Only two of their singles made the UK charts although one of them did so on three completely separate occasions. They did better in America, where they had eleven hits, three of which made the top ten. But unlike some of their contemporaries, their B-sides and album tracks are also fascinating with very few covers (although the impressive He cried is a cover of She cried by Jay and the Americans). George Morton, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich between them wrote many of their songs including all the famous hits.
Their most famous song, Leader of the pack, made it to number one in America. It stalled just outside the top ten in Britain, possibly hampered by the success of another motorcycle death song (Terry by Twinkle), which made the UK top five just before Leader of the pack was released in Britain. Re-released in 1972, the song made the UK top three. In 1976, it again made the UK top ten.
The only other Shangri-Las track to make the UK charts is Remember walking in the sand, which was a UK top twenty hit. It made the top five in America but the liner notes give a wonderful description of a seven-minute demo version featuring (maybe) a young Billy Joel on piano. Sadly, that demo version is not included on the compilation.
Of their other American hits, I can never go home anymore made the top ten, Give him a great big kiss made the top twenty, Give us your blessings made the top thirty and Long live our love made the top forty. Four minor hits (Maybe, Right now and not later, He cried, Past present and future) complete their American chart statistics, although they bubbled under with Sweet sounds of summer (not included here) after they switched record labels following the demise of Red Bird, the label on which all their classic recordings were released.
Notable B-sides include Paradise (written by Nilsson for the Ronettes), Train from Kansas City, Heaven only knows, Sophisticated boom boom and Dressed in black. Among their best album tracks are What's a girl supposed to do (also recorded by Lesley Gore), Never again and Sophisticated boom boom.
All those tracks and plenty of others can be found on this magnificent compilation, which even includes some commercials and public notices that you might think would be best avoided. Not so - even these are great performed by the Shangri-Las. (Amazon)trax: