4 white chicks, going fist to fist with the legacy of Soul Music, bringing their own Long Island twist on the Girl Group phenom, is how I think of The Shangri-Las….
… wanna dispute me on their R&B credibility? When they toured during their heyday… Most often they were paired with The Marvelettes and Little Anthony & The Imperials.
Their tough Cambria Queens sound was enough to take the ace spot on the Charts away from “Baby Love.” Cutthroat. Tough. Don’t take no snuff…
…yet at the same time petulant white chicks too, They didn’t have to always present themselves in respectable feminine garb like Black Female Singers (No A frame skirts and pearls emulating Jackie Kennedy respectability for them) or as a case can be made, for their closeted lesbian contemporaries.
At The core they were Mary and Elizabeth Weiss, And Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser..two sets of sisters (The Gansers those twins that with the atom bomb shaped bouffants that really make for a forboding apperance), formed in 1962, they recorded for Spokane, being eventually noticed by Shadow Morton… who, under a challenge by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, came up with a 5 minute demo of “(Remember) Walking In The Sand” The doom ever-present in Mary’s lead selling the eventually cut down 2 1/2 minute version that peaked at #5… followed by *the* biker bad boy classic (and the only song that bitch slapped The Supremes in their flow of #1’s, as well “Come See About Me” among it’s many accomplishments, arm wrestled The Beatles “I Feel Fine” through the Christmas Holiday) “Leader of The Pack”
More moderate hits came, The excellently sassy and sexy “Give Him A Great Big Kiss” (Home of the line when I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in LUV…L-U-V), the dense uptown soul masterpiece “Out In The Streets” and a remake of “Give Us Your Blessings” kept them in the spotlight and on Shimvaree, Shindig and Hullabaloo through early 1965.
Then an ill advised “Back In My Arms” rip “Right Now and Not Later” froze at #99 pop (in my humble opinion it’s not a bad song, it was just not recorded at the same pace as Motown songs at the time, and just somehow seems longer)… the typical Shangri-La’s formula, the excellent “Train From Kansas City” being buried underneath… lead to something radical…
The proto hip-hop rap about disappointing parents “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” with wails to mama, and how being parentless now, really, really sucks (shades of the Imitation of Lifebug pop up here too), which is tied to a more upbeat proto hip-hop ditty “Sophisticated Boom Boom” then… an ode to the boys shipping off to Vietnam “Long Live Our Love” that doesn’t seem all that optimistic that Johnny will return from the war (note the morose “When Johnny comes marching home” intro. Most unenthusiastic “hooray, hoorah” ever).
Then… Red Bird Records ran up against “financial issues” (or the mob…depending on who you believe) leaving some good charted records, like their version of “He Cried” and the spoken word poetry (and learning to trust men again after a possible rape) classic “Past, Present, Future” stalled in the middle of the charts.. When Red Bird went out of business…. The Shangs searched for a label…and landed at the monolith that was Mercury records, and despite immediately releasing the beautiful “Sweet Sounds of Summer” and a ode to the Vets returning home in flag draped coffins “Take The Time” they were dead and buried as a group by 1968….
Then Mary Ann died mysteriously in 1970
Then Margie in 1996…
And recently Mary Weiss released the well done Dangerous Game CD in 2007… she’s reportedly working on something new for next year. I can’t wait.
Any girl group where this following bit of info is part of their legacy has to be awesome:
Mary Weiss attracted the FBI for transporting a firearm across state lines. In her defense, she said someone tried to break into her hotel room one night, and for protection she bought a pistol.
The Shangri-Las: Past, Present, Future.