Lana of the Pack: Lana Del Rey, The Shangri-Las and Girl Groups

“Lust for Life” may quote The Angels‘ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” . . .

. . . but Lana Del Rey clarifies that it’s actually an homage to The Shangri-Las, the “good bad, but not evil” girl group:

But then I was feeling like it was missing a little bit of the Shangri-Las element, so I went back for a fourth time and layered it up with harmonies. Now I’m finally happy with it.

“Lust for Life” does open with the revving motorcycle sound effect from “Leader of the Pack”:

Del Rey was also thinking of The Shangri-Las when she released “Love” as the first single of her upcoming album:

I’m glad it’s the first thing out. It doesn’t sound that retro, but I was listening to a lot of Shangri-Las and wanted to go back to a bigger, more mid-tempo, single-y sound.

“Love” sounds a lot more like early Springsteen to me (whom Del Rey referred to as the King in an earlier song, “American”), but given the huge influence Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production had on the Boss, that just makes it the girl group sound once removed.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson is also a huge fan of Spector’s, declaring The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” “the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one”:

Wilson still remembers the first time he heard it:

I was driving and I had to pull over to the side of the road — it blew my mind. It was a shock.

I started analyzing all the guitars, pianos, bass, drums and percussion. Once I got all those learned, I knew how to produce records.

I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song and I never did. I’ve stopped trying.

His first attempt to match his idol was an answer song, “Don’t Worry Baby”:

As Ronnie Spector herself explains:

“Don’t Worry Baby” was supposed to be the follow-up to “Be My Baby.” I mean, Brian Wilson actually went home after hearing “Be My Baby” and wrote “Don’t Worry Baby” for me. And, of course, he didn’t get a chance to give it to me, because in those days Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich were writing my songs, and they didn’t want anything to do with other people. So that’s why I didn’t do it.

Thirty-five years later, Ronnie Spector finally did record the song, . . .

. . . which apparently came as a big surprise to Brian Wilson:

Guess he doesn’t keep up with the Kill Rock Stars label (where the EP is still available, ebay sellers’ claims of its being OOP to justify inflated prices aside).

Lana Del Rey quoted the title of “Don’t Worry Baby” in “Love.”

Of course, this is not her first foray into girl group songs. In the title song of Ultraviolence, . . .

. . . she notoriously referenced The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss),”* . . .

. . . which was also covered by Hole, featuring Courtney Love, . . .

. . . who has toured with Lana Del Rey and recently engaged in a mutual admiration interview with her for Dazed magazine.


* It is often mentioned that Carole King wrote the song. True enough as far as it goes, but King mostly just wrote the music in her songwriting partnership with her then-husband Gerry Goffin, who wrote most of the lyrics of their many, many classic songs, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.”

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