The Shangri-Las' 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

15 September 2021, 12:27 | Updated: 15 September 2021, 12:32

The Shangri-Las in 1964
The Shangri-Las in 1964. Picture: Getty

By Mayer Nissim

Ten of the very best from the absolute leaders of the girl group pack.

From The Spice Girls to Little Mix, every single girl group on the planet owes a massive debt to style and sass of The Shangri-Las.

But the influence of the classic 1960s band goes way beyond just that.

They became an unlikely influence on punk with their sound seeping into the likes of the Ramones and New York Dolls, while their hits have been covered by everyone from Blondie to ABBA's Agnetha and Amy Winehouse.

If you're not sure where to start, we've rounded up ten of their very best hits below.

  1. Long Live Our Love

    Released in 1966, an ahead-of-its-time love song from a girl back home to her boy in Vietnam, 'Long Live Our Love' couldn't push on from the major success of 'I Can Never Go Home Anymore', but still reached number 33 (the group's last top 40 hit while they were together).

  2. He Cried

    A reworking of Jay & The Americans 'She Cried, it doesn't get more simple or more powerful than this.

    A gal tells a guy it's over. He Cries. The end.

    Like many of their songs towards the end of their run of hits, it deserved to do better than the 65 spot in the national charts.

  3. Paradise

    Inexplicably, this Harry Nilsson-written song was shunted on to the B-side of 'Past, Present and Future'. Even more inexplicably, it was replaced on later pressings by 'Love You More Than Yesterday'.

    The Ronettes apparently had recorded the song first, but their version didn't get a release till a decade later, sandwiched between covers by The Supremes and Bette Midler.

  4. Right Now and Not Later

    A rare Shangri-La's single that wasn't written by either George "Shadow" Morton or the Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich partnership.

    Instead, Bob Bateman (co-writer of the Motown hit 'Please Mr. Postman') and Ron Moseley brought a touch of Detroit to that New York sound. It's a shame they didn't collaborate more, as it packs a powerful pop punch

  5. Out in the Streets

    Written by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, 'Out in the Streets' was that ultimate pop paradox – the mini epic.

    Taking in shifts in style and tone, the band's fifth single was a regional hit but, lacking a big record company push, stalled outside the top 50 nationally.

    It still had its fans though, and Blondie would record two covers of it, first in 1975 (eventually released on 1994's Platinum Collection) and again in 1999 for their comeback album No Exit.

  6. I Can Never Go Home Anymore

    Amy Winehouse called 'I Can Never Go Home Anymore' the "saddest song in the world, and she may well have been right.

    In the song, a girl plans to run away from home but is warned off by a friend who did just that, only to immediately miss her mum, who has died of a broken heart before she could return. Sob!

    After a run of less-successful singles, The Shangri-Las bounced back with this top 6 hit in 1965 with the George 'Shadow' Morton written/produced track.

  7. Past, Present, and Future

    One of the strangest pop songs not just of the 1960s, or by a girl group, but full stop.

    A tortured tale of teen angst, the entire song is Mary's spoken word, with the band swapping out their usual Wall of Sound instruments for a piano-led musical interpretation of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata'.

    It absolutely shouldn't work, but it does.

  8. Give Him a Great Big Kiss

    After 'Remember' and 'Leader of the Pack', The Shangri-Las kept the momentum up with another incredible pop hit led by Mary.

    From the opening spoken word "When I say I'm in love you best believe I'm in Love L-U-V" 'Give Him A Great Big Kiss' has classic written right through it.

    It was later quoted by the New York Dolls on 'Looking For a Kiss' (and covered by the band's Johnny Thunders on his solo So Alone album)

  9. Remember (Walking in the Sand)

    After a couple of early singles 'Simon Says' and 'Wishing Well' failed to trouble the charts, The Shangri-La's hooked up with George "Shadow" Morton, who wrote and produced 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)', immediately scoring the band a top five hit in 1964

    The story goes that Morton was visiting his songwriting friend Ellie Greenwich at New York's Brill Building when he met Jeff Barry. The pair hated each other, and Barry goaded Morton into saying he was a hit songwriter.

    Put on the spot, Morton hired The Shangri-Las from Queens and wrote the song about overwrought teenage heartbreak parked in his car. Mary took the lead vocal and an unknown Billy Joel played on the demo, which got the group signed and on their way to becoming pop legends.

    And that perfect "Oh no, Oh no, Oh no no no has" since been adopted by the kids for their TikTok memes.

  10. Leader of the Pack

    Written by the hotshot team of George "Shadow" Morton, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, 'Leader of the Pack' went to number one in 1964 and is the ultimate death disc.

    In the song, Betty tells her pals that she's going with bad boy Jimmy, but breaks up with him to please her disapproving parents. A broken-hearted Jimmy speeds off on his motorbike with tragic consequences.

    Prompted by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to write a follow-up to 'Remember', Morton claims he "got a bottle of champagne, two cigars, and went into the shower, sat down, drank the champagne, smoked the cigars, and wrote the song on a shirt cardboard with my kid's crayons".

    True or not, the band put it down after a whopping 63 takes with Mary and Betty singing in tandem and ended up with their masterpiece. It was covered but not improved by Twisted Sister, Bette Midler, The Carpenters and, er, Alvin and the Chipmunks.

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