Tommy James VS...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Michedelic, Sep 21, 2018.

  1. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    Overall, he was just mid-to-late 60's top 40 fodder, had plenty of hits, but still fairly lightweight. Went the full distance from frat-rock to psychedelic/mystical hippie stuff(although it was painfully obvious bandwagon jumping); a number of his songs were pretty tuneful. Allegedly(because that's the word you use when discussing such things)had nasty encounters with the more mobbed-up portion of the music business of the time. Still out there(as far as I know)doing the State Fair/Casino/Oldies circuit.
    Somehow, his catalog resonated with a number of nominally new wave-related artists(who were teeny-boppers during his salad days), to varying results. First off...

    Then--- quirky, eccentric, yeah, I know you never heard of her, but in my book this is how you do a cover; respect the original, but bring something fresh and creative to the new arrangement. From 1979...

    Tiffany? Oh, hell no.

    Ok, you've heard these a billion times. This was TJ reverting back to his frat-rock roots a little late in the day; much like 'Seinfeld', it's a song about nothing. Just an excuse for a bunch of drunks to get on the dance floor and jump around and scream, at the high school dance then, and the class reunions now...

    Overall, I prefer Crazy Elephant's "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin", but, ah, waddya gonna do?
    I can't say that Billy Idol did much with it almost twenty years later except bask in its glory as a proven hit, and rock it out a bit more...

    It's cheesy bubblegum wanna-be psychedelia, but I liked it back in the day. It always cracked me up when the extended guitar solo section(far out, man)was edited in and was slightly out of pitch with the rest of the original take. It made tremolo cool again...

    Now, I know Joan's black heart was in the right place, and I loved the crunchy power chord update, but this never really got out of second gear for me...

    The less said about her take on "Hanky Panky", the better.

    Prince? His version certainly was a trip, but that "Wild Thing" quote was a bit weird...

    Not awful, but kinda 'meh'...

    Uh, OK...

    My two cents, blah blah blah...
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    HAH! Huge fan! Best version of the tune! :thumbsup::cool::bassist:
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  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    ...always wanted to cover "Draggin' The Line" - cool tune.
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  4. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    TJ has a quick read out about his career & links to the mob. Fun stuff!
  5. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I prefer his originals. Out the covers I've heard my favorite is Joan Jett's.
    JimK likes this.
  6. juancaminos

    juancaminos Supporting Member

    ME TOO, we did it in practice
  7. andawun


    Jul 13, 2009
    I remember Draggin The Line being played at the local burger joint/rec center/hangout over and over and over.
  8. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    My current band does rocked up versions of I Think We're Alone Now and the Tommy James cover of The Raindrops song Hanky Panky and they both pack the dance floor and get applause.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
  9. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Tommy James was from Michigan but The Shondells were from Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania about 45 miles from where I live. Three of the original Shondells have regrouped with a band called The Crystal Blue Band. I saw them last year and I have had a couple great conversations with Mike Vale.

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  10. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    I’ll need to check back but I don’t recall TJ mentioning the Raindrops version of Hanky Panky in his write-up.
  11. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Circa 1969, when I was ~8 or 9 years old, my best friend's father built him & his sister this little "clubhouse" in the back yard by bolting some homosote sheets over the A-frame of their old no-longer-functional swingset, and we proceeded to decorate the interior with DayGlo spray paint and posters of pop stars from Tiger Beat Magazine (so mostly Jack Wild and Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy...I did mention his sister was involved, right?) and anyway, then we would sit in this clubhouse for hours on end listening to the one 45 rpm single that he owned on a little battery-powered turntable.

    That record was Tommy James & The Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now"

    You would think after hearing it so many times that I would be absolutely sick of it, but man that tune just tugs at the heartstrings of nostalgia like nothing else does!

    Best cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" I ever heard was by a Boston area power-pop quartet called The Shane Champagne Band sometime in the late 1970s. They gave that tune some incredible punch and muscle without losing its sense of wistful longing and fragile teen angst.
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  12. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Here is the original version of Hanky Panky written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops. The Summits also recorded it before The Shondells did it.

    James' version was recorded at a local radio station, WNIL in Niles, MI, and released on local Snap Records in 1964, selling well in the region but the single quickly disappeared. James moved on, breaking up The Shondells.

    In 1965, an unemployed James was contacted by Pittsburgh disc jockey "Mad Mike" Metrovich. Metrovich had begun playing The Shondells' version of "Hanky Panky", and the single had become popular in that area. James then decided to re-release the song, traveling to Pittsburgh where he hired the first decent area band he ran into, The Raconteurs, from the Greensburg, PA region, to be the new Shondells (the original members having declined to re-form). The song was re-released on Roulette Records under the name Tommy James & The Shondells.
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  13. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Thanks for those! I'm pretty sure that re-release was also the first time the name "Tommy James" shows up. Why do I care? Well, it was the first song I learned on the bass :thumbsup:
    Richland123 likes this.
  14. jaco944

    jaco944 Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2005
    Wow!! They nailed it. That’s my favorite TJ & the S tune.
    TomB likes this.
  15. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    Mike Vale, who became the bassist with The Shondells (the members who did not play on Hanky Panky) tells the story of how they joined forces with Tommy James. When I spoke to him, he sure had some great stories to share with me.

    Here is the history of how the Raconteurs from Pennsylvania became The Shondells from The Crystal Blue Band website

    The year is 1964, the place, Pittsburgh, PA. And not unlike every other city or town across the country being influenced by the recent arrival of The Beatles and other prominent self contained Rock acts, wide eyed musicians throughout the area are birthing their version of the next Rock And Roll supergroup.

    Ron Rosman, who is attending St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, is pulling together some fellow Music Major pals and forming "The Raconteurs". Not far away, in Greensburg, PA, Mike Vale is recruiting a drummer and a couple of guitar players for his new band, "The Sonics". And almost within shouting distance in Connellsville, PA, Ed Gray has just joined a five piece soul group by the name of "Monte And The Stingrays".

    No one could have imagined at that point that within just a year or two these three aspiring Rock Stars would join forces to become part of the same Classic Rock Ensemble which would go on to create music history writing, recording and performing songs that some forty years later still resonate with an entire generation and beyond!

    In 1966, while performing at The Thunderbird lounge in Greensburg PA (as The Raconteurs), Rosman and Vale would meet a young man by the name of Tom Jackson (Tommy James real name) from Michigan who was in Pittsburgh promoting his new release, (which was actually a few years old; but, that's another story) Hanky Panky, and looking for a group to become "The Shondells". He became so impressed with The Raconteurs that he asked them to join him and "Tommy James And The Shondells" was born. And the rest, as they say, is history!

    Following Hanky Panky the group enlisted Eddie Gray and Peter Lucia to replace some departing members, and that iteration of "Tommy James And The Shondells" went on to record approximatly 20 chart singles including such smash hits as: "I Think Were Alone Now", "Mirage", "Crimson And Clover", "Mony Mony", "Ball Of Fire", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Sweet Cherry Wine" and many more! Much in demand, they appeared on the most popular TV shows of the day like "Ed Sullivan", "Joey Bishop", "Merv Griffith", "Dick Clark's Bandstand", "The Dating Game" and a host of others.They also hold the distinction of being the only group in Rock history to campaign and tour with a U.S. Presidential candidate. In this case, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey who, by the way, wrote the liner notes for their "Crimson And Clover" album!

    Through the years their legacy has only expanded while having their songs covered by the likes of Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Prince, Tom Jones, Santana, Tiffany and hundreds of other artists. Additionally, songs from their catalog of hits have been featured in major motion pictures like "Forest Gump", "Yes Man", "Zodiac", "Monster", "Walk On The Moon", "The Nannie Diaries", "Expendables 2" and many more.

    Important to those interested in the Pittsburgh connection to Rock music history, not only were these men responsible for recording the litany of smash hits, they also were writers/ co-writers of many and also co-produced one of their biggest albums, Crimson and Clover.

    In 1971, Tommy James launched his solo career and The Shondells left to form a new group, "Hog Heaven", releasing 2 albums over the next three years. Subsequent to Hog Heaven however each member went off in separate directions pursuing individual aspirations both in and out of music. The group did reunite briefly with Tommy again in 2009 when they were asked to join him in recording a song for his Christmas album, "I Love Christmas". That song, titled "It's Christmas Again", was written by James and Vale who also wrote a number of their early hits.
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  16. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I'm curious if anyone knows the guitar tuning he used on his earlier hits.
  17. Absolutely I’ve heard of Lene Lovich, and back in the 80s I was in a band that covered “Hone” (My Lucky Number). That song was a blast to play! And I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve played those Tommy James hits. You gotta give the peeps what they want.
  18. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    Disregard the tuning question. I'm convinced that he was using standard tuning on Hanky Panky now.