Del Shannon’s ‘Lost’ 1967 Album

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 ColeP.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 Gone45

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.

The “Monkey Chant” in Pop

[NotePiece updated on February 15, 2019 – see special coda at the tail end]

Zero to 180 is intrigued to discover that today’s featured song is the sole composition attributed to Vic Coppersmith-Heaven [whose impressive audio engineering CV includes Cat Stevens, The Rolling StonesBilly Preston, and even Stanley Kubrick] on Discogs.  This entrancing and otherworldly (near) instrumental can only be found on the 1982 double LP anthology Music and Rhythm that features artists who performed in the first World of Music and Dance (WOMAD) festivals in the UK organized by Peter Gabriel, with help from heavy friends.  For the 1980s college crowd, Music and Rhythm served as a gateway album of sorts into “Worldbeat”  (i.e., music from outside Europe & the US).

The early-to-mid 1980s would find this idealistic, clueless college student in thrall to a cassette mix of The Jam‘s brilliant run of singles (compiled in chronological fashion by Tom Newbold), culminating in their double-A side masterwork “Going Underground” paired with “Dreams of Children.”  The single-sentence summary blurb below from  Wikipedia very much captures the extent of my knowledge at that time about the engineer/producer with the distinctive name:

Vic Coppersmith-Heaven (born Victor Smith in England) is an English sound engineer and record producer best known for his production work with The Jam.

Japan 45 – 1980                                          Italy 45 – 1980

Produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven

Those of us who were initially surprised to see the producer behind The Jam’s finest 45 included in the track listing of Music and Rhythm wondered, therefore, to what degree his preceding work might have informed his musical sensibilities.  As it turns out — not in the slightest:

“Pensgosekan”     Vic Coppersmith-Heaven     1982

Preston Hayman:  Percussion & Gamelan
Vic Smith:  Guitars & Gamelan
Tony Levin:  Bass
Paddy Bush:  Gengong
Johnny Warman:  Voice
Composed & produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven.
Recorded at Eel Pie Studios & The Manor – Spring 1982.
Engineered by Richard Manwaring & remixed at Crescent Studios.
Note:  “Pengosekan” fades into a short excerpt from The Ramayana Monkey Chant recorded by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven in Bali — February, 1982

Music and Rhythm‘s liner notes, for one thing, were a tip-off that something more “avant-pop” was afoot on this exclusive recording:

“Vic is best known as a record producer, and over the last five years he has been associated with some of Britain’s most contemporary and successful groups, notably The Jam.

Besides his production work, Vic spends much time pursuing his passion for Bali and its culture.  He visits the country frequently, and has made many field recordings of music traditions in that region.  In ‘Pengosekan’, especially recorded for this LP, he uses Balinese orchestral percussion — gamelan — instruments to embellish the rhythm track, and overlays this further with vocal improvisations derived from the Balinese Ketjak [or Kecak] or Monkey chant.

We would like to thank Vic for his enthusiasm and faith in this album project as a whole, and we are also indebted to the Indonesian Embassy, Mr. Suparmin and Mr. Abidin in particular, for their kind co-operation and loan of the gamelan instruments used on this track.

We would like to thank [Pete Townshend-owned] Eel Pie Studios for their kind co-operation in the recording of this track.  We would also like to thank the Virgin Manor Studio, and Richard Branson in particular, for their kind donation of free time in completing this track; and for their first-class attention and co-operation on this project.”

UbuWeb helpfully elaborates on the history behind this ancient tradition, with this explanatory text that accompanies their streaming audio of a 20-minute field recording from Bali:

“Performed by more than 200 men seated in tight concentric circles around a small central space reserved for the chief protagonists,” the ketjak (loosely called “Monkey Chant”) was first recorded in Bali by David Lewiston and released by Nonesuch Records in 1969.  As a spectacular and alternative performance mode, it has had a germinal influence on western performance and poetics since then.

David Lewiston’s original comments follow:

‘While the ketjak is a creation of this century, it is descended from something much more ancient — the trance dance, the dance of exorcism called sanghjang; its ancestry is clear. Ostensibly, the ketjak is a reenactment of the battle described in the Ramayana epic — in which the monkey hordes came to the aid of Prince Rama in his battle with the evil King Ravana — complete with a chorus imitating monkeys, as they chant the syllable tjak.

But as perceptive observers have noted, the ketjak is primarily a dance of exorcism.  Its connection with the sanghjang remains unbroken.  As pointed out by Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete in Dance and Drama in Bali, “Most of the movements are exorcistic in origin and contribute together to produce a tremendous unity of mood … to drive out evil as by an incantation.  The cries, the crowding, lifted hands, the devouring of single figures, the broken lines of melody bewildering to butas [demons], who can only move straight ahead, all enhance the exorcistic effect.”‘

Glenn Kotche at University of Maryland — sans crickets

Photo courtesy of Brandon Wu Photography

 

Imagine Zero to 180’s surprise 20+ years later during 2009’s Bang on a Can Festival at University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center when [Wilco drummer] Glenn Kotche performed his own interpretation of the Balinese “Monkey Chant,” a composition that not only was included on 2006 solo album, Mobile. but also served as the subject of a 15-minute film by Brendan Canty of DC’s legendary Fugazi [and currently The Messthetics, with bassist Joe Lally and guitarist Anthony Pirog {also of Janel and Anthony}]:

Glenn Kotche – “Monkey Chant”:  A Movie by Brendan Canty

In an exclusive exchange facilitated by the filmmaker himself (thank you, Brendan!), Glenn Kotche had this to say in response to Zero to 180’s basic query:

Q:  Had you been aware of “Pengosekan” by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven prior to composing “Monkey Chant”?

A:  I’m surprised, but I’ve never heard that song before – just heard it for the first time after getting this email The crickets don’t surprise me though.  I included those since all of the recordings that I based my version of the Monkey Chant (Ketjak) on, were recorded outdoors in Bali – so the insect sounds are prevalent and add a really nice atmosphere.  Most of those recordings were from the Nonesuch Explorer Series btw.  I assume Coppersmith-Heaven noticed that while experiencing it live or was inspired by similar recordings.

1975’s Music of BaliNonesuch Explorers Series

2006’s Mobile released on Nonesuch – is that ironic?

Coda:  Who Is Walter Spies and Why Are We Talking About Him?

Zero to 180’s eyebrows went up upon receiving this email from Steve Feigenbaum of Cuneiform Records — Silver Spring-based independent label [last celebrated here] that released Janel and Anthony’s Where Is Home in 2012:

I own that Music and Rhythm album and it was a great revelation to me when I first got it when it was released in 1981 or so?

Really like it and really like Vic’s track.

The monkey chant was invented as a tourist kinda thing from ancient, borrowed elements of traditional culture by a German!

Steve’s Wikipedia link immediately brought me to a “Russian-born German primitivist painter” named Walter Spies, who is a “person of interest” in Michael B. Bakan‘s article published in the June, 2009 edition of Ethnomusicology Forum entitled “The Abduction of the Signifying Monkey Chant:  Schizophrenic Transmogrifications of Balinese Kecak in Fellini’s Satyricon and the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple,” a scholarly piece that “begins with a historical overview that situates kecak’s own history as a Balinese cultural phenomenon within broader frameworks of hybridity, schizophonic and appropriative processes, and international filmmaking, devoting special attention to the contributions of Walter Spies.”

Walter Spies with Ketut the Cockatoo and Ida Bagus, the Monkey c. 1935

photo courtesy of Sotheby’s (© Tropical Museum)

Further sleuthing would reveal that — “according to the standard English leaflet text used by many groups all over Bali” (so says Kendra Stepputat in her research piece entitled, “The Genesis of a Dance-Genre:  Walter Spies and the Kecak“) —

“Contrary to popular belief the Kecak dance is not particularly old.  It was probably first performed in 1930, although the chorus had its origins in a very ancient ritual of the Sanghyang (trance) Dance, which is still performed sometimes in the village.”

Stepputat further elaborates, in “Performing Kecak:  A Balinese Dance Tradition Between Daily Routine and Creative Art,” published in 2012’s Yearbook for Traditional Music (Volume 44, pp. 49-70):

“Kecak is one of the most popular dramatic dance forms performed for tourists on Bali.  It has been developed cooperatively by Balinese artists and Western expatriates, most prominently I Wayan Limbak and Walter Spies, living on Bali in the 1930s, with the explicit purpose of meeting the tastes and expectations of a Western audience.  Driven by economic considerations, in the late 1960s kecak was standardized into the kecak ramayana known today.”

Feigenbaum gets the last word:

That Music and Rhythm record holds up really well, I think.  It never came out fully on CD.  I still have my truncated CD AND the original vinyl.

I liked it because it cast a very wide net from The Specials to Peter Hammill!