Wasn’t gonna post again for a couple days (and that Charlie Brown post was supposed to sit in the cooler for a couple). But events overtake me, as sometimes they do.
Wikipedia reports the death of George “Shadow” Morton, the songwriter and producer best known for his work with girl group the Shangri-Las.
“Leader of the Pack”? “Remember (Walking In The Sand)”? Yeah, those were his.
I have never cared much for girl groups — in fact, I aggressively dislike most of them. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t look very kindly upon most pre-Beatlemania pop music, with a few exceptions (Chuck Berry and Sun Records-era Elvis come to mind.)
So, to me, Shadow Morton’s contributions to the music world rest chiefly with two forays into the rock n’ roll business.
In 1974, Morton produced “Too Much Too Soon,” the second and last album by the original New York Dolls. The Dolls were pretty much running on fumes at that point, too strung-out to write new tunes.
As a result, the album doesn’t have much to say for itself, though that wasn’t Morton’s fault.
He managed to wring a couple final moments of grunge out of the band — in particular “Babylon,” which I don’t think is about the town of the same name on Long Island.
Speaking of Long Guy Land, our man George lived there, as did an aspiring young rock band of the late Sixties that came to call itself Vanilla Fudge. When the band scored a major-label deal, Morton produced its first two albums.
I used to own a copy of the Fudge’s first album. I have come to regret trading it in, as it is probably the funniest album that was ever recorded with a straight face.
The band offered ham-handed, sludgy, horribly oversung readings of any and every cover song it could put its hands on.
In the case of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” that dramatically sobbed formula actually translated into a big hit single, whose popularity established the Fudge as headline performers for a year or two.
In the case of other songs, such as the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride,” the same formula … well, just hear for yourself.
The band also got the profound conceptual idea to weave instrumental nursery rhymes in between the songs on Side 2. I believe these interludes were labeled “Illusions of My Childhood, Parts 1, 2 and 3.”
Apparently they were prone to illusions as adults as well. Check it out:
I don’t know whether Shadow Morton encouraged the Fudge’s musical approach, or helped them develop it, or whether he just put mics up in front of their amps and had a smoke while they did their thing.
Still, just as the gaffer who worked on the “Sgt. Pepper’s” movie deserves a hat tip for his small contribution to a definitive ’70s train wreck, George “Shadow” Morton gets a shout-out for his work on a classic ’60s train wreck.
That album makes the Shangri-Las look like high art.