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The Boy - the Shangri-Las

The Shangri-Las weren't just Mary Weiss and her backing singers, they weren't just producer Shadow Morton's girl group vehicle, they were a true group. While Mary Weiss was the lead singer, Marge Ganser was the leader of the group, and the most outgoing, her identical twin sister Mary Ann was "the quiet one"; Mary's older sister Betty, the most senior of the four and the original lead singer, had to leave the group in in 1964 to have a baby. She returned in 1965. In 1966 Mary Anne left only to return in 1967 to replace departing sister Marge.

This confusion added to the group's mystique: two pairs of sisters, each singer looking like her sister; sometimes there were four of them, sometimes three, but which three?

To add to the confusion, Betty took lead vocals on some of their releases, mostly "B" sides and album tracks, sounding like a softer, more innocent version of her sister, like Mary on a good day even, or at least on a not quite so bad day.

"The Boy", another of those best "B" Sides ever, the flip of "Out in the Streets" (see ) and written by producer Shadow Morton, was Betty Weiss's finest hour. Unusually for Shadow Morton, there's virtually no production, so it sounds like the 6th form band doing first slow dance at the High School prom, just rudimentary chords on an upright piano leading in, assorted backing sisters clustered around one mic, drums and rhythm guitar joining them twenty bars in:

"His eyes are the eyes of a boy growing old.

Deep down inside, there's a story untold.

He's sad, then he laughs a while,

he looks at me, and then he smiles,

I'm in love,

I'm in love with that boy."

Then classic talking lines, as is often the case when Mary is singing, but this is Betty and she infuses them with first love sweetness, romantic teen cliché and even a clumsy metaphor:

" 'Til I met him, I never thought

that love could feel this way.

My nights were filled with lonely dreams

that grew worse with each passing day.

I used to walk the streets at night

with really no place to go

but loneliness is a part of my past -

a million tears ago."

The lyric speaks of love with the poetic banality of the young and naïve, as does Betty's higher, ecstatic register in the song's climax, awaking memories of that long-ago feeling, the youthful purity of just being in the company of the object of your affection, with none of the hard-ass knowingness of her little sister. The Shangri-Las, tender and vulnerable, not doing what they're most famous for, and doing it well. The swaying, hip-swinging, summer garden beauty of Betty's sign-off "Oh-oh-woh-oh, I'm in love" is maybe what we're all here on earth for.

"When I stand by his side, my heart's full of pride.

I look up at his face and I know,

among giants, he'll hold his place,

so proud, so bold,

so strong and I belong,

do you think that people are being fair

'cause they don't need to get you there?

But I don't care what people say -

my love will grow stronger with each passing day,

Oh-oh-woh-oh, I'm in love,...."

Mary Ann Ganser died in 1970 from encephalitis, her sister Marge from breast cancer in 1996, and, as per previous posts, lead singer Mary Weiss last January 19th, two months ago. Only Betty is still with us, the last surviving member of one of the greatest and most distinctive of all the girl groups.

Oh-oh-woh-oh, I'm in love,

Oh-oh-woh-oh, I'm in love,




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