I think I’ve mentioned that, after many years, my local radio market once more has an oldies’ station. Today, driving home from a friend’s birthday party, I heard this in the middle of a run of great records (“What a Wonderful World,” “Mr. Big Stuff,” “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “Dancing Queen,” Barry White, like that) and it was as shocking as the very first time I heard it, coming out of the tiny, tinny speakers attached to my old budget-level Sears Roebuck turntable. I mean, if “punk” meant what its principle acolytes would have you believe–the complete rejection and transcendence of business as usual–it would be the punkest record ever.

And it occurred to me that it might be the first time I’ve actually heard it on the radio:


  1. The voices themselves always stand out, let alone their most distinctive songs, like this one (obviously) and probably ten others we could both name. A half-century later, Mary probably still doesn’t know she’s brilliant. Sometimes, depending on what it is, someone else’s song heard afterward can sound positively vulgar compared with my favorite quartet. Funny, how far the bar was raised by four kids who were just going with their rock’n’roll instincts…and how it gradually lowered from the end of that period onward!

    • I think geniuses in any field (who either have exceptional skills or an exceptional way of seeing the world) tend to sort of take themselves for granted. Human nature, I think, to assume whatever gifts you were born with are really nothing special. At the extreme, it can become almost like a version of survivor’s guilt: Why me? I think that’s kind of where Mary is and always have been.

      But what really got me was how SHOCKED I was. I mean, after all this time, I shouldn’t have been….but I was.

      In a good way of course.

      It’s probably just as well they’ll never play “Never Again” on the radio!

  2. I think she knew she had something unique, but the biz (particularly as practiced on the East Coast) just put her behind the 8-ball…and she understood where she wanted to go (“I’ll Never Learn”) but the biz basically said Fuggetaboutit. She was not going to compete in the “sensitive” or “sexy” cubbyholes being fashioned for female singer-songwriters at that point, and it was nearly a decade before Patti Smith. Since she wasn’t a songwriter, she needed someone like Shadow Morton (for better and worse), and he bailed on her for Janis Ian–a more “au courant,” politicized version of the Real Thing.

    But let’s not forget that the other Shangs were awfully good in their own right. Maryann Ganser (dead at 21) is absolutely stellar on “I’m Blue.” Their harmonies were getting better and better, but the touring, the exploitation, and the sheer craziness of it all was overwhelming. If Nilsson had been interested in writing tunes for Mary, there could have been a pretty remarkable “part two”…but Harry wasn’t exactly the most stable guy in the barn himself, and given the legal BS she would probably have had to record under a pseudonym.

    Way back in the late 70s a friend of mine had a show on a college radio station in St. Louis and he played the entire first side of the Shangs’ SING reissue directly from the LP. Aside from hearing “Past Present & Future” in 1966 when I first started to listen to the radio, that’s the only time I recall hearing them. Side 1 is an awfully strong side: Remember Walking in the Sand, Leader of the Pack, Right Now and Not Later, Long Live Our Love, Out in the Streets, Past Present and Future, He Cried, and Give Him A Great Big Kiss. Not quite the right order for an optimum emotional progression, but that’s a silly quibble for twenty-two minutes of immortality. Would that it ever might happen again…

    • Hey Don. Thanks for commenting:

      There’s a lot going on there for sure. I’ve said for a long time that the Shangri-Las’ story would make the great rock and roll movie, play or novel. I think Mary is probably more bemused by all this than anything…but who knows. Part of the fun of being a Shangs fan comes from us knowing so little.

      One thing I do know: If I heard that run of songs of the radio, they would find my car floating in a lake somewhere. Running off the road would hardly cover it!

  3. I had an interesting Shang-related meet-up recently. There was another more obscure girl group back then called The Goodies, and apparently they recorded in the same studio as the Shangri-las but weren’t as famous. Both the Shangs and Goodies recorded a song called “Dum Dum Ditty”, which is a great song (the Shangs sang it “Run Run Ditty” for some reason). However, if you listen to both Shangs and Goodies versions of the song, you can tell it has the exact same backing track. Come to find out, one of the Goodies is now a professional marketer in the same town I live in. She actually wants to get back to singing in her retirement, as sort of a hobby I guess. Anyway, I met her in person after learning who she was and had her autograph an old Goodies record for me. A little piece of pop history related to the Shangs.

    • Hi Andy…Great info there. Reminded me that Shadow Morton produced both groups. I hope the Goodie you spoke with is able to find a venue to get back to doing what she obviously loves….Wish Mary Weiss would do the same!

  4. A matter superfluous to music it may be, but there’s some interest that I can’t quite define in seeing the Weiss sisters leave their hotel room and enter a station wagon during a 1966 tour.
    First, some goofy cats in the girls’ current backing band (the Playmates) pose near their van while we hear “Leader” — ever the generic mainstream standby — and then Liz walks out, followed by Mary. Skip to 1:30 for them.
    This is the first time I’ve ever posted a link to one of those infernal “social networks.” But I wanted to share this trivial yet historical bit of fun with fellow fans of real music!

      • I’m not good at navigating the “social networks,” but out of immense curiosity (how often does Shangs stuff pop up that we haven’t seen?), I managed to view all of the comments under the film, and found brief remarks from both Weiss sisters. It might be the only Liz text online.
        I looked at a few of the band’s prior postings, and some Shangri-Las sheet music from the ’60s, provided to the backing group, is displayed. My eyes popped out of my head.

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