Mary Weiss, along with her sister Betty and the Ganser twins, led the girl group that best embodied the rebellion and adolescent melodramas of the mid-60s. In just 4 years of experience and under the tutelage of producer George “Shadow” Morton, they defined a extremely personal style, they achieved a small collection of hits and became a benchmark for rock’n’roll, punk rock and new wave.
Although they only managed to get a number 1 on the music charts, their legacy has survived to this day, especially after the death of Mary Weiss a few days ago. Precisely that song that became number 1, had an unusual backup singer: a motorcycle.
Legend has it that for this song, titled “Leader of the Pack” and released in 1964, producer George “Shadow” Morton decided to put a Harley in the Sonic Sound recording studio itself, located on the second floor of a hotel. Because of this they received a fine.
However, in an interview four decades later, Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss said that the motorcycle sound was taken from an effects record. Zombies drummer Hugh Grundy remembers revving a motorcycle backstage when the Shangri-Las performed on a U.S. tour. Clearly, when we listen to the song the sound does not sound like a Harley, but rather a single-cylinder or at most a twin-cylinder. To the question of whether Japanese or British, there is no clear answer.
So in the previous video you can see how a motorcycle appears in the middle of the stage, Japanese in this case (possibly a Honda C110), to precisely give substance to the tragic story that the song itself tells. A song of love and also of loss of a loved one.
We are talking about a girl named Betty, who is asked by her friends to confirm that she is dating Jimmy, the leader of a motorcycle gang. After singing about love at first sight (“I met him in the candy store/He turned and smiled at me/Do you get the idea?/That’s when I fell in love with the leader of the gang”), Betty’s heart breaks. when she laments her parents’ disapproval.
The parents claim that Jimmy comes from the “wrong side of town” and ask Betty to say goodbye to Jimmy and find someone new. Betty does as she is told and Jimmy speeds off on his motorcycle in pain. Moments later, he crashes and dies. Betty’s pleas for Jimmy to slow down are in vain.
Nowadays, the motorcycles that appear in songs have a very different use, unfortunately.