Who: Jimmy Cross
What: I Want My Baby Back (b/w "Play the Other Side" - cuh, thanks chaps...)
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street, London
When: 1965 (this reissue 1978)
Label: Wanted (original label Tollie)
Cost: One pound
Another very obvious choice for a blog of this nature, but one I make few apologies for. After all, this is the Ben Hur of novelty awfulness, the bad taste record by which all other bad taste records must be judged, and certainly an education to those who think they've heard it all before.
This single was originally a very minor hit in America for Jimmy Cross, getting into the lower reaches of the Hot 100 back in 1965. Recorded as a very heavy-handed parody of the numerous death tunes (such as "Leader of the Pack") which were stinking up the charts like rotting corpses in a morgue during a gravedigger's strike, it took the concept as far as it could conceivably go. The sleeve art on display here should give you an idea of how the story for this tune develops, if it could be indeed called a tune - at times it more closely resembles a parodical comedy sketch. Key line: "Well I wasn't about to slam on the brakes, 'cos I didn't have none to start with".
Leaving aside any questions anyone may have about taste, the record appeared to grow in notoriety over the years, a situation which finally peaked when Kenny Everett played it on his "World's Worst Wireless Show" on Capital Radio in 1977. Inviting the public to vote for the worst song of all time after he broadcast several shows of outlandish cuts and outright drivel, the public responded to take this right to number one - hence the etching on the tombstone you can see on the sleeve.
There were numerous rumours at the time that Jimmy Cross was simply Harry Nilsson moonlighting under another name, and whilst that's an enjoyable thought, it's sadly untrue. Confusion does still surround the singer's identity, however, and the most realistic explanation I've read so far is that he was a radio producer who happened to have the right kind of Southern accent for the song's narrative parts, but otherwise had little creative input into the disc's contents.
As for the song's much-envied position of being the worst record of all time, I could certainly think of one or two singles which have emerged since which may deserve the title more, although admittedly not many more than that. Perhaps it's time for an update of Everett's concept on British radio. And perhaps some of the challengers are another topic for another time....