The “teen death songs” genre that was bizarrely popular during the early 1960’s
In 1964, with their “teen death song”, the vocal band The Shangri-Las went No.1 “Leader Of The Pack”
Written by George “Shadow” Morton, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, “Leader Of The Pack” was released in 1964 by The Shangri-Las as part of the “teen death songs” genre that was bizarrely popular during the early 1960’s. 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 is about a girl named Betty, who is asked by friends to confirm that she is dating Jimmy, the leader of a motorcycle gang, whose ring they see on Betty’s finger. After singing of love at first sight (“(By the way, where’d you meet him?) I met him at the candy store/He turned around and smiled at me/You get the picture?/(Yes, we see) That’s when I fell for the Leader of the Pack”), Betty’s heart turns to despair as she bemoans her parents’ disapproval. The parents claim Jimmy hails from “the wrong side of town” and ask Betty to tell Jimmy goodbye and find someone new. Betty reluctantly does as she is asked, and a crushed and tearful Jimmy speeds off on his motorcycle. Moments later, Betty’s pleas for Jimmy to slow down are in vain as Jimmy crashes on a rain-slicked surface and dies. 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. 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.
Look back at The Shangri-Las performing “Leader Of The Pack” on TV in 1964
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