♫ Leader Of The Pack ♫

Some of you were still chewing on table legs when this song came out in 1964, some of you weren’t even born yet.  But I bet that some of my readers will remember this one and perhaps grin just a bit.  Right John?  Keith?  David?  Larry?

This was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and producer Shadow Morton. Morton was looking for a follow-up to the first Shangri-Las’ hit, Remember (Walking in the Sand). He had a motorcycle and was part of a motorcycle gang in his youth, so he, Greenwich and Barry decided to use that as the theme. Together, they came up with the rather dramatic story, being sure to name the characters in the lyric (Betty and Johnny) so the listener could form an attachment. A hallmark of the song is the spoken dialogue that sets up the story.

Now here’s something I bet you didn’t know … guess who the piano player was?  No, I’m not telling until you take at least one guess.  It was a young Billy Joel!  Maybe.  According to Joel …

“I know I played piano on a session. The girls themselves weren’t at the session, but that kinda happens all the time, the singers come in later. I played note for note what is on the record, but I wasn’t in the musician’s union – I was about 14 or 15 – so for all I know they may have got a union guy in to do it later. I never got paid, never got a form to show it was me on the record, so I can’t say for sure it’s me, but I like to think it was. Actually, it was my very first recording session – a guitar player friend got me in. I also did ‘Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)’.  The producer, Shadow Morton, was a strange guy. He had a very theatrical way of producing, he used to wear a cape in the studio. I don’t know if he’d been taking any intoxicating substances – what did I know at that age? – but he was very intimidating to a young kid like me. I just kept my head down hoping no one would find out I wasn’t in the union, but I never got paid, so maybe someone squealed on me.”

According to Jeff Barry, they used a real motorcycle for the sound of the revving engine. Shadow Morton sometimes talked about how they wheeled the motorcycle into the studio to record it, but Barry explained that they attached a microphone to a long cable and recorded it on the street outside the New York City studio (Mirasound Studios on 47th Street). The bike was a Harley Davidson owned by Barry’s engineer, Joe Venneri. Fortunately, Venneri’s Harley was not used to create the crashing sound – that was a sound effect.

Later in 1964, the producers Ron Dante (Sugar, Sugar), Tommy Wynn and Danny Jordan released a parody of this song called “Leader Of The Laundromat,” which they issued under the name The Detergents. In that song, a guy falls for a girl in a laundromat, and it doesn’t end well. This parody went to #19 in the US.

In the UK, this charted three times: first at #11 when it was initially released, then at #3 with a 1972 re-release, followed by a 1976 re-release at #7.  This song has been covered by a wide range of artists, including Twisted Sister, The Chipmunks, and Bette Midler.   An odd bunch, for sure!  I actually listened to the Chipmunks’ version and nearly choked on my tortilla chip laughing!  Ah well …

Leader of the Pack
The Shangri-Las

Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let’s ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing?
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
By the way, where’d you meet him?

I met him at the candy store
He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture? (yes, we see)
That’s when I fell for (the leader of the pack)

My folks were always putting him down (down, down)
They said he came from the wrong side of town
(whatcha mean when ya say that he came from the wrong side of town?)
They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad
That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)

One day my dad said, “Find someone new”
I had to tell my Jimmy we’re through
(whatcha mean when ya say that ya better go find somebody new?)
He stood there and asked me why
But all I could do was cry
I’m sorry I hurt you (the leader of the pack)

He sort of smiled and kissed me goodbye
The tears were beginning to show
As he drove away on that rainy night
I begged him to go slow
But whether he heard, I’ll never know

Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out!
I felt so helpless, what could I do?
Remembering all the things we’d been through
In school they all stop and stare
I can’t hide the tears, but I don’t care
I’ll never forget him (the leader of the pack)

The leader of the pack – now he’s gone
The leader of the pack – now he’s gone
The leader of the pack – now he’s gone
The leader of the pack – now he’s gone

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Jeff Barry / Ellie Greenwich / George Morton
Leader of the Pack lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Carlin America Inc

35 thoughts on “♫ Leader Of The Pack ♫

  1. Pingback: ♫ Leader Of The Pack ♫ | The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

  2. Hard to believe in those days the BBC and various Members of Parliament were huffin’ an’ puffin’ about ‘death’ themes in pop songs, when characters were falling down like flies in Opera (being play all the time on the ‘serious music programmes)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m crushed. You didn’t think of me when you wrote your readers who would remember it. I remember, cuz the first time I ever heard it, I asked the group I was with at the time, “Really, Jimmy was in a candy store? Musta been robbing it, eh!” I still think that’s what he was doing. No righteous motorcycle gang leader would be caught dead in a candy store. A liquor store, now that would be a different story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh but I DID think of you, and somehow didn’t think you would have liked this one much! And anyway, I just tossed out a few names, not a comprehensive list! As for Jimmy being in a candy store, I think it makes perfect sense. He may have been buying some mints to hide the alcohol on his breath, or he may have been stocking up for when he got the munchies from smoking weed! See?


      • Weed smoking by white folk was just on the verge of becoming popular, so no hiding skunk breath. Possibly tobacco breath, but I doubt his parents cared since he was already a leader of an MC. No, no way he would have gone to a “candy store.” Nor would he have accepted her parents’ demand. He was a rebel, rebels don’t wait in line…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. An epic classic! Was that Bob Hope on the moto? Just epic, did you know that Dave Vanian, lead singer of the Damned wrote an homage to the Shangri-Las. They titled it ‘New Rose’ and it also starts off with, ‘Is she really going out with him?”
    I luv how the classics endure, and they influence the evolution of music in so many creative interesting ways. ❤
    Keep up the great music, ur on a roll! PArty on Jill 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yes, I do remember Leader of the Pack. I was a senior in college and thought the song was laugh out loud funny. I worked at a radio station and while it was playing I imagined all the freshmen in high school loving it. You know the angst of growing up and the thought of losing one’s love. Also the subtle father influence. All dads disliked all the boys who came around when the kids were young. The other thing was the way Johnny took off in a fit of anger at being rejected. How many layers of rubber were laid down in the same situation? It was a perfect fit for hormone-fueled adolescents.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ahhhh … so this was in your DJ days, eh? I was an obnoxious 13-year-old who thought she knew the best way in everything. Yeah, all the guys were into it in a big way … and a few years later they were sent to a jungle 8,500 miles away and they learned what it really meant to be a “leader of the pack”. Heh heh … my dad immediately disliked anyone of the opposite sex under 50 who came calling! Ahhhh, the memories we have, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

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