I know, I know. Posts about Spotify being stupid are ten a penny online. But dammit, I’m allowed one of them.
Let’s take a look, then, at Spotify’s “This Is The Shangri-Las”, described as “The essential tracks, all in one playlist.” When it comes to the Shangri-Las, this should not be a difficult thing to make, considering they were only active for such a short time; all their actual records were released between 1963 and 1967. Not even Spotify can screw this up, right?
Hmmmmmm. Even the most casual Shangri-Las fan will see a few things wrong there. Let’s take them one by one.
Monster Mash Re-Recording (150 Rock ‘N’ Roll Classics)
Oh, could it be true? Please say it’s true. Please tell me the Shangri-Las recorded a version of Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash”. That might possibly be the best thing which has ever existed in the entire world.
Well, no. Of course they bloody didn’t. To add insult to injury, this isn’t even the original recording. How this ever got labelled as a Shangri-Las track is a mystery.
Duchess of Earl (Boys Can Be Mean)
Absolutely nothing to do with the Shangs – this is the Pearlettes from 1962, with their cover of Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl”.
Oddly, Spotify has the song credited to the Pearlettes and the Shangs, so some metadata has got confused somewhere. Why Spotify felt the need to grab a song from a compilation CD when there’s plenty of Shangs-specific albums on the service is also a mystery. That just seems designed to lead to this kind of confusion.
He’s So Fine (Leader of the Pack)
This one is particularly strange. No, the song is nothing to do with the Shangs – this is The Chiffons from 1963. But things get strange when we check where the song has come from.
It’s another compilation album, called “Leader of the Pack” from 2011, which is most certainly not the original Shangri-Las album from 1965. It contains 14 songs which are actually by the Shangs… and this single one which isn’t. So a) bad luck Spotify, you played the odds and lost, and b) I find it difficult to believe that 2011 album is a legitimate release. It probably shouldn’t even be on Spotify at all.
Little Bell (Boys Can Be Mean)
From the same compilation album as “Duchess of Earl” comes “Little Bell”, which of course was not the Shangs, but their Red Bird labelmate The Dixie Cups.
Again, the metadata on this credits The Shangri-Las and The Dixie Cups, but at least I can see where the confusion comes from this time. This almost certainly stems from the 1986 compilation album The Dixie Cups Meet The Shangri-Las. (Needless to say, that album is just a bunch of hits from both groups, rather than anything more interesting.)
* * *
So, my question is: how are Spotify’s “This Is…” playlists put together? Are they curated by actual people, or is this just an algorithm going rogue because of incorrect metadata? For the answer, let’s take a look at Spotify’s guide to playlists; the relevant section for us is “Editorial – Made by us”:
“We handcraft thousands of editorial playlists. You can tell it’s one of ours by that little Spotify logo on the top left corner.
Our Editorial team is made up of genre, lifestyle, and culture specialists from around the globe. Their understanding of the right music for every moment is based on years of experience and careful consideration of listening habits.
We also personalize some of these playlists so they have different tracks for different listeners, because we know everyone’s taste is different. Therefore, a playlist with sing-along hits can have songs each listener would know the words to!”
So reading between the lines, the “This Is…” playlists are mainly a real person making them, and an algorithm doing some tweaks. Let’s hope the four tracks above weren’t added by Spotify’s Editorial team; you would think that a team of specialists would at least be able to figure out whether a track for a Shangri-Las playlist was actually by the Shangri-Las or not.
Of course mistakes happen. If it had just been one wrong track, I would have rolled my eyes and ignored it. But I would suggest that four incorrect entires – on a playlist of just 21 tracks – is taking the piss. A full 20% of the playlist is entirely wrong. And worst of all, “Sophisticated Boom Boom” isn’t even there. Come on. This is not the carefully curated playlist Spotify claims it is.
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.
Picture the scene. It’s the early 90s, and a tech op working for a commercial radio station (who shall remain nameless) has the joy of playing out Savile’s Travels to the eager listeners at home. Come out of the news, play a jingle, start the tape, listen to the output, and insert the local ads every so often. Job done.
Unfortunately, this means that this poor guy had to listen to hours upon hours of Jimmy Savile. And it didn’t take him long to realise a lot of the stuff a certain Mr. Savile said was… something fairly akin to gibberish. So when a new digital sampler arrived at the station, he decided to relieve his boredom and have some fun. The result is the most entertaining Jimmy Savile ever was in his entire career. Over 25 years later, perhaps this piece of audio only intended to internal hijinks deserves a wider audience.
Be warned, though. This does actually contain an awful lot of Jimmy Savile.
You may think the above was compiled from many different episodes of Savile’s Travels. I should leave you with one final fact, then: I’m afraid all the samples used come from a single episode of the programme.
Back in 2010 – long before this bugger was released – I created an I’m Alan Partridge soundtrack album. It featured not only songs from the show, but also clips and jingles and a few surprises, hopefully all mixed together in something approaching a fun way. It’s by far the best thing I’ve done on this site, and it’s been a slow inexorable decline ever since.
Originally it was hosted by MediaFire, until it got booted off for copyright infringement. Then it was hosted on my Dropbox, where amazingly it managed to survive until very recently. But with the latest disabling of all Dropbox public folders, it managed to fall offline yet again. So I thought it was about time I uploaded it somewhere legal rather than trying my luck once more.
Now, I really must get round to making that Maid Marian and Her Merry Men album…
Years ago, I created – along with Jeffrey Lee – a website about two of my favourite RISC OS games, Asylum and Oddball. (I did the design and some of the writing for the site, and Jeffrey did all the ACTUAL WORK involving the software.) Both games were loads of fun – but to get them running these days, you either have to have a RISC OS machine, get a RISC OS emulator up and running, or mess around with an SDL version. One thing that doesn’t need any setting up however, is listening to the fantastic music from Asylum.
So: do you have any favourite lesser-known music from games – from obscure tracks from famous releases, right through to something which once sold four copies in 1982? I’d love to put together a mix of them, similar to my BBC Micro TV themes mix from last year. Add ’em below, or send a tweet across. Any platform, any genre, any year. GO.
Every so often, a DVD release gives you a lovely surprise. Sometimes, that surprise may be quickly skipped, with most people not even noticing it.
Take, for instance, Blackadder II – and specifically, the opening title music:
Delightfully, the DVD menu of The Complete Blackadder has a clean, extended version used for the main menu of the Blackadder II disc, giving you a good 15 seconds or so extra. Anyone want to have a listen? Of course you do.
AWESOME EXTRA ELECTRIC GUITAR NONSENSE. Somebody, somewhere, went to the effort of tracking down Howard Goodall’s original recording, rather than just lazily ripping it from one of the episodes. Whoever you are: I love you.
(Incidentally, the Blackadder Remastered boxset does not have the extended version of the theme – just a slightly awkward looped version, with sound effects clearly indicating it was ripped from the episode Beer. One of many, many sloppy things about that boxset, but don’t get me started on that one.)
So, my question: anyone got any other examples of extended versions of music only showing up in the DVD menus of film or television releases?
A thought crossed my mind the other day. (This is quite rare, so savour it.) When talking about favourite telly theme tunes, people often mention ones from the 90s and earlier. Which is eminently understandable – apart from any perceptions about quality, television is less and less likely to give programmes time to have a decent theme tune these days.
Still, it’s not like they don’t exist. So, as a celebration of great theme tunes post-2000, I asked the Twitter hive mind for their opinions. Their thoughts follow; before I carry on with the next stage of my little plan, are any of your favourite 21st century theme tunes missing? Let me know below…
Update (26/01/11): Loads more of your suggestions added! Update (31/01/11): More suggestions added!