When Del Shannon and Max Crook penned “Runaway” in 1960, little did they realise that they had authored what would become a huge international hit.
Indeed, what may have simply rock ‘n’ roll song was turned on its head by Shannon’s pained vocals and his swift changes of pitch that wrapped the lyrics in emotion torment.
Yet it is Crook’s treatment of his Clavioline-based Musitron during the song’s bridge that makes the hairs stand on one’s neck.
Such a searing sound dancing playfully with “Runaway”‘s integral rhythm, is a perfect match for the sombre lyrics of loss and desperation that parade through the song’s sole verse.
A performance on American Bandstand (see below) helped catapult the song to number 1 in the US Billboard charts, before it eventually making to the top spot in the UK two months later.
Shannon had several somewhat less successful singles in the following years as he struggled to recreate the magic that made “Runaway”. The song gained fame once again in 1986 when an updated version of the song soundtracked the intro to the NBC drama, Crime Story and led to an appearance on the David Letterman show.
For a time, he remained moderately in the public eye in the late-80’s, but on February 8th 1990, Shannon committed suicide at his California home.