ATTITUDE….

You listen to this…

and then you look at this ( a signifier of the Shangri-Las’ professionalism, which was always meticulous)….

and this (a reminder that the first professionally unprofessional “punk” records–by the New York Dolls in America and The Damned in the UK–quoted them directly…and still didn’t quite get it)…

…and you know there’s a Broadway smash in there somewhere that lays Jersey Boys to waste.…else a movie that’s even better than Grace of My Heart.(which was originally supposed to about them).

Even so, I’m not sure I want anybody to make either one.

Perhaps some things are better left dreamed.

(I found the images on the Shangri-Las Facebook page, which is a source of endless fascination for the enlightened…Also, if anyone knows the artist on the drawing above, please let me know. I’d love to give them credit.)

8 thoughts on “ATTITUDE….

  1. I like your take on Ellie’s characteristic words about the Shangs’ “toughness.” I’ll humbly submit an extension to the thought that a musical or film probably shouldn’t be made: It shouldn’t be done without Mary and Betty’s participation, which they probably wouldn’t be interested in providing.

    The reason I’d wish for their involvement is that they’ve been misrepresented so much as it is; one can easily imagine the fact-versus-fiction car going off the rails yet again, made even worse (i.e. more “valid” and easily dripped into so-called common knowledge) by the Official Broadway Musical stamp. You know how impressionable people can be.

    In terms of professionalism and the ostensibly contradictory facade of toughness, it doesn’t hurt to bear in mind that Ellie’s been known to exaggerate a bit — perhaps not at a Morton level, but the endearing woman / brilliant songwriter could be a bit hyperbolic, like all good New York broads.

    DJ / promoter Jive Daddy, or at least a guy claiming to be him (I can’t think of a reason why someone would be faking it, but I tend to be optimistically naive when it comes to people who like the same music I do), writes of the girls’ professionalism in a comment under a video of Mary Weiss being interviewed by an amateurish young DJ:

    “I booked the Shangri-Las in the 1966-67 era. They couldn’t have been nicer or more professional to work with. Unlike most of the artists of the era, they never gave me one moment’s grief.

    “It’s nice to see Mary doing so well. She looks great and she was always a great singer. It was astonishing to see them re-create such complicated records live and with such ease and perfection. In retrospect, it was amazing, really. That is what the great Shangri-Las were. Great!”

    In case anyone cares to see the video itself (I’m sure you’re already aware of it, N.J.), the link’s below — although you’re warned that it will inspire you to strangle the nearest bad interviewer (simply by proxy, and on principle).

    • Ah well. If it weren’t for bad interviewers there’d be no interviewers at all (the two or three good ones couldn’t sustain a business model….or so I keep telling myself.)

      I think the Shangri-Las could use a really good biography/autobiography. It’s probably too late to do a good oral history because so many of the principals have passed but, at this point, I’d take anything. I think one of the problems with doing their story in any form is the mob involvement in the demise of Red Bird…I gather everyone involved is VERY careful about what they say. Reading between the lines I suspect Allison Anders, who started out wanting to make a Shangri-Las biopic and ended up making Grace of My Heart, may well have run into a brick wall there. She’s never been specific about what changed her mind…but it isn’t hard to imagine. I know the writers/producers of Jersey Boys were “visited” and told to be very careful about how they represented the mobsters who got their hooks in the Four Seasons via Tommy DeVito’s gambling problems…Anyway that’s my take from 20,000 feet!

      But if it COULD be told….Yes, Mary and Liz should certainly be involved, as well as anyone else from the studio or label or any Ganser family members who might have valuable memories. Done right, it could be one of the great Rock and Roll Narratives and THE great untold story. But ideally, if I was pitching it myself, I’d probably say something like “I want to tell the truth about the people and, if possible, preserve or even deepen the mystery of the art.” Difficult, but I think not impossible.

      And if I ever get to ask Mary one question it will be this: “How did George Morton react the first time he heard your voice?” He might have played it deadpan, but I’d sure like to know! I suspect it was on the level of Phil Spector or Brian Wilson when they first heard Ronnie Spector, but perhaps only the Shadow knew….and he’s on another plane now.

      I’m working on the Norton interview BTW…Should have it up within a few days.

  2. That’s a great point: Anything at all would be…well, more than nothing. Besides, now that we’re discussing it, it occurs to me that a production of some kind would bring attention back to the Shangs, as Mary’s album did in ’07, which would lead to interviews, which would lead to her correcting any fallacies.

    Excited to read the Norton interview. Thanks so much for undertaking that effort. It’s great that it will exist somewhere online!

    (Hell, that alone is enough to get you into the next Brill-era documentary, playing the part of a talking head above the title, “Music Historian / Curator.” Whether or not you would want any such appellation is another matter, I guess!)

  3. That brief clip of Ellie Greenwich gave me chills and made me cry. Many years ago, when I was working for a very small radio station, I managed to get an interview over the phone with her. She graciously gave me 45 minutes of her time. For those 45 minutes she completely and totally made me feel like I was part of her world.

    I cried like a baby the day she died.

    • Man, that is one great memory…(Don’t suppose there is surviving tape you can share?)….I always loved that she was so willing to talk where other are relatively reclusive. And a wonderful singer in her own right…nothing better than “You Don’t Know.”

      • I wish I still had the tape. It got lost, along with several other items, by someone who was handling luggage on a Greyhound bus. Don’t worry, he said. This bus will get to Denver the same time yours will, he said. You can get your bags in Denver, he said.

        Wrong, wrong and wrong a third time.

        But yes, a great memory indeed.

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