One day while I was enjoying my morning java and listening to my beloved “Doo-Wop Express”, as I do most days (when I turn my TuneIn app off at night, it says the doo-wop has been playing for 16+ hours), my man on the Express, Ron Norwood, played me one of my favourite new songs – “Shu-Bop” by Dion. When Mr. Norwood started playing this song recently, my ears perked up as I was totally unfamiliar with it. I feel like I am at least aware of most everything that went on in the ’50’s and early ’60’s so when something is unfamiliar it is exciting – and a little unsettling. One of the many funny things I say is “I’ve never heard of this song – it must not exist”, as if to say I’ve heard it all, which I certainly haven’t.
Anyways, I fell in love with this song and told the “Doo-Wop Express” Facebook group so. And that was it, really. I’d hear the song every now and then and enjoy it. When I heard it this morning, I thought I’d go into “Wellsy, P.I.” mode and look it up. What I found was interesting.
First of all, the song is not from the “golden age”, at all. I have appointed myself something of a watch dog for the “Doo-Wop Express”. If I hear a song that is credited to Elvis Presley but is not Elvis Presley, I get in touch with Mr. Norwood. If I hear a song that is “retro-like” but came out in the ’80’s, I get in touch with Mr. Norwood. In the name of purity. I hesitate to do so, however, because Ron’s service is so rare and invaluable to me that I do not like to nitpick. The fact that “Shu-Bop” is from the year 2000 I will leave alone because the song is so wonderful.
Dion DiMucci is still alive as of this writing and is a straight-up legend. His time with the Belmonts and his solo work are the epitome of the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. More than that, he has been influential and many great artists of later years point to him as an inspiration. He continued to record throughout the ’70’s and ’80’s during which time he also helped pioneer Contemporary Christian Music. In 2000, he released Déjà Nu, an album that Allmusic rates highly. It calls the music “retro in concept” but “lean and fresh” and declares the album “one of the best and most fully realized albums” of Dion’s career. Notably, he covers two Bruce Springsteen songs from Bruce’s Lucky Town album of 1992; “Book of Dreams” and “If I Should Fall Behind”. The opening track on Déjà Nu is “Shu-Bop (The Lost Track)”. Dion has posted on his Facebook page that this song is often miscredited on YouTube but that it is indeed him and his back-up group of that era, “The Doo-Wop Kings”.
The song is delightful. It has a sweet, wistful quality. The gentle chord changes draw out pleasant feelings. You’re blissfully gazing at the one you love or strolling down the avenue on a warm, sunny day, the first of spring.
I also found that this song has been covered by Manhattan Transfer singer Alan Paul. It is the title track of his 2015 album. But Dion’s Déjà Nu album is quite hard to find. iTunes offers it as a “Partial Album” – it is missing “If I Should Fall Behind” – and you have to buy the tracks singly at $1.29 a pop. There are spotty listings on Amazon (one offers the CD for $123.75 CDN) and several on eBay. Ace Records in the UK – the label Dion made the record for – offers the version missing the one track and the shipping would be substantial. And my sons tell me that it is NOT available on Spotify (so, there!). We at SoulRide are here to help, though: here is the track “Shu-Bop” and you can listen to the whole album here.
I recall that when Deja Nu came out, the publicity said that for the sake of the authentic sound, it had been recorded on vintage equipment.
Oh, really, Mark?! That is cool, I like that. I remember reading in the early ’90’s that Lenny Kravitz had done the same thing looking for an earthier more organic sound. And this makes Dion even cooler. I don’t own enough of his music – I think I’ll start shopping. Thanks for your comment.