A FEW DAYS AGO, I posted a piece titled “tears are falling and I feel the pain” in which I offered a few words on Del Shannon and the briefest of introductions to his music by including links to YouTube to hear a sampling of his recordings. In the article, I mentioned a “song he wrote and arranged as a nod to the British Invasion: I Go To Pieces, which was an international hit for Peter & Gordon. Del’s original is an odd mixture of an Orbisonian backbeat with a Searchers-like 12-string jangling up front.”
Well, I seem to have laid a few ‘facts’ down rather ineffectually; in fact, those two sentences include a trio of gross errors, or three big boners! Mistakes are common to anyone typing and researching at the same. Thank Grommett that with the Internet we can correct those errors in the same place that we made them (more or less).
Supposedly, Del Shannon pitched I Go To Pieces to the Searchers, who weren’t interested in it!
Del Shannon did not write I Go To Pieces as a “nod” to anything British—he initially gave it to Lloyd Brown, a rhythm & blues singer that Del discovered. In early 1964, he took the singer into the studio, where he arranged and produced a demo of the song for Brown.
Note that the original arrangement on this demo opened with a xylophone instead of the familiar 12-string guitar of the Peter & Gordon record. A xylophone on a R&B record may sound silly, but it is quite lovely, if not as effective as the guitar. The overall arrangement is slower, with accented choruses that would not have been out of place on a Roy Orbison single of the time.
Unfortunately, Shannon could not find a company interested in releasing it.
This is the US picture sleeve for Peter & Gordon’s I Go To Pieces.
The big hit here wasn’t a hit there
I Go To Pieces was not an international hit for Peter & Gordon, if by international I mean the two most important markets in the world, the United States and England. It was their second straight single to fail to reach the British Top 40. It was also their second straight single not bearing the imprimatur of Lennon-McCartney, as Paul had written their first pair of hits. This was odd for the British market, as both the flop singles were similar to and equally as good as the hits.
Del’s recording of I Go To Pieces was not the “original” recording—Lloyd Brown did the first recorded version while Peter & Gordon claim the first released version. Shannon did not cut his version until months after P&G had taken the song onto the American pop charts. He had attempted to cut it in August but was unsuccessful. (Although he did complete both sides of his next single, Do You Wanna Dance / This Is All I Have To Give.)
In September, Shannon shared the bill with fourteen other acts on a tour of Australia, including the Searchers and Peter & Gordon. Supposedly, he pitched I Go To Pieces to the Searchers, who weren’t interested in it! Asher and Waller overheard Shannon singing it to the group and asked him for first crack at the song.
In October, Peter & Gordon recorded I Go To Pieces with Vic Flick (he of The James Bond Theme fame) on the distinctive acoustic 12-string guitar that opens the side. Their reading is a tad slower, the slower beat and the tasty piano in the background giving it a more stately feel than the original.
In November, Peter & Gordon’s single was released in England to almost no acclaim. Such was not the case in the States: in early ’65, I Got To Pieces peaked at #6 on Cash Box and reached #9 on Billboard.
1,661 seconds with Del Shannon
In March 1965, Shannon finally completed a version of I Go To Pieces. His arrangement was based firmly on Peter & Gordon’s, including the 12-string guitar that opens the song and rings throughout. And on Del’s recording, it echoes the sound and ‘feel’ that Jim McGuinn would get with his Rickenbacker 360-12 for the Byrds’ folk-rock sound of 1965.
Del’s arrangement does differ in that he retained the feel of the Brown demo with a backbeat that pounds ominously (Orbisonly? Orbisonianly?) during the choruses. The track was included on his sixth album 1,661 SECONDS WITH DEL SHANNON (Amy LP-8006-M and LP-8006-S), released later in the year.
Unlike so many “older” rockers, Del Shannon both grasped the meaning and importance of the “new” music emanating from England, and actively encouraged those artists, as a mentor and as a recording artist.
Del Shannon’s reading of From Me To You was the first record released in the US with a McCartney-Lennon composition! It failed to reach the Top 60 on any national survey. and went unheard to most people until Beatles collectors discovered it years later.
On April 18, 1963, the Beatles appeared at Swinging Sound ’63, an all-star concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There they played their new single From Me To You, which had been released the week before and destined to be the Beatles’ first single to top the charts of every major weekly’s survey!
Like their first two singles, From Me To You would not be picked up by their American affiliate Capitol and be palmed off to Vee-Jay Records, where it would again fail to make the US charts.
Del Shannon was also one of the Swinging Sound acts, and unlike many established American pop stars, he took a great interest in the sounds that were emanating from England, particularly those of the Beatles. So after the concert, he told John Lennon that he was going to record From Me To You to give the group some exposure in America.
“At that time no one had heard of the Beatles here,” Shannon later said, “but I knew they were great writers so I just picked up on one of their songs.”
In June, Bigtop Records released Shannon’s version of From Me To You. Its biggest departure from the original was that it lacked the loose swing of the ska-like rhythm of the Beatles’ take. And it lacked the Beatles marvelous harmonies.
From Me To You entered the Billboard Hot 100 on June 29, the first Lennon-McCartney composition to make the American charts. It spent four weeks on that survey, reaching #77. One week later (July 6), it entered the Cash Box Top 100, peaking at #67, also spending four weeks on that survey.
This is the picture sleeve for Del’s version of Jagger and Richards’ Under My Thumb that was issued in the Netherlands. To a teenaged Rolling Stones fan in 1966, these phots made Del look like an old man trying to be hip.
Rolling Stones connection
In 1966, Del recorded a version of the Stones’ Under My Thumb that closely followed the original arrangement, including Shannon aping Jagger’s vocal mannerisms. This had the effect of making some younger fans of the ‘new rock’ who were unfamiliar with Del Shannon thinking that he was no better than a mere imitator.
It didn’t matter: the ongoing ignoring of established (read “old”) US artists interpreting the new (read “young) UK artists’ songs continued and this record failed to reach the top 100 on either Billboard or Cash Box. But it did catch the attention of yet a rather famous producer …
In early 1967, Shannon was touring England and there met Andrew Loog Oldham, manager and producer of the Rolling Stones. Oldham approached Del about producing an album with him and received the go-ahead from Liberty Records in the US!
On top is the original cover art for the unreleased EMI album from 1967. Below is
Home and away
HOME & AWAY was recorded at Olympic Studios in London in February 1967, was intended by Oldham to be the British answer to PET SOUNDS. It features other Immediate artists, including P.P. Arnold, Nicky Hopkins, John Paul Jones, Steve Marriott, Andy White, and the group Twice as Much. It also featured Billy Nicholls, who contributed three songs and backing vocals.
In 1978, the HOME & AWAY recordings were finally issued in England as AND THE MUSIC PLAYS ON with three new recordings (Sunset SLS-50412). It lived up to its legend: the music is more than merely a pastiche of Brian Wilson’s ‘feels.’ It is difficult to imagine anyone who loves PET SOUNDS not responding in kind to this music! Thirty years later, this LP is hard to find and gaining prestige with collectors, so expect its value to climb as more fans are exposed to the music through CDs (below).
In 1991, the HOME & AWAY recordings were released in the US as part of DEL SHANNON – THE LIBERTY YEARS (tracks 11 through 21).
In 2006, HOME & AWAY was finally released as an album by EMI in the UK. This CD collected the eleven album tracks in stereo plus five LP tracks issued as 45s in their original mono mixes. EMI also had the good sense to include the original album artwork intended for its release in 1967.
In response to the attacks on September 11, 2001, that saw the downing of four airliners and the near-total destruction of seven buildings (not three), Clear Channel Communications requested their 1,170 stations to not play 150 records, including two by Peter & Gordon—A World Without Love and I Go To Pieces.
“I suppose a song about someone going to pieces could be upsetting if someone took it literally. But ‘I can’t live in a world without love’ is a sentiment that’s as true in crisis as it is in normal times. It’s a totally pro-love sentiment and could only be helpful right now.” (Peter Asher)
The wackadoodles at CCC also requested a moratorium on the Drifters’ threatening On Broadway, the Beatles’ harrowing Ticket To Ride, Elton John’s militant Bennie And The Jets, and most famously, John Lennon’s Imagine (“The horror. The horror …”) among other puzzling choices.