I don't know why but I have always been a big fan of the so-called "Teenage Death Songs." Tunes like "Tell Laura I Love Her" and "Last Kiss" always made me smile with the overwrought delivery and saccharine song lyrics. Years ago there was an album from Rhino Records, Teenage Tragedies, that collected a lot of these song. Unfortunately, this came out during that awkard LP-to-CD transition in the record industry and it quickly went MIA.
Oddly enough, I was thinking of tracking down some of these tunes to make my own compilation when I heard about Dead: The Grim Reaper's Greatest Hits. Here twenty-four songs are collected including the aforementioned along with other classics like "Dead Man's Curve" and "Patches". What was the catch? Were these covers? I'm happy to report that there is no catch. These are original songs by the original artists.
There are some classic death songs here. Better yet, there are some truly amazing songs that I had never heard including the bizarro "Once You Understand" by Think; a droning chorus with an overlay of parental badgering and teenage rebellion that ends with a traumatic drug overdose. Certainly, with only twenty-four songs there are some glaring ommissions such as "Tell Tommy I Miss Him," the answer song to Ray Peterson's dirge.
There's an odd inclusion of Jimmy Cross's "I Want My Baby Back" which crosses from tragedy to parody. It seems like a second volume of pure parody/novelty with that song, "Running Bear" by Johnny Preston, and "Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus might be needed. Indeed, I couldn't help but keep thinking of "Transfusion" as that "barking seal" sound effect of tires screaming gets quite a work out in several songs on Dead. While not the be-all end-all of teenage death songs, Dead definitely scratched an itch. I'll probably follow the purchase of this album up with tracking down The Very Best Of Teenage Death Songs and some of the older songs listed on Kerry's Rockin' Home Page.