No one would deny that the career of Del Shannon was at its zenith in the early 1960s, when he recorded some of the best American pop music of the entire decade. Much of his later work didn’t find the audience it deserved, but in later life, he made a warmly-received comeback with the help of a great admirer of his early work, none other than Tom Petty.
The album that Petty produced for Shannon, the fine, spirited Drop Down And Get Me, entered the Billboard 200 chart on 12 December 1981. It was only Del’s second album chart entry in his entire career, and first since Little Town Flirt reached No. 12 all of 18 years earlier, in 1963.
The new set only reached No. 123, but it provided Shannon with a new hit, as he covered Phil Philips’ 1959 rock ‘n’ roll gem ‘Sea Of Love.’ The original was an R&B No. 1 and went toNo. 2 on the pop side in the US. That remake also entered the charts on 12 December, and rose to No. 33, Shannon’s first singles chart entry in the States since ‘The Big Hurt’ in 1966 and his biggest hit since ‘Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)’ early in 1965.
Tom Petty was an avowed Shannon fan, to the point of quoting one of Del’s biggest hits in one of his own. ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream,’ written by Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, included the line “Me and Del were singing ‘Little Runaway.’” “He was very pleased,” Tom later told Paul Zollo in the book Conversations With Tom Petty. “I got a big smile from him on that. And ‘Little Runaway’ fit the whole concept…Mike wrote that one descending riff, which is the engine of the song.”
Runaway: The Very Best of Del Shannon can be bought here.
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