Car Tunes: Teen Tragedies – Leader of the Pack, Last Kiss, Tell Laura I Love Her

It’s a simple formula: a boy + a girl + a car/bike = tragic hit love song. In the early to mid 1960s a number of teen angst songs like this were popular. Of course those weren’t the only car crash songs, we’ve already featured Jan and Dean’s Dead Man’s Curve, but that was more of a hot rod song aimed at boys and young men. In these songs, the Brill Building boffins moved the machinery to the background and the teen romance to the foreground. Girls bought 45s too. Here are the Shangri-Las in a live tv appearance doing the classic bad boy song, Leader of the Pack, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers’ Last Kiss, and what is perhaps the most melodramatic pop song ever, Ray Peterson’s Tell Laura I Love Her, a stock car racer’s last words. The Shangri-Las’ clip is a perfect time capsule. At the time, with a few exceptions, many pop singers lip synced their tv appearances. In this video, the Shangri-Las do the spoken word intro to the song live, but then switch to the tape for the actual “singing”. I’m not sure how many biker clubs there were led by prettyboys riding Honda 90s, but this particular tv show’s producer decided to have actor/singer Robert Goulet in a not very good imitation of Marlon Brando’s Wild One biker. The lyrics are so hokey and the setup so absurd, Goulet has a hard time keeping a straight face.

More car tunes below the jump.

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