Friday, 7 September 2012

Guest Top 5 Death Discs by Tony The Gig Guy

I stumbled across Tony via the magic of Twitter. I can't remember now how, no-one else I know was following him so I think I was just randomly searching for something and noticed his twitter handle @TonyTheGigGuy. He had just written a post about seeing the Wurzles live and clearly shared my love of live music. Couldn't hurt then to ask if he fancied doing a top five. Not only did Tony oblige but he turned in a real corker. This is the sort of top five I'd love to be able to write. If you enjoy the top five you should definitely check out his blog at, he's just written a cracking post about growing up in London in th 70s and Public Image Limited.

Death Discs were huge in the early 60s. Aimed squarely at teenage girls, they generally dealt with the same theme. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl is horrid to boy. Boy takes stupid risk, usually based in car or on motorcycle. Boy dies in girl's arms. The finest example of this type of death disc leads the way in the countdown below, but there were plenty of variations on the theme later in pop music history.

5. “Leader Of the Pack” – The Shangri-Las
The most famous death disc of them all. From the spoken “Is she really going out with him?” over the mournful piano to the yearning outro “... now he’s gone” this tale of a lost love is pop perfection. Girls, motorcycles, death – it has the lot.

4. “Stan” – Eminem
Passing over the unfortunate consequences this record had in propelling the anodyne Dido (the ‘l’ is silent) into superstardom, just cast your mind back to when you first heard this record. It was widely anticipated as “that Eminem’s new single”, we were all used to the jokey brattish delivery and cusswords. So this slow, emotional tale of a super-fan who took it too far – told, in a genius twist, from the obsessee’s POV – absolutely stunned everybody. I may not remember where I was when I heard John Lennon was shot, but I do remember where I was when I heard “Stan” for the first time *.

3. "Emma" – Hot Chocolate
They’re mostly known for the classic party anthem “You Sexy Thing” which does SO contain contain the line “I believe in knockers”, and I’ll punch the man who says otherwise. But in the early days, Hot Chocolate specialised in sleazy, funky, psychedelic pop songs about Serious Stuff like race relations (“Brother Louie”) and .. well, teenage suicide (“Emma”). If you don’t at least fill up at the suicide note line “Darling I love you – but I just can’t go on living on broken dreams no more” then sir, or madam, you have no soul. None.

2. “Mary C Brown And The Hollywood Sign” – Dory Previn
Dory Previn died earlier this year. She was a constant presence in the back of my head since I discovered her records in West Norwood record library. This song is quintessential Previn – a jaunty little West Coast sounding tune with a sad, disturbing story with a horribly black comical punchline (“the second or third letter ‘O’ “, indeed!).

1. “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” by Keith West
An insane piece of bubblegum from 1967 with its insanely jolly chorus which distracts your attention from the fact that its actually about a food delivery man who dies of a heart attack through overwork. Probably a fable for our times or something.

* I was driving along a road in Surrey. It isn’t interesting, but it IS true.

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