His majestic recordings from the '60s
Here are some of my random thoughts and words about Del Shannon over the years. All of the original Del Shannon blog posts on my old website have since been deleted so no label scans or picture sleeves are available. Instead, I’ve used images scanned from ’60s music weekly ‘Record Mirror’.
DEL SHANNON – Thinkin’ It Over’/’Runnin’ On Back’ (Liberty LBF 15061) April 1968
During September 1967 Del Shannon started recording songs that would make up his psychedelic album ’The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover’, considered by many to be his finest work and an album of baroque psych beauty.
The first fruits of these ’Westover’ sessions resulted in the release of ’Thinkin’ It Over’/’Runnin’ On Back’- both sides were strong contenders for a hit but the top side ’Thinkin’ It Over’ written by Shannon/Beau James failed to sell.
These recordings were produced by Dugg Brown who also worked with hippie group Southwind. In fact Del recorded a song called ’New Orleans (Mardi Gras)’ which was written by Southwind bass player Jim Pulte.
DEL SHANNON – ’Gemini’/’Magical Musical Box’ (Liberty LBF 15079) June 1968
This double sided piece of psychedelic magic is my all time favourite Del Shannon single and is perhaps his most difficult one to find. I had this in my eBbay search engine for a solid four months before someone offered it for sale.
Fortunately for me I only had a couple of competitors interested in buying it and my bidding power managed to kill off their interest.
Hardly any of ’The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover’ albums exist in MONO as only stereo copies were sent to the shops for sale. So the best place to hear these great songs in glorious MONO is via this 45.
’Gemini’ is an absolute gem. I actually feel sorry for Del Shannon that no one was really interested in buying his records back in 1967/68 as he was clearly a master of his talents with the killer songs to match.
’Magical Musical Box’ is stunning baroque psychedelia. There isn’t a finer example, it’s just simply beautiful. It’s got a very trippy feel to it and the lyrics are somewhat unnerving and full of paranoia – pure sonic bliss
DEL SHANNON – ’Sweet Mary Lou’/’Comin’ Back To Me’ (Stateside SS 8025) September 1969
This is my final Del Shannon record under the spotlight. I hope you’ve all enjoyed my uploads, all written on the spot while listening to Del.
He more or less had a year out as he was crest fallen that his psychedelic genius hadn’t been recognised and it’s been written that he felt ’washed out’ during this period in time. It is known that he kept himself busy producing a group called Smith and writing songs with Brian Hyland.
He was tempted out of the wilderness by Dunhill Records and started recording his own songs again. Only a handful of these recordings found their way onto singles, ’Sweet Mary Lou’/’Comin’ Back To Me’ being the first.
These are both late 60s rockers with great hooks and vocals. Produced by Steve Barri and Joel Sill at Western Studios in Hollywood during April 1969
DEL SHANNON – ’She’/’What Makes You Run’ (Liberty LIB 55939) January 1967
Killer version of ’She’ and as much as I love The Monkees I’ve gotta say that Del Shannon’s earlier version is far superior. His vocals really cut through with some menace as he spits out some lines. Great organ sound and pure Sunset Strip, but no-one was listening.
Max Crook was also back in the groove and brought along his musitron to the sessions at Hollywood Sound Recorders during November 1966.
Production by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart for Screen Gems Inc. The flip ’What Makes You Run’ is perfect pop and was recorded some time prior to the Boyce and Hart sessions.
DEL SHANNON – ’Mind Over Matter’/’Led Along’ (Liberty LIB 10277) June 1967
Del embraced the psychedelic tinged pop music that was spreading around the world at a zealous pace in 1967 and in my opinion this period of his career produced his best artistic work.
A chance meeting in London with Andrew Loog Oldham, producer of The Rolling Stones, reaped dividends when he was asked to record some songs with him at Olympic Sound Studios in London.
Much of the material brought to the studio was written by Immediate songwriters including Billy Nicholls and Jeremy Paul Solomons. By the end of the four day recording sessions Shannon had enough songs for an album but any plans to release a long player were scrapped when ’Mind Over Matter’/’Led Along’ flopped.
Most of the songs proposed for an album were never released during the 60s and it wasn’t until the late 70s when they were retrospectively compiled on an album called ’And The Music Plays On’
DEL SHANNON – ’Runaway’/’He Cheated’ (Liberty LIB 55993) October 1967
One last single was released in 1967 from the London sessions, an updated and slower version of ’Runaway’. This is my Dutch release and it’s MONO with overdubbed applause. A version exists without the applause.
The record proved to be another flop in most countries around the world apart from Australia where it went Top 20. ’He Cheated’ on the flip is exclusive to this record. All other ’Runaway’ releases had ’Show Me’ as the B-Side.
DEL SHANNON – ’I Can’t Believe My Ears’/’I Wish I Wasn’t Me Tonight’ (Stateside SS-494) March 1966
Two sides of completely dated early 60s pop. It was 1966 and this kind of fluff had little chance of being a hit. Back in ’62 Del’s fans would have lapped this kind of sound up, but not now.
’I Wish I Wasn’t Me Tonight’ is slightly more interesting with it’s opening ’Tired Of Waiting For You’ guitar rip-off.
Even Del Shannon hated this record and admitted that it was a necessary evil to get him out of his contract with Amy Records.
He owed them a single but didn’t want to use any of his own creations so recorded a couple of cover versions.
DEL SHANNON – ’The Big Hurt’/’I Got It Bad’ (Liberty LIB-55866) April 1966
Free from Amy Records, Del Shannon signed to Liberty Records. He had the opportunity to sign for a new indie label called Colgems but decided he needed a big label to get his music back in the charts. He would still work with his friend Tommy Boyce though and indeed cut one of his songs ’She’ in November ’66.
’The Big Hurt’ deserved to be a big hit record with it’s huge production sound by Snuff Garrett & Leon Russell and the eerie ’phazing’ effect only available on the mono take.
The flip ’I Got It Bad’- a Shannon original sees him once again in ballad mode but with the required updated ’66 sound.
Both sides recorded at RCA Studios, Hollywood, February 1966.
DEL SHANNON – ’For A Little While’/’Hey! Little Star’ (Liberty LIB 55889) June 1966
Shannon goes all folk-pop with the excellent ’For A Little While’ notable for a stunning vocal performance, he even manages to mimic the gruff vocals of Barry McGuire on a couple of occasions during his song – one for the kids on the Sunset Strip but they weren’t listening.
The flip ’Hey! Little Girl’ is dated pop and would appeal to his long time fans. Both sides recorded at RCA Studios, Hollywood and another Snuff Garrett production.
DEL SHANNON – ’Under My Thumb’/’She Was Mine’ (Liberty F-5590) August 1966
One of the best Rolling Stones cover versions of ’Under My Thumb’ you’re likely to hear with Del’s vocals a match for anyone’s. It’s a tough remake that faithfully keeps to the original sound, instrumentation laid down by the top Hollywood session players.
Production on both sides credited to Del Shannon and arranged by George Tipton who is perhaps better known for his work with Harry Nilsson. He went onto arrange the all time classic ’Everybody’s Talkin.’
Not sure of the reason but ’Under My Thumb’ was not released as a single in Britain.
DEL SHANNON – ’Mary Jane’/’Stains On My Letter’ (Stateside SS-269) March 1964 (UK Chart #35)
Today is the start of a run through most of Del Shannon’s single releases in Britain from 1964 to 1969, starting with this one – Still very much in teener ballad mode. ’Mary Jane’ was the plug side but I think the flip ’Stains On My Letter’ is more interesting – Del has got the ’girl blues’ real bad and as he writes to her his tears are dripping on the paper. Keep your cool Del, she’ll be all yours tomorrow without having to turn on the waterworks.
Backing band The Royaltones.
DEL SHANNON – ’Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun) /’Broken Promises’ (Stateside SS-368) January 1965 (UK Chart #3)
Del’s last big hit in Britain and more or less the end of any of his records hitting the top 40 ever again. (Apart from the next release ’Stranger In Town’)
Both sides recorded at Bell Sound Studios, New York during October 1964
DEL SHANNON – ’Stranger In Town’/’Over You’ (Stateside SS-395) March 1965 (UK Chart #40)
Both songs recorded at the October 1964 sessions that produced the previous big hit ’Keep Searchin’ – this cut was intense and moody with a dramatic production by Harry Balk….The flip ’Over You’ is also a cool number.
This was the last time Del made the Top 40 in Britain probably because by mid ’65 the kids wanted beat groups. Solo guys from the late 50s and early 60s were no longer in vogue.
DEL SHANNON – ’Break Up’/’Why Don’t You Tell Him’ (Stateside SS-430) June 1965
Both sides recorded at Bell Sound Studios, New York during March 1965 – ’Break Up’ features Del Shannon’s trademark vocals and a backbeat of clattering tambourine, some crunchin’ guitar and an organ solo sounding like Max Crook’s musitron, but I don’t know for sure if it was thee musitron from the ’Runaway’ days in 1960/61.
DEL SHANNON – ’Move It On Over’/’She Still Remembers Tony (Stateside SS-452) Sept 1965
Hard driving ’65 rocker with the teenbeat sound, this cut made an entry in ’Teenbeat Mayhem’ and can be found on one of those ’Teenage Shutdown’ compilations.
Definitely Del Shannon’s edgiest song which sadly flopped. According to his friend Dan Bourgoise, Del was so depressed that his records were no longer getting in the charts that he actually thought about quitting the music business during this period.
He also remembered Del throwing a box of ’Move It On Over’ singles into Gun Lake, Michigan. It’s now a sought after disc and one of the most difficult of his to find on Stateside.
DEL SHANNON – ’And The Music Plays On’ (Sunset Records SLS 50412) 1978
If you’re a fan of Del Shannon’s late 60s period when he was recording beautiful but ignored psychedelic baroque pop this is an album for you.
Most of these unreleased gems (a few managed to gain a release via 1967/68 singles) have recently been unearthed once again on a CD titled ’Home And Away’ – the title of the proposed album at the time but Liberty Records decided they didn’t like the material Del had recorded so it never saw the light of day.
This album on Sunset Records, a label from England, came out in 1978. Bearing in mind that at this point in time England was all about punk rock and new wave groups I’m not sure if this release would have ever been noticed or written about in the music press. Who wanted to buy old music from the 60s? So once again, the greatness of Del went unnoticed.
Things have moved on now of course and Del Shannon has seemingly become fashionable once again, and I for one am absolutely delighted. I consider him to be a genius with one of the best male singing voices of the 60s.
I could have selected any song on this album to represent it as the quality throughout is superb. Each and every cut has it’s merits. I’m gonna go for ’Cut And Come Again’ because it was never released as a single and wrongly lay in the vaults for over ten years before being released on this LP.
The song was written by Billy Nicholls, who was an Immediate signing and released some records in his own right. Billy actually recorded his own version of ’Cut And Come Again’ but the song was retitled ’Come Again’ You’ll find it on his ’Would You Believe’ album.
DEL SHANNON – ’This Is My Bag’ (Liberty LBY-1320) 1966
The first recordings Del Shannon laid down for his new label, Liberty Records, are present on this disc from early 1966. By now he had relocated to Los Angeles and was utilizing the cream of the crop session musicians and had on board pop producer Snuff Garrett. Also in his corner was in demand engineer Dave Hassinger.
Overall, ’This Is My Bag’ is a rather patchy affair with remakes of ’Oh, Pretty Woman’, ’Action’, ’Kicks’ and ’When You Walk In The Room’- I’m not too keen on the soul pop of ’The Cheater’ or Del’s self-penned mushy ’Hey! Little Star’ but ’The Big Hurt’ is a classic and was released as a single, another original tune ’For A Little While’ is also a solid pop song in which Del mimics Barry McGuire’s gruff vocal attack in parts of the song..
My site is really all about what I’ve coined ’Flower Bomb Songs’ and that usually means the recording has at least some of the following: it’s from Los Angeles circa 1965-1968, is no longer than three minutes, has pure pop harmonies, folk-rock jangle, lysergic panache and some subtle fuzz, although the fuzz is not of primary importance.
Therefore the song I’ve chosen to wave Del’s flag from ’This Is My Bag’ is his jangly remake of the classic Jackie de Shannon penned ’When You Walk In The Room’ which is a gem and displays his killer vocals. Classic folk-rock – Del, I salute you.
DEL SHANNON – ’Total Commitment’ (Liberty LRP-3479) 1966
Del Shannon’s mid to late 60s albums appear to have been overlooked and I’ve been guilty of that too, but not any more. This year I made it my mission to collect Del’s back catalogue from 1964 onwards, I may delve into his pre-1964 recordings at a later stage but for now it’s his beat, pop and psych period that burns bright in my mynd.
Back in ’66 things were moving so quickly in the music industry that it must have been so hard to keep up with the ’now sound’ for old rockers from the early 60s who had previously enjoyed major success but were now considered ’un-hip.’
Del took to the changes of style with ease but sadly his record sales never matched his ’Runaway’ period.
’Total Commitment’ from 1966 is an absolute gem with worthy versions of some of the hits of the day including ’Red Rubber Ball’, ’Under My Thumb’, ’The Pied Piper’, ’Summer In The City’, ’Sunny’, ’Time Won’t Let Me’ and ’Where Were You When I Needed You’.
There are two self-penned compositions on side two, ’Show Me’ and ’What Makes You Run’, both stunning pop songs by the way. ’Show Me’ sounds similar in song structure to the unreleased ’Stand Up’.
Here are some of the liners from the back of the album written by Dan Bourgoise:
And what does total commitment mean, you might ask. Why was it the title of this album? The real meaning is complex. It cannot be explained. It’s a feeling, a state of mind.
Listen to the tracks of the album while staring at the cover and then you will begin to understand that Del Shannon is totally committed to his music. Total committed to entertain you.
Del Shannon IS Total Commitment.
Here’s Del’s take on the folk-rock boom that was sweeping Los Angeles during 1965/66. After all the place was the epicentre of jangle. His version of ’Where Were You When I Needed You’ is magical with fantastic vocals, production and of course 12 string jangle.
DEL SHANNON – ’Stand Up’ (Liberty Records) 1966
Del may be sporting his late 50s early 60s mutton chops and what must be the largest sunglasses in the world but that didn’t stop him writing and recording the GREAT ’Stand Up’ in December 1966.
It was never released in the 60s (the liners of the CD ’The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover’ don’t say why) – it’s amazing that something sounding so ’radio friendly’ was never released at the time.
The song was recorded at SRS Studio in Hollywood and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
Tommy Boyce and Del Shannon would sadly commit suicide in the 90s by shooting themselves in the head.