“Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las

There were a surprisingly large number of melodramatic teenybopper songs about tragic deaths in the late Fifties and early Sixties, and none of them have aged particularly well, but this one seems to have held up better than the others—at any rate, it’s certainly the only one you still occasionally hear in a non-ironic context nowadays. It’s still melodramatic and goofy, but it’s far catchier than most of its peers, it isn’t as blatantly stupid as items like “Teen Angel” or “Running Bear”, it doesn’t have the air of smug detachment than singers like Dickey Lee brought to these kinds of songs, and its extreme lyrical dissonance actually sounds like it might have conceivably been done on purpose. More importantly, this particular song was, by songwriter Jim Steinman’s own admission, the direct inspiration for Meat Loaf’s unforgettable classic “Bat Out of Hell” almost two decades later, so clearly some good has come of this song’s existence.

Verdict: Okay, I guess, but mostly just by the standards of its genre (and the inspiration it provided to Steinman, obviously)

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