In July of 2017, Jeremy Ferris made a zine about the Shangri-Las called "..And That's Called Bad". Here's what I wrote for it.


The Shangri-Las are named after a fictional location that has come to define utopia- the land beyond the titular horizon of James Hilton's popular novel "Lost Horizon". It's a permanently happy land, free of trouble and woe, where people live peacefully in concert with nature.

The name seems ironic when applied to the band- in an era of great turmoil (the American 1960s) the Shangri-Las were one of the most tumultuous and turbid groups on the radio. Other groups sang about love and romance- the Shangri-Las sang about these things, but the romance was frequently fatal. And in more than one occasion, you heard the fatality, the screeching tires, the screams. Other groups sang about falling in love as teetering over a great height. With the Shangri-Las, you heard and felt the fall, with wind rushing past your face as the ground rushes up without end. It seems like the opposite of pleasant.

But any irony seems impossible or unimaginable with the Shangri-Las! Theirs is a world of things very much being as they are- a date is a date, an embrace is an embrace. Love is forever and when it's over, so is forever, forever. Other music of the era, the Supremes for instance, had the ironic distance that gives flirtation room to act. The Shangri-Las said simply "Give Him A Great Big Kiss". The Shirelles and Crystals had worries, and melancholy, and questions within their hearts. The Shangri-Las had actions, and decisions made heedless of consequence. At a sonic level, they were closer to the action than other music- when they sing about a train, you can hear the train. Other groups may tell you a story about something that happened, the Shangri-las pulled you through it in real time. At an emotional level, they dealt with pain and anguish, but without repentance. Thinking and feeling are fused in a consuming fire, active rather than passive. There's no irony because there's no room between thinking, feeling, and doing. The past, present, and future are pulled together and condensed into an infinitely hot and dense dot.

In this regard we can view the song-world of the Shangri-Las as existing in a sort of eternity, moving through time but with a sureness of purpose reserved for heroes and animals. Being pulled forth as along a swift moving river, in which hearing the song is the same as singing the song and living the song. It's in this legendary space, this endless present tense in which subject, object, and action are one, that their world can be thought of an indivisible paradise. Right now and not later.

--Jacob Khepler