Home » Forever No. 1: The Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader of the Pack’

Forever No. 1: The Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader of the Pack’

by UNN Feed

Forever No. 1 is a Billboard series that pays special tribute to the recently deceased artists who achieved the highest honor our charts have to offer — a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single — by taking an extended look back at the chart-topping songs that made them part of this exclusive club. Here, we honor the late Shangri-Las frontwoman Mary Weiss by looking at their lone No. 1 as a group: the spellbinding tragi-pop classic “Leader of the Park.”



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By the time “Leader of the Pack” hit No. 1 in late 1964, the first golden age of girl-group pop was already nearing its end. Groups like The Shirelles, The Angels and The Orlons had seen the hits dry up, while super-producer Phil Spector — who had set much of the sonic and structural template for the era with outfits like The Crystals and The Ronettes — was enjoying his final hits with the latter trio before turning his attention to The Righteous Brothers and Ike & Tina Turner. The Supremes would dominate throughout the ’60s, and their Motown labelmates Martha & The Vandellas and The Marvelettes were able to successfully evolve their sound to the changing era, but they were increasingly the exceptions to the rule. The Beatles were in the midst of modernizing the music world, scoring six Hot 100-toppers in ’64 alone, and the Brill Building pop production model that powered most of the girl group era suddenly didn’t seem quite so fresh.

What was fresh, though, was The Shangri-Las. Making their name with a street-tougher image and more emotionally complex songs than the glammed-out girl groups of the early decade, the quartet fit in just fine with the British-invaded pop world of the mid-’60s — touring with rock…

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