Jackie DeShannon

TrackAlbum
Needles And PinsBreakin' It Up On The Beatles Tour
When You Walk In The RoomBreakin' It Up On The Beatles Tour
Love Is Leading MeAre You Ready For This?
Holly WouldLaurel Canyon
The Greener SideLaurel Canyon CD bonus track
Put A Little Love In Your HeartPut A Little Love In Your Heart
West Virginia MineSongs
Sweet SixteenAll The Love: Lost Atlantic Recordings
Bette Davis EyesNew Arrangement
You Know MeYou Know Me

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Contributor: Peter Viney

Jackie DeShannon is considered to be the first true rock female singer-songwriter. She has the acclaim of two volumes in the Ace songwriter series of covers of her songs (Break-a-Way/She Did It!). Among them are many I never knew she’d written like Woe Is Me, a Helen Shapiro late 1962 hit, which I bought new.

Like other female singer songwriters, Jackie DeShannon does a lot of cover versions on her own singles and albums. The male songwriters have the ego to put forward all 12 tracks for an album. The women tend to be happy with three or four plus covers.

She was talent-spotted by Eddie Cochran, as a 16 year old recording under the names Jackie Dee then Jackie Shannon … she had released sixteen songs under those names. She later combined the two. Cochran introduced her to his girlfriend Sharon Sheeley and they co-wrote Dum Dum for Brenda Lee, a #4 American hit. Brenda Lee had already recorded Jackie’s My Baby Likes Western Guys. One of Jackie’s advantages was being able to demo in style, as she did with the B-side of her first single, Lonely Girl, where she utilises all Brenda Lee’s vocal mannerisms. Right through her career you can see her working in a style that might help sell the song to a particular artist or type of artists.

The early singles starting in 1960, reveal a chameleon ability to channel Brenda Lee raucous (Lonely Girl), almost doo-wop (Teach Me), Wanda Jackson (Baby When Ya Kiss Me) and Etta James (Drown In My Own Tears). She says her influences were Ray Charles and Bobby Bland. You can hear it. The B-side I Won’t Turn You Down has hit written all over it for me. It wasn’t. It’s credited to ‘Ellen Carol’ which it is claimed was a pseudonym for Phil Everly.

She was also a talent spotter. She recorded Randy Newman’s very early Take Me Away, which sounds nothing like Randy Newman and there’s her 1963 collaboration with Randy Newman, Hold Your Head High, where I’d guess his expertise is the arrangement. Jackie contributed songs to The Ronettes (He Did It) and Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans (I Shook The World, Jimmy Baby). She recorded a few would-be girl group classics herself, such as I Remember The Boy (1965) the B-side of What The World Needs Now, and her collaboration with Jack Nitzsche, Should I Cry, also 1965.

The first album was Jackie DeShannon in 1963. She called it the “Dylan album” because that was what it was intended to be, but the record label didn’t share her faith in Dylan (who she knew) and diluted it with folk classics. The In The Wind album in 1965 was essentially the same fashionably folky album, and covered three Bob Dylan songs: Blowing In The Wind, Don’t Think Twice and Walkin’ Down The Line, or four if we include Baby Let Me Follow You Down, which became Baby Let Me Follow You Around. Dylan didn’t write it, but it was on his first album. The Dylan rarity is Walkin’ Down The Line, an obscure 1962 song which she was the first to record. Dylan’s version had to wait till The Bootleg Series 1-3. She has a lovely strong rock rasp in her voice (almost Lulu) on the song. There are outstanding innovative slow takes on 500 Miles and Bobby Darin’s Jailer Bring Me Water, both of which I considered. The 1965 album has Needles And Pins tacked on. On the LP it stands out like a sore thumb … a very nice sore thumb, but it doesn’t fit the folky air at all .

Breakin’ It Up On The Beatles Tour came in 1964 It was a round up of her early singles and contained her two best-known early songs, Needles And Pins (1963) and When You Walk In The Room (1963). Jackie was on the Beatles tour as a support act, but that’s the tenuous connection to this compilation of pre-existing A & B sides. I discovered Jackie via The Searchers covers in those days when we lived on British cover versions and were motivated to seek out the almost always superior American originals. She recycled both songs, placing them on several later albums, as she did with Hold Your Head High from 1963. It’s one of five songs she co-wrote with the then unknown Randy Newman.

Needles And Pins was written by Jack Nitzsche and the then unknown Sonny Bono, though Jackie has said “We were all up there writing. We were writing it for me. I didn’t get a writing credit. I was part of the song, but I didn’t insist on it.” If you listen through her songs, there is a ‘DeShannon stamp’ on it to my ears. It was only a minor US hit, but when covered by The Searchers was massive. Actually Jackie’s original was #1 in Canada. Jackie adds the distinctive –a (Needles and Pins-a) at the end of the lines. The B-side Did He Call Today, Mama was by Randy Newman. Till You Say You’ll Be Mine, a later 1963 single, is an ideal choice if you like Needles And Pins and When You Walk In The Room. It’s a bridge joining the two.

When You Walk In The Room is her composition, and was released as a B-side on 23 November 1963, a week when nothing sold after the Kennedy assassination. It was reissued as an A side nearly a year later. The Searchers lifted it pretty much wholesale, and had another huge hit with it. Just watch the video of her performing it live (see top clip). Which one do you prefer? There’s no contest for me. The best bit is she starts miming a line earlier and does a little apologetic ‘phew!’.

Any lyricist would have been thrilled to find this rhyme:

I close my eyes for a second
and pretend it’s me you want
Meanwhile I try to act so nonchalant

She recorded What The World Needs Now Is Love in 1965, beginning a Burt Bacharah / Hal David association. Of course it should be in the Ten, but as everyone really knows the song anyway, and she didn’t write it, I’ll squeeze another song in instead.

It was a Dionne Warwick reject which Bacharach had little faith in it, but which Jackie insisted on recording. Jackie is the first of over one hundred versions of what is now a standard. Everyone knows the song. Go back to her phrasing on the original version. With just so many versions, it is instructive to check out how she defined the interpretation. The second (there was a rapid reissue) B-side is I Remember The Boy which sounds like a demo to interest The Shangri-Las, and was in earlier drafts on my Toppermost Ten. The same songs keep turning up on different compilations. So Lonely Girl (an LP in 1968) is named after the B-side of her first 1960 single. It opens with Needles And Pins.

Come And Stay With Me was a major hit for Marianne Faithfull in 1965, a good year for Jackie. It was written while Jackie was going out with Jimmy Page, with whom she co-wrote In My Time Of Sorrow. Cher covered Come And Stay With Me too, but Jackie’s own version had to wait for Laurel Canyon in 1968. Marianne Faithfull recorded five Jackie DeShannon songs in 1965 to 1966. I found a 1980 Decca Marianne Faithfull hits EP – Come And Stay With Me is credited to ‘Del Shannon’ – that’s how much attention Decca paid to its artistes. I just hope Jackie got the royalties.

Are You Ready For This? (1966) sometimes sounds like Motown. Other times it’s Bacharach. The title track and several of the other songs sound like pastiche Diana Ross & The Supremes, but also like really great Supremes material. Jackie DeShannon composed Are You Ready For This and arranged it to sound pure Motown … probably hoping to sell it to Berry Gordy. To Be Myself continues the theme, but Love Is Leading Me gets the place because it sounds so like great Motown soul. But so does Are You Ready For This. Both deserve a place, but I want to show her range. The album includes a full-on version of You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and Tony Hatch’s Call Me, one every major female singer of the 60s covered.

Splendor In The Grass was a 1966 single, with vocal and instrumental backing by The Byrds. It apparently comes from a 1965 session with The Byrds for a folk rock album that didn’t happen. The tune and arrangement is a classic Byrds sound, substituting her lead voice … and it fits. The Byrds recorded her Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe on their Mr Tambourine Man album. So there are Searchers and Byrds links. Lots of 12 string guitar!

1967 and 1968 saw her following the expected direction of female singers. It happened to all the British ones too. New Image in 1967 goes for the ballads, while What The World Needs Now Is Love was produced by Burt Bacharach, and rounds up five Burt Bacharach songs (including the earlier hit title track, and reprises of So Long Johnny and Windows And Doors from Are You Ready For This? and Tony Hatch’s Call Me). The album Me About You achieves the astonishing feat of making Tim Hardin’s Reason To Believe sound like What The World Needs Now Is Love. The mid-60s singles and albums see her recording a lot of ‘sophisticated MoR’ by Bacharach and others, and she could write it herself too, see I Keep Wanting You as an example. It’s the sort of material that filled all those girl singers TV shows. When I did lights on variety shows it was a style introduced as ‘serious popular music’. I’m much less keen on this period.

That was why her recording of The Band’s song, The Weight in 1968 was seen as a dramatic move for her. Back to her more rocking roots. In fact she had recorded John Sebastian’s I Didn’t Want To Have To Do It as the B-side of her previous single, but the orchestra and smooth sophisticated treatment makes it sound more Bacharach than Lovin’ Spoonful. It works so well that she makes it sound ‘standard’.

She proudly insists she was the first artist to cover The Weight, and her version charted higher than the original. That was another route into exploring her music for me. I enjoy The Weight whoever plays it. I’m delighted if a bar band strikes it up, and my pursuit of cover versions led me to Laurel Canyon. I like what she did with The Weight. Not the best cover version … I’d rate The Staples there … but still very creditable. Of course, The Weight combines country, folk, gospel and soul roots … all areas she had worked in before. As the first cover, she also started the tradition of The Weight covers with a big soul voice chorus.

The title Laurel Canyon immediately takes us away from the big ‘serious popular music’ ballads. The band on Laurel Canyon placed Mac Rebbenack (Dr. John) on piano, with Harold Battiste on electric piano, both from Gris Gris. Barry White was part of the backing vocal group. She covers Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love with terrific urgency and wild piano from Dr John, then reaches back and does You Really Got A Hold On Me. Too Close is great soul/gospel singing. On the other hand, I Got My Reason on the other side of the LP, lifts the rolling piano part and most of the melody of The Weight. It’s a fabulous performance, but much too obvious a lift to go in. Barry White claims he wrote it. Yeah, right, Barry. The Toppermost choice is a toss up between the title track, Laurel Canyon and Holly Would. Holly Would is a folk song that’s sweetly pretty before taking off into an anthemic song. The big drums are a bit predictable but it’s a superb example of her as a folk singer.

The CD reissue of Laurel Canyon added bonus tracks, mainly unreleased publishing demos she did for Liberty. One of those rejected demos is The Greener Side. It sounds fully-realized to me with female backing vocals and a determined and powerful vocal. Great tune too. It comes from 1966, and Jack Nitzsche produced Broadway star Tammy Grimes on a version that sounds like Eartha Kitt in Haight-Ashbury with stinging guitar and a big chorus. It was unreleased until Ace’s She Did It! compilation of Jackie DeShannon songs.

Put A Little Love In Your Heart is her favourite of her own compositions, and her biggest hit (US #4 in 1969). It was co-written with her brother, Randy Myers, and is also one of her most covered songs. It was in the film Scrooged in 1989, sung by Annie Lennox and Al Green and was another major hit. Love Will Find A Way from the same album was a minor hit.

To Be Free came out soon after Put A Little Love In Your Heart. The musicians weren’t credited but included Randy Edelman, Russ Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar and Clydie King. It has an odd version of You Keep Me Hanging On in a medley with Little Anthony & The Imperials’ Hurt So Bad. Having proved she could do straight Supremes in the past, she takes them both as a recitation breaking into a dramatic Cilla Black style emotional ballad. The last Liberty single was It’s So Nice from the album, and the only reason it isn’t in the ten is that she didn’t write it. Brighton Hill and Mediterranean Sky are key tracks from the album, and Brighton Hill is a favourite of its writer. Bird On The Wire by Leonard Cohen is another cover on there, and destined to be her final Liberty single, but it was withdrawn.

Songs was her 1971 Capitol album, and the start of major collaboration with her future husband, Randy Edelman, who played keyboards. Bad Water is one of her many powerful soul/gospel songs. Danny Kootch on guitars and Russ Kunkel on drums gave a fashionable James Taylor/Carole King groove, especially on West Virginia Mine and Salinas. West Virginia Mine has hypnotic piano from Randy Edelman, rolling bass then strings way in the distance. The piano and voice are so good together that it’d get in with just the two of them. It deserves a place because it’s yet another style. She covered Lay, Lady Lay (as Lay Baby Lay, as Cher had). Show Me has a jaunty jazzy swing, as does a terrific rocking Down By The Riverside, both pointing the way to her Bette Davis Eyes.

Jackie moved to Atlantic to record Jackie in late 1971 with Jerry Wexler. Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin. Covers included John Prine’s Paradise, Van Morrison’s I Wanna Roo You and Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, the latter an interpretation so well done that I was very tempted to include it. She did Van better elsewhere. Her own composition, Peaceful In My Soul, was the single. Laid Back Days is a great early seventies funky rock song, with extended guitar solos. Anna Karina also rocks. It’s a solid album.

All The Love: The Lost Atlantic Recordings is a recent CD release, comprising a scrapped 1973 Atlantic album, plus seven unreleased tracks, and four of her recordings with Van Morrison. I find the lost album better even than the previous Jackie. The Van Morrison tracks comprise Sweet Sixteen which was issued as a single, plus Flamingos Fly, Santa Fe and The Wonder Of You. They were also on the CD version of Jackie. Jackie had earlier recorded covers of And It Stoned Me and I Wanna Roo You and she also sang backing vocals on Van’s Warm Love. After years of writing about Van Morrison, I would not have classed any of the four ‘lost Atlantic’ songs as among his very best songs. That is, until I heard them here. The horns backing is great, and on Sweet Sixteen Van Morrison duets with her. They co-wrote the song too. They also co-wrote Santa Fe, and performed on stage together in 1973.

The lost Atlantic session included a version of Drift Away, recorded before Dobie Gray’s hit version. Sweet Soul Singer could be a stage musical hit, with its brassy jazzy additions. Elsewhere on the 1973 album, the horn arrangements and touches of guitar sound like Van Morrison’s band.

Your Baby Is A Lady was 1974, on Atlantic and actually got released too, unlike the previous set. It opens with another Band-related song, Rick Danko and Bobby Charles’ song Small Town Talk. If You Never Have A Big Hit Record (You’re Still Gonna Be My Star) seems like an ode to her husband. Not that she wrote it. The list of backing musicians includes Richard Tee, Steve Gadd, Hugh McCracken, Cornell Dupree, William Salter on bass (he wrote two) plus backing vocals from Judy Clay, Gwen Guthrie and Cissy Houston. Best track for me is You Touch And You Go.

1975’s New Arrangement had Let The Sailors Dance as the single, co-written with Randy Edelman, and the first version of Bette Davis Eyes, later a 1981 hit for Kim Carnes. The original version has an almost swing arrangement, bringing out the lyrics. Kim Carnes did great things with the song, and it’s so familiar in her hit version that Jackie’s original is surprising now. If I just wanted the song, I might choose Kim Carnes, but repeated listening does pull out the trad jazzy virtues of the original. The ending is straight New Orleans jazz. Randy Edelman was touring with The Carpenters, and they covered Jackie’s Boat To Sail from New Arrangement. Brian Wilson sings on Jackie’s original.

We’re up to forty years ago only and I’ve sweated getting twenty or thirty down to ten. The later material has a lower profile. You Know Me in 2000 is the most prominent and she’s in such terrific voice that you wonder where she’d been. She wrote thirteen of the fourteen songs and co-produced it. The other is a cover of The Beach Boys’ Trader. Somewhere In America was the favoured song in reviews. The lyrics are a tad earnest for me. You Know Me was the title track, and there’s a reason why a song gives its title to the whole album. It’s the choice. But try Here On for Jackie doing reggae. Red Montana Sky and Keeper Of The Dream also nearly got in.

In 2011 When You Walk In The Room (a title used elsewhere) has stripped-down solo versions of ten old songs, plus one new one, Will You Stay In My Life. I guess it’s her own Toppermost. Check it out!

LISTENING GUIDE
Ace’s three CDS, “The Complete Liberty & Imperial Singles” cover most of the early stuff. I’d also recommend Laurel Canyon, The Lost Atlantic Recordings and You Know Me.

SOME COVERS OF JACKIE DE SHANNON SONGS
My Baby Likes Western Guys – Brenda Lee
Dum Dum – Brenda Lee
The Great Imposter – The Fleetwoods, The Searchers
Woe Is Me – Helen Shapiro
Break-A-Way – Irma Thomas
When You Walk In The Room – The Searchers, Bruce Springsteen
Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe – The Byrds
Come And Stay With Me – Marianne Faithfull, Cher
The Greener Side – Tammy Grimes
Bad Water – Doris Duke
Put A Little Love In Your Heart – Annie Lennox & Al Green; Dolly Parton
Boat To Sail – The Carpenters
Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes, Big Daddy, Gwyneth Paltrow

 

Jackie DeShannon official website

Jackie DeShannon biography (iTunes)

Peter Viney writes on popular music and the arts at his website.

TopperPost #463

2 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Aug 6, 2015

    Magnificent list. ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. It sounds like a cheesy cover of the original. But it is the original! I too think the Kim Carnes version is definitive but this one rewards me on each listen. A brilliant song all round.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Aug 11, 2015

    Peter, thanks for this great and very thorough list… Re. covers – can I put in a word for Rick Nelson’s fine version of ‘Thank you Darling’ which features a great guitar part from James Burton. Written by Jackie and Sharon Sheeley…

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