107. ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’, by Ricky Valance

So, you know how I had a bit of a moan about instrumentals in my previous post, about them having no lyrics and being difficult to write about…? Well. How I find myself wishing that this next record was an instrumental…

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Tell Laura I Love Her, by Ricky Valance (his 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 29th September – 20th October 1960

Laura and Tommy were lovers, He wanted to give her everything, Flowers, Presents, And most of all… A wedding ring… (I’m not summarising here – these are the actual lyrics, verbatim) He saw a sign for a stock-car race, A thousand dollar prize it read…

Musically there is very little going on here. A lilting guitar guides us through the story of Laura and Tommy and, what with Ricky Valance’s stiff and stilted delivery, this could almost qualify as a spoken word track. If it weren’t for the overwrought chorus – Tell Laura I love here (Bum-Bum-Bum), Tell Laura I need her, Tell Laura I may be late, I’ve something to do, That cannot wait – which is caterwauled out like, well, a cat. On heat.

He drove his car to the racing ground… Actually, I will summarise, as I don’t think I can face typing much more of this doggerel out: Tommy gets to the race, finds out that he’s the youngest driver there, drives really fast, his car overturns in flames… As they pulled him from the twisted wreck, With his dying breath, They heard him say… Can you guess? Yep… Tell Laura I love her (Bum-Bum-Bum) etc and so on.

What we have here is an example of a uniquely early-sixties phenomenon: the ‘death disc.’ “Ballads lamenting tragic (and usually teenage) deaths in an extremely melodramatic fashion.” That pretty much sums up this song, with a large emphasis on the ‘MELODRAMATIC’. Often they were banned by the BBC, who felt that their lyrics were too upsetting for public consumption. ‘Running Bear’, which hit the top a few months back, was a death-disc of sorts, and we’ll meet at least another couple such songs over the next year or so, though unfortunately not the one true masterpiece of this genre: The Shangri-La’s ‘Leader of the Pack’.

Anyway, back to the song. We’re now in the chapel. Laura is praying for her beloved… It was just for Laura he lived and died, Alone in the chapel she can hear him cry… What can she hear him cry? But, of course… Tell Laura I love her (Bum-Bum-Bum)

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Boy, oh boy. The voice, the lyrics, the delivery, the weird rhythm… This is an irredeemable record, one of the very worst yet. If I were the BBC, I’d have banned it too. Can we just wrap it up here and move on? This happened, it hit #1 in the UK charts – a national embarrassment up there with Brexit – let’s never mention it again (except for in my next recap, where it will undoubtedly win worst song). Ricky Valance had a few other minor hits and now performs for old folks on the Costa Blanca in Spain.

Actually, to finish, I should mention that I have a friend called Laura, and the first time that this song came to my consciousness was when she named it as the only song she knew with her name in it. Then The Scissor Sisters released their own ‘Laura’, and I remember her being happy. Having now listened to ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ on repeat for the last half-hour, I can understand her happiness, and would like to thank The Scissor Sisters on behalf of Lauras the world over, for freeing them from the shadow of this song. Now if only someone could do the same for the Mandys…