#491: Shang-A-Lang by Tinker’s Moon

Peak Month: August 1974
10 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG
Peak Position #6
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “Shang-A-Lang
Lyrics: “Shang-A-Lang”

Tinker’s Moon was a band from Montreal. Discogs.com comments that they were a session band from Montreal in the 1960s and 70s. Who they played for as session musicians isn’t detailed, at least from my internet search. There was an article about them on jam.canoe website. But an article search only resulted in an Error 404 message. By 1974 this band of session musicians decided to cut a few recordings, and they were apparently performing – presumably in the Montreal area. This included in their set some Top Ten hits on the UK charts that weren’t making it across the Atlantic.

In 1974 the Bay City Rollers released their debut album, Rollin’. The bands’ debut single was “Remember (She-La-La)”, followed by “Shang-A-Lang” and “Summerlove Sensation”. None of these were hits in North America. The Bay City Rollers only became commercially successful across the Atlantic in 1976, after having nine Top Ten hits in the UK. It was the Tinker’s Moon cover version of “Shang-A-Lang” that made the pop chart in Vancouver (BC).

Shang-A-Lang by Tinker's Moon

“Shang-A-Lang” was produced by Quebecois producer Ben Kaye (born Ben Kushnir, a common Yiddish surname for Jews with roots in the Ukraine). Since 1964 Kaye had produced Les Classels, Gilles Girard, Lloyd and the Village Squires, Pete Tessier, Marty Butler, Patsy Gallant, Pagliaro and many others. Most of these recording artists had hits only in Quebec.

“Shang-A-Lang” was written by Bill Martin (born William Wylie MacPherson in 1938 in Glasgow) and Phil Coulter (born 1942 in Derry, Northern Ireland). Martin had his first song recorded by a pop singer in 1963. By 1965 he had met Phil Coulter and the pair began writing songs together which were recorded by Los Bravos, the Batchelors, Elvis Presley, Wilson Pickett and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. But in 1967 the pair had a hit when Sandie Shaw recorded “Puppet On A String”, their first number one hit. In 1968, “Congratulations” was recorded by Cliff Richard and climbed to #1 in the UK. In 1969 Cilla Black recorded “Surround Yourself With Sorrow”, which peaked on the UK pop chart at #3. In 1970 they had a #1 hit in the UK titled “Back Home” recorded by the 1970 England World Cup squad. In 1975 they had a hit called “Forever and Ever” recorded by Silk, which climbed to #1 in the UK and #6 in Germany. That year they also had a Top Ten hit in the UK with “Fancy Pants” by Kenny. And in 1975 the duo won the prestigious British The Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year. In 1976 Martin and Coulter penned “Saturday Night” for the Bay City Rollers, a song that peaked at #1 in America.

“Shang-A-Lang” as a title is a string of nonsense syllables. The song is recalling the golden age of rock ‘n roll, and refers to everyone dancing in their “blue suede shoes.”

From the mid-50s’ and into the 60’s there were a substantial number of songs on the pop charts that included nonsense lyrics in the doo wop genre.

In 1954 the Chords sang “Sh-Boom”, which was covered by the Crew Cuts. The Chords sang these nonsense syllables in the song’s bridge: Day dong da ding-dong/Sha-lang-da-lang-da-lang. Ah, whoa whoa bip/Ah bo da do da dip, whoa. And the Crew Cuts rendered the bridge this way: Bom ba, Hey nonny ding dong, alang alang alanga/Oh oh oh oh dip, a dibby dobby dip.

In 1956 Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers sang “Why Do Fools Fall In Love“. The song featured this syllabic novelty: Ooooo wah, oooooo wah, ooooo wah, oooooo wah, Ooooo wah, oooooo wah, Why do fools fall in love. That year the Cleftones opened “Little Girl Of Mine” with Dede liddle liddle liddle le.. Also in 1956 the Five Satins recorded “In The Still Of The Night”, which began with this nonsense phrase:

In 1957 the Del-Vikings recorded a Top Ten hit titled “Come Go With Me”. The song opened with this syllabic creation:

Dom, dom, dom, dom, dom, de, doobe, dom
Dom, dom, dom, dom, dom, de, doobe, dom
Dom, dom, dom, dom, dom, de, doobe, dom
Wah, woh, wah, wah wah.

The Elegants had a #1 song in 1958 called “Little Star” that featured these lyrics tenderly expressed:

Whoa oh, oh, oh-uh-oh, ratta ta ta tara too-ooh-ooh.
Whoa oh, oh, oh-uh-oh, ratta ta ta tara too-ooh-ooh.

In 1958, The silhouettes had a #1 hit with “Get A Job” about the need to find summer work that featured these demanding lyrics:

Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip,
sha na na na, sha na na na na,
sha na na na, sha na na na na,
sha na na na, sha na na na na,
sha na na na, sha na na na na,
yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip,
mum mum mum mum mum mum,
Get a job, sha na na na, sha na na na na.

In 1958 David Seville was experimenting with speeding up the recordings of his voice to create the animated characters Alvin, Theodore and Simon, who were featured on a cartoon show and in this chart topping hit called “Witch Doctor“. The nonsense lyrics to the song added to the zany, fanciful story he was telling about how to find love in your life:

Ooh, eeh, ooh, ah, ah, ting, tang, walla, walla, bing, bang,
Ooh, eeh, ooh, ah, ah, ting, tang, walla, walla, bing, bang.

In 1959 the Flamingoes recorded an old Rogers and Hart song, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, with a doo wop treatment. They punctuated the song with:

Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop
Sha bop sha bop 

In the spring of 1961 the old Rogers and Hart classic from the 1930’s, “Blue Moon“, was given a new makeover by the doo-wop group, The Marcels, who opened the song with these lyrics:

Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom/ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba
dang a dang dang ba ba ding a dong ding
Blue moon moon blue moon dip di dip di dip
Moo Moo Moo Blue moon dip di dip di dip
Moo Moo Moo Blue moon dip di dip di dip
Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom
ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba dang a dang dang
Ba ba ding a dong ding...

In March 1963 The Chiffons had a #1 hit called “He’s So Fine“. The lyrics were introduced and interspersed with the nonsense phrase “Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang, do-lang, do-lang” to underscore the depth of desire for the handsome, soft-spoken guy with the wavy hair.

And in 1959 the African-American doo-wop group, Little Anthony & The Imperials, began their hit about “a native girl who did a native dance” in a native hut. “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” was a song with the nonsense title repeated four times as a chorus: Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop/Shimmy Shimmy Bop/Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop/Shimmy Shimmy Bop.

In 1956 Roy Orbison sang about a dance called the “Ooby Dooby”, and in 1960 Mark Dinning recorded a song Orbison wrote titled “Come Back To Me My Love“. The song began with these nonsense lyrics:

Bum bum bum da de da,

oh oh oh yeah yeah,
bum bum bum da de da ah
come back to me my love,
come back to me.

In 1969 a doo wop group from New York City billed themselves as Sha Na Na. They performed oldies like “Get A Job”, “Book Of Love” and others. They were still going strong in the mid-70s and a song like “Shang-A-Lang” resonated with radio listeners who preferred “oldies” rock ‘n roll to progressive rock, protest/folk-rock songs or the emerging disco sound.

“Shang-A-Lang” peaked at #6 in Vancouver (BC) and made the Top 30 in Windsor and Toronto. Tinker’s Moon had two follow up singles, “Ting A Ling Dong” and “Ohh Baby Baby”, that were not commercially successful. The latter songs’ lyrics were a different lyric from the Smokey Robinson song of the same title.

Other recording artists in the 70s and 80s offered their musical nod to doo-wop and the golden era of rock ‘n roll. In 1982 Zapp had a Top Ten R&B hit in the USA with “Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)” / “A Touch of Jazz (Playin’ Kinda Ruff Part II)”. And in 1984 Billy Joel evoked doo-wop in “The Longest Time”.

Online, little is known about Tinker’s Moon, aside from general comments by listeners to YouTube posts who remember hearing this song.

April 15, 2020
Ray McGinnis

Tinker’s Moon,” Discogs.com.
Ben Kaye,” Discogs.com.
Phil Coulter,” Philcoulter.com.
Bill Martin Songwriter, Celebrity, Speaker…,”Billmartinsongwriter.com.
Tim de Lisle, Pop’s Love Affair With Nonsense Lyrics, Guardian, July 29, 2005.
Gribin, Dr. Anthony J. and Shiff, Dr. Matthew M. The Complete Book of Doo Wop. Collectables, 2006.
Lawrence Pitilli, Doo-Wop Accappela: A Story of Street Corners, Echoes and Three Part Harmonies, (Rowan & Littlefield, 2016).
CKLG Thirty,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, August 30, 1974.

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One response to “Shang-A-Lang by Tinker’s Moon”

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