Saturday, October 06, 2012

Not Long to Live

You would have to have a heart of reinforced concrete not to smirk at Not Long to Live. Released in 1965 by Cardiff singer-songwriter, Tony Miles, it is a 'teenage tragedy song' or 'splatter platter'. He actually wrote the ditty in 1960 but at that time struggled to find any label interest. An outcry over the song Tell Laura I Love Her meant that labels were wary of releasing morbid records, fearing the commercial deterrent of a BBC ban (this was back in the days when a BBC ban was actually a commercial deterrent).

Tony, a one-time ladies' hairdresser, got the idea for the song after suffering a near death experience. He crashed his car into the wall of Thornhill Crematorium on the outskirts of Cardiff while driving at a speed of 70mph. Or so he claimed. As you can hear from the lyrics the song is a warning against the perils of joyriding rather than a celebration of a live fast, die young attitude.

In the mid-sixties 'doom songs' like Twinkle's Terry and Leader of the Pack by the fabulous Shangi-Las meant that morbid melodrama was back in vogue. Miles decided to resurrect Not Long to Live and this time he managed to persuade EMI to cut the disc for Columbia Records. Miles paid £300 for the recording session which was overseen by arranger Monty Babson. Kenny Clive played drums; Cedric West was on guitar duty; and Alan Haven on keyboards.

Maybe it was Tony's fraudulent American accent or the finger-wagging tone of the lyrics but his single just didn't have the charm, sexiness, or the necessary level of tragedy to be a first rank splatter platter. Not Long to Live sounded more like it was part of some public service campaign against drink-driving. Tony Miles actually had a stint as a writer for Beatles' publishers Dick James Music and also worked as a promoter in uptown Cardiff.