Me the Mob and the Music – One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & the Shondells – Tommy James (Scribner) – book review –
Out of all the rock n’ roll stories we’ve heard over the years, Tommy James’ is not one of them. Well, there’s a good reason for it: he had to wait until many of the people he talks about in his book passed away. You see, James’ record label, Roulette Records, was actually a front for the Genovese crime family in New York.
So, while he was making the company rich with hits like “Hanky Panky,” and “Crimson and Clover,” James would often bump into shady characters he would later see being led off in handcuffs on the evening news. “Me, the Mob, and the Music” is the rare music biography that’s truly a stellar read. You don’t even have to be a fan to enjoy this book. James has a very conversational writing style that makes getting through the book a breeze.
His personal story of how he got an early start in music, and how his “Hanky Panky” became a hit in Pittsburgh two years after its release, is fun in itself. And, any fan of James’ music will love the behind the scenes stories of “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony Mony.” However, when you factor in the criminal dealings of his label boss, Morris Levy, you’ve really got quite a page-turner. Rumor has it that one of the characters on the HBO hit series The Sopranos was fashioned after Levy, if that tells you anything. Highly recommended.