[NOTE: This is an interview that Mary Weiss gave to Norton Records’ Billy Miller and Miriam Linna in 2007 upon their release of Weiss’s first music in forty years. Weiss has not made any records since and the interview disappeared from Norton’s website a couple of years ago, apparently the victim of some serious weather damage to their offices. I’ve noticed that the links I once provided to that interview still draw a fair amount of interest and I’ve tried to contact Norton several times to see if they are ever planning to repost the interview. As I’ve not heard from them, I assume they are either not planning to do so or are seriously backlogged. I’m reposting the interview here because, even sans the cool graphics and trove of wonderful photos (a few of which I tracked down for some relevant passages here), it’s one of the most important interviews ever given by a rock and roll singer. If you’ve followed along on this site for a while, you know how I feel about the Shangri-Las, but, more to the point, you know how I feel about the often ridiculous narratives that were imposed on them–often by the usual well-intentioned sorts paving the usual roads to hell–during Mary’s forty years of silence. By extension, many of those same false narratives were imposed on the entire Girl Group era (another ongoing concern of this blog), and there has never been more de-bunking assembled in one place than this wide-ranging interview. If Norton re-posts this in the future I will re-link to it. If they request me to take this down, I will do so. In the meantime, I’ll post it here in the interests of historical preservation. It needs to be available somewhere. (And, of course, I encourage everyone to consider buying Norton’s products, especially Weiss’s still valuable CD, Dangerous Game, which now seems likely to be the last we will hear from her on record.)]

(MW is Mary Weiss, BM is Billy Miller, ML is Miriam Linna…I’ve retained the original’s sometimes idiosyncratic punctuation, etc.)

MW: Do you want to start with the Shangri stuff?

ML: Let’s start at the very beginning. Where were you born?

MW: Jamaica, Queens, New York. Jamaica hospital.

BM: Wow, me too. Same hospital!

ML: How about some family background?

MW: I grew up in Queens, Cambria Heights. My father died when I was six weeks old. I’m the youngest of three kids. My brother George was eight years older than me. He passed away in 1996. And my sister Liz was in the Shangri-Las with me.

ML: What drew you to the music?

MW: I became interested in music at about four or five years old. When I was a kid, I loved the Ink Spots and then with rock n’ roll, I loved the Everly Brothers and Neil Sedaka. My brother was much older, so I listened to all of the records he had. He was an Elvis freak. There were guys that sang on the street corner in my neighborhood. I would listen to them and I’d sing with them sometimes.

ML: Do you remember when you started singing.

MW: I always sang, as far back as I can remember. I sang in the church choir. I was in every shcool play and sang in all of them.

ML: Did you go to rock n’ roll shows?

MW: The only rock n’ roll show I attended was in grammar school. Our class wen to Freedomland and the Everly Brothers played. They did so much for everybody regarding harmony. By the time I was fifteen, I was always in the studio, so I didn’t get to go to shows at that time. I really didn’t go to concerts until much later.

ML: What were the local hangouts in your neighborhood for teenagers?

MW: It was a place called Ed’s. We all hung out there. There were all these groups of kids–Ed’s group, Bill’s group, Reno’s group, the 225th Street group and we all meet there, four or five groups of neighborhood kids.

ML: Who were you listening to?

MW: We’d listen to Babalu and Cousin Brucie on WABC. When I was a teenager, I bought all my records at Korvettes. They had the best record department and they were cheap.

BM: Great store! They’d print their own charts every week.

ML: How did you meet the Ganser sisters?

MW: I met the twins in grammar school although they went to public school and I went to Catholic school–so much for organized religiou! They lived a few blocks away. We hung out at their house and began singing together there and on the p layground. We all had an interest in music and our voiced blended well. At that time, we were really pursuing our own sond. We all went to Andrew Jackson High School for a while.

ML: Did you call yourselves the Shangri-Las right from the start?

MW: You know we didn’t have a name initially. We were going to make a record and we said “We better get a name–fast!” We were driving on Long Island and saw a restaurant called the Shangri-La. That’s where we got the name.

BM: Were you the lead singer from the start?

MW: Actually, my sister Liz was at first. On the first demo, on “Wishing Well,” that’s Liz. She actually sang both sides (“Hate To Say I Told You So”). She also sang “Shout.” “Wishing Well” was actually our demo and they played around with it and released it.

BM: Spokane Records. That was Artie Ripp, right?

MW: Right. Kama Sutra Productions. That was very short lived.

BM: I love that first record you made, “Simon Says” with the Lonnie Mack type guitar and the Bo Diddley beat.

MW: Liz was the lead singer on that one, too.

BM: You were singing at hops and dances, who was booking you when you started?

MW: Before we went to Red Bird, we had a manager names Tony Michaels.

BM: Now you met George “Shadow” Morton through Bob Lewis, Babalu from WABC.

MW: Right. Bob Lewis. That’s where I met George, at Bob’s apartment. Tony Michaels took us over there so he could hear us sing and get his opinion. George was there, I don’t know why he was there, but that’s how we met him. True story.

ML: In a nutshell, can you describe Shadow for us?

MW: George is one of the most colorful, unique people I’ve ever met in my life. Extremely talented. He used to be very difficult to get into a room at a scheduled time, but a brilliant man.

BM: An amazing producer.

MW: I was with George at some arena show when he met Phil Spector.

BM: Wow! What was that like?

MW: Oil and water! That’s all I can say. I was not happy to be there.

BM: There’s a 45 by a group called the Beatle-Ettes produced by a George Morton…

MW: I know what you’re going to ask and that’s not the Shangri-Las. They say a group called the Bon Bons is the Shangri-Las. That thing is everywhere. I see it all the time and go “Who the hell are they?”

BM: It doesn’t make any sense because you and Shadow pretty much started together.

MW: Right. You got me! I have no idea where people get this stuff.

BM: Did Shadow make any plans for you right away?

MW: No, not until we did the demo for “Remember.” Billy Joel played piano on it. George said he had a phone conversation with Billy years later and Billy said, “You owe me $67. You never paid me scale!”

BM: Was the demo really over seven minutes long like legend has it?

MW: I don’t think it was quite that long, it’s been exaggerated over the years, but it was longer than the actual record. At the time, it was unheard of to extend a record to more than a few minutes. That seemed abnormal to me.

BM: Still, it seems that it would be weird for Shadow to go that far out on a limb his first time out, with so much at stake.

MW: It would.

BM: So the whole reason for making the demo was that George had told Jeff Barry at Red Bird that he was a songwriter even though he’d never written anything before. In your words what transpired to bring all of this about? What exactly was the story?

MW: As far as “Remember (Walkin in the Sand)” goes, I think you should ask George Morton. My involvement with the song was in the studio.

ML: It’s a complex song.

MW: Initially it was done instrumentally and kind of evolved. I like that song a lot.

BM: And you did that at Mirasound in Manhattan?

MW: We did most of them there. We did use Ultra-Sonic sometimes. We did most of our demos there.

BM: My Boy Scout troop went to Ultra-Sonic in 1965 to see a real recording studio. I was really into it until the engineer goes, “You boys should have been here last night. The Shangri-Las were here.” That’s really not the kind of thing to tell a room full of teenage boys if you want them to keep paying attention.

MW: That wasn’t nice. It could have been fun!

BM: Now you tell me! The Shangri-Las first hit at the start of the British Invasion. That’s a mighty tough uphill battle.

MW: Absolutely. Look at the Beach Boys.

ML: When “Remember” hit, you started playing right away….

MW: Right away, yes. The Brooklyn Fox Theatre. I was traveling all the time. When I wasn’t doing that I was in the studio. When I wasn’t doing that I was rehearsing.

ML: Were you still in high school.

MW: I missed out on doing any real high school stuff. I went to professional school where you could leave if you had to tour. It was necessary. When you do television shows when you’re a kid, they put a tutor backstage in the corner with a little book. It’s the law. Kinda strange. Paul Jabara was my closest friend there. He wrote “Last Dance” for Donna Summer. Paul had the greatest sense of humor. I wish he was still around. I miss him to this day. I’d tag along to auditions with him. Once he stood on stage, pulled out his sheet music for the piano player–about ten feet long–and broke into “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” I sat in the back of theatre and was laughing so hard I was crying.

ML: When the Shangri-Las first became successful, did neighborhood friends act differently towards you?

MW: It’s a catch-22. They act differently towards you and meanwhile, you’re still hitting that handball and hanging out, but you don’t fit in anymore. It’s them that’s changed, not you. At the time, you think, “Oh, my God!”

ML: Were the twins like you? Was there a shared Shangri-Las persona?

MW: Mary Ann and Margie were more assertive, actually, as far as their public persona. Both of them were much gruffer than me. They both had great senses of humor. They were pranksters.

BM: What’d they do?

MW: Mostly stupid stuff. Margie added an apostrophe and an ‘s’ to Marvin Gaye’s door and took the ‘s’ off his last name so his door read “Marvin’s Gaye”.

ML: Did the twins have similar personalities?

MW: They were very similar personality-wise. Margie was more aggressive than Mary Ann. When my sister wasn’t in the group and it was just me and the twins, it was like “Hello? What do you mean ‘majority rules’?!” It was very devastating for Margie when Mary Ann died.

BM: Your sister didn’t tour at first, but she still sang on all the records, right?

MW: Yes, the four of us were on the records. Liz is an extremely talented singer. We’ve been through so much together. Liz looked like Bardot when she was young. She still lives near me now and has been happily married for 25 years.

ML: You went straight from playing neighborhood hops to big stages and national TV. Were you terrified?

MW: It didn’t faze me much. Maybe it should have (laughs).

BM: Those Murray the K shows at the Brooklyn Fox must have been brutal.

MW: They were real brutal. From early morning until late at night. Seven sets, back to back. You have a record on the charts–there you are! I did the Cow Palace and I don’t know how many big arenas. Right after “Remember” came out, James Brown hired us to do a Coliseum show in Texas. They had signs put up COLORED GIRLS’ and WHITE GIRLS’ bathrooms and I got in a huge fight with a cop because I used the black women’s bathroom and he drew his gun on me. I was absolutely amazed. This is backstage in a Coliseum and the white bathroom is on the entire other side of the floor. I really had to go and then get onstage!

BM: Is that where the song “What’s a Girl Supposed to Do” got its inspiration.

MW: (laughs) I’ve never seen anything like that. What surprised me more was the other women in the bathroom looking at me with their mouths open. Earlier, when we did the afternoon sound check, James Brown’s mouth fell open! He turned around and looked at me–here’s this little blonde girl. He thought we were black. All the other performers were black and we were very nervous because we didn’t know how the audience was going to respond. It turned out to be a great show!

BM: That’s wild.

MW: We worked with James a few time. I was at his house once. He lived in St. Albans, the next town over from Cambria Heights. He had “JB” on the gate. We were just BS’ing there, basically. I liked him.

BM: There’s a story of you putting Murray the K’s motorcycle on the roof of the Fox.

MW: Come on, Murray didn’t even have a motorcycle.

BM: But you did hit him in the face with a pie onstage at the Fox.

MW: That was long overdue! (laughs) One fun thing we’d do at the Fox, was if there was a really good group onstage, we’d grab a microphone behind the back curtain and there’s be four part harmony going on like a chorus. It was wonderful!

BM: You played a bunch with the Zombies.

MW: They were great guys. Still are. I just saw them play at B.B. King’s. They’re still great! I wish them the best in everything they do.

BM: What other groups did you pal around with?

MW: I didn’t get to pal around with anybody. We were so busy. It was very different then. Now these singers say how rough they have it. They don’t have a clue. Ride in a bus every night. Sleep every other night. See how that feels. People don’t realize how hard it was back then. There were no monitors at the time. Sometimes you were screaming just to hear yourself singing. The Dick Clark Caravans, they were grueling shows. Every other night you’d sleep in a hotel. Sleep on the bus, then you’d have to get up and look perky. It’s exhausting. But, there was one great thing at the end of the Dick Clark tours, because he’d have Caravans going all over the country and we’d all mee in one place and they’d have like a Battle of the Bands type thing with all the stars. Those were cool shows. You’d meet up in one arena, do one big show and then we’d all go home.

BM: Sometimes there were four of you and at various times, Liz, Margie and Mary Ann were off the road…

MW: And I was the one constant member. That was it. There’s lots of BS written about our group. I’ve seen it written that we missed concerts, that the other girls did some shows without me. That’s simply not true. I never missed a single show. I couldn’t take a break. Everyone got exhausted and could take time off. Touring was exhausting. Most of the times when I woke up, I didn’t know what state I was in. Too many buses, too many flights. Touring was a blur.

BM: Red Bird was owned by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and George Goldner. What were your impressions of them.

MW: We were crazy about George Goldner. In fact, at the end of our first year on Red Bird, we bought George a huge television set, at that time, they didn’t have them that big everywhere. We gave it to him with a big gold plaque on the front as a thank you present. It said, “George Goldner, Thank You, The Shangri-Las”. It was a gesture from us. I don’t think he got enough credit for anything at Red Bird. He was a kid who never grew up. Riding around in a Cadillac with the top down. He was like a very large child. I loved him.

BM: And Leiber and Stoller?

MW: Leiber and Stoller are wonderful people. They brought a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to all their artists. I have a lot of respect for them both, but they didn’t work with us directly. They worked on songs with George Morton, then he worked with us.

BM: “Leader of the Pack” was the second Red Bird record and the biggest one. There really wasn’t a motorcycle in the studio on the session, was there?

MW: I’ve heard that, too.

BM: Yeah, because you hear it roaring away. Where did it go?

MW: Studio B. (laughs)

BM: That guy on the album cover, was he anybody special?

MW: Absolutely not! And he sure didn’t look like any biker I knew!

ML: On the Red Bird recordings, they double-tracked your voice sometimes….

MW: Yes, on a few.

BM: That was quite a team that you had in the studio at Red Bird – (producer) Shadow Morton, (engineer) Brooks Arthur and (arranger) Artie Butler.

MW: Absolutely! I know. You can’t ever give them enough credit. The Shangri-Las was one of Brooksie’s first things. That’s why we’re friends to this day. Brooks Arthur is extremely talented in so many areas. Artie Butler is one of the most brilliant arrangers I’ver ever heard. I love both those guys.

BM: Those sessions were pretty monumental. Would you come in and sing or would you get more involved in the whole process?

MW: Oh, I always stayed there. I stayed for every mixing session.

ML: Even before you had to sing your parts?

MW: Right. I was there for every step.

BM: Would they listen to your input?

MW: Oh, sure.

BM: How much free rein did the group have on vocal arrangements? On something like say, “The Train Fom Kansas City,” that introduction is extraordinary.

MW: OK, on “The Train From Kansas City,” I worked hard with Jeff (Barry) on that. You can hear the flavor to it.

BM: Unmistakably the Shangri-Las.

MW: Our group, I mean even for that time period, the harmonies were unique. The blending of the voices was unique.

BM: Like “Out in the Streets”– flawless record. That’s my absolute favorite Shangri-Las record.

MW: That’s my favorite, too.

BM: Just curious, what would be your five favorite Shangri-Las records?

MW: “Out in the Streets,” “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” “I Can Never Go Home Anymore,” “Past, Present and Future” and “The Train From Kansas City.” I also like the Mercury record “I’ll Never Learn.”

BM: “Out in the Streets” and “Give Us Your Blessings,” you look in the national charts, and they weren’t real huge smash hits, but here in New York, those records were monsters. You heard them everywhere.

MW: Yes, they were biggest here. Definitely.

BM: Did you know that “Out in the Streets” was the last song played on WINS before they switched from rock ‘n’ roll to all news?

MW: Yes, I did. I thought that was quite touching. Very neat. There were a lot of great Djs then. They seemed to be more involved than nowadays where it’s all programmed.

BM: I dig “Heaven Only Knows” a lot.

MW: Really? Why’s that?

BM: I guess when I boutht “Give Us Your Blessings” as a kid and I got a great B-side, it was like getting an extra record.

MW: Oh, I hated it when the B-sides on records stunk. We always wanted both sides to be cool.

BM: Your flips were all killers–“Heaven Only Knows,” “The Train From Kansas City,” “Dressed in Black”…

ML: That deliberate spoken part….

MW: I always thought “Past, Present and Future” was a unique sounding record. And everybody that’s written about it said it was about rape. That was news to me! At the time, you need to remember, people are forgetting about the teenage angst. When somebody breaks your heart, you don’t want anyone near you. Things are very different now. Kids grow up younger and younger.

ML: Right. In the Shangri-Las, you had young voices singing about pretty heavy emotional stuff. It was like “Yeah, that’s how I feel.” You don’t have to relate to adult themes.

MW: When you’re a kid, who hasn’t felt like that? When somebody blows you off or hurts you, it’s very traumatic.

ML: Especially having a girl’s voice saying it. Other girls can relate, like “I have real feelings.”

MW: I thought we all felt like that.

BM: And your approach is so powerful. It sounds like you’re crying by the end of “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.”

MW: I was crying. That whole sentiment…it’s kinda funny because at the time I really didn’t talk to my mother at all.

BM: Your vocal delivery on “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” and “Past, Present and Future” was very personal, very intimate.

MW: The studio is a very private place. I always thought it should be. Actuall, at one Shangri-Las session, Mary Travers from Peter, Paul and Mary showed up. She was pregnant at the time. I was extremely impressed that she came. I would have been very nervous if I had known in advance that she was going to be there. She’s a wonderful talent and a great person.

BM: Who’s that singing the lead vocal on “I’m Blue.”

MW: Mary Ann.

BM: What do you remember about “Right Now and Not Later?”

MW: Not a whole hell of a lot! (laughs)

BM: Were there any songs that the Shangri-Las recorded for Red Bird that never got released?

MW: No.

ML: You must have been excited when your first album came out.

MW: All this stuff is exciting. Don’t get me wrong if you’re not getting that impression. It’s wonderful stuff when you open BILLBOARD and you’ve got two pages. “There it is! All right!!”

ML: Were the Red Bird sessions specifically for singles or did you try a few things and saw what clicked?

MW: One song most of the time, especially the larger sessions like “Remember” or “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.” The strings on that? I love them. Those were huge sessions with the room full of musicians.

BM: When rock videos started appearing, I always thought they could never capture what the Shangri-Las and Shadow Morton put into my imagination. Since I first heard “Remember,” I always pictured it all taking place at Long Beach on Long Island, for some reason.

MW: I did, too. Later, I pictured it in Florida. When we went to England we found, the British spent more time setting up everything as far as television goes. They’re meticulous. I walk in the studio and the entire soundstage was filled with sand and a giant grandfather clock for one song. I just could not believe it. It was beautiful. Dusty was on that show.

BM: Dusty Springfield?

MW: Yes, Dusty is an absolutely amazing talent. The Shangri-Las were in London doing Top of the Pops and Ready! Steady! Go! Dusty was having a very large party in her flat. It started out all civilized, nice French doors and antique desks, but she liked to start food fights. And she started one and I’m hiding under this lovely French desk with her manager and fish and food are flying by! They were actually throwing pies later in the night. So Mary Annd goes to put her boots on and they were filled with fish! Dusty was a kinky girl, but a true talent. But, Mary Ann got even with Dusty. She waited and waited and the next time we were with Dusty at the Brooklyn Fox, Mary Ann put fish in Dusty’s shoes. And that’s called….payback! (laughs)

ML: Yeah!

MW: Dusty also flung crockery at the Fox. There was this place where she bought a ton of cheap crockery. We learned the fine art of throwing plates there. Stand at one end of the corridor and fling it with all your might. It makes a loud crash and gets rid of the stress. Parts of Dusty were very self-destructive, but the other side of her was so much fun. I’ll always think of her fondly, mo matter what anybody writes about her. The world will remember her talent. I’ll always remember her laughter, the fine art of crockery throwing….and her talent!

ML: Your records were pretty notorious right from the start.

MW: Look at “Leader.” It was banned in Britain. What was there to ban?

ML: In England there was a lot of trouble between the Mods and the Rockers. That’s why “Leader of the Pack” was probably banned.

MW: I was so proud. I was a Rocker!

ML: Yeah!

MW: I got off the plane dressed in black leather. They definitely knew where I stood. (laughs)

ML: And what did you make of the Mods?

MW: The Mods were just not home. To each his own. Their lifestyle was…(laughs)…I was never into fashion.

ML: Which is wild because you became such a fashion icon.

MW: I could never picture myself sitting at a runway show, could you?

ML: No, never. But that’s the great thing. You subconsiously started a whole look.

MW: Who cares?

ML: Cool!

BM: I feel like I’m a guest on The View…

ML: But you only went to England, no other countries?

MW: Pretty much. There were a million things booked. I remember sitting in Los Angeles with these Japanese people and they were giving me scripts and things and making plans for us to go there.

ML: But you never did.

MW: Never did. It should have happened but there was just no time.

ML: Did you follow the charts?

MW: The charts thing is a strange position to be in. Once you have a smash hit, the record company is like, “OK, here’s the next one. I feel sorry for artists today. They’re here and gone and hey bring on th next one. I just saw Chrissie Hynde talking about today’s artists and what they face. Nobody gets behind them or develops them anymore. Bring on the next midriff section…

BM: Do you see the Shangri-Las in any act today?

MW: Maybe like the Donnas. I can see our attitude.

ML: Who were your favorites during the Shangri-Las years?

MW: I loved Dusty. The Jefferson Airplane, that might have been a little later, but I remember I first heard them on the way to the Fox Theatre. I saw Jimi Hendrix in the Village before he was famous. My jaw dropped. You know what was a great time? I went to a big party at Andy Warhol’s one day. It was fascinating. He had a huge loft with a deck and umbrellas and the bathroom had a golden throne. Very cool. Ultra Violet was there. Lots of cool people.

BM: There was a Shangri-Las Day at the New York World’s Fair.

MW: How did you know that?

BM: Because I remember being pissed that I didn’t get to go. We were always at the Word’s Fair.

MW: Me, too. I thought it was cool. They had a Monorail with our name on it and we performed.

BM: Mary, even being a star by then, that had to be a big thrill–hometown girls make good….

MW: Oh sure. We loved it. We all did.

BM: The Shangri-Las played at the New York Paramount with the Beatles. Did you meet them?

MW: No, they were on one floor and everybody else was on another. At the Paramount, Margie saved out the window high up so that everyone thought it was the Beatles waving. The crowd went nuts!

BM: When you gals….

MW: You gals? At least you didn’t say Girl Groups.

BM: Sorry Mary. No, I know better than to mention Girl Groups.

MW: Oh, kill me now! Thank you. How do you take an entire sex and dump them into one category? Girl Groups, I mean, please! What if we all had penises?

BM: Uh, that would have seriously affected the crush I had on you as a kid.

ML: People tend to categorize….

MW: Count me out. If Girl Groups were products, what were Boy Groups? (Looking at photo) Ow! You know who did this to my hair? Monti Rock III.

ML: How did Monti Rock end up doing your hair?

MW: He did our hair on that album cover nobody likes on Mercury, where we look Mod. Monti, wherever you are, what were you thinking?

ML: But you look so sultry there, like Veronica Lake.

MW: I look stupid. I didn’t like it at all.

ML: And those boots…

MW: Are you kidding? I’ll tell you what boots I really liked. They buttoned up and they were kid leather. There were like old fashioned 1890’s boots with cool heels. I got those at Saks.

ML: Boots became your signature.

MW: Yes, that’s why I like those outfits on the LEADER album. That was my thing.

ML: Whose suggestion was that?

MW: Nobody’s. That was us. It’s funny because it created such a hoopla, like we were tough, whatever and all it is, is a white shirt, a vest and a pair of black pants.

ML: But the black slacks, slacks at all, you really did something different there. It really defined the Shangri-Las.

MW: Jeans don’t fit on everyone.

BM: Yeah, when you’d see the Supremes on Ed Sullivan, hey’d have evening gowns on, old people’s clothes.

MW: I used to get my slacks on Eighth Street in the Village in a Men’s Store. People would look at me like I was gay because I like low rise pants. I don’t get it, quite frankly.

ML: These outfits were something else. (holds up I CAN NEVER GO HOME ANYMORE album)

MW: Yes, that’s what everyone was wearing ten years later, like Spandex.

ML: Now you couldn’t have bought those in a store. You had to have those made.

MW: Absolutely.

ML: Who designed them?

MW: We did. We just sat and did them ourselves.

ML: You don’t still have your boots, do you?

MW: Do you still have your boots from 1965?

BM: She might….

ML: The Shangri-Las got a lot of magazine coverage, too.

MW: We did a lot of interviews back then. “What do you do in your spare time?” What spare time?

BM: I have a record where the Shangri-Las are being interviewed and you get asked things like, “Do guys on the street really give you a great big kiss?”

MW: (laughs) “Ew, get away from me!”

BM: You hear so many stories about how bad you were….

MW: WHAT ABOUT IT!? (laughs)

ML: There’s stories about you tying up a guy and kidnapping him.

MW: You know, I don’t remember that, but if I did, he deserved it!

BM: And that you had guns….

MW: I did purchase a gun once, a little Derringer. I bought a gun after somebody tried to break into my hotel room. There were these glass panels on the side of the door and all of a sudden I see this arm coming through. Not only was I scared to death, but there were large amounts of money in the room. You’re on the road with no protection. But, I was a little kid. I didn’t know. Back then, you could walk in anywhere and buy a gun. But the FBI came to my mother’s house and said, “Will you please tell your daughter she’ll be arrested if she gets off the plane with her gun?” We just finished a tour in Florida and I turned it in at the police station down there.

BM: Did they get a chaperone for the group at any point?

MW: If you can call an eighteen-year-old a proper chaperone. Maybe nineteen, but that’s as grown up as it got. We had a road manager, Fat Frankie, for a while, then he managed NRBQ following that. That wasn’t much supervision. One of our other road managers was a black belt in karate. Once, there was a car full of drunken guys weaving all over a bridge, waving beer bottles and stuff and it was getting very dangerous. They kept swerving into our car and it was very scary. I was so petrified, my heart was in my throat. It was as if they thought they had the right to do this. They could have killed us all. Louis stopped the car and took them all on. They were flying everywhere, all over the bridge. You had no choice in the matter. It was a dark road with nowhere to go, there were no cell phones then. I’m glad he was there. I could see the headlines now, JIMMY KILLS MARY ON BRIDGE. It was much different than now. It’s very hard to explain. Nothing was organized. It was ‘Here’a list of shows, get on the road.” I was only fifteen.

ML: Now what about the night club scene?

MW: (whispers) I shouldn’t have even been in there. I was fifteen. We’d go in them and hang out, but we were more geared to the teen clubs. But we played the Whiskey A Go Go.

ML: Did the Shangri-Las work with one booking agency?

MW: Different ones. William Morris and others. But, you’d set limitations on them or they’d beat you to death, you’d never be off. You’d have to rehearse and record and do television, too.

BM: The Shangri-Las made so many TV appearances like Shindig and Hullabaloo. Here in New York, I never missed the Clay Cole Show. You seemed to be on it all the time…

MW: All the time. We sure were.

BM: It was almost like, time for Clay Cole, let’s see what’s new by the Shangri-Las.

MW: Clay had us on a lot. That was great! I’d walk in the studio, I knew all the guards by name, they were all nice, reputable people. I really felt at home there.

BM: And The Soupy Sales Show you were on that, too.

MW: I loved Soupy Sales! White Fang and Black Tooth. I loved it!

BM: And Philo Kvetch and Onions Oregano!

MW: Oniions Oregano–yeah, yeah! They had a gazillion White Fangs’ arms becaues the man doing White Fang kept burning it with his cigar! White Fang rules! I’d love to see the old Soupy tape again.

ML: What was it like dealing with mobs of fans?

MW: A lot of times it was very frightening. One time in an aquarium there was no security and I just about had my clothes ripped off. And the fans with pens almost poking your eye out. There was no security then. We were just winging it. When there’s a lot of them and one of you, it gets scary. I was in the Village one time and there was like thirty bikers and they recognized me. Luckily, they were fans and nothing happened.

BM: When Red Bird went out of business in 1966 and you signed to Mercury, how different was it from Red Bird? Did you notice a change?

MW: Definitely. There really wasn’t much support.

BM: Mercury issued two singles and the greatest hits album. The last Shangri-Las single “Take the Time” from 1967 is weird, a pro-Vietnam record.

MW: I never wanted to record that song. I was completely against the Vietnam War and I protested accordingly. Still, the Shangri-Las supported our servicemen and women and I’ve done many shows for them.

ML: The tough appearance of the Shangri-Las, that wasn’t just an image thing, you really were tough.

MW: In certain ways I am. When you’re a kid and you’re on the road and nobody’s got your back, you better be tough. You better act as tough as you can because they’ll devour you. We scared lots of people away, made lots of bands behave and back down. What else are you going to do?

ML: That wasn’t just you. That was your sister and the twins, too?

MW: Absolutely. It was us against the world, really. Miriam, you would have done the same thing. You would. It was better when we had our own band traveling with us. It was more like a family.

ML: One thing that makes the Shangri-Las different than a lot of female acts of the day, was most of them seemed overprotected. And it virtually was always a family member calling the shots.

MW: Can you imagine? Mommy is there to wipe your nose?

ML: You wouldn’t have had a chance to be tough. It’s what makes you who you are.

MW: Absolutely not. And I’d have been a different person if my father hadn’t died. They’re all life experiences. Some good, some bad. It’s the same thing when everybody’s your best friend and then they suddenly go away. That is a very hard lesson in life. Who are your friends? That is tough stuff. I guess in a way I’m tough. I’m a survivor.

BM: Was there a defining moment when the Shangri-Las split up?

MW: Everybody around us was suing each other. Basically to me, the litigation just got so insane and it wasn’t about music anymore.

ML: Did you go back home?

MW: I moved out on my eighteenth birthday. I moved into a hotel in Manhattan, then Gramercy Park and then I moved to San Francisco for a while. It was hard to get into the music business and it was even harder to get out. I couldn’t go near another record company for ten years.

ML: For the next ten years you couldn’t record?

MW: No. It was absolutely insane. And that was also how long I was still recognized in the street, which made it even more difficult. People don’t realize how comfortable it is being Joe Blow, private citizen. Everybody wants to be a star. I never quite got that, honestly.

ML: But singing was what you wanted to do, and when that was no longer an option, it must have been horrifying.

MW: It was. I lost my way.

ML: Ten year sentence, that’s rough

MW: It was real rough.

ML: It seems like you had a positive feeling and then to have it come crashing down…

MW: Yes and no. I could have pursued it further but how much deeper do you want to get into legal nonsense? At some point you just have to cut it off. I always thought that someday I’d go back to music, I just didn’t know when.

ML: Were you being pigeon holed or typecast? Did you want to do other types of music?

MW: Afterwards? Absolutely. I could have sung lots of stuff. I was always the one who pursued things here and there and I went up to a publisher, but disco was popular and they wanted me to put a gardenia in my hair and ….(dances)

BM: At least you don’t have bad disco albums coming back to haunt you. If you had to pick one song, a post Shangri-Las song by somebody else, to tackle, what would it be?

MW: I love Patti Smith. I always wish I had recorded “Because the Night.” What a great freakin’ song.

BM: The Shangri-Las got back together in 1977 and recorded for Seymour Stein at Sire Records. Seymour worked with the Shangri-Las in the sixties, right?

MW: Seymour was our road manager for a short period of time. Margie was a complete prankster and I don’t think Seymour got it. Kids will be kids. I think the fireworks didn’t set well with him. When we were touring and we were in states that sold fireworks, we always bought them and set them off.

BM: Teenage girls with explosives, what’s not to like?

ML: But nothing you recorded with Sire was ever released. Why was that?

MW: I was very grateful to Seymour years later for giving us a shot with Sire, but it wasn’t there, material-wise. I don’t want anything released that I don’t believe in. It just wasn’t there. I wish (Richard) Gottehrer had been brought in. It just wasn’t right. I welcomed the opportunity from Seymour Stein, but it just didn’t work out. We recorded a few things, but it wasn’t happening.

BM: Did Liz and Margie feel the same way?

MW: Yes, we all did.

BM: But the Shangri-Las did one unannounced show at CBGB at the time.

MW: That was cool! It was impromptu. We just walked in and had fun.

BM: Why didn’t you do more shows like that?

MW: I didn’t want to do old stuff. I could have done that for thirty years.

ML: The Shangri-Las accomplished a lot.

MW: I come from an extremely poor family. The Gansers were relatively poor. Nobody had any money. No money for attorneys. So considering where the four of us came from, with no support, no guidance and nothing behind us, we didn’t have proper outfits onstage. I mean nothing. It’s a miracle in itself to come from those circumstances and have hit records, so I’m very grateful.

ML: So where have you been?

MW: I went to work for an architectural firm and I was seriously into it. Then I got into commercial interiors, huge projects, buildings. Then we hit a point in our lives where you go, “What am I doing?” I knew where I feel at home and I’ve never felt more at home that with music. Either I’m gonna do it or not.

ML: Cool! Welcome back.

MW: Thanks, it’s been way too long. I look forward to recording and my future in music. Long live rock ‘n’ roll.

69 thoughts on “MARY WEISS REMEMBERS….

  1. WOW.

    This is amazing.

    When you said “long interview,” you weren’t kidding. It automatically provides the greatest amount of from-the-mouth-of-a-Shangri-La details to be found in one place. It even puts any hypothetical thick CD booklet to shame.

    Again, THANK YOU for the huge effort. Reading it in a couple of minutes will be something of an event for me, after all these years of only finding a single tantalizing piece of info at a time.

    I’ve only caught the ending while clicking on “Reply,” and I can’t help but to wonder why, after looking forward to her future in music, she ultimately decided that one album and a year (?) of touring was enough.

    As you’ve pointed out, however, no Shangs-related subject ever arises without creating more mysteries!

    Thank you again for doing this, on behalf of all Shangs fans, including those who will search for information about the elusive quartet in coming years and get excited about finding this, the longest Mary interview ever typed out…twice!

    • Well thanks to you for providing a spur. Norton’s link went down several years ago. I’ve been thinking about typing it up ever since (especially since it rendered my own links to their site moot) Knowing there were a few people out there who were genuinely interested made it worthwhile to make the time to transcribe it. So glad I thought to run off a copy!

  2. Dug here, too! I should stop making the mistake of reading comments under videos, though. Some poor guy gets called a “fool” and worse because he didn’t recognize Mary’s voice. His intentions were good (protective of Shangs-related accuracy), even if he was mistaken. He didn’t deserve to get torn to pieces. There will always be nasty folks hiding behind Internet anonymity, I guess.

    Anyway, NJ, I’m proud that I accidentally had something to do with re-lighting the fire under your typin’ fingers. There are tons of interesting tidbits in Mary’s memories that have never surfaced anywhere else. To think “Wishing Well” was an audition demo, and that the gals (heh heh) sat in on mixes, and even had some input. Talk about a fly-on-the-wall wish.

    “Uh, George, my voice doesn’t need quite that much reverb…”

    Whenever you feel like writing about the Shangs again — I say that because of all the time you’ve generously dedicated to the above transcript! — I’d be curious about your take on / opinions of the outtakes that have arisen from some mysterious source. It sounds like Liz was originally supposed to sing lead on “Pack,” but we only hear her singing the first line. (And it still doesn’t explain why “Betty” wasn’t ultimately changed to “Mary” during the spoken introduction. Maybe they’re singing the final cut in tandem, with Liz mixed quite a bit lower?)

    There’s some evidence in Morton’s instructions to a couple of musicians during the “Remember” excerpt that the vocals weren’t overdubbed, but were rather performed at the same time as the instrumentation. Pretty damn cool. I guess that’s Mary saying something like, “He wants me to sing it more gently, but it sounds crappy.” Cute as hell.

    Now the actual song is stuck in my head again. It’s one of those that does so very easily. “It’s been two years or so……..”

    • First let me say…that is some New York voices there! I hope those kind of voices still exist.somewhere out in the boroughs because I sure never heard ’em in Manhattan!

      I hadn’t heard the first link so that’s an eye/ear opener. One of the many reasons I used (what I knew) about the Shangri-Las’ story as a kind of seed bed/inspiration to start this blog was because I intuited a lot of what Mary finally revealed in the Norton interview the first time I heard them back in the seventies. My mother was a choir director for years at out church and she used to rehears singers all the time at the house (in addition to being a great singer herself), so I knew harmonies like that were both rare and hard-earned. Anything from the studio on them is fascinating and instructive.

      And the fact that LIz may have been the original lead singer both answers some mysteries (like why “Betty” instead of “Mary” as you note!) and–as always with the Shangri-Las–raises some new ones (like…”Why, after “remember” was anyone but Mary being considered for an A-side?” “Was there competition between Liz and Mary?” “If so, how did they feel about it””) Liz was a fine singer and the original lead singer. It can’t be easy to realize your little sister is a genius, no matter how close you are. It’s one issue I wish someone would ask Mary about in depth. It was kind of skirted here (I think she said something like “it just happened” as far as her becoming lead. In the movie in my mind, there’s a great scene where they both realize Mary’s GOING to be the lead singer. But it might be a scene they’d both prefer not to revisit!

      Anyway as you say, this interview nailed down a lot and dispersed a lot of myths about the agency the Shangs (an many other “Girl” singers of the period) had in their own stories. It’s true that literally everyone else, male or female, up to and including the Beatles, were frequently “:managed.” It put a smile on my face after decades of hearing know-it-alls assume the whole Shangri-Las thing was made up, to have the proof that they named themselves, dressed themselves, did their own choreography, worked out their own harmonies and, in effect, managed themselves. If the price they paid for that last part was what it cost for them to be what they were, then it musta been worth it….cause we’re still taking about it!

  3. (I guess there’s some trick to including two videos. Well, the link to the first is above the fully visible second, anyway. I apparently still haven’t gotten the hang of this “online” stuff. You’d think that all the practice on CompuServe with my Commodore 64 in the early ’80s would have sufficed! Hmph.)

    • Word Press does have some kind of issue with double links from the same comment (I’ve run into when commenting on other sites) …but whatever you did, these seemed to work fine. And many, many thanks! Are there any more out there that you know of?

      • Man, I wish! If any further outtakes exist, I’ve never heard them. I’ve done such exhaustive YouTube searches over the past few years for “Shangri-Las,” “Mary Weiss,” et al, that I’m surprised I haven’t been put on some sort of……list.

        The closest I can get to sharing anything that you might not have seen (although you probably have) is the last known footage of Mary, Liz and Marge together — unless something else turns up someday, of course. It’s found in the ’89 Entertainment Tonight episode about some Dick Fox ripping off the Shangs’ name (I’ll paste the link below all of this verbosity).

        While we’re fantasizing about footage, I wish someone had taped and digitized the ’89 reunion gig! I guess that was just a bit early for documenting every performance of every kind everywhere by everyone. But then, I recall that VHS Camcorders were quite prevalent…

        What I am surprised about — since they were televised — is that none of the girls’ several appearances on Clay Cole have popped up.

        • We’ll just have to keep searching, u guess….I have seen that interview (I think I posted it with a brief comment here some time or other). Yes, it’s a real shame there’s no footage of either Shangs’ reunion…at CBGBs in the seventies or the one you mention. They were always great live. I still remember being literally shocked at their “presence” when the first Shindig footage showed up on VHS in the late eighties. I was already a connoisseur of period TV footage of the great rock and roll acts and, frankly, most of them were pretty stiff. I bought reams of bootleg VHS at the time and there was lots of great stuff but, short of James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show, nothing else hit me quite like that.

          The problem with things like the Clay Cole show is that most of them weren’t preserved. Lloyd Thaxton kept some of his own shows (presumably including the Shangri-Las footage now on YouTube) and was in the process of assembling it for release when he passed away. A-a-ar-a-r-g-hhh! We can’t catch a break! But one can always hope. If the Where the Action Is footage showed up, and these outtakes showed up….anything’s possible.

          • GOod point. My fingers have been crossed for years, so why uncross them now, right?

            I saw The Story of a Sound in the ’80s. A friend and future bandmate had taped it for me off the television (on Betamax!), knowing I was an old-rock fanatic. Now that I’m trying to remember, It’s possible we made an illegal copy of a commercial tape or something.

            The teenaged me was mind-blown by the “Great, Big Kiss” footage you’ve mentioned — I was witnessing real live confirmation that even on stage, Mary sang better than most people spoke.

          • THat was supposed to be a clever way of articulating how the performance hit me as well (cf. your great way of putting it — that “presence”), but I reversed the sentiments. She spoke better than most people sang. There.

          • Hi John, I’ve commented on your posts before. It was me who first started uploading Shangri-las clips to YouTube nine years ago. The ones which didn’t originate from my collection are ‘Leader of the Pack’ from ‘The Clark Race Show’, the two ‘Where the Action Is’ performances, and also the performances of ‘Long Live our Love’ (Hullabaloo) and ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ (Shindig) which were easily available on compilation videos.
            The studio outtakes with unreleased song, ‘I Can Never Go Home Anymore’ (Live), and ‘Entertainment Tonight’ videos all linked above are mine, too.

            Regarding CBGBs – You’ll might be interested to know I have an interview with Mary and Margie conducted in CBGBs in 1978 while they were still trying to launch a comeback. Yes, that’s right… Over a year after the Seymour Stein sessions.

            What I gather from it is that Betty was no longer interested in pursuing a music career (so it was now just the two of them), and they weren’t having much luck getting signed. Mary admits they had little success with New York record companies, and goes on to state: “They expect us to be completely punk. Y’know, they say things like ‘How does it feel to be the Queen of Punk?’ And one guy wanted us to be the female equivalent of The Ramones. I’m 29 years old. I’m serious about music. I don’t care that much for punk.”

            Incidentally, in response to abqchris’s accusations of me being one of these “nasty folks” who has ripped someone to shreds – One thing guaranteed to wind me up is when someone who clearly knows nothing has the audacity to state something as a fact. Therefore, if someone comments “Fraud. Not the Shangri Las. That is Not Mary Weiss” on my video, then I’m going to get pissed and call them a fool. Simple.

            There are still a lot more Shangs videos (and audio!) not in the public domain which I hope to share one day. These include a performance on a ‘Murray the K’ TV Special and Mary-Ann playing guitar on Upbeat 😉

    • I’m glad, too…Love the link. That’s the best sound I’ve ever heard on this track and it’e clear that, whatever Ms. Weiss thought of the song (which I hear as more pro-soldier than pro Viet Nam policy) she didn’t let it affect her performance!

  4. Thank you so much for making this available–what a pleasure to read again at last. It’s a shame that no creative A&R-type person was there for Mary at the point of the Shangri-La’s bust-up…hearing her on “I’ll Never Learn” makes it clear that she had so much more yet to offer as songwriting began its big sea-change in 1967. I’m not surprised that it’s among her favorites–the one thing that shines through the material you’ve compiled is that Mary Weiss is one of the most sensitive and perceptive individuals ever, and she is the key reason why those long-ago tracks possess all that timeless, permanent magic.

    • Hi Don…I’m really glad I finally found the time and energy to do this, not least because it’s clear so many folks either hadn’t read it or no longer had access. Yes, it was something close to a tragedy that Mary and the others didn’t get to record much, much more. I know it’s kind of a double-edged sword because she’s made it pretty clear in other interviews that she had mixed feelings about fame. But such a loss!

      And, yes, one of the really wonderful aspects of getting to know Mary from a distance as she came out of the shadows was just this: SHE WAS WHO WE THOUGHT SHE WAS–who we suspected she had to be in order to make those records. I don’t put the word “hero” on many celebrities/artists….but if I could only hang it on one, I’d hang it on her. Mostly because knowing anyone thought that would give her a good laugh.

    • That’s a great observation, Don (re: “I’ll Never Learn”). Mary did have a lot more to offer before peripheral litigation between record-company scumbags somehow disillusioned the girls enough to make them walk out on a ten-year contract.

      Listening to that puzzlingly B-sided song is thus a terrific and simultaneously wistful experience. After a few years of constant singing on stage and record, Mary’s voice had grown even stronger and more flexible, and she’d developed a perfect vibrato, which caused her singing to become — impossibly — even more affecting.

      Had the group, or at least Mary, decided to carry on, who knows how she would have sounded without a decade’s worth of silence between performances?

      (Not that anything from the ’77 reunion is available, but still.)

      • All that you say about “I’ll Never Learn” is true Chris…and all that you say about what was lost in the “litigation.” I don’t know how familiar you are with the Red Bird story but there’s always been a strong hint of mob involvement….Just how that affected the Shangs’ remains unknown. They may not even know themselves. And, if they do know, they may be afraid to talk about it even now. The writers for Jersey Boys have spoken of getting “visits” from mobsters during the initial production, the idea being that the mobsters who have involved themselves with the Four Seasons back n the day were to be treated with respect.

        Any enterprise associated with George Goldner ended up belonging to his bookies. Red Bird was no exception. The best years of Arlene Smith, Frankie Lymon and Mary Weiss were all lost the same way…but it ain’t likely we’ll ever know the EXACT details! I wrote on some post here a while back that, of the four greatest sixteen-and-under vocalists of the rock n roll era, Brenda Lee was the only one who didn’t record for a Goldner-associated label….and she was the only one who had a career. I do not consider this a coincidence.

        • Did we dagos have to spoil everything in the ’60s? Hmph. Of course, the mob might not have been involved at all without Goldner’s gambling problem. Is that what affected the Teenagers and the Chantels as well? I’ve read that Goldner pushed Lymon to go solo, at which time the latter switched to Roulette Records. The particular reason for the move seems to be a mystery, but given the label’s mob ties — known even at the time to music-business insiders, one presumes — the real mystery is why Leiber and Stoller decided that it would be a good idea to partner up with Goldner at all. Weren’t there enough red flags sticking out of the guy’s head by ’64?

          Regarding your mention of Arlene Smith, there’s a bit of irony in Goldner’s involvement with the Chantels, given the Shangs’ cover of “Maybe”!

          • Have no fear brother…It wasn’t all Italians. I wrote about Goldner’s career a bit here…Good, short alternative history of rock n roll.


            As to why Leiber and Stoller wanted to partner with him? That’s another one of those questions I don’t think anyone ever asked…but I’d sure like to know what they were thinking.

            And Tommy James’ involvement with Morris Levy is the heart of his autobio, which I highly recommend.

          • How interesting. Thanks for the link. The Great Between-the-Lines-Wording Award of 2014 belatedly goes to: “Leiber and Stoller are offered one dollar for their interest in Red Bird and Blue Cat. It is an offer they can’t refuse.”

            Had I known what kind of man was behind all of those oldies compilations I bought with odd-job cash as a kid in the ’70s……well, I probably wouldn’t have understood the “finer points” of Levy’s career anyway, but I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have wanted to contribute so much to his later legal expenses.

  5. That “Fly on the wall” snippet was actually posted here on this very blog almost a year ago!

    When asked about it’s origins the uploader was protective:

    Cool! Where did the first 27 seconds come from? The rest has been available before but that first part is new to me. A shame it’s so short!

    I can’t tell you. Sorry!

    Why can’t you tell us?

    • Good catch! I didn’t recall it (probably because I wasn’t the original poster and the links don’t always stick like they should!). I knew there was going to be a time when I couldn’t remember what all I’d seen and done and it looks like the time has come.

      But, like you, my main response to ALL of this stuff is “I’m grateful it’s here…but God how I wish there were more!”

  6. Ah yes, The Story of a Sound…That’s where I first encountered the same footage (which also showed up on Rhino’s Shindig collections shortly thereafter). And I thought “ain’t nobody coachin’ them!” Too natural and too groundbreaking.

    As to the other, now worries….It made perfect sense to me either way!

  7. Come to think of it, in addition to the Norton interview, you have quite a lot of things preserved on this website that can no longer be found anywhere else. For instance, I was only able to listen to Suzi Quatro’s interview with Mary because you (fortunately!) grabbed it before it disappeared from the BBC site.

    It’s interesting that someone with a singing voice like Mary’s could come off almost…what’s the word? “Asexual” seems a bit strong, but for the amount of non-kid-like feelings that she drew from to sing lead on those Shangs tunes, she seemed to live quite a detached life from anything romantic, or even truly interpersonal, at least with anyone but the other three girls, throughout the ’60s.

    Over and over, what never seems to have been asked is the obvious follow-up question to the memories that she’s frequently shared about having a lot of pain inside her: “What made a teen singing star so sad that her voice contained a hardly concealed, deeply haunting quality, and that her recording sessions sometimes involved tears?” I wonder if it was just the difficulties she was having with her mom, combined with never knowing her dad. This would normally be irrelevant stuff vs. the actual music, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with her; as you’ve pointed out, we’re still talking about those songs, and the way in which they were performed, all these years later.

    • Yeah, as grateful as I am for the interview she gave (especially the Norton interview, which blew the lid off so many myths), there’s sure a lot more I wish people had asked….Then again, I don’t know if she made any subjects off limits. It would be quite understandable if she did…Still hoping there will be one more chapter in this story, where the whole truth gets told. One of the things someone will have to impress upon her is that she left such a deep mark on so many, that she wasn’t just ANY good singer, but had a special quality that only a handful of singers have…I think that idea kind of amazes her. That we would even care!

      To your main point, I still think her most revealing quote was “I had enough pain inside me to make anything believable.” Like you, I wish we knew more specifics–but I can understand why she would remain guarded, even after all these years.

  8. Just a follow-up here re “I’ll Never Learn”–found a post about it over at Discogs which sums things up rather nicely:

    “If only Mercury had sprung for full albums from The Shangri-Las in 1966 and 1967, instead of just for one 45 for each year, the world would be a better place to have those albums – assuming they’d have been as great as the singles. The Shangri-Las gave us precious few recordings, yet in the future, if only one 20th century girl group is remembered, it should be the one who remember walking in the sand. Their final two singles, “I’ll Never Learn” and the More-Than-A-Woman-inspiring “Footsteps On The Roof”, are two of their greatest songs. “I’ll Never Learn” destroys – it destroys everything! “Sweet Sounds…” is pretty good, too. Imagine if The Shangri-Las had made a whole album like this, of chamber folk groove and psychedelia. Mary Weiss sings the lead vocal here, while the Ganser sisters echo, ghost-like, behind her. How is it that this song is never included on Shangri-Las compilations? There are so many Shangri-Las compilations, and “I’ll Never Learn” only on a couple of them – maybe there are rights issues. This is a classic song and recording, written by Essra Mohawk and produced by Shadow Morton. You hear this, and you can’t believe such a beautiful song exists, and that it was recorded and arranged in such an interesting way, and that it was made in 1966! It sounds contemporary in a way that few pop records of the mid-sixties, or any time really, do.”

    Not sure if the exact details are correct–thought it was Mary, Liz and Mary Ann in the Mercury version of the group–but I think the poster gets the gist of it right…it’s a move in a new direction that, sadly, never materialized. I’ve taken to following up “I’ll Never Learn” with the Montage’s “I Shall Call Her Mary”–Michael Brown’s ode to her–which I think perfectly captures the fleeting nature of her late-60s existence…at a time when, by all rights, she should have really been coming into her own. How about a 1967 psych-soul version of “Stoney End” sung by Mary…what do you think??

    • You’ll get no argument from me on any of that. If I ever do a post on the lost promise of the sixties and need one song to represent the sentiment, “I’ll Never Learn” will be it. And yes, it’s extra heartbreaking because it fully demonstrates that Mary Weiss did not need melodrama (which she always turned into drama anyway). It’s a voice like no other and it was stilled too soon for the most unsavory of reasons (greed–Goldner’s, the mob’s, the record business). That’s why we’re still talking about it, half a century later.

      And thanks for the link and the info…I’d heard stories about something the guy from the Left Banke did as an ode to Mary but never tracked it down before (probably because I was looking for it under the Left Banke). It’s lovely!

  9. Today marks the tenth anniversary of Mary Weiss’s return to Europe — her first tour there since the ’60s. She played first in Barcelona (the lucky bastards).

    For the occasion, permit her a few words about that far-too-rare virtue called “integrity.”

    Mary Weiss to Suzi Quatro, 2007: There’s just a ton of stuff I’ve turned down. It just wasn’t right……[Dangerous Game] was an opportunity to do NEW music. I probably could have been retired ten years ago, if I would have done all of that other stuff that a lot of people do. I didn’t want to do that, ’cause music isn’t about money, per se.

    SQ: It shouldn’t be.

    MW: Well, I don’t want it to be. I mean, it’s nice that I can make a living doing it, but I don’t want that to be the force. I want it to be about MUSIC.

    We miss you, lady.

    • A poignant anniversary. I was almost able to pull off a trip to see Mary’s return to live performance in Cleveland (with Alex Chilton and the Box Tops playing the same club the night before). Fell through at the last minute. But I repeat what I’ve said in several of my pieces over the years. The greatest thing about Mary coming out of the shadows after all those decades was that she was who we thought she was–who she must have been to make those particular records. That’s never a given with your heroes.

  10. DazzaB….

    Thanks for commenting (as always). Hope you get this as the direct reply link has run out above…

    First of all, thanks so much for all those YouTube links. I saw your name on quite a few going back before I started the blog, but wasn’t aware you had sourced so much of it. Your place in rock and roll heaven is assured!

    As to that interview….is that available on YouTube? Any way I can get a copy of it if not? I’m always looking for new stuff on the Shangs and this sounds especially fascinating.

    As for any dispute you have with Chris, I’m sure he’ll read this and he’s free to respond here, but it might be better if you can work it out in email (happy to be a go-between if that’s useful). I’m a little hazy on what exactly is going on…was he referring to something in one of your posts on YouTube? In any case, there aren’t enough of us keeping this particular flame lit for us to be fighting among ourselves, so I hope this can be worked out. I certainly value you both as commenters and as allies in the long fight to get the Shangri-Las properly respected.

    And thanks again for all you’ve done vis-a-vis the Shangs. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was, when I first started cruising around YouTube (must have been about 2009 or 10) and found things I never thought I’d see.

    (aka Nondisposable Johnny)

    • It appears to have been longer than I thought – My first Shangs uploads on YouTube were in 2006. I removed a few, but they were re-upped by people who had ripped them. So things like ‘Out on the Streets’ are no longer on my channel.

      Anyway, re: CBGB interview… Here’s a transcript

      “We broke up originally because we were young and there were too many people out there trying to squeeze every last drop of money they could get their hands on out of us. That left a really bad taste in our mouths.
      For a long while we’ve been running away. But now it’s time to face the music. Besides, the business was much more dangerous in those days.
      There’s a child in my soul and I don’t want it to die. I can’t let it perish, ’cause when that goes you’re dead.
      I really got screwed up when the band split. I was 19. I’d never been out with anyone while I was on the road. Christ, I’d been a rock’n’roll star at 14 and I was only just getting over my first period.”

      “We never knew what was going on. How could we at that age? We got to do things 15-year-olds never dream of.
      It started off with High School dances – we were younger than the punters – and just escalated. We played parties where the kids used to make their own wine cos we were all under age.”

      The Shangri-las story is a complicated one, and one which has only been further muddied through the decades by tall tales and exaggerations from people like Shadow Morton, as well as Mary’s reticence to give too much away.
      Although relatively candid in the Morton interview, it throws up as many questions as it does answers. And it should be noted that she has frequently contradicted herself through the years. All very frustrating for fans who want a concise, clear history. But I think she actually enjoys that 🙂

      There are subjects which Mary won’t touch, and I guess they’re none of our business. However, some of them are essential to understanding they whys and wherefores of the history of the group.
      I know a lot of what happened, but if Mary or Liz won’t talk about it, then I don’t see it’s my place to either.
      Perhaps one day it’ll all come out. But I doubt it will be Mary or Liz telling the story, sadly.

      • Well one thing they’ll never fail to be is interesting. Just curious (and asking no details as I understand their wish for privacy and your wish to respect is) but are the things Mary won’t touch business-legal issue related or more personal? In any case I do hope it all comes out some day….still wish somebody would do a Jersey Boys style play (only with their cooperation of course).

        One can dream!

        • I was referring to more personal issues, although I’ve read your mob related theories with interest.

          It’s a shame that there will probably never even be a properly remastered comprehensive greatest hits. All the studio masters still exist (multi-tracks, outtakes, unreleased tracks, etc) and they sound fantastic. But that’s a whole other mess I’m not even going to get into!

          Incidentally, what stereo tracks are currently in in the public domain?

          • You got me there…are the original masters in stereo? This isn’t something I’ve heard debated a lot regarding Shangs’ recordings (as opposed to Spector, Beach Boys, Beatles for instance where the debates are endless.)

    • DazzaB and I have no dispute — I was just complaining about what I felt was someone’s overreaction in YT comments — nothing new, I grant you. I can’t remember who it was. If it was you, DB, and you disagree with whatever opinion I had (maybe that it was uncalled for? It’s been a while), then…….cool! Disagreements are good. Adults can handle and laugh off such trivia. It was just in context. I’m grateful for all of the Shangri-Las treasures you’ve uploaded, and I obviously look forward to more, being the selfish fan that I am!

  11. I think all the singles were mixed and released in mono, and I think the same is true of their first two albums, also.
    However, about five true stereo tracks randomly appeared on a particular printing of the 1966 Mercury ‘Golden Hits’ LP. These appear to have been mixed at the same time as the mono single mixes.

    Leader Of The Pack, Train From Kansas City, Heaven Only Knows, Remember (Walking In The Sand), I Can Never Go Home Anymore, Give Him A Great Big Kiss and Give Us Your Blessings are the true stereo tracks which first appeared on either “Golden Hits Of The Shangri-Las (1966)” or “Myrmidons Of Melodrama (2002)”.
    The ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’ (alternate take) first appeared on a 1970 Buddah Records release called ‘Incense And Oldies’ in true stereo. I think this LP was also the original provenance of the spoken intro version of ‘Remember’. The stereo version also uses a different vocal take.

    However, the multi-track masters do miraculously still exists, so there are stereo versions of their other tracks, as well as things like the B-side “live” tracks from their first album with the audience effect track removed, etc. Quite startling to listen to.

    • What is it I like to call it? The story that never ends? (lol).

      Great info, is there any chance the stuff that hasn’t been released ever will be? Is it a rights issue? Is it bootlegged anywhere? You’ve got me thirsting for more!

      • I’d rather keep that to PM or email.

        Incidentally, I don’t know if you were aware of any of the following, but it only serves to further confuse all things Shangri-Las…

        Maureen Reilling, from The Shangs’ Red Bird label-mates The Goodies, states that they were first to record ‘Leader of the Pack’ and ‘Give Him A Great Big Kiss’.
        As they were produced by Shadow Morton, it would suggest these recordings acted as demos (and possibly vocal and harmony templates) for The Shangri-las own recordings, with perhaps the instrumentation already in place when the Shangri-las went into the studio (as was the case with ‘Dum Dum Ditty’, which was also recorded first by The Goodies).
        Actually, this is somewhat corroborated by the “studio chatter” clips which confirm that the girls were working along to a prerecorded instrumental backing during the ‘Remember…’ and ‘Leader…’ sessions. This would contradict Mary’s recollections of a huge orchestra being in the studio for the ‘Remember’ session, although there were possibly TWO separate sessions for ‘Remember’, so that just further confuses things!

  12. “I have a record where the Shangri-Las are being interviewed and you get asked things like, “Do guys on the street really give you a great big kiss?”” Oh I would love to hear this interview record!! Does anyone know anything about it?

    Thanks so much for writing up this interview! It was a terrific read. And happy birthday to Mary Weiss. Can’t wait for her 500 page memoir with never before seen pics to drop next year (oh, nevermind.. that was just a dream I had..)

  13. I sure wish I knew what interview record the guy’s talking about. If I were to possess anything that isn’t already on YouTube, I would definitely share it. I’ve found that when one’s favorite singers aren’t celebrated as they should be, he tends to greedily grab at every exhumed moment that arises. Recently surfaced live recordings and even interview snippets become especially precious for their scarcity. There’s plenty of @#*! about the Beatles out there, but try separating fact from fiction from faded memory when it comes to the Shangs! In fact, this website is the closest anyone’s gotten.

    The quartet’s material was indeed a music of moments. Below is just one that may have escaped the occasional pair of ears. I heard the performance on a bootleg cassette many years before YouTube, and even the Internet, existed. (That was the only song on it.)

    Start listening, or at least paying close attention, at one minute. Shortly thereafter, at the end of the line “I know that something’s missing inside,” Mary hits a note — and a goose bump-inducing resonance — on the word “inside” that has given me involuntary shivers since I was younger than she is in the film.

    There are all sorts of moments like that. Dig the way Mary slides upward in pitch, and slightly cracks her voice, on the word “told” during the first chorus of “Never Again.” Yeah, I might be something of a sonic obsessive, but I think that little girl was brilliant without even realizing it.

    • Well, you don’t sound like an obsessive to me!

      And here’s a new question for the day….for reasons I can’t yet reveal I’ve been scouring old charts (both Billboard and Cash Box) and naturally my thoughts turned to the Shangs and late 1964. What the hell happened to “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”…It was tracking like a Top Ten, hot as the first two records had been. Red Bird had had the good sense not to step on “Leader of the Pack” with “Kiss” the way they stepped on “Remember” with “Leader of the Pack” (which was rush released too soon, and caused “Remember” to go in reverse so hard it fell from #20 ALL THE WAY OUT of the TOP 100 in a week.) Berry Gordy NEVER made mistakes like that.

      Yet “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” suddenly stalled in the mid-teens…I would LOVE to know if this was anyway “coincidental” to the timing of a couple of large fellows showing up in Lieber and Stoller’s office and saying “We want to buy your record company…We’re offering a dollar.” offer Jerry and Mike realized they couldn’t refuse.

      Just food for thought. especially when pondering the mid-chart fate of a record as great as “Out in the Streets!” which is all you say and more.

      Ah well, it’s late. I think I’m gonna go listen to Myrmidons of Melodrama.

  14. This is entirely subjective and not the slightest bit critical of anyone who finds it useful to draw information from charts (especially not you, as I know from long reading experience that you have something unorthodox up your sleeve!), but my eyes glaze over with severe apathy whenever I think of such data. We humans! We have to turn everything, even art, personal expression, beauty and personal aesthetic enhancement into sports statistics.

    I don’t have to inform anyone here that sales don’t correlate with musical merit. Of course, one’s definition of “musical merit” is subjective, too. I would use terms like “originality,” “joyous energy” and “deeply moving sounds,” whereas someone who looked at music in terms of business decisions, rather than musical decisions, would look at sales charts. Those indicate the reception of a piece of art by other people. I’m far too (healthfully) self-centered for that (he typed egotistically).

    Listening to music is ideally about the sounds coming out of the speakers, and whether or not they taste good to one’s own ears. Listening to (or creating) music makes it easy to live in, and enjoy, the present moment.

    Of course, the occasional piece of music must be listened to a few times before the listener can be fair with himself and assess whether or not he likes it, i.e. once his brain has finally assimilated it and he knows what’s coming — because it’s music the likes of which he’s never quite heard before. Other stuff tastes good immediately.

    Either way, it’s about personal, individual taste. Charts, sales, what others might think, whether or not it’s like other music one likes, etc.: This is all mere sociological imposition upon one’s listening experience.

    That’s why I’ve always said that so-called “critics” are useless, and why I don’t consider you a critic (you’re a good man, for starters). When someone who’s self-loathing enough to call himself a critic — that is, one who criticizes, rather than creates — writes something, he doesn’t change the music itself, of course, and he can’t change one’s tastes. The latter would be like trying to convince someone to hate a food that’s one of his favorites, or love a food that makes him gag. I know I’ve gone on about this before, but one’s taste in music, books, movies, etc. is just as personal.

    Being impressionable and convincing oneself that “public taste” is anything other than an indication of good marketing doesn’t change what he truly digs deep down, even if he’s in some denial because what he would really love to listen to isn’t “popular.” What do other people’s opinions have to do with one’s own joys, y’know?

    With that characteristically verbose preamble, I’ll be a good sport, buy into the game for the game’s sake, and attempt to engage in helpful discourse regarding what you’ve mentioned (or I wouldn’t have bothered laying all of the above words on you to begin with!).

    Unless I’m mistaken, the “Give Him a Great, Big Kiss / Twist and Shout” 45 was released — and promoted with several TV appearances by the girls themselves — a couple of years before the Highly Persuasive Visitors offered that dollar. Think of what still lay ahead: two albums and at least six pre-Mercury singles.

    I’ve only two alternate guesses, then, concerning why “Great, Big Kiss” saw unaccountably lackluster chart action. The first is that it was issued at pretty much the same time, maybe unwittingly, as Smash’s re-release of “Simon Says” / “Simon Speaks” and Scepter’s reissue of “Wishing Well” / “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Capitalizing on “Remember” and “Leader” was probably the impetus behind each of those reappearances from ’63. (Scepter was, perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, a subsidiary of Mercury, just as Spokane had been.)

    Thus was the market once again permeated with more Shangs material than might be indicated if one major hit at a time was being sought. Red Bird itself certainly didn’t help the situation: As great as Betty sang the tunes, was a “Maybe” / “Shout” 45 really necessary before ’64 was even out? Such saturation was certainly nothing new for the label — cf. your observation that the rush-release of “Leader” impaired the sales, requests and airplay of (the far superior, in my opinion) “Remember.”

    My second guess is based on the fact that Red Bird was, after all was said and done, an independent label. “Going to the Chapel” and the Shangri-Las’ amazing songs made it more successful than it really had any right to be.

    Whereas “Great, Big Kiss” probably went to #1 regionally like nearly every one of the group’s singles (New York LOVED its Shangs, demonstrating the impeccable tastes of my fellow northeasterners!), Red Bird just didn’t have Capitol- or RCA-level money to intensely and consistently promote its artists, especially considering that Goldner’s gambling problem most likely entailed dipping into the company’s coffers long before the problem caught up with him in a gangster sort of way.

    • Ah well, I confess I didn’t feel like doing the research. I knew if I threw it out there as speculation, somebody would keep my feet on the ground!

      My only response to your perfectly sound take on the chart stuff is that more success on those charts probably would have meant the Shangri-Las got to make more records…and that would have been anything but sad!

      I didn’t know about Scepter re-releasing what they had…or even about Red Bird choosing that moment to release the live stuff…Let’s just say the men who ran Red Bird were genius record men and not-such-genius business men.

      (For starters, no businessman in his right mind would have started a partnership with George Goldner at that point. He had already proven he could drive half a dozen record labels straight into the ground all by himself! That had to be a romantic decision based on Goldner’s talent and (probably considerable) personal charm. Our girls tough luck alas!

      What struck me was that “Dancing in the Street” and “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” debuted the same week and tracked each other very closely (with “Kiss” actually keeping the lead) for about six or seven weeks…and then, one record from an independent label stalled and the other kept right on going to the top five. I’m sure there were many factors involved and the ones you cite are probably the most salient…Interesting that Gordy didn’t release the next Vandellas record until “Dancing in the Street” was well on its way down. “Live Wire,” and not a huge hit, but he certainly protected the record that was already on the charts a lot better than Red Bird did. Then again, that’s why nobody else was Berry Gordy…not even Leiber and stoller!

  15. I don’t know much about business and the music industry, but I wanted to share something I read that’s relevant to the release of “Give Him A Great Big Kiss”!

    There is a nice little interview with the Shangs from Music Business magazine at the end of ’64. According to them, re-releasing “Maybe” was deliberate to blanket Smash re-releasing “Simon Says.” The girls, especially Margie, really disliked “Simon Says,” so much so that they were willing to compete with themselves in the charts. They quickly learned the intricacies and technicalities of record-making that by the end of ’64, they already developed the ears to spot flaws in their own records. I always thought that was both impressive and mature given their ages and short recording experience up to that point!

    • Wow. That’s some fascinating info. and does put a whole different spin on things….Do you know If that interview is available anywhere online (or anywhere else I can get a copy?) I’d love to read it.

        • Wow — thanks from me as well, Goldsworthy. It’s astonishing to note how modest the girls were about their own vocal skills, even during their commercial peak. Even they, it seems, weren’t fully aware of the importance of “singing as a creative process, fully equal to writing and producing” (JWR). I’ve mentioned this before, but they were brilliant and didn’t even know it.

          I stubbornly maintain that Morton’s contributions are overstated, given that Jeff and Ellie have often indicated, while trying their gracious best not to steal ol’ “Shadow’s” good press, that they helped him a great deal with the completion and arrangement of “Remember” and other Shangs songs. It’s not surprising — when the group cut “Remember” with him, they had more studio experience than he did.

          I’ve always said that the best singers who didn’t write their own material, with the Shangs being foremost among the females, were given mere skeletons of songs. It took those particular singers to breathe life into them.

  16. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet…I want to give it my full attention. Hoping to read it some time tomorrow.

    Just want to add here that “Mary Weiss Remembers,” which I transcribed and posted in May of 2017, has been my most visited post for two years running now (and had more views this year than last). It’s hard work sometimes, but you folks make it all worthwhile!

  17. Greetings from Shanghai China, I love this music and the interview is so great, by the end you know her and love her. Thank you.

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