Ostensibly, this album was recorded at some point between 1989 and 1991 (when Wilson terminated his relationship with Landy). Supposedly the finished product was submitted to the label in 1991, just prior to Landy being tossed out on his ass. Granted, The Simpsons had been on the air for a few years, but was “excellent” really a notable catchphrase by that point? I’m not sure, but even so, Brian Wilson has seemed so out of touch for such a long time, it’s hard to believe he’d tack a Simpsons bit onto the end of his song. Obviously, it could imply that the song was recorded later. On the one hand, it seems less likely because of how outdated his Fat Boys rap style would sound by, say, 1994 or ’95, but then again, that could tie back to the “out of touch” thing. So yes, there are a few possible explanations, but I honestly believe that this sample was added after-the-fact by a bootlegger, perhaps as a calling card or just as a random act of “hip” postmodern art.

To sum up: I really wish I had heard this song before I recorded my own intentionally awful white man rap song.

*Love’s lyrics are by far the weakest aspect of the early Beach Boys, but when he actually combined the insipid lyrics with either crappy or derivative (or both!) music, he unleashed a dark force previously unknown on Earth. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Beach Boys Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, and Al Jardine also wrote terrible songs, but their lowest lows can’t match the freak show of Mike Love. Also, once in awhile they actually wrote good songs. [Back]

Update 12/11/07! WFMU’s Beware of the Blog “finds” Brian Wilson’s “lost” rap song. I know I’m not the first person who ever heard this song, but then again I didn’t pretend like I was unearthing a semi-preserved dinosaur or something. It has some good info that I somehow missed during my zero seconds of research, but come on! Until I took my blog off the Internets for a few weeks, I was the #1 Google hit for keywords “brian wilson smart girls” and “worst beach boys song ever.” I demand the preservation of this minor victory!

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