Given his first guitar at the age of nine, it was just a matter of time before Tommy James formed his own band, The Shondells. When Tommy was just thirteen he led the group, from Michigan, in recording sessions. One such session produced the single, “Hanky Panky”, in 1962.
Although “Hanky Panky” met with some regional success, in 1963, it was not to be until 1966 that the recording suddenly became a favourite of a disc jockey in Pittsburgh, that the ditty’s popularity spread not only nationwide, but globally.
Buoyed by having a No.1 under his belt, Tommy James moved to New York City where he linked up with the songwriters and producers, Ritchie Cordell and Bo Gentry. He also took the opportunity to finalise the remainder of the group whose members were also to become involved in the process of songwriting.
Tommy James and The Shondells, as this band became known, began to release original recordings that have since passed the test of time. Recordings which were to grace the American pop chart on nineteen occasions between 1966 and 1970.
In addition to “Hanky Panky”, Tommy James and The Shondells, took “I Think We’re Alone Now” to No.4 in 1967; “Mirage” (No.10 in 1967); “Mony Mony” (No.3 — No.1 in Britain — in 1968); “Crimson And Clover” (No.1 in 1968); “Sweet Cherry Wine” (No.7 in 1969) and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” to No.2 in 1969. Songs such as “Crystal Blue Persuasion” emerged during that relatively brief window in time when the movement which advocated peace and love, gave rise to the general belief that the world would become a better place.
The group demonstrated its diversity by moving from bubblegum to psychedelia to even voicing strains of protest at the height of the Vietnamese War, with its release of “Sweet Cherry Wine”.
It was in 1970 that Tommy James became a solo artist. Between then and 1981, he had eighteen recordings enter the American pop chart. By far the most successsful of these being “Draggin’ The Line”, in 1971. Of the remainder, “Three Times In Love” peaked at No.19, in 1980.
Among my favourite recordings by Tommy James and The Shondells, I have to give mention to the bright and breezy “Gettin’ Together”, from 1967, and the psychedelic “Sugar On Sunday” (1969). The band released ten albums in all. Tommy followed these with a further three during his time as a solo artist.
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts revived “Crimson And Clover” in 1982. English rocker, Billy Idol and the British band, Amazulu, did likewise with “Mony Mony” in 1987, and, in this same year, Tiffany covered “I Think We’re Alone Now” with mediocrity.