Tommy James and the Shondells

Tommy James and the Shondells

Synopsis of Pop Music

"Here she come now, singing Mony Mony..."

Tommy James and the Shondells managed to weather the many changes in the pop music scene during the mid to late 60’s and come out on top with a string of fourteen Top-40 hits. They were truly a pop band for all seasons: Whether the people wanted bubblegum, soul or psychedelia, this was a group that could do it all.

Tommy James formed the first version of the Shondells in 1960 when he was only 12 years old. In 1963, they recorded a single called “Hanky Panky,” a good-natured slice of garage-band pop reminiscent of “Louie, Louie.” The song didn’t attract much attention at the time, and the band later broke up. However, the tune was resurrected in 1966 when a Pittsburgh DJ made it a regional hit. James decided to put together a new version of the Shondells and quickly landed a record contract.

“Hanky Panky” was reissued nationally and became a #1 hit. James teamed up with the writer/producer team of Bobbie Gentry and Richie Cordell to settle into the business of making hit records in late 1966. They produced one hit after another in 1967, starting with “I Think We’re Alone Now” and continuing with “Mirage” and “Getting Together.” They were all snappy, fast-paced bubblegum tunes that overflowed with cool organ riffs and propulsive drumming.

Tommy James and the Shondells developed a ‘tougher’ sound in 1968 with the release of “Mony Mony.” This soul-infused tune forsook the poppy gloss of past hits for an in-your-face sound with a focus on big, pounding drum licks that made listeners want to dance. It zipped to #3 on the charts. The Shondells turned their attention to psychedelia in 1969 with “Crimson and Clover.” The moody-yet-catchy tune, full of inventive touches like wah-wah guitar and phased vocals, shot to #1 and became the group’s biggest U.S. hit.

The Shondells continued to mine the psychedelic vein with the complex “Sweet Cherry Wine,” which went to #7. The laid-back follow-up, “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” featured some memorable flamenco-style guitar and was a #2 hit. Tommy James split up with Shondells in 1970 to pursue a solo career, and the group changed its name to Hog Heaven for continued recordings and tours. James had a #4 hit that year with the soulful “Draggin’ The Line” and continued to record throughout the 70’s, sometimes with former members of the Shondells.

Tommy James is still touring and recording today. Other artists have helped him keep his legacy of success alive by covering his past hits. Joan Jett recorded a #7 hit cover of “Crimson and Clover” in 1982. Tiffany went to #1 in 1987 with her version of “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Ironically, her replacement in the #1 slot came when Billy Idol did his own cover of a Shondells classic, “Mony Mony.” Successes like these assure that the magical music of Tommy James and the Shondells will never be forgotten.

Artist Release History

1966 - Hanky Panky
1967 - It's Only Love
1967 - Come Softly to Me
1967 - I Think We're Alone Now
1968 - Gettin' Together
1968 - Something Special
1968 - Crimson & Clover
1968 - Mony Mony
1969 - Cellophane Symphony
1970 - Travelin'
1970 - Tommy James
1971 - Christian of the World
1971 - My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar
1976 - In Touch
1977 - Midnight Rider
1980 - 3 Times in Love
1980 - Easy to Love
1990 - Anthology
1995 - A Night in Big City: An Audio-Movie
2000 - Tighter, Tighter

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Anthology (Rhino)

Band Members

Tommy James vocals
Eddie Gray guitar
Mike Vale bass
Ronnie Rosman organ
Peter Lucia drums

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