[Because I was tagged by Tom with this meme]
Father, forgive me, for I have sinned...
Kenny Rodgers and the First Edition I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
My nomination for first prize, as this may be the worst song ever recorded that I can't ever get enough of. "...Found my mind in a brown paper bag"..."tripped on a cloud and fell eight miles high; tore my mind on a jagged sky"..."had my foot on the gas as I left the road and blew out my mind..." Future fried-chicken magnate Kenny Rodgers assesses the state of his mental health by filling a song with drug references, and ends up sounding like a guy who's never even had an aspirin. The challenge would be to find a more deliciously cheesy set of pseudo-psychedelic lyrics written in earnest (although Gentle Wandering Ways by the late-period Beau Brummels would be close behind, if it had ever seen the light of day).
I have a video of Kenny lip-synching this on Ed Sullivan in a Nehru jacket, but it may not be uploadable to YouTube for copyright reasons. This video is from the Smothers Brothers TV show, and at least has some cheesy TV special effects.
Ides Of March Vehicle
One of an explosion of horn bands riding the coattails of Blood, Sweat, and Tears in the early seventies (Chicago being the most successful, of course), The Ides of March enjoyed a career year in 1970, touring in support of Hendrix, Joplin, and Led Zep, after Vehicle became the fastest-selling Warner Brothers release to that point. Unequivocally a guilty pleasure, this recording is bad in so many ways (e.g., lyrics), but its modal-sounding brass lines, together with vocalist Jim Peterik's blatant David Clayton-Thomas ripoff, were a potent hook. It also has the worst guitar solo EVAR -- supposedly it was from a previously-discarded take that had to be spliced in after a section of the master was accidentally erased. Jim Peterik went on to form Survivor (Eye Of The Tiger).
K.C. and the Sunshine Band Get Down Tonight
Disco is the 'anathema' of the post title, and -- Van McCoy's Do The Hustle notwithstanding -- Get Down Tonight was its early anthem, before it became self-conscious, mundane and weighed down with cultural baggage. From the intro and its speeded-up guitar, to the insane background vocal that shows up every second time through the refrain, there's no mistaking that there's something going on here that trancends the genre. Dig this video -- how else would you want to look on stage but like this? Is that trombone player really doing the Funky Chicken? Covered hilariously by Shriekback.
Edison Lighthouse Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)
I looked down my nose at this song at the time, thinking it was too trivial and lightweight compared to the heavy hits of the day. As it turns out, not taking itself too seriously gave this song major lasting power. Edison Lighthouse was really a session-band vehicle for singer Tony Burrows, who cranked out four "one-hit-wonders" under four different band names in 1970, and a fifth in 1974. Freedy Johnson does a great cover of this on Right Between The Promises. Upon hearing Love Grows in the car one day, my daughter asked, "Is this on every mix CD you make?"
Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman
Jimmy Webb wrote many songs that make it onto folks' guilty pleasures lists, including MacArthur Park (Richard Harris), Up, Up, and Away (The Fifth Dimension), Turn Around, Look at Me (The Vogues), and The Worst That Could Happen (Brooklyn Bridge). Considered apart from their context and the artists who performed them -- i.e., the circumstances that relegate them to the category of guilty pleasures -- many of these songs are pop masterpieces, structurally and harmonically sophisticated, with simple but emotionally powerful lyrics; in my humble opinion, Wichita Lineman is the greatest example and Webb's crowning achievement. Readers of Rolling Stone, Mojo and Blender magazines have voted "Wichita Lineman" one of the greatest songs ever recorded (which puts its status as a guilty pleasure in jeopardy).
The first time they met, Campbell (an unapologetic wingnut who these days alternately quotes the Bible and claims we should have wiped Iraq off the face of the earth) looked up from his guitar and said "When're you gonna get a haircut?" After their collaboration had produced several gold records (By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Galveston, and Wichita Lineman) and Grammy awards (not to mention a few boatloads of cash), presumably Campbell arrived at a more circumspect point of view regarding the length of Webb's hair.
Judas Priest You Got Another Thing Comin'
This might as well be the blueprint for every great heavy metal single; it has all the hooks and clichés in all the right places. Although most heavy metal is misogynist crap, I can be sucked in by anything with a great guitar sound and even a suggestion of self-parody (see AC/DC).
The Cowsills We Can Fly
A real Rhode Island family with a real band and a real singing mom, they backed out of playing themselves in The Partridge Family when it was discovered Mom (Barbara) would be played by Shirley Jones. No word on whether Barry Cowsill's substance abuse problems were the inspiration for Danny Bonaduce's.
Donovan Hurdy Gurdy Man
Regarding Donovan, what Tom said. Although John Paul Jones played bass and directed the arrangement, Jimmy Page did not -- as was rumored for many years -- play the distorted electric guitar that rescues this from the self-indulgent faux relevance (or is it faux-relevant self-indulgence?) that was a staple of the times, and of which Donovan was the clown prince.