Tommy James & the Shondells page

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Tommy James, August 25, 1979, Lynn, Mass.

Anyone who knows me well, (at least my close friends of the last 32 years or more) know that I am a loyal fan of Tommy James & the Shondells. I have seen Tommy in concert a number of times dating back to August 25, 1979 when I caught his show at the Main Act Concert Club located at the long-gone Harbor House Hotel in Lynn, Massachusetts.

I recall listening to his early hits like Hanky Panky, Gettin’ Together, I Think We’re Alone Now, Mirage and Mony Mony. All these got airplay between 1966 and 1968. Then in 1969 the Crimson & Clover album was released.

This was the landmark album for the band as it was the first that was totally written and produced by the band themselves. The title track was proof that the band had started experimenting in the studio and the results were way beyond what had come before.

You see the band was  unfortunately saddled with the dreaded “Bubblegum music”  label by people who were basically dismissing their earlier catalog of  music.

Not only did the title track show the Beatles influence with effects and such but there were other tunes that featured some serious changes in the type of material they were willing to tackle but also showed their humorous side as well. The stand-out on the Crimson & Clover album (besides the title cut) is my all-time favorite tune….. Crystal Blue Persuasion.

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Tommy James, August 25, 1979, Lynn, Mass.

This tune which was a huge hit for them in the summer of 1969 will always remind me of being on vacation with my family in Upstate New York, primarily around the Lake George area. It seemed like every time you turned the radio on, Crystal Blue Persuasion was playing.  I can still picture it… blue skies, white puffy clouds and the Adirondack Mountains as a backdrop…. a beautiful summers day…. Crystal Blue Persuasion!

Tommy and the Shondells went their separate ways in 1970. Tommy went on to a solo career while Bassist Mike Vale and Drummer Peter Lucia went on to form a band called Hog Heaven. Organist Ronnie Rosman and Guitarist Eddie Gray were also in Hog Heaven early on but left after learning Mike & Pete got a recording contract for the new band from Morris Levy of Roulette Records (but that’s a whole other story). Hog Heaven recorded 2 albums with only one being released before they disbanded. For more info on this band, check out their website at…. http://www.hogheavenband.com/

In the mid-to-late 1970’s I was ruminating to a couple of friends where I worked that I had not heard any Tommy James music on the radio for quite some time. Oldies music had not become a hot format yet so all you heard was all the new stuff that was being played on all the album oriented playlists of the time. I started looking through the record stores and one day I found an album called “Midnight Rider” by Tommy James. I looked at it and the copyright said 1978, it was brand new!

Well, I was with my brother Don who was looking for some music and bought something (a tape I think), I did not buy anything myself. But on the way home, I started saying “I should have bought that Tommy James album”.

The next day I got home from work and lying on the diningroom table was the Midnight Rider album by Tommy James. Don had gone back to the store and returned what he had bought and ended up buying the TJ album for me.  This was a really great album and had a fantastic song called “Love is Gonna Find a Way”, which was highly reminiscent of the Boz Scaggs tune “Low Down”. I went on to buy most of the Tommy James catalog of LP’s and Singles that I could get my hands on.

Anyway, the reason for this page is that a few of us regular visitors to Tommy James Message Board have been involved with starting a petition to get Tommy James & the Shondells inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With all their hits not to mention Tommy is still making great music to this day they still have not been inducted into the Hall.

So I’m going to post the address for Tommy’s website…
http://www.tommyjames.com/ . This is a great place to read the whole history of Tommy and the band as well as buy music cd’s and merchandise. I will also include the address to his message board….
http://tommyjamesmessageboard24205.yuku.com/forum/view/id/1
where you can read some of the posts that are there.

I urge everyone who reads my blog to please help get Tommy James & the Shondells inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by signing the online petition.

Here is the address for the online petition to get Tommy James & the Shondells into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame….
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/james2009/

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Tommy James, August 25, 1979, Lynn, Mass.


Tommy James and Larry Cultrera (me) almost 32 years later…..
April 17, 2011

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Tommy James and me, September 15, 2013, backstage at the Big E
in West Springfield, Mass. photo by Martin Fitzpatrick

Responses

  1. Hey Larry,

    Great blog about Tommy! I hope everyone that visits your site goes to Tommy’s site and helps us out! I signed the version that I am taking to dances, so I can’t sign the online one. Don’t want them to think we’re cheating!:)

    So far, I have personally collected over 870 signatures for the “Quest to the Hall”! I’m going for 2000, and we as a group have set a goal of 5000 nation-wide, including those on line.

    If anyone wants to help, please email one of us “regulars” from TJ’s bulletin board, or read my post titled, “I started a petition”. You can see what I wrote up.

    We plan to set a date to submit them altogether, in hopes to make the biggest impact. Thanks to everyone who helps with this mission!

    Lori

  2. Tommy James and the Shondells probably would have qualified as a “punk” band if they had faded into obscurity after their 1966-67 output (“punk” was the term coined by rock scribes Lenny Kaye, Dave Marsh, and Lester Bangs circa 1972 to describe American bands like the Syndicate Of Sound, the Standells, the Count Five, and the Blues Magoos;bands who were influenced by the rougher of the UK acts of the mid-sixties, like the Yardbirds, Stones, and Animals).
    I once sneered at the Shondells, especially when “Crimson & Clover” was charting in late 1968-early 1969. I too thought of them as a lightweight, “bubble-gum” act. I wasn’t impressed with their cheap guitar effects, the reverbed, tremeloed jangle sound that had been superseded by underground heavyweights like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
    The way I see it nowadays, the heavy acid-rock of the late sixties collapses under the weight of its bloated sonics and its sense of self-importance.Tommy James’ cheery psych-pop never seems to be dated or out of style.

  3. Peter, check out Tommy’s website there are a lot of facts and info on the band. His shows are extremely popular and his vioce is as good if not better than it was 40 years ago.

  4. I found my way to your website via a Wellington, OH facebook page post regarding the diner which originally came from my hometown. I used to go with my dad to pick up mail from the trains that passed by that old diner back in the ’50’s and ’60’s. I noticed the Tommy James link and had to investigate – as a young teenager in Wellington, I remember Tommy James and the Shondells playing a gig at Danceland on the east edge of town. I guess I was too young to attend, but could hear “Hanky Panky” very clearly at least a half mile away where I was babysitting. Who knows? Maybe Tommy ate at the diner that night…

  5. I think TJ lives near me in Cedar Grove, NJ – yes?

    • Ken, you are correct. He does live there.

  6. Tommy James and the Shondells probably would have qualified as a “punk” band if they had faded into obscurity after their 1966-67 output (“punk” was the term coined by rock scribes Lenny Kaye, Dave Marsh, and Lester Bangs circa 1972 to describe American bands like the Syndicate Of Sound, the Standells, the Count Five, and the Blues Magoos;bands who were influenced by the rougher of the UK acts of the mid-sixties, like the Yardbirds, Stones, and Animals).
    I once sneered at the Shondells, especially when “Crimson & Clover” was charting in late 1968-early 1969. I too thought of them as a lightweight, “bubble-gum” act. I wasn’t impressed with their cheap guitar effects, the reverbed, tremeloed jangle sound that had been superseded by underground heavyweights like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
    The way I see it nowadays, the heavy acid-rock of the late sixties collapses under the weight of its bloated sonics and its sense of self-importance.Tommy James’ cheery psych-pop never seems to be dated or out of style.

    +1

  7. It was Aug. 25, 1979, Main Act Concert Club, Harbor House Hotel, Lynn, MA.
    about 8 pm. (I’d just attended an “office- cruiser boat party,” Boston Harbor)…I climbed over the hotel’s back barbwire fence, so I wouldnt have to pay the club’s cover charge. When I ran up the backstairs, I got stuck in an upstairs corridor; then, I looked up and this guy (Tommy James) says
    ” Man, what are you up to ?”…I said: ” Hey, I just got back from a seacruise! “….Tommy, then called out to The Shondells (band) in the dressing room.” Did you hear that?” They all then belted out the song ” Sea Cruise” in 3 part harmony. I was dumbfounded, and exhilarated at the same time. Well, we all went downstairs and they gigged. The show rocked!
    YES, Tommy James & The Shondells should be in the R &R Hall of Fame !


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