The Shangri-Las are not good for my brain.
Oh, God, the songs are. But the thing about the Shangs is that so much about them can’t be nailed down. They are fuelled by myth and mystery. For every story told, there’s another one which contradicts it. Which, I know, can have its own rewards. But romance be damned, sometimes I just want to know the facts about something. And facts and the Shangri-Las often don’t seem to go together.
For instance: the fabled seven minute version of ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’, recorded as a demo. The recording Billy Joel apparently played piano on. Which despite being oft-talked about, has never been released. Who knows if it even exists any more?
Still, occasionally, things slip through the cracks. Like the following YouTube video, uploaded in 2016 with very little in the way of explanation or context:
There are many joys in this three minute section. Studio chatter (“You’re forcing it, you’re really overdoing it…”), rehearsals for ‘Remember’, and an entirely different version of the opening to ‘Leader of the Pack’. But for me, the most fascinating thing about it is the opening few seconds. A song which initially sounds like something which has never been released… and then, eight seconds in, turns into something which sounds exactly like ‘Remember’, but with entirely different lyrics!
“…sells bright shining lights
Angry young girl had her boy hold her tight
But not me
I don’t have
Pretty dresses to wear
And I don’t have
Any ribbons for my hair
But I can…”
So, my question: what the hell is this?
Could it be a short part of that fabled seven minute demo? Perhaps, but those lyrics above don’t seem to relate to anything about the song as we know it. Could it be an entirely different song? Maybe, but I can’t imagine producer Shadow Morton pulling a Whigfield and planning to make their follow-up sound that similar to their first hit. Is it just them messing around with alternate versions of ‘Remember’? Who knows?
I have no answers, and the person who uploaded the video isn’t talking. But we do have yet another mystery to add to the Shangs’ mystique. Every single time you poke at their work, new questions appear. Which is delightful and infuriating in equal measure.
But I’ll tell you one thing. The line “Angry young girl had her boy hold her tight” is massively on-brand for the Shangri-Las.