Artie Butler wrote a superb arrangement and Morton added revving motorcycles and a crash to the record. The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” was a US No 1 – and despite a ban from the BBC, it made the UK Top 20.
Morton made several other records with The Shangri-Las, including the lachrymose “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” and the eerie “Past, Present and Future”, which was a tearful narration over Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Morton’s original demo for “Dressed in Black” was released under his own name. His work with another girl group, The Goodies, on Red Bird has been overlooked, but “The Dum Dum Ditty” is faux Spector and “Sophisticated Boom Boom” was covered by The Shangri-Las.
Unfortunately for Leiber and Stoller, Goldner was pursued by the Mob and the songwriters were forced out of Red Bird in 1966. Looking for work, Morton auditioned new acts, but was soon bored. A 15-year-old girl, Janis Ian, was incensed that Morton should be reading while she was singing and she set fire to his newspaper. Morton paid attention and saw the potential of “Society’s Child”, a song about an interracial romance. It was too controversial for most labels, but Verve took a chance and it was a hit in 1967. Morton produced Ian’s first three albums, but Ian was effectively doing the work. “Shadow was so good to me,” she said. “He surrounded me with the best musicians he could find and he allowed me to tell them what I wanted to hear.”
Morton also latched on to The Pigeons, a covers band in Long Island, who learned songs by playing 45rpm singles at LP speed in order to write down the chords. He named them Vanilla Fudge and had them record a slowed-down version of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. It became a US Top 10 single in 1968. In the same year, he produced Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, a 17-minute marathon which was greatly shortened for a US hit single. He produced the New York Dolls’ 1974 album, Too Much Too Soon, and it’s possible that he produced Mott the Hoople. Again, it depends on who’s talking.
“Leader of the Pack” was a UK Top 10 hit on reissue in 1972 and again in 1976 and there are many covers and parodies, such as “Leader of the Laundromat” by the Detergents. The song was featured on the soundtrack of Goodfellas (1990) and used in advertising campaigns. Morton claimed he was cheated out of royalties, but becoming an alcoholic, he found it hard to pursue his claims. In his later years, he designed golf clubs.