Sunday, March 6, 2011

Del Shannon runs up the charts with “Runaway” 50 years ago (3/6/1961)

Last updated 4/13/2020.

Runaway

Del Shannon

Writer(s): Max Crook, Del Shannon (see lyrics here)


First Charted: March 6, 1961


Peak: 14 US, 13 CB, 14 HR, 3 RB, 13 UK, 14 CN, 16 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 24.0 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Del Shannon was discovered by Ollie McLaughlin, a disc jockey from Ann Arbor. MA Backed by a band which included Max Crook, Shannon was playing at the Hi-Lo Club in his hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan, CR when McLaughlin dropped by to check them out. He liked Shannon and introduced him to the owners of Big Top Records. They sent him to New York to record a few songs. A few weeks later, Del received a call telling him the songs weren’t fast enough. SJ

Shannon and Crook came up with the song “Runaway” back at the Hi-Lo. Del recalled that, “We were on stage and Max hit an A minor and a G and I said, ‘Max, play that again, it’s a great change.’” Shannon wrote lyrics the next day KL about a guy deserted by his girl, only to wonder what went wrong. SF Shannon said he wrote the song about himself and his inkling to run away from relationships. MA

After performing the song for three months, they headed back to New York to record it. BR1 Del proclaimed that if the record wasn’t a hit, he was going to work in the carpet business. BR1 Once the single was selling 80,000 copies a day, Shannon was offered a chance at a gig at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn. He would earn more there than in a year at the carpet shop. BR1

One of the song’s unique elements was the use of a musitron, kind of an early version of the electronic keyboard. RS500 Shannon explained that it was created by “’a little thing you clip under your piano and then you put an amplifier in it.” SJ Shannon added, “I think it was the first electronic machine recorded.” SJ

It was one of several features to make “Runaway” unique. The song also featured Shannon’s prominent and effective use of falsetto, not to mention the unusual structure of the song in which the conventional repeat of verse-chorus was abandoned. TB The result was the biggest hit of Shannon’s career and the U.K.’s biggest seller of 1961. SF It was “a true pop classic.” TB


Resources and Related Links:

  • Del Shannon’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 88.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 511.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 76.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 353-4.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 179.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 50.

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