The Shangri-Las’ Influence on Punk

The Shangri-Las’ Influence on Punk

The Shangri-Las were one of the common musical denominators that Blondie shared, and Clem Burke explained the Shangri-La’s proto-punk appeal: “They had their black leather vests and their tight black leather pants, and they sang ‘Give Him a Great Big Kiss.’ They sang about dirty fingernails, wavy hair, and leather jackets, and things like that.” The Shangri-Las cast a long shadow over glam and punk rock. The New York Dolls’ “Looking for a Kiss” borrowed the spoken word intro from their “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” and another Dolls song, “Trash,” copped the campy “How do you call your lover boy?” line from “Love Is Strange,” a catchy 1956 hit by Mickey & Sylvia. The group’s final album, Too Much Too Soon, was produced by Shadow Morton, who had crafted the girl group classics “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” for the Shangri-Las. As Burke recalled, “Bubblegum rock was part of the roots of the New York music scene. Some of the old-school guys like Richard Gottehrer or Marty Thau—who had some money and success in pop music—they understood the music because they were coming from that Brill Building mentality.” Thau was the New York Dolls’ first manager before McLaren took the job, and he had previously made a living as a record promoter for late 1960s bubblegum groups the 1910 Fruitgum Company (“Simon Says”) and the Ohio Express (“Yummy Yummy Yummy”). Thau recorded the Ramones’ first demos and released Suicide’s debut album on his independent label Red Star, and also formed the production company Instant Records with the old-school industry hit maker Richard Gottehrer. “Richie was part of that whole Brill Building rock thing,” Leon said, “which had a lot of nostalgia for us because we grew up with it on the radio when we were kids.”

From Chapter 33 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Brill Building
1619 Broadway, New York, NY 10019