Random Melodrama of the Week
There are few things as melodramatic as a good girl group single. Most of them can be divided into categories: break up songs, no-one-understands-me songs, I’ve-been-bad songs, and the most melodramatic category of them all, the Dead Boyfriend Song.
Of all of the great Dead Boyfriend Songs, my favorite is “Condition Red”, a tragic tale of good girls, bad beards and angry parents recorded by Memphis-based band The Goodees. The Goodees met at Messick High School, formed a band and won a talent contest that included an audition with Stax. In 1968, Stax released their single “Condition Red” on their imprint HIP.
The song is amazing. It’s about a girl whose parents demand that she stop seeing her boyfriend (who “used to be such a nice boy, before he grew that awful beard). Upset, she tells the boy that they’ll have to meet “at the corner from now on”. This apparently isn’t good enough – the guy beefs it on his motorcycle and nails a (possibly parked) car.
The best part of the song is the over-the-top sound effects. The motorcycle crash sounds way worse than it could have possibly been. There are sirens, organs and angelic church sounds. But the best one is the singer’s reaction to the car crash. Unlike the girl in “Leader of the Pack” who yells an impassioned “Look out! Look out! Look out!” as her boyfriend drives off, “Condition Red’s” narrator offers a short “Watch out for the car!”, followed by a little whistle, like “Ouch!, That looks like it hurt.”
Feel the drama! Listen:
Alas, it wasn’t a huge hit. It peaked at #46 on the Billboard charts.