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music and memories
Breakin' It Up On The Beatles Tour!
by Peter Lerner


Jackie DeShannon had been recording and performing for no less than 8 years when something momentous happened to her in 1964… The erstwhile Sherry Lee, Jackie Dee and Jackie Shannon, still a youngster just out of her teens, was invited to tour the United States and Canada as a support act to the Beatles.

     Now the Fab Four had great musical taste in those days, and would have heard at least some of Jackie’s amazing Liberty 45s. Certainly “Needles And Pins” and “When You Walk In The Room” would have impressed them, arranged by Jack Nitzsche with a sound redolent of the happening LA productions of Phil Spector. Those two songs impressed the Beatles’ buddies from Liverpool, the Searchers too, as the Top 40s around the world in 1963 and 1964 will attest. Jackie had written hits for Brenda Lee and many others too, while still in her teens, was drop-dead petite blonde gorgeous, and could sing too - could she sing!
     Performing on the Beatles tour may not have given anyone, other than the moptops, any artistic satisfaction. You would sing two or three songs, be completely drowned out by young females screaming “We want the Beatles”, leave the stage and collect your money. The Righteous Brothers, another support act, reputedly walked away from the tour long before it ended. But Jackie stayed the course, knowing that exposure on this scale could make her career skyrocket.
Liberty records rush released an album to coincide with the tour. “Breakin’ It Up On The Beatles Tour” (an impossible title, what on earth does it mean?) has a hastily grabbed soft focus photo of Jackie performing on the cover, and the 12 tracks were a quickly assembled throwing together of some of Jackie’s better songs which had already been released. Enough said? Actually no. This album is a treasure and for the last 40 or so years, copies have been almost impossible to find on the second-hand market.

     OK, “Needles And Pins” and “When You Walk In The Room” you would expect to find on any DeShannon compilation album and here they are, but listen to them. Don’t the hairs just stand up on the back of your neck? Listen to the way she lives the words of “Needles And Pins”. Listen to that full, satisfying sound that Jack Nitzsche magics on “When You Walk…”. Then there are two songs that Jackie co-wrote with Randy Newman, from the time when Randy and Jackie were both contracted to write for Liberty’s Metric Music - the dramatic “She Don’t Understand Him Like I Do” (also covered by Connie Stevens and Brian Hyland) and the even more dramatic “Hold Your Head High”. Randy also contributes “Did He Call Today, Mama”, a question which Jackie asks huskily to an almost reggae beat. Jackie also wrote a few with guru Nitzsche, and the lovely loping doo-wop “Should I Cry” is a treat.

     Jackie’s previous writing partner was Sharon Sheeley, and they  contribute a couple of passionate and wonderful teen ballads, “You Won’t Forget Me” and “The Prince”. The folky all-join-in “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and two stormers, “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)” and the New Orleans classic “Over You” round the album off, not forgetting  the only song which may well have been especially recorded for the album, a pounding version of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy”. In those days people didn’t record covers of Buddy’s songs and this may have been a first for Jackie, decorated with some shrill “ooohs” as a tribute to her touring co-stars. Great fun.

     Anyway, this wonderful slab of early 60s LA music making, with Jackie’s sexy voice thrown in, would be sufficient in itself for a re-release. But those nice guys at RPM have gone and added some bonus tracks. Tempted they may have been to throw in a few more hits, but no, they have gone and found eight more contemporary tracks, and wonderful they are. “I’m Looking For Someone To Love” and “Maybe Baby” are more from the Holly repertoire, with Jackie greatly at ease singing the songs of her 50s hero. “Breakaway”, as covered years later by Tracey Ullman, is a gem, unheard until it snook out on an EMI CD a few years ago, but why oh why was it  hidden? A top 10 hit if ever there was one. “Try To Forget Him” is another wonderful curling, pulsing teen tune, tailor made for Bobby Vee and with that unmistakeable early 60s Liberty sound right through the grooves. And “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine”, originally the A-side to “When You Walk In The Room” is such a great Nitzsche/DeShannon collaboration that you just want to listen to that voice, those guitars, that sound again and again on repeat.
     I haven’t finished yet! The best news for us admirers of Miss DeShannon is the three previously unheard tracks. And they are treats. “Mean Old Frisco” allows me to put Jackie and Muddy Waters into the same sentence for the first time, although I have previously written a fair amount about Jackie. Here Jackie sings the blues like I’ve never ever heard her before. Recorded in 1963 when still in her teens. D’ya hear, Joss Stone? “Give Me A Break” is a shuffling country tinged song with a slight Sam Cooke feel, not unsurprising, since Jackie co-wrote it with Sam’s associate, Zelda Samuels. I wonder if they wrote it with Sam in mind? And finally…… “Today Will Have No Night”. Some of us have heard Jackie’s LA demo of this; but the finished job is quite different. Buzzing with life and activity, girl backing singers, bouncing strings, hand clapping - a creation of wonder. And recorded in

     Nice insert with lots of pics of Jackie, wonderful remastering of the original tapes, I do think you will enjoy this, I really do. If you need more tempting, Jack Nitzsche arranged all but one of the tracks. And great work Jim Pierson, who did all the unearthing and compiling. More please.

Please click below for the index page for this issue.

Cover Pic v18

Click on Jackie to return to page one.