When it comes to influencing one's mood, nothing quite does the trick like music. Music can turn you into a pile of romantic mush, or stir patriotic fervor, or give you that little morale energy boost to get you through that five-mile run. It can, of course, also cast you into the pit of depression and self-pity, convincing you that life sucks harder than the combined power of 1,000 vacuum cleaners in orbit around a black hole, while a collection of DVDs featuring the entire run of American Idol floats nearby.
This current generation is convinced that they invented depressing music (as well as video games, sex, and retarded fashion trends). Even the most cursory glance at the history of music shows that manipulative, depressing, hideous songs have in fact been around for decades.
The following songs are the ones that I personally feel are the most miserable, depressing songs out there. I also think they're awful. So no, none of these are the "oh, this song makes me so depressed, yet it's so well done, so beautiful" variety. No. These songs suck the big one, in my opinion. They're manipulative, miserable, and...well you get the idea. They're not in any real order, except perhaps for the last five. Yes, on further reflection, the last five are a pretty good countdown, culminating with what I think is the most miserable song ever.
Read on, if you dare.
10. Seasons in the Sun- Terry Jacks. Written by French folk singer Jacques Brel, this festering turd of depression became a major (s)hit in the US in 1974 by professional whiny singer Terry Jacks. It's being sung from the perspective of someone about to die, though the exact method and reason is unclear (perhaps a torch-bearing crowd is sick of this song?), so the singer says good-bye to a handful of special people (trusted friend, father, some chick named Michelle). After hearing him lament about how "it's hard to die..", you start screaming words to the effect of "then you better get a move on!" at the radio.
9. Shannon- Henry Gross. This song became a hit in 1976, and was about the death of an Irish Setter owned by Beach Boy Carl Wilson. Yes. This song's about a dead dog. A dog that apparently drifted out to sea, but apparently lacked the cranial capacity to swim back to shore. Hokay...
8. Alone Again, Naturally- Gilbert O' Sullivan. No, not Gilbert & Sullivan. There's no Yum Yum here. No pirates from Penzance to be seen. The guy's real name is Raymond O'Sullivan. Some record executive saddled him with the new name. This song was released (or escaped?) in 1972. The singer is miserable, because he's alone. His father died, his mother died, oh, you know the drill. He's alone. Again. Naturally!
Side note: Anyone else notice that the songs thus far have all come from the 70's? Time to change that a little...
7. Patches-Dickey Lee. Huh-huh...his named is "dickey". This little slice of sunshine comes from 1962. OK, so, Patches is about a rich boy and a poor girl. Patches is the girl, in case there's any doubt. The boys' parents forbid their love because, hey, what would the neighbors think? Rich boy, poor girl? It'd never work! So Patches drowns herself. But that's okay, because the singer intends to hurl himself into that very same river once he finishes singing. And if that's not further reason why he should just stop singing right now, I don't know what is.
6. Cats in the Cradle- Harry Chapin. Hey kids, we're back in the 70's again! Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1974! This is the best known of the late Harry Chapin's "Story" songs...You know, a song that gives you an entire story, and usually not one of those that ends with "and they all lived happily ever after"? Yeah, that's the one. So, anyways, the singer's wife has a baby, a son. Of course, dad is too busy to spend time with the kid. The kid grows up, but dad's too busy. So, what happens when the dad retires and finally has time to spend with the kid? What do you think the kid says? Are you ready? He says he'd love to, if he could find the time! Oooo! Face! Rogered by karma, mister neglectful dad! Bazinga! So, the moral is, you better spend time with your kids, or else someday, they'll blow you off.
5. Hallelujah- Leonard Cohen/Too Many Artists Worth Mentioning. Let's crank up to the 80's now, specifically 1984. I've heard/read many interpretations of this song, some saying it's joyous, some saying it's a celebration of sex, others saying other things, I guess. To me, it's a depressing song. Just flat-out depressing, melancholy, downbeat, dirge-like. And to make matters worse, it was featured in Shrek and Watchmen, two movies I rather liked.
4. Wildfire- Michael Martin Murphy. Yay, back to the 70's! To be exact, to 1975! Ok, so here's the deal. There's this girl, see...she's apparently the singer's girlfriend. She rides a pony named Wildfire. Well, one cold Nebraska winter, the girl dies during a killing frost. So I figure this means that some serial killer named Frost breaks into the house and murders her, or otherwise, she was apparently made of vegetable matter. So the pony named Wildfire busts down its stall, and the high-strung animal gets itself lost in a blizzard, presumed dead. Nice move, dumbass. Oh, but that's okay, because Michael's convinced that "She's coming for me, I know...". And apparently they'll both ride off on Wildfire. So basically, a frozen undead woman riding a high-strung equally frozen dead horse is coming for him. Yeah, there's a happy ending for you.
3. Rocky- Austin Roberts. Well, 1975 beats us up again. Despite the title, it has nothing to do with boxing, yet I can't help but think that this song and everything and everyone connected with it deserved a couple of upper-cuts. There's this guy, Rocky. Last name not known...definitely not Balboa, Marciano, Horror, Raccoon, or J. Squirrel. Anyways, Rocky apparently has fallen in love with a girl who's lived in a box all her life. See, she's shy and has a fear of things she does not know. The chorus is composed of quoting her as she says "Rocky I've never (fill in appropriate experience she hasn't had) before, don't know if I can do it..." She starts by saying she's never been loved before. OK, sure...that's not too far-fetched. Then as the song progresses and they're married, she says she never had a baby before. Yeah, well, half the population can also lay claim to that, but we'll let it slide, lady, but you're starting to push it. Well, of course, they're happy, then they discover that she's going to die from some terminal disease. So she whines to Rocky that she never had to die before, and OH DRY UP YOU WHINY BITCH!! NONE OF US HAVE HAD TO DIE BEFORE!!!! AARRGGHHGHHHHH!!!!
2. Last Kiss- J.Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Back to the 60's again, and a little seriousness creeps into the list. My mother died of breast cancer in 1963. My last image of her was the ambulance attendants carrying her out of our house. For years afterward, her mom, my maternal grandmother, would tell me that she was in Heaven, and that I had to be good, so that someday I'd see her again (Nana wasn't much of a theologian). This song became popular in 1964, and the chorus was fairly close to what my Nana told me. Do the math. Even as recently as the mid-90's, if that song played on the radio (and it was played often on oldies stations, which I enjoyed listening to), it would pretty much tear my guts out. Then Pearl Jam covered it in 1999. That did it. Despite the fact that it was an enormous commercial success for the band, I couldn't help but laugh at it and say "You have GOT to be kidding!" I started singing along to the cover version on the radio, over-emoting and hamming it up. That's when I eventually took a good long look at the original song and went "Wow...what an emotionally manipulative, depressing song!" So now, it doesn't bother me anymore.
1. Run, Joey, Run- David Geddes. Naturally, the worst steaming lump of cat crap on this list had to come from 1975. This is another of those story songs involving two tragic teens. See, you have Joey, and you have his girlfriend Julie. Well, more to the point, Joey was the one who had Julie, so now Julie is going to have Joey's baby. Julie's dad is enraged at this (historical note: In the past, teenagers getting pregnant was considered scandalous and wrong), so he smacks Julie around and gets his gun to kill Joey. Julie tells Joey to run, hence the clever title. So Joey runs...well, drives...right to Julie's place (historical note: the GPS wasn't invented at this time). And of course, there's daddy with a gun. Julie interposes herself, gun goes off, and suddenly there's no more scandal of a teen pregnancy to worry about. The song ends with the singer singing "Run, Joey, Run"..over and over. So..what...the dad just left his daughter and unborn baby lying dead in the driveway and is going to get all Jean Valjean on Joey? Wouldn't the cops be after Mister Julie's Dad? Would the sequel song be called "Run, Julie's Dad, Run?"Who knows? Who cares?
So there you have it. My Terminal Top Ten. Oh, there were some that almost made the list, and I almost included them in an "Honorable Mention" category, but there is no honor to be found here, as Mister Worf would say.