Greatest Songs, #466: “Runaway” by Del Shannon

Year: 1961
Written by: Del Shannon & Max Crook
Billboard Hot 100: #1

 From Rolling Stone:

As a kid growing up in Michigan, Shannon got his first guitar for five dollars. His truck-driver dad wasn’t too happy about it. ” ‘You get that goddamn guitar outta here’ — that’s the exact words my father used,” Shannon recalled. “However, my ma said, ‘It’s OK, son. You can sing for me.’ ” Shannon sang with raw emotion in this hit, as co-writer Crook played the historic solo on an early electronic keyboard called the Musitron.

From the allmusic biography of Shannon:

One of the best and most original rockers of the early ’60s, Del Shannon was also one of the least typical. Although classified at times as a teen idol, he favored brooding themes of abandonment, loss, and rejection. In some respects he looked forward to the British Invasion with his frequent use of minor chords and his ability to write most of his own material. In fact, Shannon was able to keep going strong for a year or two into the British Invasion, and never stopped trying to play original music, though his commercial prospects pretty much died after the mid-’60s.

Born Charles Westover, Shannon happened upon a gripping series of minor chords while playing with his band in Battle Creek, MI. The chords would form the basis for his 1961 debut single, “Runaway,” one of the greatest hits of the early ’60s, with its unforgettable riffs, Shannon’s amazing vocal range (which often glided off into a powerful falsetto), and the creepy, futuristic organ solo in the middle.