I could take the easy way out, and pick one of the dozens of inescapable earworm ‘hits’ that seem to catch hold of the zeitgeist and assault us forever after. “Macarena”. “I’m Too Sexy”. “Achy Breaky Heart”. “Kokomo”. “Mambo #5”. “Cotton Eye Joe”. Just from typing in those song titles, I’m going to have to blast “Highway to Hell” turned up to eleven for a couple of hours to reprogram my brain, overwriting “suck” with “Marshall stack goodness”. I suspect there’s a special circle of hell reserved for whichever Svengali foists these songs upon the masses.
But that would be like shooting fish in a barrel. With a machine gun. And grenades.
I could have picked “Roxy Roller” by the (now thankfully obscure) Canadian ’70s band Sweeney Todd. The local classic rock station, as of a few years ago, still had this song in rotation at least five times a week. ‘Classic Rock’ in the sense that they’ve had the same eighty-song playlist since 1983. Eventually they’ll get around the peeling the wrapper off of Van Halen’s 1984. It would be bad enough if all eighty songs were good songs; “Roxy Roller” is undeniably terrible in every meaningful way. Anyway, one memorable morning in 2006, as I was waking up and trying to steel myself for another day of work, the station played “Roxy Roller”. For the second day in a row. I could not have guessed that a GE clock radio would shatter into so many pieces when pitched headlong out of a second storey window. It was time for me to buy a new alarm clock anyway.
But even that feels like a cheat.
So I’m going to pick something that’s in my actual record collection. In 2004, Wilco put out a brilliant record called A Ghost Is Born. Wilco is one of my favourite bands, and I think this is probably their best record. But the record had a difficult gestation. Main songwriter Jeff Tweedy suffers from debilitating migraine headaches, especially during the making of A Ghost Is Born. Which is awful, and I can empathize, because on the rare occasion that I get a headache I feel like my head is in a bench vice and someone is pounding on my skull with a 4-pound hammer in perfect synchronicity with my pulse.
But I’m not sure what possessed Jeff to put the track “Less Than You Think” onto the record. This song starts off okay, and I’m genuinely sorry that Tweedy’s day job – which brings me so much joy – sometimes makes him so miserable. But the last twelve minutes (seriously) of this ‘song’ is an atonal, arhythmic drone of noise meant to emulate a migraine. Full marks for fearlessness, but nobody needs a 12-minute recording of a headache. If I wanted a 12-minute headache, I’d shotgun a Coke slurpee or watch half an episode of The Nanny.
So that’s easily my least favourite Wilco song, and most likely the least favourite song in my collection. Rest easy, “Benny & The Jets” and “Invisible Touch”, you’ve avoided infamy… for now.