The Shangri-Las - Leader Of The Pack

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"Leader of the Pack" is a song written by George "Shadow" Morton, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich. It was a number one pop hit in 1964 for the American girl group The Shangri-Las. The single is one of the group's best known songs as well as a popular cultural example of a "teenage tragedy song". The song was covered in 1985 by the heavy metal band Twisted Sister who had a moderate hit with their version.

The tune of "Leader of the Pack" is credited to pop impresario George "Shadow" Morton together with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. According to Morton, he wrote the song for the Goodies (also known as the Bunnies), but instead it was needed as a follow-up to the Shangri-Las hit "Remember (Walking in the Sand)". He said he did not know that he was supposed to have a second idea ready to follow up "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" until Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Red Bird Records co-owners with George Goldner) asked him, "Hey, what do you want to do for the second record?" Morton said 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 kids crayons." Morton claimed he credited Barry and Greenwich as co-writers for business reasons; however his recollection has been questioned by Ellie Greenwich.

In July 1964, Morton recorded the vocals for "Leader of the Pack" with the Shangri-Las at the Ultrasonic Sound studio on the second floor of a Manhattan hotel. The song was produced by Morton. These vocals were dubbed over the instrumental parts, which had been previously recorded at the Ultrasonic Recording Studios in Hempstead, New York. Billy Joel, then a young session musician, said on November 16, 2010 during an interview with Howard Stern that he played piano on one of the demos for "Leader of the Pack," but he was not sure if any of his parts made the final recording. In fact, the piano part was played by Roger Rossi, a staff musician for Ultrasonic Recording Studios at the time. Rossi said, "I remember the date like it was yesterday, there were no written charts, so unfortunately, some musicians kept making mistakes. As I recall, it took 63 recording takes before Shadow Morton was satisfied." Rossi added, "By the end of the session, in take 62, I also messed up and Morton laughingly yelled out, 'Ohhhh, noooo. Not you, too!'" In 2007 Tony Visconti claimed that pianist Artie Butler played on the track.

According to legend, to add the authentic sound of a motorcycle engine, one was driven through the lobby of the hotel and up to the floor of the recording studio. No one was arrested, but a ticket was issued. However, in an interview four decades later, Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss said the motorcycle sound was taken from an effects record. Hugh Grundy, drummer for The Zombies, recalls revving up a motorcycle backstage when the Shangri-Las performed on a U.S. tour.

"Leader of the Pack" was released as a single by Red Bird Records, a Leiber and Stoller label, and the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 28, 1964. In the United Kingdom, the single was refused airplay by the BBC, probably due to its death theme, although some have speculated that it was considered likely to encourage violence between mods and rockers. It charted three times on the UK Singles Chart: number 11 in 1965; number 3 in 1972 (by which time the BBC ban had been lifted); and once again at number 7 in 1976, when its sales figures as a reissue on two different labels (Charly and Contempo) were combined to arrive at its chart position. The record also reached number 1 in Australia.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at number 447. In the 2010 revision of the list, it was moved to number 454 as new entries were added. Billboard named the song #9 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.

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Artist: The Shangri-Las
Video title: Leader Of The Pack

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Category: Pop
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