Record companies, not to mention insurance companies, have long recognized the link between motor vehicles, teenage operators, and unfortunate results. For the insurance guys this has resulted in higher rates & claims. For the record industry it’s led to a bunch of hit records, particularly in the late ‘50s & early ‘60s.
For oldies aficionados, few names evoke a more immediate response than J. Frank Wilson – “the Last Kiss guy”. Not much of a recording career, but when you place #2 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1964, who cares – this song is the KING of the ‘Crash & Heartbreak’ segment forever. BTW, the line “I gotta be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world” has always frightened me a lot – jeez, I hope that’s not how it works. Anyway, here’s J. Frank and his biggest hit:
The next selection is designed to wring every ounce of teenage angst out of the listeners and it clearly succeeded because when it was released in 1959 it was actually banned on a host of radio stations because it was “too sad”. It eventually fought its way through to the top of the Billboard Charts but wow, “too sad” to play??? Speaks to the era, I guess.
Teen Angel is a simple story song with a tragic plot: car stalls on the railroad tracks, boy & girl make it out safely, girl gets creamed when she goes back to fetch his HS ring. Hey look, people die all the time trying to save pets, so who are we to judge her motive (I’m sure it would have taken months to get the ring replaced & by then – who knows – he might have moved on). Anyway, grab some tissues and listen up:
Although it’s clear that guys are always driving (I mean, we’re talking ‘50s-‘60s) so far it’s been the girls who’ve paid the price. Now it’s time to turn the tables with the Shangri Las’ ballad about that bad boy, The Leader of the Pack.
Pretty thin story line but it’s tough to convert a modern-day tragic tale (good girl, motorcycle hood, dad hates him, skid, crash) into Romeo & Juliette…UNLESS someone has overlaid the song onto video from Marlon Brando’s Wild One movie. The song’s still a top pick but the video makes it better (listen but don’t watch if you’re a purist):