Pat Boone, the eternal punching bag of rock and roll lovers everywhere, continues his career trajectory of sapping all the soul out of another artist’s perfectly fine song. (At least he mixes it up by ripping off a white guy this time.) Boone croons placidly about his girlfriend’s suicide, which was somehow less shocking to the record-buying public than his metal covers album would be decades later. Whereas Chase Webster’s original version shudders with regret and desolation, Boone revels in the horrible wonderful tragedy of it all (inasmuch as he expresses any emotion whatsoever). This is the record where his characteristic smarm metastasizes into something vulgar and ugly. Just as the narrator of “Long Black Veil” had to die to protect his lover’s reputation, so too must Boone’s girlfriend. Them’s the rules.
Contrast Boone with his whitebread compatriot Lawrence Welk, who appears with him in the video above and who also gained a spot at the top of the 1961 charts. Welk had generally the same Middle America audience, although he skewed a bit older. But no matter how bland or corny Welk’s music got, he always conveyed an air of endearingly folky genteelness. He had better taste than to indulge in Boone’s creepy crassness. Still, Boone can’t even muster up enough tastelessness to actually be interesting (cf. “Mack the Knife” or “Stagger Lee“). Instead, all that’s left is an unpleasant mess, the discomfort of which is only alleviated through the vague suspicion that the girl in the song faked it all to escape this narcissistic creep. 3
Hit #1 on June 19, 1961; total of 1 week at #1
53 of 969 #1’s reviewed; 5.47% through the Hot 100