Monday, December 20, 2010

"I Can Never Go Home Anymore" (1965)

17. Shangri-Las, "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" (Nov. 20, 1965, #6)

The Shangri-Las, composed of two sets of sisters out of Queens, New York, who came across as perhaps just slightly more JD than anything in the Phil Spector stable, are probably best known and remembered for their biggest hit, 1964's "Leader of the Pack," a novelty that doesn't wear particularly well after 45+ years, even the camp flounce that can occasionally seem rather charming (e.g., "Yes, we see!"). A couple of others actually represent them much, much better: the sultry "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)," first, which is approximately 110% pure raw teen sex. And this overripe, entirely effective morality tale, all tarted up as a little opera compressed into just over three minutes. Packed to the gills with extravagant flourishes and asides, none miss their mark, and all hit very hard. The story is an eternal one, as bold in its strokes as it is simple: told in the first person, the girl loves the boy, the girl's mother forbids the love, the girl runs away, the mother takes sick and die. And now, [title]. The small points tell: the sheer dynamics that shuttle between soft and harsh. The hushed, urgent entreaty at the start: "Listen / Does this sound familiar?" The strings and backing vocals that layer through and swell like frosting in a slice of cake, continually counterpointing the narrative. The way the vocal dips toward the mic on, "I was sure I was right." The lullaby that comes from nowhere and drives the dagger home. The haunting cry of "Mama!" And the killing choke at the end. Those unprepared for the wallop here can find themselves taken apart by this song—it's happened to me. There's a case to be made that this is the finest moment of a good many ever for producer/songwriter Shadow Morton.

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