Monday, November 5, 2007

SISTER ISABELLE

SISTER ISABELLE by DEL SHANNON.

Hi folks,

My name is Corbett and Bill has graciously offered me the chance to guest blog this week. My natural inclination is just to post a bunch of obscure Buffalo Springfield & Byrds songs and have a folk rock a-go-go, but I'm going to try something I hope is a little more challenging.

This week's theme (apologies to those who hate things being spelled out too clearly) will be "Updated 50's Rockers--More than a Makeover". I'd like to explore a few artists who are primarily known for their hit singles in the 1950's or pre-Beatles 1960's and take a closer look at some of their later work.

Today we're going to start with Del Shannon (of Grand Rapids, MI) and his song "Sister Isabelle", a single released in 1969 on Dunhill. Shannon is best remembered for his smash 1961 hit "Runaway", with its eerie organ solo (recorded by Max Crook on his Musitron, a three-octave monophonic keyboard) and creepy lyrical themes of loss and abandonment. In many ways, Shannon's early singles (see also "Hats Off to Larry") foreshadowed the British Invasion--They had a focus on minor chords and were written by the artist himself.

However, by the mid 1960's, Shannon was far past the prime of his career. Despite being overshadowed during these years, Shannon continued to write and record, including the admirable Andrew Loog Oldham produced "Home and Away", an interesting and effective piece of psychedelia, and the ambitious "The Further Adventures of Charles Westover" in 1968. This brings us to our song for today, "Sister Isabelle". I first heard this tune while driving in Plainfield, New Jersey, listening to WFMU. I was really bowled over by it. It's sappy but tough, clever yet heartfelt. In short, it's exactly what my wife would call "Corbett-bait". I just love Shannon's yell at the end when he asks "Does He need you more than I do?" It also has an incredibly cool bridge, replete with swirly, phased choir-style vocals, nicely complementing the lyrical content. Anyway, this single reveals a writer still in strong form and I'll bet Billy Joel listened to it a few times before penning "Only the Good Die Young".

Unfortunately, as is often the case in pop-snob lore, the story does not have a happy ending. Despite being tipped as the replacement for Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys, Del Shannon committed suicide by gunshot in 1990. On that note, enjoy "Sister Isabelle"!

LISTEN.

Photo: Tule, Oaxaca.

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4 comments:

Bill said...

Thanks Corbett for the post, hopefully you'll get a taste for this blogging lark and pitch in more often.

Great song. Great first ten seconds, great chorus. the bridge doesn't really convince me but no problem. it comes back strong.

Also, I love that photo.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Corbett.

Mom

soonergooner said...

And, well played, sir!

Bill said...

man this song kills