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1,661 words on del shannon and his connections to the british invasion

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.

 

PeterGordon IGoToPieces Capitol ps 250

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.

 

DelShannon 1661Seconds 250

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.

 

DelShannon_FromMe 

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.

Beatles connection

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.

 

DelShannon UnderThumb Liberty ps 250

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!

 

DelShannon_Home_EMI

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.

 

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