Listen – Del Shannon – Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun) – MP3
I hope all is well on your end.
One of the great – false – memes about popular music is that the years between the death of Buddy Holly and the arrival of the Beatles were some kind of arid no-mans-land, bereft of quality pop music. Of course anyone with brains instead of feathers in their head knows that this is untrue. That doesn’t stop the people who create music documentaries from repeating it over and over again, ad infinitum.
Along with the usual suspects that are trotted out as examples of the depths to which pop music sunk – Bobby Rydell, Fabian et al – the charts in the early 60’s were filled with interesting and innovative music, as well as containing a variety of sounds that proves how narrow a field the pop charts are today. Soul music from Detroit and Chicago sat next to commercial folk, mainstream instrumental pop, novelty records, and jazz.
Among the rockers that made it to the charts regularly in those years, was the great Del Shannon. Beginning with ‘Runaway’ in the Spring of 1961, Shannon was a fixture in the Top 40 (in both the US and the UK) until 1965 (another casualty of the British Invasion*). Shannon was – along with Roy Orbison – an important transitional artist, modernizing the sounds of 50s rock’n’roll and influencing the more sophisticated sounds to come, not to mention that ‘Little Town Flirt’, recorded in 1962 and hitting the charts in January of 1963 sounds like a literal blueprint for much of what was to follow from the UK.
Del Shannon’s last significant hit (in late 1964) was today’s selection ‘Keep Searchin’. It was also one of his greatest.
I have to admit that although I’d known songs like ‘Runaway’ and ‘Hats Off to Larry’ (perhaps the greatest of all “Larry” songs, heh, heh…) since my childhood, it wasn’t until I picked up an import ‘Best of Del Shannon’ CD in the late 80s that I heard ‘Keep Searchin’, but when I did, I was blown away.
The tune opens with thundering guitar chords, which give way to Shannon’s impassioned vocal. The song reaches its peak in the anthemic chorus, followed by what sounds like the stomping of feet on the studio floor.
When you listen to ‘Keep Searchin’’ it seems that Shannon’s fall from fashion was more a matter of tone than because he was (like so many of his contemporaries) anachronistic. In a world of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’, Shannon’s epic tales of heartbreak were if anything a little too heavy.
Through the 60s, though Shannon was largely absent from the pop charts, he continued to record, as well as working as a producer. He was plagued by alcoholism and depression for many years, eventually committing suicide in 1990.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Monday.
*Which is ironic since he was one of the first artists to hit the charts with a Beatles cover, ‘From Me To You’ in 1963, and wrote Peter & Gordon’s hit ‘I Go To Pieces’.