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 great site and you’ll have a great time! Here’s a link to his blog, “The Round place in the middle”.