Song Of The Day 10/21/2014: The Shangri-Las - "Give Us Your Blessings"



Cautionary Tales: I had my proper introduction to the Shangri-Las a little over a decade ago from a Seattle theater personality. Boy, that sounds like fake-ass industry-speak, but since we haven't hung out in a long time I wanted to go for as neutral an expression as possible. Err on the side of aloofness. Anyway, she hepped me to the Shangri-La's who I'd always assumed, "Leader of the Pack" notwithstanding, were a buoyant and sunny girl group from the '60s. Ha. Ha-ha.

In truth the Shangri-Las were one of the darkest vocal groups who ever existed. They were tough, gum-snapping girls from Queens, or at least were marketed as such, which probably freed them up to perform material that regularly flirted with imminent danger without flinching. "Leader of the Pack" was one of the jauntier numbers. How about "I Can Never Go Home Anymore?" "Dressed in Black?" Hell, even "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)" is drenched in melancholy and nobody gets so much as a hangnail. As for "Past, Present and Future," I've known people who can't finish listening to it, or even discuss it. Lead singer Mary Weiss should have been America's Sweetheart, but for that smoldering dark edge. In Europe that would have been a selling point. You know?

"Give Us Your Blessings" was a modest hit for the Shangri-Las, one of a series of songs from the time where teenage emotions ran hot, hormones produced a whole boatload of angst, parents didn't take us seriously and we were all stuck in a town without pity, and the only way these problems were ever resolved was through a fatal car crash. This happened a lot in '60s pop, a by-product of America's then-vehement romance with the automobile and James Dean's questionable driving skills. Adding to the immense calamity is the fact that the kids miss a detour sign because there were tears in their eyes. That's adding injury to what was actually a pretty lame insult, but what are you gonna do? It came from the '60s.
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