Song Of The Day 10/27/2015: Jimmy Cross – “I Want My Baby Back”

Halloween Week – The teenage death song, perhaps the first strain of exploitation music in the rock 'n' roll era, was invented in the early '60s or thereabouts. I don't know quite what spurred them on but I can't help thinking it was some sort of cautionary side effect of the McCarthy hearings. They couldn't ferret out all the Commies, so instead they went about warning kids about the high risk of fatal collisions that came from hanging out with misunderstood, brooding young men. The Shangri-La's "Leader of the Pack" was one such tearjerker, as was J. Frank Wilson's "Last Kiss," later covered for no immediately discernible reason by Pearl Jam. The form obviously, gapingly, left itself open for parody records like the Detergents' "Leader of the Laundromat" and today's selection, which went a bit too far for some shaky constitutions.

Jimmy Cross' 1965 splatter-fest "I Want My Baby Back," a direct parody of "Last Kiss" and "Leader of the Pack" in one, was actually voted "The Worst Record of All Time" by a British DJ's audience in the late '70s, a superlative that kind of misses the whole point. It's nowhere close to the worst record of all time. It's like when Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" is cited in those lists. I think you'd want to reserve "worst record" status for records that weren't intended to be complete jokes. (Well... okay, that doesn't answer the "My Ding-A-Ling" quandary, but Chuck knew better.) "I Want My Baby Back" is a sick, macabre but pretty funny joke made all the more shocking/water-spitting by Cross' overly down-home, dejected country boy delivery. In doing so, Cross may have also killed the teenage death song itself, as most cautionary pop tales from here on out focused on drug overdoses and draft-dodging. Priorities.

"Bonus": another Cross single called "The Ballad of James Bong." Don't get your hopes up, stoners; sounds like he just needed the syllable.

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