Month: May 2018
In the Sixties, we wrestled with “Love/Hate relationships over several artists of the period. But, no act could swing our Love/Hate pendulum quite as radically as The Shangri La’s! A four member girl group consisting of two sets of sisters in their mid-teens who made records so full of mellow-drama and Teen angst they oozed out of our tiny 1960’s era transistor radio’s!
The Girls were, 15-year-old Mary Weiss, her sister Betty (16) and their best friends twin sisters, Marge and Mary Ann Ganser (16) They lived in a suburb in Queens N.Y. an area called Cambria heights, where they went to school and met….Although the girls had several hits, most of us remember fondly or perhaps curiously their second single the three-minute “Soap Opera” “Leader Of The Pack”…..”Look Out, Look Out, Look Out”…CRASH! But we’re moving to fast, it all started with their debut classic, “Remember! ( Walking In The Sand) A plaintive dramatic ballad about Love gone wrong, illicit teen sex with an anti-war flavor, and possibly an unplanned pregnancy!This is where our LOVE phase began with The Shangri La’s and more specifically their lead singer Mary Weiss. While the Ganser twins and Betty Weiss looked like Young, working class tarts,from Queens New York, they all were “Bad Girls” and that was GOOD, However, together they were the Queens Of Harmony! Something they loved, tightened, and perfected Dailey! The first time we heard a Shangri La’s record, we thought there was a choir on the track! That’s how beautiful the foursome sounded! and Mary, beautiful Mary, had long blond hair, slim and curvy with a demurring attitude that had us riveted, moaning a song about “walking” in the sand and obviously much more, complete with sound effects of sea gulls and crashing surf!
A lethal combination for a 14-year-old boy growing up in So. Calif. We felt like we were onto the secret as to what “Remember” was actually about and Mary Weiss was our “Surfer Girl” WOW! We were in love in 1964 UNTIL! The Shangri La’s released their second single The classic “call / answer”, high drama, and absurd “Leader Of The Pack” The Shangri La’s and Mary instantly go from the sublime to ridiculous!…..Written and produced by new comer, Shadow Morton with an assist from pro’s Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich “Leader” was another “Death Song” a sub genre of pop music that was prevalent in the late 50’s thru the mid 60’s, this is where our HATE phase began! ”Leader Of The Pack” also included sound effects…..Screeching tires, breaking glass as Mary is screaming “Look Out, Look Out, Look Out”….That did it, Mary and the Shangri La’s went from the object of our affection to our favorite punch-line in less than six months….How could She? Well she/they did and “Leader Of The Pack” became an international smash resulting in… OMG!, The Shangri La’s going on tour with THE BEATLES! Which caused staggering mixed emotions in our teen-aged minds! Didn’t The Beatles understand that The Shangri La’s were a joke?…..And, further more ,How do we stand a chance with Mary if she’s hanging with John, Paul, George and Ringo?
Yeah, don’t try to figure that last part out!….we can’t!
Meanwhile, “There’s Something About Mary” that we just can’t shake, Sooo, with an open mind we sit down and listen to their next single “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” Now! If “Leader Of The Pack” was over the top, “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” jumps the shark to the tenth power! Another fully orchestrated dirge ballad about death with “Hot Mary” pouring her heart out as she describes the scenario leading up to a fight with her mother over a boy, she runs away from home, AND…Yup, you guessed it…MOM DIES! WHOA, really girls? We just couldn’t take it anymore and besides, we were now deeply involved with Tina Turner. But wait! The only thing sexier than long blonde hair and a “Come hither”look is a sense of humor! In late 1965 The Shangri La’s released “Give Him A Great Big KISS” a high energy up tempo record that poked fun at themselves, the genre and current trends. The antithesis of their early breakthrough records! I was toast and back in love with Mary, Betty, Mary Ann and Marge. Our second LOVE phase that we’re still enjoying today….Cuz, “When I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love, L. U. V.
Ah, but you dear reader, which side of the Love / Hate fence were you on with The Shangri La’s
And if you claim you didn’t have even the slightest thing for Mary, WELL as she would say…” And that’s called sad”
“You get the picture”?
….Here’s how it all began
Lastly…If you’d Like to go deep on The Shangri La’s…..My fellow Blogger “Non disposable Johnny” has a grea site and you’ll have a great time! Here’s a link to his blog “Th Round place in the middle…
Didja ever see Them?… Well, Didja?, We did! On a very warm So Calif. evening. August 30 1965. Myself, my best buddy, Gary and 17,000 other devotees had hiked up the steep hill and in to the small canyon that houses ” The Hollywood Bowl” We take our seats and are now beyond eager to see Them. The biggest band in the world ! This was my first concert. ( I was 15 years old) and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Oh I had heard the stories of the shrieking/ screaming fans, fainting girls and general mayhem. But as the sun gently set behind the Hollywood Hills, there was a kind of nervous calm among this young crowd at The Hollywood Bowl. A woman sitting next to me (some attendee’s mom) said something to me about all the opening acts before They come on. Opening Acts ? Before Them ? Whaaaat ? Oh yes, 4 of them ! The King Curtis Band, Sounds Incorporated, Brenda Holloway and lastly ( thank you God) Cannibal and The Headhunters Yikes, 4 of ’em, all four had current hits on the radio and put on a great show. BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER ! All 17,000 of us were there to see Them and only Them. The biggest band in the world ! But now the last of Cannibal’s final song is fading off Into the night, the crowd is getting more animated as a certain hush comes over us all, the lights dim completely and we hear our favorite local D.J. Bob Eubanks finally ” say those words we long to hear” ” Ladies and Gentleman, here they are, The Fabulous Beatles” and a sonic blast of youthful humanity exploded out of The Hollywood hills. as 17,000 hysterical fans leapt to their feet, threw up their hands and didn’t stop screaming until long after THE BEATLES finished their short 12 song set and left the Bowl and the city. But, Gary and I were there. Our seats,( tickets cost $4.00 a piece) were 6 rows from the back fence that secured the venue. The 1965 ” State of the Art” Sound system sucked, and we were deaf from the din of screaming teens.( Vocals were inaudible, Guitars, Bass and Drums were awash in midrange and reverb) But, no matter! It was still the most incredible night of my young life. We saw Them and for all of us They were something we’d never seen before and would never see again. John, Paul, George and Ringo live in concert…..Didja ever see them ?The Ladshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=an-kMAPuIj0
Regardless, Click the link and go back in time to August 30th 1965… A very Hot August Night!
If you’re among the esteemed generation of Beatle fans who actually lived thru the British Invasion, you may recall how the press, the media, the record label and even Ed Sullivan proclaimed that the Beatles Feb. 1964 trip to America was the first time “The Fabs” had set foot on American soil ! Not completely true, my fab friends…Didja know that nearly 5 months earlier in Sept. 1963, the quiet Beatle George, made a very quite trip the U. S. A. To visit his sister Louise who lived in a little town in Benton Illinois. At this point in time “From Me To You” was the number one record in the U.K. and Beatle Mania had caught fire, But here in the U.S. the band was barely a blip on anyone’s Radar! So, George and his brother Peter hoped a flight to Benton for a three-week stay with their sister to enjoy some R&R, sightseeing, gardening and music. George and his siblings drove all over Southern Illinois including camping two nights in the Shawnee National forest! But it was in nearby Mt. Vernon where Beatle history is made, when Louise takes her brothers to a popular record store, where George finds a new record by James Ray, the title of the song is “Got my mind set on you” Sound familiar?… After their road trip, returning to Louise’s home in Benton, Louise takes George to see a local band playing at the VFW town hall, the band was called “The Four Vests, Louise introduced her brother to the bands leader Gabe McCarty. Remember, George was completely unknown, but his sister called him “The English Elvis! George and Gabe hit it off immediately, as soon as George sat in with The Four Vests! Both men were huge fans of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis etc. so by day they hung out talked music and by night they Jammed. It was Gabe who helped George find his coveted Rickenbacker electric that can be heard on several Beatle tracks and on permanent display in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….Yep, George bought it on a day trip to Mt. Vernon with Gabe….
……There you have it, with all due respect to what we think we heard, George Harrison was making Beatle history in America 5 months prior to John, Paul and Ringo!
Yeah, Yeah, YEAH…
When you consider the great music of the 1960’s we’re sure you think about ” The British Invasion”, Motown, all the Girl Groups and the blending of Folk music and Rock and Roll. However it was Surf music that truly ushered in the music of the 60’s. It inspired us to listen,and established a new genre, culture and lifestyle, not just on the west coast of California but across the world. It gave us pioneers and Super Stars The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and The Honeys. Some purists even argue The Mamas and Pappas, sighting ” California Dreaming” as the best song ever written about “Praying For Surf” But I digress, because no matter what new genre coalesced and shaped the sound of the Sixties they all owe a nod and must pay homage to the artists and the music that Kick Started ” The best decade in music history”
Instrumental Surf Music. Burning through like a firestorm as the new decade debuted and continued to influence the sound and culture of “Pop” music, not jus thru the 60’s but for every decade to follow. The Ventures, ( who have sold, to date, over 110 million records…yup, you read that right!) The Surfaries, The Chantays,The Bel-Airs, The Challenger’s, and of course “The King of the Surf Guitar”,Dick Dale and his Deltones. Even The U.K. Gave us The Tornedos with ” Telstar” and The Shadows with “Apache” The sound was always 3 guitars, bass and drums with someone doubling on electric piano with an occasional Sax solo The instruments were nearly always made by Fender and all were drenched in Reverb to give them that ” Wet Sound” No other genre of music( with the exception of The Beatles) inspired young music lovers to pick up a guitar or a pair of sticks and immediately be part of this new cool scene coming out of Southern California.
Many historians sight Dick Dales incredible high energy debut ” Let’s Go Tripping as the first hit record to put Inst. Surf on the charts. But we’ll argue that it was Santo and Johnny’s hauntingly beautiful ” Sleep Walk” that established and galvanized Instr. Surf Music and beyond. Santo and Johnny Farina hailing from Brooklyn N.Y. wrote the song inspired by a dream of Johnny’s. Johnny played a six string Gretch, while Santo played, AND GET THIS, a fender custom built three necked Pedal Steele, with each neck holding EIGHT strings. We can’t do the math or even begin to imagine how many options of Keys, Tunings and Sounds Santo could conjure up! Experts might point out that “Sleep Walk topped the Billboard charts in Sept. of 1959( when it also achieved the number 4 position on Billboards R&B chart !!!) but it’s lingering popularity kept it in “Heavy Rotation” not just thru the transition of the decade but throughout the surf music years and beyond. Lastly, Sleep Walk just may be the greatest love song ever written,and it has no lyrics. But dim the lights with Sleep Walk murmuring in the background and romance is yours. Ah,the power of Surf music instrumentals ! With the genre surging and new Surf Instrumentals entering the charts weekly, “Pipeline” by The Chantays, “Mr. Moto by The Bel Airs and “Walk Don’t Run” by The Ventures all number ones. And all capturing the more mellow sound of Surf music until 1962, when Dick Dale came blasting through our radios with “Misirlou” a monster of a record that grabbed you by the throat and thru you in the water. Along with Dicks smoking ” Double Picking, “Misirlou included a piano and trumpet solo. There simply no other Surf record that can match the power, aggression and pure energy of Misirlou” For you younger readers it’s that amazing piece of music that is featured in the opening scene of “Pulp Fiction” Lastly, as we were trying to catch our breath, we caught a “sucker punch” from The Surfaris with “Wipe Out in 1963. Ironically Wipe Out was an absolute throw away “B” side (The A side was the ridiculous “Surfer Joe”…go figure) Opening with a maniacle laugh and the sound of a breaking surfboard. And then the songs 1st. verse… A DRUM SOLO Yup…In fact the entire song is mostly this same drum solo. Which ultimately became an audition test for any young drummer trying out for a new band. I should know, I did it a dozen times. Surf music continued to rule, but ” The British Invasion” was right over the horizon. So what was the final Surf instrumental that sounded the “Death Knell” to this powerful and influential genre.?….. it was “Penetration” by The Pyramids. The band hailed out of Long Beach Calif. It’s to bad that The Pyramids were short-lived, if only for their outrages approach to their band and the music business. They were a five piece (of course) but their founder and lead guitar player Will Glover was a Black man. Remember this is now early 1964 ! To add to the controversy ( remember, the song is called “Penetration “) The band did the unthinkable in 1964. Seeing early pictures of The Beatles, They Shaved Their Heads. Picture their line up if you can. They also were fond of stunts at their shows. They often opened for The Beach Boys, and if the boys showed up in Limos, The Pyramids showed up on horses, The Boys showed up in larger stretch limos, The Pyramids actually showed up on Elephants! Bottom line, if you ask any remaining member of any of the bands mentioned in this article ” What was the best thing about Surf music and being in a Surf Band, they all say the same thing “We had soooo much Fun. “Surf’s Up” meanwhile, here’s Santo and Johnny’s incredible “Sleep Walk”