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The Shangri-Las (Part 1)

October 5, 2011

I’ve been a massive fan of the Shangri-Las for years. The true depth of their genius did not truly hit me until I turned over my copy of the Leader Of The Pack 7″one afternoon and heard this startlingly odd otherworldy monologue recorded over Ludwig Van Beethoven‘s “Moonlight Sonata”. It was a total WTF moment for me. There is nothing else that sounds like this.

The song is almost a collage of emotional signifiers rather than being about any real incident or narrative. Although recorded in 1966 it’s practically post modern in it’s delivery of teenage angst and trauma.  It never answers the question “what happened?” What happened to the narrator that was so bad that she will never allow herself to be touched by anyone ever again? We do not know. It just is. This is the situation and we are all powerless. The song ends with a somewhat nihilistic invitation to the off stage suitor to dance; nihilistic also is her off the cuff delivery of said invitation with the realization being that their potential relationship has been crippled before it could even begin by some callous long out of the picture former boyfriend. Let’s pretend that everything is normal and good and fine, even though it almost certainly is not – and we know for sure that everything is highly likely going to end in frustration, bitterness, anger and tears – not to mention years and years of psychotherapy.

The Shangri-Las are the Black Sabbath of the Girl Group scene, they start where everyone else ends and take it to another level of emotional and dramatic intensity. Lead singer Mary Weiss – a teenager at the time – recorded many of her takes will the studio lights off pouring all her heart and soul into each song – often in tears as she sang her parts. She also carried a gun. Her Suzi Quatro interview from a few years back is a must hear. Suzi Quatro interviews Mary Weiss . The Shangri-Las rule.

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