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Any Major Teenage Tragedy

October 27th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments


For Halloween, no spooky songs nor murder ballads, but a fun mix about death! But the songs in this lot aren’t spooky, nor — caveat emptor — are they generally of great (or any) artistic merit (though some are pretty good). This is a collection spanning the age of teenage tragedy songs; tracks that gave the young people of the 1950s and early ’60s something a bit macabre to cry about. Some of the lyrics are good for a good laugh, even if some of those may be guffaws at the preposterous lyrics.  Above all, this collection represents a time capsule of a particular time in popular music which even some of the biggest names in pop got involved.

Some songs of the teenage tragedy genre are well-known. The Leader Of The Pack is also the leader of the genre, the apex of the genre which would soon be killed off by the British Invasion. Song like the exquisitely manipulative Teen Angel, the appalling Tell Laura I Love Her, Johnny Preston’s pretty racist Running Bear (not running here because of racism) and Pat Boone’s inexcusable Moody River topped the US charts. Others in this mix were cash-ins on the genre, and some were just taking the piss.

The collection kicks off with a satire on the genre, I Want My Baby Back by Jimmy Cross (who says he couldn’t hardly see nuthin’), with the immortal description of a car crash scene: “Over there was my baby, over there was my baby, and way over there was my baby”.

It also ends with what I hope is intended to be a joke, Two Hour Honeymoon by Paul Hampton, a B-side co-written and produced by a pre-fame Burt Bacharach. When I featured the song before as a bonus track on the Lesser-Known Bacharach mix (still up!), I exclaimed: “It must be heard to be believed.” Almost a decade later, I stand by that observation.

The first Teenage Tragedy Song was The Cheers’ Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and released in 1955, just before James Dean’s death. After that tragic September day which claimed Jimmy, the song became a hit. In France, Edith Piaf had a hit with her cover of it.

The genre would find representation in all genres of popular music, including country, rockabilly, doo wop and, especially, surf rock. But they all drew from the same pool of tropes: lovers in transport accidents, aquatic disasters, suicides because parents don’t approve of the assorted Johnnies and Jimmies…

I suppose especially the latter gave voice to rebellious teenagers. My own mother lived the lovers-torn-apart-by-disapproving-parents trope just as these songs reached the height of their popularity. If my grandparents hadn’t intervened, there’d be no Major Dude With Half A Heart as we know me (Mom’s 1961 loverboy turned out to be a bit of a crook; sometimes the parents were right).There is one bonus track. It’s not quite a teenage tragedy song, and it conveys the absolutely correct message that drink-driving is murderous. It’s also one of the worst records I have ever heard. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ferlin Husky’s The Drunken Driver from 1954!

I might be making light of death here, or rather of the songs that tell story of tragedies. Of course, many of us have known real people who have died in car crashes, or of suicide, or perhaps even in surfing accidents. To those of us who had such a real-life bereavement — I have had some myself —  I apologise if this mix is picking at old (or, God forbid, fresh) scars.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-wept covers, and the text above and below in a PDF. PW in comments.

  1. Jimmy Cross – I Want My Baby Back (1965)
    OMG! What Happened? Car crash after Beatles concert!
  2. The Cheers – Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots (1955)
    OMG! What Happened? Asshole dies in motorcycle accident!
  3. The Everly Brothers – Ebony Eyes (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? A plan crash!
  4. Mark Dinning – Teen Angel (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? A stalled car, a train, and a class ring!
  5. The Mystics – Star Crossed Lovers (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Suicide pact!
  6. Del Shannon – The Prom (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Accident on the way to the prom!
  7. The Breakers – Surfin’ Tragedy (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Wiped out while surfin’!
  8. Jan & Dean – Dead Man’s Curve (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Reckless driving!
  9. Susan Lynne – Don’t Drag No More (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Nobody dies, but boyfriend wears women’s frocks!
  10. The Shangri-Las – Leader Of The Pack (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Look out! Look out! Look out! A motorcycle tragedy!
  11. Twinkle – Terry (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Another motorcycle tragedy!
  12. The Beach Boys – A Young Man Is Gone (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Police shooting? But he’ll live forever more!
  13. Roy Orbison – Leah (1962)
    OMG! What Happened? A pearl-diving accident!
  14. J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – Last Kiss (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Car crash and his baby went to heaven!
  15. Dickey Lee – Patches (1962)
    OMG! What Happened? Heartbroken Patches found face-down in river!
  16. The Browns – The Three Bells (1959)
    OMG! What Happened? Death on a wedding day!
  17. Gene Summers – Chapel Bells Ringing (1962)
    OMG! What Happened? Angels weep on a wedding day!
  18. Jody Reynolds – Endless Sleep (1958)
    OMG! What Happened? The sea took his baby away!
  19. Ray Peterson – Tell Laura I Love Her (1959)
    OMG! What Happened? Bad driving and a last-breath declaration!
  20. Johnny Cymbal – The Water Was Red (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Shark attack! And you should see the shark now!
  21. Pat Boone – Moody River (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Muddy waters took his baby’s life!
  22. Cathy Carroll – Jimmy Love (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Lightning struck!
  23. John Leyton – Johnny Remember Me (1961)
    OMG! What Happened? Johnny’s true love haunts him!
  24. Bernadette Carroll – The Hero (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? Johnny and teammates die in bus crash!
  25. Barry Mann – Johnny Surfboard (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? The waves claim surfin’ Johnny!
  26. Kip Tyler – Eternity (A Surfer’s Lament) (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? The sea is calling Kip!
  27. The Four Seasons – No Surfin’ Today (1964)
    OMG! What Happened? The angry sea took his love away!
  28. Paul Hampton – Two Hour Honeymoon (1963)
    OMG! What Happened? Wedding night car crash!


More Mix CD-Rs
Halloween Mixes
Murder Songs

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  1. amdwhah
    October 27th, 2022 at 10:00 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. October 27th, 2022 at 23:15 | #2

    What? No “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” by the Shangri-las!!!????

  3. Alcue
    October 28th, 2022 at 05:27 | #3

    It wasn’t a hit, but this is the most hilariously over-the-top teen tragedy record ever.

    Kenny Karen – Oh, Susie Forgive Me


  4. amdwhah
    October 28th, 2022 at 09:52 | #4

    It was on my shortlist, but I applied my one-act-per-mix rule…

  5. amdwhah
    October 28th, 2022 at 09:55 | #5

    Oh wow, I wish I had known that one! It has all the triggers, from the guitar intro to another Johnny to the candy store to the key changes. You’d think it was a parody. Except for the happy ending.

  6. November 2nd, 2022 at 17:22 | #6

    This is great! But hard to listen to. :)

  7. November 5th, 2022 at 20:32 | #7

    Top collection, Dude!

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