The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday Music "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-las

I am returning to that cassette that I bought in the mid late 1980's that was a hit compilation that I would leave in my car when I went on road trips.  I supposed that I could have listened to the radio in Germany of AFN or something, but truth be told, I didn't like the selection of music the DJ's on AFN spun at the time, it went urban before the mainstream music did and I didn't like the Music that was coming on, I had more affinity for the "new Wave" movement and it was when I realized that there was a generation gap in the music and I was already part of the past "generation".  Funny how that goes, I suppose.    This song was one of the tracks on that cassette I remembered playing, I also remembered it being on a Ronco Record that I owned and I still think I do since I haven't pulled them out in a long time.

"Leader of the Pack" is a song written by George "Shadow" Morton, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich. It was a number one pop hit in 1964 for the American girl group The Shangri-Las. The single is one of the group's best known songs as well as a popular cultural example of a "teenage tragedy song". The song was covered in 1985 by the heavy metal band Twisted Sister who had a moderate hit with their version.

The song is about a girl named Betty, who is asked by friends to confirm that she is dating Jimmy, the leader of a motorcycle gang, whose ring they see on Betty's finger. After singing of love at first sight ("(By the way, where'd you meet him?) I met him at the candy store/He turned around and smiled at me/You get the picture?/(Yes, we see) That's when I fell for the Leader of the Pack"), Betty's heart turns to despair as she bemoans her parents' disapproval. The parents claim Jimmy hails from "the wrong side of town" and ask Betty to tell Jimmy goodbye and find someone new. Betty reluctantly does as she is asked, and a crushed and tearful Jimmy speeds off on his motorcycle. Moments later, Jimmy crashes on a rain-slicked surface and dies; Betty's pleas for Jimmy to slow down are in vain

In July 1964, Morton recorded the vocals for "Leader of the Pack" with the Shangri-Las at the Ultrasonic Sound studio on the second floor of a Manhattan hotel. The song was produced by Morton. These vocals were dubbed over the instrumental parts, which had been previously recorded at the Ultrasonic Recording Studios in Hempstead, New York. Billy Joel, then a young session musician, said on November 16, 2010 during an interview with Howard Stern that he played piano on one of the demos for "Leader of the Pack," but he was not sure if any of his parts made the final recording. In fact, the piano part was played by Roger Rossi, a staff musician for Ultrasonic Recording Studios at the time. Rossi said, "I remember the date like it was yesterday, there were no written charts, so unfortunately, some musicians kept making mistakes. As I recall, it took 63 recording takes before Shadow Morton was satisfied." Rossi added, "By the end of the session, in take 62, I also messed up and Morton laughingly yelled out, 'Ohhhh, noooo. Not you, too!'" In 2007 Tony Visconti claimed that pianist Artie Butler played on the track.
According to legend, to add the authentic sound of a motorcycle engine, one was driven through the lobby of the hotel and up to the floor of the recording studio. No one was arrested, but a ticket was issued. However, in an interview four decades later, Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss said the motorcycle sound was taken from an effects record. Hugh Grundy, drummer for The Zombies, recalls revving up a motorcycle backstage when the Shangri-Las performed on a U.S. tour.

1 comment:

  1. Yea! One I remember! :-) I was in high school and just starting to drive... LOL