The spaceman came to England at the start of July. Any reluctance that might have been felt over allowing Yuri Gagarin, the world’s most famous Soviet, to tour his propaganda triumph was surely outweighed by the simple wonder of meeting a man who had seen and done the things he had seen and done. He was a living, walking piece of the future, a future you can also catch in “Runaway”s shrill instrumental break, whose thin and eerily modulated circus tones bring even more melodrama to an already urgent song.
The gadget that made these piping sounds turned out to be not a true synth but a ‘Muzitron’, and the song’s co-writer had built it out of whatever was lying around, including bits of his TV set. “Runaway” already had a solid gimmick – the “wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder” hook – and you wouldn’t think it needed the Muzitron at all, but its presence makes the song. Its chirpiness has a mocking air, taunting Shannon just as he’s admitted that this is no ordinary breakup – his woman has not only left him but vanished. Then when the Muzitron takes the place of a second verse it makes it clear that there will be no explanation, no hint as to where the girl might have gone: she is free, Del is abject, and only mystery remains. One imagines Gagarin’s minders turning a radio dial in their London hotel, hearing the song, and perhaps frowning.