Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Del Shannon -- who died in 1990 age 55 -- is best and perhaps only remembered for the great chart-topping single Runaway of '61, even now a thrilling slice of energetic pop.
But far from a one-hit wonder as classic hits radio would have you believe, he also did top 10 business with Hats off to Larry and Little Town Flirt -- and he was smart enough to feel the winds of change blowing in the early Sixties when he became the first US artist to cover a Beatles song (From Me to You, he could have picked better perhaps). He later covered the Stones' Under My Thumb, so he was no mere pop slouch.
His own songs (and the covers he chose) often had a slightly desperate edge and he brought his full, tight vocals (and slippery falsetto) to them. He was also a producer who worked with a number of major acts before greater fame took them away (not the least being Bob Seger as far back as '64, and Shannon had a minor hit in '65 with his own urgent song Stranger in Town which was later the title of a Seger album).
Shannon was always a coulda-been contender during the late Sixties and Seventies but even as late as the early Nineties he was tipped (along with Dion, a fellow traveller from those classic early Sixties days into the present tense) as Roy Orbison's replacement in the Traveling Wilburys.
But it was too late for Shannon who committed suicide in 1990 -- and subsequently the Wilburys recorded a version of Runaway, which didn't make the final cut for their album.
Shannon's early Sixties songs like this 2.10 seconds of desperation had an edge of flight about them (he too was a runaway) -- and always came with terrific production (handclaps, sharp dynamics, whip-crack percussion, an often -- as here -- an organ part which echoed that on Runaway).
Del Shannon, always running towards some future that he deserved.
For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults.