FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Way It Felt the First Time

People say that music is meant to capture a moment in time. That a record is just that, the record of an event. I’d have to argue that this works in both directions. I’ve got vivid memories of the first time I heard most of the albums on my Top Ten. Like listening to my beat-up cassette copy of Sly Stone’s masterpiece There’s a Riot Going On on a Walkman while hiding from the math teacher I just couldn’t stomach. Or the noise that the wheels on my skateboard made as they accompanied Joe Strummer yelling “London is burning, and I live by the river!” on the title track of London Calling. The memories of these “first times” are as much a part of the album as the music itself.

One of these Proust-like records is a collection of songs off of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller’s label, Red Bird. It’s a grab-bag of all of those great girl groups, like the Jelly Beans, or the Dixie Cups, but the best tracks of all were the ones by the Shangri-Las. After listening to Punk and Metal for the majority of my adolescence these heartfelt, painfully innocent songs felt like finding a taste bud I never knew I had.

Most of the songs by the Shangri-Las were closer to jump rope rhymes than conventional pop songs. Four or five girls who were at the tail end of their teens got together in the studio under the supervision of Leiber & Stoller (two of Phil Spector’s disciples) and laid down tunes just like the conversations that they would have with their girlfriends in the halls of their high school.

The lyrics are inarticulate in a way that speaks volumes–as in “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” where Mary Weiss tries to describe her new boyfriend. The rest of the Shangri Las ask how tall he is and she responds: “I gotta look up”.  When her friends pry further by asking her to describe the color of his eyes, she says “I dunno he’s always wearing shades.” Anyone who never talked like that in their teens probably didn’t fit in very well at all.

The emotion that these songs capture most vividly is that feeling after the first break-up. In “Past, Present, and Future” Weiss softly whispers about what she’s going through as a grand piano and a string section gush violently. When the drums kick into an urgent waltz she says that she’ll never love again, that she won’t touch a man for the rest of her life. Her squeaky, far-too-worldly voice literally oozes with tragedy.

Most people can’t help but find this over-dramatic. It seems juvenile to spend so much time worrying about a high school sweetheart. Lord knows that everyone has gone through this age in their life and these things that seem so earth-shattering lose some of their importance over the years. Memories that hurt so bad back then don’t seem quite so painful nowadays, but growing up shouldn’t belittle or trivialize those adolescent feelings. Mary Weiss wasn’t emoting for emotion’s sake; she was trying to describe pain, the way it feels for the first time.

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail