Why John Lennon Hated ‘On Top of Spaghetti’

John Lennon went on TV and criticized the children’s song “On Top of Spaghetti” as well as other songs, including Elvis Presley’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise.”

It sometimes feels like every rock star once publicly trashed another musician’s work. For example, John Lennon criticized “On Top of Spaghetti” on a show about pop music. During his appearance on the show, he also attacked a famous Elvis Presley song. It’s surprising John had so many negative things to say about a beloved kid’s song.

John Lennon compared ‘On Top of Spaghetti’ to ‘a coach trip’

According to Salon, John appeared on the show Juke Box Jury in 1963. Juke Box Jury was a show where judges reviewed new pop singles. During John’s appearance, he dismissed every pop single discussed, including Elvis Presley’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise,” Julie Grant’s “Don’t Ever Let Me Down,” Paul & Paula’s “First Quarrel,” Miriam Makeba’s “The Click Song,” and Tom Glazer’s “On Top of Spaghetti.” For context, the latter is based on the American folk tune “On Top of Old Smoky.”

John revealed why he disliked “On Top of Spaghetti.” “I can’t stand these ‘all together now’ records,” I like the idea of one shouting and one answering, but not that. I prefer the recent Little Eva [another song based on the ‘On Top of Old Smoky’ melody] — ‘Smokey Locomotion,’ folks. But not that. It’s like an outing. A coach trip.”

John Lennon discussed the genre of music he liked the most

Perhaps John disliked “On Top of Spaghetti” because it’s a children’s song and he was more of a rock ‘n’ roll fan. A 1980 article from The Washington Post features quotes from John about his musical tastes. “There is nothing conceptually better than rock ‘n’ roll,” he opined. “No group, be it The Beatles, Dylan or the Stones, have ever improved on ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ [Goin’ On]’ for my money. Or maybe I’m like our parents: That’s my period and I’ll dig it and never leave it.”

John put rock ‘n’ roll in the context of the times. “Rock ‘n’ roll was the basic revolution to people of my age and situation,” he said. “We needed something loud and clear to break through all the unfeeling and repression that had been coming down on us kids.”

It’s interesting that John disliked “On Top of Spaghetti.” Notably, The Beatles also released a folk song for kids: “Yellow Submarine.” As well as other tunes that are obviously for children, such as “Octopus’s Garden” and “Rocky Raccoon,” The Beatles released tunes for all ages, including “All Together Now,” “All You Need Is Love,” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.” In addition, the movie Yellow Submarine is aimed at all audiences. It’s surprising John didn’t comment on the appeal “On Top of Spaghetti” has to a younger demographic.

The legacy of ‘On Top of Spaghetti’

Unlike many famous children’s songs, “On Top of Spaghetti” was a bona fide hit. It climbed to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Glazer gave the world other famous tunes, such as “Talking Inflation Blues” and “Melody of Love.” Despite this, “On Top of Spaghetti” is probably his most famous song.

“On Top of Spaghetti” had entertained generations of children even if John didn’t see much value in it.

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