Friday, 4 March 2011

Do You Think You're Alone Now?

70's Pick of the Week

“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells (1969)

So this is technically a 1969 release but it had such an impact on the ‘70’s I claim artistic license to include it here. When I was talking to a buddy, Stu a few months ago it reminded me of this childhood memory-

When I was about 10 years old, we were visiting a friend of my parents who had a son about 3 or four years older than me.  Being very impressionable, particularly where music was concerned, this was an important evening as it would turn out.

Jimmy, besides being a chemistry nut and having the new spirograph, (you know the real fancy one that came out later), and was totally into music. He asked me if I had any records. I told him I had a few K-Tels but that was about it. He laughed and said “You have to hear this record”. He proceeded to put this strange small record (45) on his little record player and out came “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells. I was ‘knocked out’ as they would say at the time. I just sat there and listened to it over and over and over.  (I had seen LP records, like the big ones, because my Dad had many of them but never had I really noticed one of these before that I recall..........)

After what seemed like an hour, Jimmy’s mother yells up the stairs – “Would you shut that noise off Jimmie!” Off came the record and Jimmy ran down stairs with me in hot pursuit to find out what this ball of fire was up to next. Into the living room where everyone was sitting around he announced that we were watching TV because the “Tom Jones” show was on.  Jimmy flipped the channels (yes manually in those days) till we saw Tom singing “Delilah” I think it was.( I am thinking “Whassup with the ‘fro dude? ......not really, I was 10)

By the time I went home that night I had learned: 45s are cool. Tommy James and the Shondells are cool. Tom Jones is cool (although I don’t really understand the whole thing with the women fawning over him), Jimmy was cool. And music itself is very cool!  Quite a lot to take in, in one evening for a 10 year old.

 Tommy James knew what he wanted to do from a very early age – be a rock star. He thought well, Elvis can do this, so can I. I remember something David W said to me once in school, “I want to be a movie producer, what are you going to do?" I told him I did not have a flippin’ clue........of course he is a movie producer now and Tommy became a rock star. I on the other hand I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

Tommy James first single “Hanky Panky” was recorded when he was in high school and became a bit of a local hit. Not getting the attention he thought he should, Tommy kept at it and a few years later it was dug up and became a hit. Eventually it was recorded on Roulette records.

Still not getting the public exposure he thought he should get, Tommy shleped his demo around.No one would talk to him and he was getting frustrated. Finally Jerry Wexler (of Atlantic records fame) told him that Morris Leavy of Roulette records had called him and everyone else and told him to “back off, it is our record!”.

You see, Rouleete records was a front for the Mob. As a result, the Shondells never did get a fair share of royalties. The upside though was, Roulette was a small label and they let Tommy do whatever he wanted as long as he was pumping out the hits. No pressure!

As my daughter and I were talking the other night, at the time, singles (in  45 rpm format)  were what you needed to succeed. They came first before the album. It has come almost full circle now as Lady Gaga puts out her songs one at a time. (It would be great if they put out a Lady Gaga 45!)

Tommy James and the Shondells have sold over 110 million records so far, so you have to know some of these, or at least their successful covers:

·        Mony, Mony (later covered by Billy Idol)
·        Crimson and Clover (later covered by Joan Jett)
·        Draggin’ the Line (later covered by R.E.M. for “The Spy Who Shagged me”
·        I Think We’re alone now (later covered by Tiffany) 
·        Sweet Cherry Wine
And finally-
·        Crystal Blue Persuasion (a Jimmy favourite that sold some 3 million copies)

Another interesting tidbit with ‘Mony, Mony’ was that apparently Tommy was under the gun to come up with a song (maybe literally). He was staying in a hotel in New York and  looked out the window for inspiration. There was a sign that said ‘Mutual of New York’. The legend is that this became the inspiration for MONY, MONY. Who knows?

Thanks Jimmy. Still love TJ & the Shondells!


Angelique said...

Tommy James and the Shondells are playing at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto this September. Do I see a road trip in your future Davo-Rama?

Davo-rama Music said...

Thanks for the info Angelique, Davo-rama does like concerts!