On this day in 1960, a campaign was initiated in the UK to ban a cover of Ray Peterson‘s song “Tell Laura I Love Her”.
Why? The American song was deemed by some to inappropriate as it might inspire teenagers to start a “glorious death cult.”
The song tells the story of a stock car race driver who is madly in love with a girl, and hopes to win the race and the $1,000 to capture her heart and afford a wedding. The driver ends up crashing, and right before he passes away, the words “Tell Laura I Love Her” escapes his lips.
A 1960 edition of Billboard says that some members of the public think the lyrics are so bad, “criminal persecution might be called for.”The Director of Public Persecutions was called upon to investigate and to take action under the Obscene Publications Act.
The National Director of the British Safety Council, Leonard D. Hodge, was behind the campaign, saying it’s “nauseating theme” would inspire a “glorious death cult.” His initial letters to record label EMI did not receive a reply.
Ray Peterson’s original version was deemed to controversial upon initial release, but the cover by Welsh singer Ricky Valance went to #1 and sold over a million copies later the same year.
No documentation exists after the initial push to have the song banned, so it’s safe to say Hodge’s campaign proved ineffective in stopping the momentum of this teenage tragedy anthem.
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