The Worst Albums Ever Made

April 16, 2020

With virtually all of recorded music at your fingertips when you open Spotify or Apple Music, it can be overwhelming to decide what to listen you. Allow us to help: Avoid these albums at all costs.

Kevin Federline, Playing with Fire

Hitting stores in 2006 was the first (and so far, only) album by Federline, a former Britney Spears backup dancer who became a celebrity when he married his boss and attempted a career as a rapper. All Music called this collection of attempts at hip-hop music “too stale and inept to inspire laughter: It can only elicit weary groans,” while Slant called the album “just as disposable and dumb as you’d expect.”

Elvis Presley, Having Fun with Elvis on Stage

The King was of course a remarkable live performer, and his Las Vegas-style revues thrilled audiences in the ‘60s and ‘70s after his major-hit-making days were behind him. Many live albums capture the magic of those concerts, but Having Fun with Elvis on Stage isn’t one of them. Released to fulfill a contract and orchestrated by Presley’s authoritarian manager Colonel Tom Parker, the album contains no actual music, merely Elvis’s often nonsensical on-stage banter and between-song jokes and teasing of his band members. (The 1991 book The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time calls this album the very worst rock and roll record of all time.)

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Naturally, the songs featured on what’s been called one of the worst movies of all time will make up what’s possibly the worst soundtrack of all time. In 1978, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band hit theaters, a surreal, not completely coherent film adaptation of the Beatles’ landmark 1967 concept album of the same name. As the Beatles had long split, the Fab Four’s alter egos were played by then-huge stars Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. The soundtrack was loaded with Beatles songs performed by a puzzling array of artists. While Aerosmith’s hard rock cover of “Come Together” came together, Steve Martin’s version of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and George Burns’ “Fixing a Hole” did not. Label RSO Records, anticipating a smash hit movie and album, sent about five million copies out to record stores…which returned four million to the label.

Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music

Both as the front man of the Velvet Underground and in his solo works, Lou Reed proved himself to be one of the most progressive and imaginative artists in rock history. But even he could get a little too experimental, or inside of his own head. In 1975, Reed released Metal Machine Music, an album consisting entirely of ear-hurting noise and feedback. While rumors persisted for years that the album was either a joke, and or a sonic kiss-off to Reed’s label, RCA Records, Reed insisted for the rest of his life that Metal Machine Music represented a personal and artistic statement. (In his review, Rolling Stone critic James Wolcott called listening to the record “one of the better feats of endurance in my life,” comparing it to “spending a night in a bus terminal in Hagerstown, Maryland.”

Want more of the very, very bad? Then check out this very, very good book: The 10 Worst of Everythingby Sam Jordison, available now from Portable Press.

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