Hats Off To
Mole Hole Records
Release Date: March 13th, 1962
Words by: Roland Ellis
May 3rd, 2012
The relevance and appeal of Del Shannon's records will always be confined to their original era, in this writer's opinion. When we listen to, say, Buddy Holly, the simplicity of his 50s rock rhythms and melodies still connect with us today, not only in a nostalgic sense but also through their undeniable sense of heart and genuineness. The same cannot be said of Del Shannon's album, 'Hats off to Del Shannon'.
Del Shannon is more of a light-weight crooner who applies a cookie-cutter formula to every tune. Simplicity can be fantastic, but in his case it quickly becomes monotonous. The swingy, rock- a-billy, session-musician style hounds every tune. While it might be a perfect product of the mid-freeway sound of that era, by early to mid 1962 it was sliding out of date thanks to the ever-growing thirst for real personality in music.
Del Shannon could sing and he could spot a decent hook within a very limited song structure. For a lot of listeners this might be enough. It's easy music. It plays in the back room while you make dinner and occasionally tune in to a boppy line, like 'Every time I see her I have to weep, I'm gonna cry myself to sleep'. But when you reflect on the many great records that have hung out in similar spaces, it's hard, in my opinion, to give Del Shannon the time of day.
On the track 'I'm gonna move on', his attempt to deviate into 'bad-boy' territory with lines like 'I spent thirty days in the county jail' is so obviously manufactured to cash in on the successful styles of Johnny Cash and Presley that it's almost laughable. He holds on to his smarmy nice-guy attitude so as not to piss off any of his middle of the road fans and it just sounds phoney.
This album feels like a constant, predictable build towards a radio-friendly hook, always with an eye to imitating the success of his previous hit single, 'Runaway', and there ain't much more to it. As Del belts out in his own words and I have to agree: 'There's really no mystery to it all'.