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Album: Leader of the PackReleased: 1964Charted:
This is a tale of young love, parental disapproval and death by motorbike. Mary Weiss, the lead vocalist of the Shangri-Las, said in Telegraph magazine, April 14, 2007, "I don't think I would be able to put feeling into the song unless I had really thought about the lyrics. I put a lot of my own pain into that song. I don't think teenage years are all that rosy for a lot of people-they certainly weren't for me. They are the most confusing time of people's lives and there is a tremendous dark side to the record, which I think teenagers related to. The studio was a great place to let the pain out."
She went on to comment: "I thought it was amusing when they (British radio and TV stations) banned Leader because of the mod and rocker stuff. When I got off the plane in my leather jacket everyone knew which side I was on."
The sound of the motorcycle is the engineer's Harley Davidson.
A young Billy Joel played the piano on this song - probably. He explained to Uncut in 1998: "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."
This was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and producer Shadow Morton.
The metal band Twisted Sister covered this song in 1985 on their album Come Out And Play
Later in 1964, The Detergents recorded a parody of this song called "Leader Of The Laundromat." The Detergents were Ron Dante ("Sugar, Sugar
"), Tommy Wynn and Danny Jordan.