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Unless you’ve been living inside the gatefold sleeve of Sgt. Pepper this year, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that 2007 marks the 30th anniversary of the year that punk arrived to destroy the past and create a new future… nor that the only future it really bequeathed was one in which the values placed upon true talent and ability are lower today than at any other point in history. And why not? Talent demands to be nourished. Today’s celebrities are happy if you take their photograph. Yes, punk changed a lot of things. But can we really be grateful for any of them?
There is one anniversary, however, that has been completely overlooked this year, probably because it’s one of the precious few that remains as pertinent to today’s music scene — with more than 50 years of rock ’n’ roll history behind us — as it did then, with only two decades to draw from. It was called The World’s Worst Records — the Bottom 30, and it was the brainchild of English disc jockey and personality Kenny Everett.
Everett himself is no stranger to Goldmine readers. Murray the K may have elected himself the fifth Beatle, but Everett was always the Fab Four’s favorite DJ, a fellow Liverpudlian whose zany sense of humor found a ready echo in the Beatles’ own. When the band decided to premier Sgt. Pepper on British radio, it was Everett they chose to share it with, and bootleg recordings of the ensuing melee remain one of the most revealing, not to mention entertaining, broadcasts of the Beatles’ entire career.
In the decade that followed, Everett’s career enjoyed some phenomenal ups and some remarkable downs. By 1977, his Saturday lunchtime hour on London’s Capital Radio was all but stopping the traffic, so many people tuned in to hear him.
The World’s Worst Records idea, he admitted, was borrowed from such American icons as Doctor Demento, but Everett took it to a whole new dimension. This was not cult radio with a limited listenership who would put up with anything their madcap host threw at them. This was a prime-time slot on a mainstream station in a market that wasn’t simply driven by hit records, it was dominated by them. It was hard enough amid the Top 30 rubbish to hear one decent record on the radio. Everett was threatening five hours of dreadful ones.
Installments were aired once a month over five months. The first four shows, which began Jan. 30, 1977, were dedicated to weeding out the also-rans from an unpardonably abysmal field of contenders. The final show at the end of May tabulated the votes of the Capital listenership and presented, over the course of two stomach-turning hours, the final Bottom Thirty.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Compile a list of the worst records you’ve ever heard; all manner of tuneless travesties would be present. But think about it. For a record to be truly revolting, it can’t simply be a piece of mass-produced fluff by some over-hyped superstar. You may not like one solitary utterance by Phil Collins or Sting, but there’s a lot of people who do, and a lot of musicologists who would support their right to do so. (Poor deluded fools.)
Genuine ghastliness is delineated by more than taste, or by your personal opinion of an artist’s abilities — which is why, for example, there wasn’t a single record by Little Jimmy Osmond in contention, but country singer Floyd Robinson’s "My Girl" was a shoo-in. Mawkishness, over-sincerity, novelty