About the song
If you love classic rock and roll songs, you probably know the hit song “Runaway” by Del Shannon. Released in 1961, this song topped the charts in multiple countries and became one of the most iconic songs of the era. But do you know the history behind this song? How did Del Shannon and his keyboardist Max Crook create this masterpiece? What makes this song so memorable and influential? In this blog post, we will explore the origins, production, and legacy of “Runaway”, one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time.
“Runaway” was written by Del Shannon and Max Crook in 1960, when they were both members of a band called Charlie Johnson and the Big Little Show Band. The band was playing at a club in Battle Creek, Michigan, when Shannon suggested that they play a song called “Little Runaway”, which he had written earlier. Crook, who played a custom-made electronic keyboard called the Musitron, improvised a solo over the song’s bridge, using a high-pitched sound that resembled a violin. Shannon liked the solo so much that he decided to rewrite the song around it. He changed the title to “Runaway” and added new lyrics that expressed his feelings of loneliness and heartbreak after breaking up with his girlfriend.
The song was recorded in January 1961 at Bell Sound Studios in New York City, with Harry Balk as the producer and Bill Ramal as the arranger. The session musicians included Al Caiola on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass, and Joe Marshall on drums. Crook played his Musitron, which he had invented by modifying a clavioline, an early electronic keyboard. The Musitron had three keyboards, each with different sounds and effects, such as vibrato, tremolo, and echo. Crook used the Musitron to create the distinctive solo and background sounds that gave “Runaway” its unique flavor.
The song was released as a single in February 1961 by Bigtop Records, with “Jody” as the B-side. It was an instant success, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks in April 1961 . It also topped the charts in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and several other countries. Billboard ranked it as the #5 song for 1961. The song received critical acclaim as well, with many reviewers praising Shannon’s falsetto vocals, Crook’s Musitron solo, and the song’s catchy melody and powerful chorus. The song also earned Shannon and Crook two Grammy nominations for Best Rock and Roll Recording and Best New Artist.
“Runaway” has been covered by many artists over the years, including Elvis Presley, Bonnie Raitt, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Electric Light Orchestra, and Avril Lavigne. The song has also been featured in many movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games, such as American Graffiti, Crime Story, Shrek 2, Guitar Hero II, and Grand Theft Auto V. The song has been recognized as one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time by various publications and organizations, such as Rolling Stone, VH1, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Library of Congress.
In conclusion, “Runaway” is a classic rock and roll song that has stood the test of time, thanks to its memorable melody, powerful chorus, and innovative use of instruments. Del Shannon’s unique voice and Max Crook’s Musitron make it a must-listen for any fan of the genre.