Billy Nicholls, staff writer for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records, would pen three songs for Del Shannon‘s album, Home & Away, 11 tracks that were recorded in February of 1967 at London’s Olympic Studio but shelved until the release of 1978’s … And the Music Plays On, an LP released only in the UK and Australia. Here in the US, Liberty ended up releasing from these sessions (“the best album Marianne Faithfull never made,” according to the aforementioned Rob Chapman) a total of just three tracks across a pair of 45s (“Led Along” b/w “I Can’t Be True” plus “Runaway ’67” b/w “He Cheated“) issued in 1967.
What a loss for radio in pop’s peak year of 1967, as today’s featured song “My Love Has Gone” somehow got overlooked by Immediate and Liberty as an obvious A-side:
“My Love Has Gone” Del Shannon 1967
Nicholls would join Shannon’s heavyweight backing band for these sessions, along with Steve Marriott, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, Andy White, Twice as Much, and Pat Cole “P.P.” Arnold, (who was featured last year by Zero to 180 on the cusp of her first ever Australian tour).
Discogs includes a catalog record for a single-sided 7-track acetate on which “My Love Is Gone” serves, fittingly, as the final track:
“One-sided, 7-song Demo Acetate test pressing for Del Shannon’s unreleased 1967 album Home & Away, recorded for Immediate in the UK with a stellar backing line-up (Billy Nicholls, etc.). This was likely Del Shannon’s personal copy because at the end of Track 3, “Cut And Come Again,” an engineer adds a joking voice-over “Hey, Del – you blew the words!,” which is missing on the later re-released versions of the album. This appears to be the only actual pressing of the album (actually, half the album) from when it was recorded in 1967. No label or trail-off markings, but acetate is clearly seven songs from Home & Away when listened to.”
Rumor has it this was the original LP cover
American fans finally got their chance to obtain Home & Away (whether or not they realized it), when all 11 songs ended up sandwiched in the sequencing (tracks 12-22) for 1991 compilation Del Shannon: The Liberty Years — with all recordings mixed in stereo and “mastered from the original 4- and 8-track master session tapes.” In 2012, Home & Away finally enjoyed a proper release on compact disc – though only in the UK – supplemented by mono singles mixes of five tracks.
Known to his mum as Charles Weedon Westover (born in Grand Rapids, Michigan), Del Shannon – as Discogs contributor RoryHoy would have you know – is “one of the most seriously underrated talents in Pop Music history.” And furthermore —
While most 1960’s boffins know his song “Runaway”, there’s a whole 30 years worth of amazing music from this man. With his incredible voice complete with trademark falsetto and of course his fantastic songwriting, what is there not to like with this guy. If you like Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Beatles etc — Del is much recommended!
“My Love Has Gone” (composed, not by Nicholls but rather, by Ross Watson, the songwriter’s sole contribution to pop music, possibly) – enjoyed a new lease on life in 2014, thanks to a 7-inch winner of a release by Miriam, i.e., Miriam Linna, founder – along with Billy Miller – of Norton Records, as well as the original drummer for The Cramps.
Miriam Speaks With Zero to 180:
“My Love Has Gone” 45
Miriam Linna was kind enough to chat with Zero to 180, who called to inquire the reason for choosing this particular song from Shannon’s Home and Away as the A-side of her debut 45 (not to mention kick-off track for 2014’s Nobody’s Baby), a recording session that began as a special offer to work with Sam Elwitt, Nutley Brass producer [who can ever forget his fun and imaginative arrangements of “Beat On the Brat” and other Ramones classics?], as well as musician.
Linna, who rates Shannon as the most “charismatic” performer in her estimation, identifies Shannon’s 1967 Home and Away sessions as one of her all-time favorite albums — a “complex” set of songs, in terms of composition, artistry, and production. Elwitt, who was hoping to evoke the sound of Hollywood’s legendary Gold Star studio (Pet Sounds, et al) with this project, invited Linna to choose the songs. Miriam’s husband, Billy Miller, was ill at the time she had selected “My Love Has Gone,” though Linna fully believed he would pull through. However, when Miller unexpectedly passed in 2016, the song suddenly took on an unintended poignancy.
“My Love Has Gone” Miriam Linna 2014
Linna, in fact, had listened to the Home and Away album two days prior to my phone call from start to finish — a moving experience. In terms of emotional directness to the listener through “the magic of records,” Shannon possesses a gift that brings to Linna’s mind one other artist — Bobby Jameson (featured by Zero to 180 in 2014). And the “common thread” linking these two artists, Linna points out, is the A&R visionary Andrew Loog Oldham, whose ability to “match songs with artists” was a big part of his genius.
Rhino Records co-founder and one-time Del Shannon manager, Dan Bourgoise, was immediately smitten by Linna and Elwitt’s rendition and urged her to cover “another Del Shannon song.” Miriam and Sam would collaborate on another Norton 45 the following year, this time breathing new life in “The Hand Don’t Fit the Glove,” a great UK 45 by Terry Reid (with Peter Jay’s Jaywalkers) from 1967. Both singles from 2014 and 2015 are still available at Norton’s website, along with lots of other cool vinyl.
Check out: “David Fricke Remembers Norton Records’ Billy Miller: Tireless Rock and Roll Foot Soldier” – published in the November 18, 2016 edition of Rolling Stone. Tributes, as well, from New York Times, Billboard, Pitchfork, and Bloodshot Records’ Rob Miller.
Billy Nicholls Debut Album:
Limited Issue Yields IMPRE$$IVE Auction Prices Decades Later
One year after the Del Shannon sessions, Immediate, sadly, “left in the can” Nicholls’s grand opus, Would You Believe, an album highly prized by collectors though essentially unreleased “save for a few promo copies” (according to The MOJO Collection). Note the four and five figures paid for a UK 1st edition mint condition — as high as £8,000 (i.e., over $11,000).
In 2017, Discogs contributor Grippo would remark on the artistic merits of Would You Believe – “the third most expensive record that’s ever been sold in the Discogs marketplace” – for a piece entitled Top 30 Most Expensive Records Sold in April Topped by Billy Nicholls (I happened to enjoy the tuba/banjo bit myself).
How tragically odd that not one but two LP-length responses to Pet Sounds from the same label would be kept under wraps for years before eventually finding acclaim.