by Robert Wilkinson
Today we send up a most Happy Birthday to the remarkable Mary Weiss. She gave us THE voice on the airwaves in "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)," "Give Him A Great Big Kiss," and one of the greatest teen angst "class conflict" songs ever written, "Leader of the Pack." She's been back performing for a few years, and today we have some great videos of this amazing talent.
As I offered you in previous birthday celebrations for this awesome "chick singer," (as we used to say in the day....)
The Shangri-Las were one of the greatest girl groups of all time, going head to head on the charts in the same era as the Shirelles, Crystals, Ronettes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes, and the Supremes. Composed of two sets of sisters, one set twins, the other Mary and her sister Betty, this group blazed on to the scene courtesy of Shadow Morton and the Brill Building songwriters complete with tales of haunted teenage rebellion, tragedy, and doomed love affairs, bad girls wearing either Catholic school outfits or skin tight pants.... After dropping out of the music scene for decades, Mary has returned....
You may or may not need to let some of these buffer for a minute before you hit the play arrow. And I should note here that they often performed as a trio, with Mary fronting the twins.
Here's their first major hit, "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)." (Sorry I couldn’t find the original video performance, but it’s nowhere to be found. It is said that Shadow Morton’s original version was over 6 minutes, and the sound of the Long Island sea gulls was actually recorded at the sea!)
Here's an example of television from another era, with Steve Allen hosting the group and Robert Goulet mugging for the cameras on a motorcycle! "Leader of the Pack."
Here's a live audio performance of "Leader of the Pack" from 1964.
Also from Shindig, The Shangri-Las with Dobie Gray doing "Twist & Shout." Though they're really not featured, the clip still gives a sense of what we've lost these past 45+ years. We really did dance back then....
Again from Shindig in 1965 (they were popular, you know!), here are the Shangri-Las doing "Out in the Streets."
From Shivaree, "Right Now and Not Later."
From Hullabaloo in 1966, a live performance of a very bizarre tune. It’s a very dramatic pledge between lovers, one of whom went off to blow away "the enemy." Oh well, the drama of separated lovers in a time of war has always been a popular theme. For your patriotic consideration, "Long Live Our Love." Here’s the original audio-only studio version of "Long Live Our Love."
Here are recent solo performances by Mary doing two of her greatest. The first is "Leader of the Pack" at the House of Blues for the 2008 Ponderosa Stomp at Jazzfest time in New Orleans, while here she performs "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" - without the seagulls!;-)
We have a few clips of various live performances of Mary doing some great songs from her 2007 comeback album "Dangerous Game." Great sound, great songs, great singing! We begin with Mary doing a very dynamic version of "Don't Come Back"
Here she's cranking out a great performance of "Stop and Think it Over" live at the South Street Festival in NYC, July 2008. From a year earlier at the Brooklyn Rock/Soul festival, here's another live version of Mary doing "Stop and Think It Over."
Last year I had 6 clips of Mary performing live at Primavera Sound 2008 featuring a full set of great tunes. Unfortunately, they've been pulled from youtube, but I found others! (Unfortunately, I couldn't find the setlist to reconstruct them in order...)
Back to some audio only clips of the Shangri-Las early in their career. One of their early hits from 1964, "Wishing Well."
Here's another early hit, a live audio performance of “Dressed In Black”
This one's right up there with "Stranger in Town" by Del Shannon! The dramatic story of a runaway and "a miracle - a boy!" "I Can Never Go Home Anymore." I told you it was full of teen angst! "And that's called..... sad."
Here are the Shangri-Las in a Phil Spector-ish production that sounds a little too close to “And Then He Kissed Me” by the Ronettes. Still, it’s a great “girl group sound” tune pretty typical of the era. For your enjoyment, the very dramatic wall of sound featuring the Shangri-Las doing “The Dum Dum Diddy”
From 1965, an audio clip of "The Boy."
Here’s the studio version of the infinitely doo-wop styled “You Cheated You Lied”
Here's another great one singing about wedding day angst! "Give Us Your Blessing."
For a slightly twisted take on the Shangri-Las hit "Great Big Kiss," here it is as done by the New York Dolls set to still photos. Here's a great unplugged live version of "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" from Argentina done by the latest incarnation of the Dolls in 2009.
Here's a treat! I found Aerosmith performing a smokin' version of "Remember(Walking in the sand)" Live in Largo, MD, 1980.
Speaking of smoking versions, I found this one with Jeff Beck taking it over the top! For your enjoyment, from “Jeff Beck's Rock and Roll Party” featuring the great Imelda May, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”
And for those who remember the one of the better spoof tunes ever done, here's the original studio version of "Leader of the Laundromat," a Brill Building response by "the Detergents" to "Leader of the Pack." What a hoot! She took the laundry and ran into the path of a runaway garbage truck? "Gonna drive right into town, I don't care if my shirt's all brown, I've got a date tonight with the leader of the laundromat..." If you haven't already, you probably need to re-listen to "Leader of the Pack" to get the humor.
In a second spoof of a Shagri-Las hit, here are the Detergents doing “I Can Never Eat Home Anymore” (It’s really pretty funny!)
Here's some great documentary footage - a series of Rare Interviews and very old studio footage.
From Entertainment Tonight in 1989, the Shangri-Las challenge another group stealing their name
Thanks for every moment, Mary. May you have many, many more. Glad you're back recording and performing. If anyone reading this wants to know more about what this great talent is doing these days, please visit the Mary Weiss official website. It also has LOTS of videos of Mary's shows in recent years, where she's performing, her bio, and a lot more.
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson