March 12, 2011

"What was it you were looking for that took your life that night?/They said they found my high school ring clutched in your fingers tight."

Jean Dinning, who wrote "Teen Angel," has died. Just sweet 86, and now you're gone. The lovely recording, a hit in 1960, was sung by her brother Mark Dinning. Jean recorded with her sisters Lou and Ginger — the Dinning Sisters — and they had a million seller, "Buttons and Bows."
To some, “Teen Angel” raises more questions than it answers. Why was the ring loose in the car? Had he just given it to her? Had it fallen off her finger?
Sigh. Doesn't everyone know that a girl wouldn't put the boy's high-school ring on her finger? It wouldn't fit! She wore it on a chain around her neck. Obviously, somehow in the rush to get out of the car that had stalled on the railroad track, the chain broke and the ring fell somewhere.


Synova said...

Oh no. You had to wear the ring with yarn wrapped all around it or it wasn't good enough. I resorted to a chain on my neck and my boyfriend seemed not to like that. Never-mind he had a size 13 ring and I wore a size 5 1/2.

Sara (Pal2Pal) said...

I can't answer your question, but one correction. I was in high school in the early sixties and noone wore their boyfriend's ring on a chain. We melted candlewax into the back until it was built up enough so it would fit our smaller fingers.

Chip Ahoy said...

She was looking for the fleebaggers who had already returned to the Madison capitol and declared their eagerness to join recall efforts against Republican colleagues who supported anti-union legislation.

m stone said...

I fully expect a return to morbid rock very soon. The mood of the country is conducive.

Julius said...

That's such a sad and touching song. Love at a young age feels so all-encompassing and powerful. It becomes different as you get older, and you can never have those same feelings again.

Lem said...

Chip is close.. But what really happened was..

She went back for the ring because she planned to give it back to him.. She had been asked to the prom by another guy whom she was secretly seeing.

MayBee said...

They were having an argument.
She took off the ring and threw it at him.
He called her a bitch and stopped the car on the railroad tracks to scare her into submission.
He took the keys out got out of the car, and locked her door.
Then he saw the train.
He dragged her out of the car, crying and telling her how sorry he was.
She knew he meant it this time.
She ran back to the car to grab the ring to show him she still loved him.


E.M. Davis said...


Chris Brown didn't write Teen Angel.

edutcher said...

The woman was 36 when she wrote that? You'd think something with a little more, uh, something from a woman that age. Then again, it was the formula, back then.

Oh, well, it probably made her secure for life.

Hope her life was a good one.

PS This was an advantage of an all boys school. None of the "drama".

vbspurs said...

I thought I knew the song, but the version I seemed to remember was sung in a more upbeat tempo. Is there another version out there? You know, a la, "Mister Sandman" by The Chordettes AND the Four Aces...and I can never quite decide which version I like best!


rhhardin said...

Old cartoon, driver talking to passengers fumbling with seat belts in car stalled on railroad track:

"Actually, this is an exception. Usually they save lives."

That was back when seat belts were optional and wimpy.

Lem said...

This sad song reminds me of another sad song..


EDH said...

vbspurs said...
I thought I knew the song, but the version I seemed to remember was sung in a more upbeat tempo.

Are you thinking of Earth Angel?

Lem said...
This sad song reminds me of another sad song...

“Teenage coffin songs.”

Early, tragic death was in the air in 1959. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash earlier that year, and memories of James Dean’s death in a head-on collision four years earlier were still fresh.

Teenagers in 1960 scooped up Ray Peterson’s “Tell Laura I Love Her,” the tragic tale of a teenage boy who enters a racing car championship to win prize money to buy Laura a wedding ring. After the inevitable crash, his last words are the title of the song.

“Teenage coffin songs” became a genre, at least to sarcastic disc jockeys.

Teen Angel (1960) lyrics...

What was it you were looking for that took your life that night?

They said they found my high school ring clutched in your fingers tight.

...reminded me of Last Kiss (1961).

Well now she's gone
even though I hold her tight

I lost my love, my life, that night.

vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kensington said...

I always just assumed she took the ring off because she didn't want to rip his colon apart.

vbspurs said...

EARTH ANGEL. Thanks, EDH, baby!

John Bradley said...

Which eventually lead to Jimmy Cross' "I Want My Baby Back" (1964). 'Cause a little light-hearted necrophilia never hurt anyone!

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Victoria, I would say that you're thinking of "Last Kiss", which is extremely upbeat, despite an absurdly tragic premise.

- Lyssa

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Dave Barry has a fantastic guide to bad songs out there, where he explains that "Teen Angel" is not so much a tragedy as an explanation about how natural selection can serve to improve the gene pool.

- Lyssa

Robt C said...

In my day, which is just a little later than "Teen Angel," (I was in high school in So Cal in the 60s)the girls wrapped their guys' rings with dental floss,then poured surfboard wax over the floss to keep it tight. Thus, gigantic manly rings could be worn on petite girly fingers.

No chains around the neck.

reader_iam said...

I think you're right on the analysis of the ring in this song and in most cases.

However, there are those atypical cases in which a girl/woman has short stubby fingers and is with a long narrow-fingered MALE who chooses to wear tight rings (due to guitar playing and various handyman hobbies), in which case it IS possible for her to wear his ring.


elcrain said...

The ring fell off her finger because it wanted to return to its master Sauron.

Bill said...

Fraser Crane sings "Buttons and Bows":

David said...

Not all rings are worn on the fingers.

William said...

It's nice to see Victoria back in town. Let's hope the rehab sticks this time......Teen age death music reached a level of maudlin that made How Much Is That Doggy in the Window sound Brechtian. Buttons & Bows is a great song, however. Dinah Shore had a big hit, but Bob Hope, in my estimation, had the definitive version.

DADvocate said...

One of the great tear jerkers of all time.

Are you some where up above,
And am I still your own true love?

Teen Angel...Answer me...please.

I had a couple of friends die in a car wreck in high school. This song always brings back that memory.