On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack (1964)
It’s 1964 everyone and it’s back to the US today after our one day visit to Italy. I did get time for some pizza and pasta but now we return to North America. It’s another girl group and from New York again. The Shangri-Las came from a tough neighbourhood in Queens and were made up of two sets of sisters – the Weiss sisters (Mary and Elizabeth) and the Ganser twins (Mary and Marge). They had a strong image about them and from their hit list 1001 Songs has opted for a genuine 1960s’ classic – Leader of the Pack.
Leader of the Pack combines singing and spoken lyrics with all members contributing and Mary Weiss on lead vocal. The song tells the story of a girl named Betty who is in a relationship with Jimmy, head of a motorcycle gang alias the Leader of the Pack. Betty is in love but the relationship cannot last, not with disapproving parents to contend with. Betty reveals that the romance does indeed end, Jimmy drives off into the distance in the rain but he goes too fast and ends up with a similar fate to the rider in Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell. Betty is left devastated, she can’t hold back the tears. Although she will move on eventually, she will never forget her Jimmy.
This tragic story of a lovestruck teenager has endured throughout the years and the accompanying sound effects of a motorcycle engine revving away after every rendition of “Leader of the Pack” still sounds great today. Mary Weiss was only 16 years old when this song was released but both she and the rest of the group really bring this sad story to life. Sadly, before the 1960s were over, The Shangri-Las were also at an end but they had left a permanent legacy.
Favourite songs so far:
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)
The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
Roy Orbison – In Dreams (1963)
The Ronettes – Be My Baby (1963)