Tag Archives: Tommy James

#210 – Tommy James of the Shondells – Hanky Panky, Mony Mony & Other Tales

Tommy James of the Shondells was our very first interview on Icon Fetch.  Now, 209 shows later, he returns with an extensive talk about the stories behind some of his biggest hits: The unbelievable tale of his rise to fame with “Hanky Panky,” the party classic “Mony Mony,” the bubblegum confection of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” the psychedelic “Crimson & Clover,” the anti-war “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and the heavenly “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”  He also updates on his book Me the Mob and the Music and how it’s going to be turned into a major motion picture.

#48 – John Lennon Tribute Show

John Lennon

Thursday night marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  We pay tribute to one of the most influential musicians in the history of music through a special 2-hour edition of Icon Fetch.  The show will feature live calls from listeners and recorded interviews with a wide array of musicians who were affected by Lennon’s talent.  Among the guests are May Pang, who was Lennon’s girlfriend during the year and a half “Lost Weekend;” Delbert McClinton, who taught Lennon how to play the harmonica in the early days of the Beatles; and Tommy James, Gary Wright and Wally Bryson of the Raspberries, who all had a chance to meet Lennon during his lifetime.

Other artists include Grammy winners Shelby Lynne and David Lanz; rockers Dwight Twilley and Donnie Iris; melodic songwriters Marshall Crenshaw and Jason Falkner; and underground veterans Peter Case and Steve Wynn.  Several authors who have written recent books about the singer, including Robert Rodriguez, Ken Sharp and Keith Elliot Greenberg, will also weigh in with their thoughts.

Tommy James – Live & On Fire (CD review)

Tommy James & the Shondells – Live and On Fire (Angel Air) CD review –

Tommy James is hiding something from us.  Perhaps he found the fountain of youth?  Maybe he made a deal at the crossroads?  Or, could it be that James is from another planet? (“Crimson and Clover” DID always sound “otherworldly”).  Whatever it is, someone his age shouldn’t be able to sound this young.

Live and On Fire is actually a collection of two separate releases.  The “Live” part is a DVD concert film “Live at the Bitter End” from 2000, which finds James in fine voice, backed by a band of ace musicians who lend great harmonies and searing lead guitar to his songs.  This DVD makes perfectly clear how many GREAT songs Tommy James gave us.  And, perhaps it’s time to crown him the “King of the Party Song” — how many others can say they gave us TWO of the greatest Frat rock songs of all-time, in “Hanky Panky,” and “Mony Mony”?

The real treat here, and what is baffling me, is the “On Fire” part, which refers to James’ last studio effort, Hold the Fire, released in 2006.  He was 59 at the time this originally came out, but one listen to these tracks reveals a singer that sounds HALF that age.  His voice is clear and strong, and downright youthful.  This is no more apparent than in the title track, where his voice soars over the gentle ballad.  And, his voice isn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed.  James shows that he hasn’t lost his knack for writing great melodies either: “Love Words” has a great chorus.  “It Keeps On Goin’” is reminiscent of “Tighter and Tighter,” the hit he wrote for Alive and Kicking in 1970.  “Angels and Strangers” has an Eighties feel and probably could have been a hit if it was released then.  He even reprises one of his most under-appreciated tracks from the Sixties, “Sweet Cherry Wine,” which here gets a church-like feel.  Even when James steps out of his comfort zone, as in the digital beats of “Amy,” it’s still wrapped around a great melody.  The disc adds a couple of bonus tracks, “I Just Wanna Play the Music,” which dates from his 1980 comeback album, and a spirited live rendition of his 1967 hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

So, I’m trying to wrap my head around this one: here is a guy who made his most popular music over forty years ago.  Yet, on this collection, both on the live set and especially the studio disc, it sounds like absolutely no time has passed at all.  For those fans of James’ original hits, you will not be disappointed in this release.  As for me, I’m phoning him up and getting him to tell me where he’s hiding his youth pills.  –Tony Peters

Me, the Mob and the Music – Tommy James (book review)

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.


Tommy James – 40 years – Complete Singles Collection (CD review)

Disc one packs such a wallop, did one guy do all these songs?

Tommy James – 40 Years – The Complete Singles Collection (Collectors Choice) – CD review – This two-disc set marks the first time that Tommy James’ entire career has been summarized in one collection.  “40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection” opens with his very first hit, “Hanky Panky” from 1966 and ends with a string of Adult Contemporary hits from 40 years later.

Disc one focuses on Tommy’s hit-making years and the string of shining moments is an impressive one: “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Crimson & Clover,”  “Mirage,”  “Sweet Cherry Wine,”  and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” are all timeless classics.  One thing that sets this anthology a part from other collections is that, for the first time, the original, mono single versions were used.  These were the mixes that were played on AM radio at the time and the ones that the kids of the Sixties bought up on record.  Even though disc two chronicles Tommy’s decent into cult artist, the quality of the material remains surprisingly strong.  — Tony Peters

Hear the Icon Fetch interview with Tommy James

#1 – Tommy James – Me, the Mob & the Music

Legendary ICON Tommy James, the man behind such hits as “Mony Mony,” “Crimson & Clover,” and “Hanky Panky,” has just written a book entitled “Me, the Mob and the Music: One Helluva Ride With Tommy James & the Shondells.” The book chronicles his career from his humble beginnings in Niles, Michigan, to a regional sensation in Pittsburgh, to a worldwide star. Running parallel with this fame was James’ crazy, often times scary dealings with label exec Morris Levy, who didn’t just have mob connections, he was running dealings right out of his company office. Tommy James talks with Icon Fetch about his new book, new 2-CD “40th Anniversary Singles Collection” and upcoming book signings and gigs.