Thursday, May 17, 2007
When I Say I'm in Luv, You Best Believe I'm in Luv L-U-V
I know three bands that have prefaced a song with the line that titles this article: The Nation of Ulysses, The New York Dolls and The Shangri Las. The importance and influence of the latter on American rock n roll perpetuates to this day. Most importantly, their aesthetic informed the Ramones directly as an example of the alternative to the bloated mid 70s rock acts that dominated the scene. Mary Weiss was only 14 when the Shangri Las started recording around 1963, which puts her about the same age and generation as Fred Cole (who recorded the single "Poverty Shack" that year as Deep Soul Cole when he was 14). This trend of young performers resulted from the growing marketability of the teenagers with disposable incomes. After all, the teenager had only been invented as an age group about a decade before. Relatable icons gave consumers a direct relationship with the performers, and once the Beatles exploded in 1963, promoters grasped at the chance to exploit these trends.
The Shangri Las oozed with the sexuality of the young Mary Weiss's voice. Regardless of age, those recordings captured her powerful yet sultry voice while allowing the instrumentation to fully manifest the atmosphere behind the tunes. Leaving behind the seeds of influence and legend, The Shangri Las broke up in the mid 60s and Mary Weiss disappeared off the face of the planet. I accepted the recordings I found and assumed that nothing new would spew from this lineage. The news of a Mary Weiss album forty years later blindsided anyone the least bit interested in the history of rock n roll. With the deaths of Arthur Lee and Syd Barrett still lodged in recent memory, a new record from an infamous legend of the 1960s poured down our throats to welcoming bellies.
Norton Records released Dangerous Game by Mary Weiss earlier this year. Greg Cartwright, a garage rock legend in his own right, and his band the Reigning Sound provided the penmanship and backing of this album and subsequent tour. Overall, the recordings once again capture the essence of Mary Weiss on wax while not attempting to emulate the Shangri Las style of music. This album completes the circle of influence as some of the songs reiterate the legacy of the Ramones with Mary's powerful voice filling in perfectly. Joey Ramone wet dream aside, this album succeeds as a complete expression and return of a legend. Mary Weiss's voice remains drenched in mature vs childish sexual energy that defies age as it did when she was 14. We expect art created by our elders to be safe and cleaned up because they somehow lose the vulgarity of youth somewhere along the path to adulthood. Alternatively, this album is called Dangerous Game for a reason. Mary Weiss maintains an aura of danger regardless of how many years have passed since she was born. She is still dangerous and still sings with conviction and power that will convert any strays back to the flock of rock n roll.