A REALLY Bad Song / A Brilliant Song of Protest: The Same Song?

A REALLY Bad Song & A Brilliant Song Of Protest – The Same Song?

I’ve long held great fascination with both songs of protest and conscience and really bad songs that got serious sales and massive amounts of radio air time. Among the songs of protest and conscience, some of the obvious great offerings include Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome”, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’”, Phil Ochs “Outside OF A Small Circle of Friends”, Barry McGuire’s “Eve Of Destruction”, and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.” Ok, the last one is a weak entry but I loved the way it sounded so I threw it in.

On the really bad song side, there are thousands of candidates for the worst. Captain and Teneille’s “Muskrat Love” (I get sick just writing that), Richard Harris’ highly controversial “MacGarther Park” (some love it, some hate it: I’m sick of it), The Shangrala’s “Leader Of The Pack”, and the song I consider to be among the elite worst,Sylvia’s “I’ve Never Been To Me.” All notable – but one song, one brilliant, incredible song, managed to make both of these lists, but not at the same time.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Turtles were a major force in popular music. A bunch of good looking, very talented guys with a unique sound and almost everybody liked what they had to offer. In the early 70’s they went to their business manager and as the story is told, wanted to do some experimental music, branch out into acoustic stuff. They were obviously inspired by the music revolution of that day where you had amazing and diverse musicians like Jimmi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, Crosby, Stills & Nash,  Carlos Santana, Janice Joplin, James Taylor and Led Zepp who were all exploring new frontiers in musical expression.

Their manager, believe it or not said “NO!” to their request. He reasoned that the Turtles were a hit machine and there was still a huge market for the type of music they wrote and played and they were to continue to write that type of “stuff.” Needless to say the guys were upset with their manager’s suppressing their artistry so they took the anger and got some revenge.

What they did, was write the worst song they could come up with. Threw every cliché in the book into the lyric, a dull predictable melody with bland harmonies and a snooze of a lead break. They recorded this song which will go down in music history, without a doubt, as their biggest hit: “Eleanor.”

When I learned the story behind “Eleanor” the song went from my worst song list to the top of the songs of protest as the most brilliant of the bunch. I love the Turtles, and in their honor, here are the lyrics to that awful / brilliant song.

You got a thing about you,

I just can’t live without you.

I really love you Eleanor near me.

Your looks intoxicate me,

Even though your folks hate me.

There’s no one like you Eleanor really.

Eleanor gee I think you’re swell.

And you really do me well,

You’re my pride and joy etc.

Eleanor can I take the time,

To ask you to speak your mind.

Tell me that you love me better.

 

I really think you’re groovy.

Let’s go out to a movie.

What do you say now Eleanor can we?

They’ll turn the lights way down low.

Maybe we won’t watch the show.

I think I love you Eleanor, love me.

 

Eleanor gee I think you’re swell

And you really do me well,

You’re my pride & Joy etc.

Eleanor can I take the time,

To ask you to speak your mind.

Tell me that you love me better.

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore. Brilliant.

What’s your opinion? What’s the best protest song or the worst song ever given serious air time? I’d like to hear from you. Reply on this blog or write to dave@openmindedmic.com – thanks, Prof. Dave

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