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Answer Records Vol. 2

October 19th, 2009 11 comments

In the second instalment of answer records, we hear from Laura whose Tommy died, the son of the late Shaft, and the commie-hating response to Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction.

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Oh no, Tommy’s dying! Will Laura be sad?

Act 1: Ray Peterson – Tell Laura I Love Her.mp3
ray_petersonJames Dean has a lot to answer for. The American youth of the late 1950s and early 1960s was decimated by unnecessary motor accidents, at least in song. Among the most maudlin of the many teen death records was Tell Laura I Love Her, which was so popular that it was recorded by several artists. Ray Peterson’s 1959 hit version is probably the best known.

The set-up here is that Tommy takes part in a stock-car race so that he can buy Laura a wedding ring with the supposed winnings of $1,000. He knows it’s dangerous business and phones Laura. But she’s not in, so he gives Laura’s mother the message of the chorus. You know what happens next. Well, you do know the conclusion, but no one knows what happened that day or how his car overturned in flames. “But as they pulled him from the twisted wreck, with his dying breath, they heard him” sing the chorus of this fucking awful song.

The teen death genre gave rise to the most bizarre parody, Jimmy Cross’ I Want My Baby Back, which can be found HERE.

Act 2: Skeeter Davis – Tell Tommy I Miss Him.mp3
skeeter_davis_answersIn Act 2, the delightfully named Skeeter Davis plays the part of Laura (as did Marilyn Michaels, Laura Lee, and someone called Pitersen Ray). She cuts straight to the chase in catching up with Ray’s mawkishness: “Tommy my sweetheart has gone now. He’s up in the heaven somewhere, so little star high above, if you see Tommy tell him all my love.” As we valiantly choke back the puke, Skeeter/Laura recounts the story of Tommy’s death, turning it into as much of a cautionary tale as a lovelorn lament: “Why did he do such a reckless thing?” Hear that, kids? DON’T RACE STOCK-CARS!!! Still, she implores the little star high above (eurgh!) to “tell Tommy I love him, tell Tommy I miss him, tell him though I may cry, my love for him will never die”.

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It’s war. Left, right, left, right!

Act 1: Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction.mp3
mcguireThis song will turn up again on this blog. In this context, we concern ourselves with McGuire’s righteous anger about the “exploding” “eastern world” and civil rights and, well, everything. It’s 1965, and Barry’s “blood’s so mad, feels like coagulating” because people who are too young to vote are old enough to kill, and the war-mongers don’t want to believe that we’re “on the eve of destruction”. Four decades later, so little has changed that Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded to a US president for saying peaceful things while increasing troop deployments to Afghanistan (bit of political comment always goes down well here).

Act 2: The Spokesmen – The Dawn Of Correction.mp3
spokesmenMcGuire implicitly invited those who didn’t share his view that we’re on the eve of destruction to justify their view. The modestly named Spokesmen, who included David White of Danny & the Juniors, take the time to offer a fairly reasonable if unrefined response with their furiously punning title. Rush Limbaugh’s antecedents they are not, nor are they redneck racists (they do welcome racial integration and even dig the Peace Corps). But they do hate the Reds who presumably must be contained by the simultaneous means of napalm bombing civilians and nuclear deterrence. “So over and over again, you keep sayin’ it’s the end. But I say you’re wrong, we’re just on the dawn of correction.”

Of course, the flag-waving Spokesmen match the naiveté of the hippie movement with a vigorous dose of their own, and muster an army of strawmen in a bid to catch out McGuire. Take their endorsement of protests — “Be thankful our country allows demonstrations” (set aside an evening to debate that) — which is followed by a bizarre interpretation of McGuire’s position: “I don’t understand the cause of your aggravation. You mean to tell me, boy, it’s not a better situation?” Where to start, Spokesmen, where to start?

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He’s a bad mutha… shut your mouth. And his son?

Act 1: Isaac Hayes – Theme of Shaft.mp3
I need not waste your time introducing Ike’s most celebrated tune. Suffice it to say that it spawned an answer record in 1972 from Hayes’ old mates from Stax, The Bar-Kays.

Act 2: The Bar-Kays – Son Of Shaft.mp3
son_of_shaftMusically similar to Hayes’ classic, but a damn sight funkier. Hell, let’s face it, the son eats the sex machine to all the chicks for his funky breakfast. The son of John Shaft had a tough time of it, “thrown in the street; problems of a man at the age of three”. Now Shaft Sr is dead, and Junior will be just as bad a mutha as Daddy. “I love by the clock and live by the gun. If you met my father, soon you’ll meet his son.” Can ya dig it?

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More answer records