This Week in Elder News – 16 May 2009
The Elder Storytelling Place: Applause is Good

ELDER MUSIC: Songs You Love to Hate

Today's Elder Music post is from Peter Tibbles – I'll let him tell you about himself:

I'm an Australian from a small country town with a strange name (the town that is; oh me too, I guess) who now lives in the big smoke (Melbourne). I'm divorced with no kids (which means, of course, that I never grew up). A mathematician by training, I've worked for more than 40 years in the IT industry (which may be some sort of a record). In a nutshell:

I drink wine
I listen to music
I read books
Often at the same time.

There will be something in this article guaranteed to offend everyone. At the very least, it should make you go "Eeeuuuu yuck". I'll consider myself a failure if it doesn't.

These are songs you refuse to admit to anyone else that you like (but really do). Or is that just me? I'm happy to shout it from the rooftops or write it in a blog. I liked these songs when they came out. Well, most of them. Okay, some of them. The "best" of these came from that interesting musical period: the cusp of the fifties into the sixties. These are (mostly teenage) Death Disks.

I'll start at the top. At the pinnacle of Death Diskdom (try saying that three times quickly) was the king of them all, the all time champion Tell Laura I Love Her. This was recorded by Ray Peterson.

Incidentally, there was a follow up to this called Tell Tommy I Miss Him by Skeeter Davis (and others). I won't bother with this as it's the same song with different words told from Laura's point of view. "Reply" songs were a bit of a fad around that time.

The next, about the same time, and the only rival to "Laura" is Mark Dinning's Teen Angel. Now, you have to have some sympathy for the previous bloke driving around trying to earn some money for a wedding ring, but I have nothing but scorn for the Teen Angel of the title. After all, "I pulled you out and we were safe, but you went running back". What a cretin.

I don't know what the Everly Brothers were thinking of when they recorded Ebony Eyes. Well, they needed something for the flip side of Walk Right Back, I suppose. It seems that they have never performed the song in concert. Indeed, this recording was the only time they've sung it (or so they say).

The song Endless Sleep by Jody Reynolds is technically not a death song as no one actually died in it. At least I don't think so - the ending's a bit enigmatic. It just sounds as if it should be one (if it isn't).

Pat Boone. Ah, Pat. What a wonderful song you gave us in Moody River. I can almost forgive you for your appalling Fats Domino and Little Richard covers because of this one. Almost, but not quite. Fortunately, here in Melbourne we had a great DJ called Stan Rofe, on radio station 3KZ, who played the originals, so it wasn't till much later I heard Pat do those songs. However, back to Moody River. What's with this "vainest knife" business, Pat?

There's a song about real people, not made up ones as I've featured so far, that must be included. This doesn't make it any better than the others though. Indeed, it's probably worse. The real people mentioned in it are Charles Holley, Jiles Richardson and Richard Valenzuela. Richardson wrote a song that was on my short list called Running Bear but I thought that it wasn't as bad as this one so it missed the cut. This is Tommy Dee, The Three Stars.

Alright, now to the really appalling stuff. This next song even I can't bear to listen to, but for the sake of you all I've done just that. I wouldn't recommend that for amateurs. Don't try it unless you've spent a lifetime listening to dreadful songs. Even then, I had to have a good lie down in a darkened room for several hours to try to get over it.

I should warn you that anyone suffering from diabetes definitely skip this one. Bobby Goldsboro Honey.

Oh dear, that's awful. Sold a lot, though.

Getting away from the 50s/60s cusp to the 70s we come to my all time favorite death song. I still have a 45 of this in my box. It's a little different in style from the others but I'm including it because I like it. This one makes up for Honey. It makes up for Hello, This is Joannie (Remember that one? I couldn't bring myself to include it). Here is Jack Kittel, Psycho.

When Jimmy Cross recorded I Want My Baby Back he pretty much made the Death Disk obsolete. No one could take it seriously after this one.

But wait, there's still one more. Last and definitely least we have Pat Campbell with The Deal. Anyone who doesn't roll around on the floor laughing while listening to this has a heart of stone.


Oh my, I hate to say this..but I remember almost every single one mentioned. And I hate to admit this even more..I loved these sappy death songs but isn't that what youth does?

Thanks for bringing me my Sunday morning laugh. Its raining in Maryland today, again. I so wanted to sit on the deck and have my coffee...ah, perhaps there should be a song about this?

One more from that era I actually liked: "Laurie" (aka Strange Things Happen) about a boy who meets and falls for a girl he later finds out was a ghost. But my favorite of this dubious genre dates from the 1930s: "Gloomy Sunday," also called the "Hungarian Suicide Song." Google it: the song has quite a history, not all of it legend.

Congratulations on a.) a fine list, and b.) managing to avoid mentioning the passing of a dog even once.

Well, I'm roaring (WIR)!

This was a first listen for me to these: The Three Stars, Psycho, Ebony Eyes and The Deal. Psycho was aptly named, and The Deal....I'm speechless!

I loved Tell Laura I Love Her and most of all, Moody River, one of my favorite childhood songs. It was a treat hearing them again.

You missed Leader of the Pack, by the Shangri Las however!

Sure love the way you write. This was great.

I had about 20 more songs in the short list but I couldn't include all of them. "Leader of the Pack" was certainly there (missed by that much).
Also "Running Bear"
"Black Denim Trousers"
"Dead Man's Curve"
"Tom Dooley"
"Patches' (Dickie Lee's song, not the other one)
Several Johnny Cash, particularly "Don't Take Your Guns to Town"
Several Marty Robbins "El Paso", "Big Iron"
I rejected these last couple as the songs are much too good.
I even thought of The Beegees "New York Mining Disaster", "I've Gotta Get a Message to You"
"Long Black Veil". I particularly like The Band's version of this.
Again, these songs were too good and a bit too late ( I was mainly going for that 50/60 period).
A bunch of others I won't bore you with.

Great selections, Peter, although I did not make it through Three Stars, OMG.

I've never heard Ebony Eyes or Psycho before and cannot decide which one is the worst. Ebony Eyes with the way the Everly Brothers sing the horrible lyrics, "If I ever get (pause) to heaven, I bet..." or Psycho's sick, sick subject. Now that I think about it, I prefer Psycho just because of its outrageous dead baby joke type of lyrics.

As for Honey, since I thought it was smaltzy even as a kid there was no way I was subjecting myself to it today- I gave it a pass.

Which brings us to Pat Boone's Moody River. I loved this song when I was a kid (still do) totally missing the incongruity of that bouncy tune being connected to lyrics about suicide. In a way this song is just like his rock and roll covers- all of them are bouncy numbers with Pat showing no feeling for the lyrics.

Next, I Got My Baby Back. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have not heard or thought about this song since I was a teenager and am happy to discover it still makes me laugh.

Finally, The Deal. Yikes! My take on it? His wife and baby were always going to be all right, God just pulled a fast one on him.

How could a death-song list omit "Our Last Kiss"!! I spent many a dime on that at the downtown Grants - so much so that (this is embarrassing) it still gives me shivers even as I giggle!

Through my years as a sometime troubadour, I got a lot of requests to sing "Teen Angel." It's a good audience participation tune, and most people love to chime in on the high "Oooooooo" in the chorus.

Performing the song requires strict adherence to what I call the Willy Nelson rule. Listen to Willy sing "Frosty the Snowman." He BELIEVES every word. You absolutely have to believe every word in order to sing "Teen Angel."

Holy guacamole - tell Laura I Love Her - now that takes me back to listening to the radio with my parents when I was at school! And yes, super irritating...!

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