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I Can Never Go Home Anymore - The Shangri-Las

I looked up the definition of the word "schlock" on-line and for the most part found negative meanings such as "cheap", "inferior" or "of low quality", but for me it means almost the opposite as: "intentionally cheap and bad taste in appearance to make an artistic, social or ironic point".

A high proportion of the Shangri-Las classic songs feature talking vocals by Mary Weiss and the others sometimes all the way through, but usually in part. No other similarly successful act in pop music used the talking vocal as much as the Shangri-Las.

In the UK, the group had only two hits whereas in the US they had three in the Top Ten alone and a further eight entries in the Hot 100. The UK definitely didn't go for the Shangri-Las' classic talkie hits such as the wonderful "Past, Present and Future". The group's biggest sellers in both the UK and the US were "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" but their other US Top Ten hit was "I Can Never Go Home Anymore", as tacky a melodrama as you will ever hear this side of the Land of Oz. In a world where us Brits often suggest that Americans "don't get irony", this is a surprise.

The Plot: Girl A says her mother's driving her crazy and she's going to run away from home. Girl B (Mary Weiss) tells Girl A not to, says she left home herself because she was in love, her mother told her to give the boy up, said she'd get over it, so she left home. Her mother died of loneliness, her boyfriend by now long gone, and all she has left is regret and guilt.

Ninety-five percent talkie, as tragic as "Titanic", as heartrending as "Love Story", as dramatic as "Also Sprach Zarathustra", "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" is a schlock masterpiece packed into only 3 minutes and 15 seconds. It shows producer and songwriter Shadow Morton at his very best but it is the extraordinary, assured vocal by Mary Weiss that carries the song, right from the moment of her urgent interruption:

Girl A (Betty Weiss?): "I'm gonna hide

if she don't leave me alone,

I'm gonna run away"

Girl B: (Mary Weiss) "Don't!

-'cause you can never go home anymore...."

to her despairing final soliloquy. The fact that Mary Weiss can iterate lines like

"....listen, I'm not finished.

Do you ever get that feeling

you wanna kiss and hug her?

Do it now, tell her you love her -

don't do to your mom what I did to mine -

She grew so lonely and in the end

angels picked her for a friend (never)

and I can never go home (never) anymore

and that's called "sad"."

and make them pathetically moving, investing them with a genuine sense of tragedy is a tribute to her astonishingly mature vocal delivery. You need real talent and understanding to transcend tacky lines this, to turn them into a mini  reverse "Romeo and Juliet", where the tragic victim of the young love is Juliet's mother.

We should be laughing, but Mary's despairing cry of "Mama!" in the middle eight puts paid any thought of that, and leaves us blinking back the tears.

Now you know what I mean by "schlock". And Mary Weiss was the queen of it.

And that's called "good".


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