Dead Teenagers and Melodrama


One peculiar trend in popular music that came along in the early sixties was dead teenager music.  These  songs told the story of teenage love tragically cut short by the grim reaper.  Now, while this type of song would seem to belong in the genre of melodrama rather than horror, they share many of the same themes that characterized horror music of the rock 'n' roll era. One was the connection of teenage romance with destruction.  Love has the potential to be tragic, and even more of the case in the songs dealing with suicide, love brings about tragedy.  Notably, and it's made explicit in "Ebony Eyes," by the Everly Brothers, and "Tell Laura I Love Her," by Ray Peterson, death cuts short these romances prior to marriage.  Therefore, these romances can remain in a state of eternal pre-sexual purity, once again upholding the prohibitions against sex at that time, similar to the prohibitions against sex in horror.  In a way, death saves these loves from being defiled by carnality, but the alternative, death, is hardly a superior option, thus illustrating the social rules that govern behavior and thought and lead to destruction, to horror.

Cars and Motorcycles:

Teen Angel, Mark Dinning

Tell Laura I Love Her, Ray Peterson

"Car Crash," The Cadets

Leader of the Pack, The Shangri-Las

Last Kiss, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers


"The Pickup," Mark Dinning

"Patches," Dickie Lee

Endless Sleep, Jody Reynolds


Other and unnamed:

Ebony Eyes, The Everly Brothers

"Laurie," Dickie Lee

"Ballad of an Angel," Bobby Swanson

"Death of an Angel," Donald Woods and the Vel-Aires



Of course, this trend was ripe for parody.  The whole concept of these songs was more than a little ridiculous.  The Cheers' "Black Denim Trousers and Motor Cycle Boots" (1956) preceded the trend of dead teenager music that really began with Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel" in 1960.  Thus, the concept was humorous even before it was serious.  Jimmy Cross' "I Want My Baby Back" takes the dead teenager song to the extreme by having the speaker exhume his dear departed girlfriend and live happily ever after with her corpse.  On one hand, this negates the notion of eternal pre-sexual purity and, on the other, plunges the dead teenager song more fully into the horror genre with a suggestion of necrophilia.  "Leader of the Laundromat," by the Detergents, parodied a specific song rather than the whole trend of music.  Such parodies and answer songs were common in the rock 'n' roll era but now are moribund, with only "Weird Al" Yankovic continuing the tradition..

Black Denim Trousers and Motor Cycle Boots, The Cheers

I Want My Baby Back, Jimmy Cross

"Leader of the Laundromat," The Detergents


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