Del Shannon – The House Where Nobody Lived / Gemini

Del_KscopeSticking with the theme of Baby Boomer icons jettisoning their squeaky clean images in order to get more traction with the burgeoning counter culture, we turn to Del Shannon and his mid-to-late sixties recording sessions.

In 1966 Del had gotten out of a dicey record contract and was free to continue chasing the dragon of his 1961 smash single “Runaway.” He eventually signed with album oriented label Liberty Records.

From 1966 to 1967 Liberty paired him up with various production teams to help him climb his way back the single charts.  Leon Russell and Tommy Garrett had first crack at him, before he was paired with in-house producer Dallas Smith.  These intermittent sessions were the usual mix of covers and originals, and ultimately made up the two 1966 albums This Is My Bag and Total Commitment. Neither album made a significant dent in the charts.

By the Fall of 1966, a dejected Shannon was able to arrange a recording session with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the hit-making team behind The Monkees.  They recorded three songs: “She,” “Stand Up,” and “The House Where Nobody Lives.”  “She,” got moderate airplay before being squelched by The Monkees’ version that was released soon after.

“The House Where Nobody Lives,” the planned follow-up to “She,” was shelved and remained unreleased for years, which is too bad. The song beautifully re-captures the magic Shannon’s breakthrough “Runaway.”  The jangly reverb of the opening chords, the vocal hooks, the fugitive tinged lyrics, and of course Max Crook’s signature musitron accompaniment.

1967 saw Shannon recording an unreleased full length album with famed Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham called Home and Away.  When that album was shelved, Shannon turned his attention to the trends of the time and by the Fall was putting the finishing touches on his “Psychedelic” leaning album The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.

Westover, Shannon’s birth name, was comprised entirely of original songs written or co-written by Shannon. Though relatively overlooked at the time, The Further Adventures of Charles Westover became a minor cult classic, and in the 90’s was re-mastered on CD with many bonus tracks, including the unreleased Boyce/Hart session and some of the Loog Oldham tracks.  

In 2014 the album was beautifully remastered on vinyl by the venerable Trouble In Mind Records, with artwork restoration by Chunklet’s Henry Owings.

The House Where Nobody Lives – Del Shannon

Gemini – Del Shannon

Would be some sort of bibliographical violation not to source: delshannon.com

Chubby Checker – Chequered! (1971)

Chubby_ChequeredChubby Checker’s Chequered! is a key artifact to understanding my fascination with esoteric pop culture moments that live on the fringe of the entertainment business.

Chequered! was Chubby Checker’s unreleased Psychedelic Album from the 70s.

The first time someone told me about it, they mine as well have been telling me about the legend of Robert Johnson.

The story I heard was that Checker was listening to a ton of Jimi Hendrix and Arthur Lee, and wanted to update his sound and image to reflect the changing times.  American record labels, however, did not agree with his proposed image makeover, and he was forced to take his ideas overseas. Checker then traveled to Norway, recruited a bunch of psychedelic studio musicians, and laid down his jams.

The thought of the clean cut Chubby Checker, who had spent the better part of a decade exploiting “The Twist,” finding himself exiled overseas and letting his freak flag fly was gold to me. The fact the record was never officially released in America made it a unicorn record.  The album has since been officially re-issued.

A more elegant and accurate account of Chequered! can be found here.

Check out two of the more catchy and endearing gems from the Chequered one.

Goodbye Victoria – Chubby Checker

Love Tunnel – Chubby Checker

Chad & Jeremy – Smoke (Paxton’s Song)

Chad+&+Jeremy+-+Three+In+The+Attic+-+LP+RECORD-422264Sticking with American International Pictures, purveyors of low budget drive-in faire, and turning my attention to their 1968 release Three In The Attic, which seems like their bizarro answer to The Graduate.

Wild In The Street star Christopher Jones plays Paxton Quigley in this story about an undergrad lothario at a small liberal arts college that simultaneously holds affairs with three co-eds. The females ultimately catch on, and in an effort to teach him a lesson, collude in holding him captive in the attic of a sorority house for days on end without food or water,  just rotating shifts of punishing intercourse.

Enter Chad & Jeremy. The folk-pop duo were most likely AIP’s low budget answer to Simon & Garfunkel, but ultimately a silver lining to this entire production.

Though credited to both Chad and Jeremy, most likely for marketing purposes, Three In The Attic is primarily a Chad Stuart affair. Reeling from two consecutive flops, Of Cabbages and Kings (1967) and The Ark (1968), in which the duo had eschewed it’s single oriented folk numbers for the more en vogue psychedelic full lengths, Chad & Jeremy had all but disintegrated. Stuart, an arranger by trade, was so anxious to score a film that he started this project sans Jeremy. The score is so chock full of timpanis, flute suites, string arrangements, horn sections and sitar solos, that it’s clear that Stuart wanted to flex his composition muscle to the fullest.  He even brought Jeremy around for Paxton Quigley Had the Course, a track that would end up being be the final Chad & Jeremy collaboration of their heyday.

The real treat here comes in the form of “Paxton’s Song (Smoke)”.  A psych-folk ode to young love that layers a really strong arrangement to a wistful melody. You’ve got to hand it to Stuart for making an earnest go at scoring an overtly gratuitous b-movie and actually trying to penetrate the psyche of it’s vapid protagonist. Bonus awkwardness comes mid-film, in the form of Christopher Jones actually singing the refrain to one of his conquests.

Paxton’s Song (Smoke)