This month, to celebrate the Internet's unbridled love for wallowing in nostalgia and even greater relishing of talking about why certain cultural artifacts are horrible, Sound of the City presents First Worsts, a series in which our writers remember the first time... they ever hated a song enough to call it The Worst. (And to be fair, we're also going to see how these songs have stood the test of time.)
THE SONG: The Beach Boys, "Kokomo."
THE YEAR: 1988.
THE REASONS: Personal humiliation.
The first time I smuggled outside media into my parents' house, I was six, and I had just accidentally discovered Magnum P.I. For two full minutes I stared full-eyed at Tom Selleck, resplendent in florals, trying simultaneously to both determine what alien culture I was observing, and to commit to memory the rabbit-ear alchemy with which I had finally extracted the illicit CBS signal from the open air. My parents held a principled and effective cross-source embargo on violent and sexist media from my birth until I was in junior high (I can instead recite parts of Free To Be You And Me from memory), so my Tom time was cut short only moments thereafter, but the Selleckian afterimage stayed with me, iconic, for decades. And, just to be clear, I understand fully how insane that sounds. These are the aftereffects of such a paucity of interaction with popular culturewhen you can only grasp at culture's hem, you obsess over the nature of the garment.
Consequently, I can not only count the important records of my childhood on one hand, but summon them with terrifying recall. My dad's Pontiac LeMans had not a stereo system, but a pink cassette deck hard-wired into a raw gap in the console, duct-taped face-down to the dash, a live Louis Prima and Keely Smith tape jailed withinthat was one. The Mothers of Invention's We're Only In It For The Money, art and music both jeweled with strange, unknowable referencesthat was another. The late-80's theme to NPR's Morning Edition, with the trumpetI should not be allowed to count this, but here it is. Lastly, though, was a single 45, so impactful that the center label is probably scorched in miniature onto a sub-nape synaptic cluster, and I am sorry for speaking it aloud because it is about to get stuck in your head. I am talking about The Beach Boys' "Kokomo."More »