Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Del Shannon

I had just installed my new record player when Barry a neighbour from down the road arrived in to proudly play his most recent purchase. It was Del Shannon's "Runaway" which Barry really loved. It was not difficult to see why as it is is a truly great pop record. And Del Shannon was destined to figure large in my early pop memories. No sooner had "Runaway" started to fade from the charts that Barry arrived in with the follow-up "Hats off to Larry" (which we renamed in his honour "Hats off to Barry") and then "So Long Baby". After all this time I can even recall the B sides. One in particular (on the flip side of "Hats off to Larry") stuck in my memory due to its strange title "Don't Gild the Lily, Lily". Another (on the flip side of "So Long Baby") was "The Answer to Everything" which became a huge hit subsequently in Ireland for Joe Dolan.

Del Shannon was very versatile with a truly distinctive and exciting pop voice. It should have ensured him lasting success but sadly this was not to be. Both personal and management difficulties undoubtedly contributed to his demise. Also he tended to become typecast following "Runaway" - and perhaps unwisely - tried to keep repeating this winning formula. For a while it worked but gradually began to become a bit too predictable. Likewise the pop group phenomenon broke quickly after his initial success. Though in many ways he served as a forerunner for their sound, he then seemed replaceable once it gained momentum.

Tragically he took his life in 1990 at a time when prospects for his revival were never greater. If he had overcome depression at that time he could well have lived to see himself once again regarded as a true pop legend. He certainly deserved that status.

Favourite Track

Probably "Little Town Flirt"; however I also love "The Answer to Everything". For some strange reason this has been overlooked and does not seem to appear on any of his CD collections. Indeed if this had been promoted along with, or perhaps instead of the A side, it could well have been a big hit and facilitated a transition away from the "Runaway" prototype.

Best Track

This has to be "Runaway" which was - and still is - just a marvellous pop song that was always guaranteed to be a runaway success.


Postscript

Nearly 50 years after introducing Del Shannon into my world, Barry celebrated his 60th birthday, with a disc jockey hired to play the music for the evening. Pride of place was of course given to "Runaway" with Barry himself joyously singing along. It was lovely to see for I never had doubted that here we had Del Shannon's biggest fan!

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