33-1/3 Revelations: Tommy James and the Shondells
Remember Tommy James and the Shondells and their hits — “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “Crimson and Clover”?
Exploding into the ’70s
The Shondells have vanished from the record scene, but Tommy, with his versatile talent, is exploding into the seventies.
As for breaking with the group, Tommy says, “It was the most traumatic experience of my life. Doing one-nighters across the country was beginning to get me down. I quit to take a breather and we decided it would be best to split. Sad… we were together for five years.”
Tommy has twenty-six singles out for Roulette Records. Fourteen are Gold Records. Add nine albums, including two Gold LPs, and fit it all into seven years. You have a pile of statistics that anyone would envy.
Tommy feels airplay is a tremendous influence on album charts. “All I can do is put out a good album. The rest is up to the people.
“I remember when I was thirteen we recorded a song called ‘Hanky Panky.’ Five years later, it was taken off a shelf in Pittsburgh. Played first on station KDKA… six weeks later, it was number one in the nation.”
Tommy writes the music with his partner Bob King. “When we first met, Bob had a few years experience on me. He really taught me a lot about music. We have been together for ten years, and never a fight.”
Tommy’s versatility can be shown in his albums “Christian of the World” (Roulette SR3001), which is gospel rock, and his new album, “My Head, My Bed, and My Red Guitar” (Roulette SR3007), with the Nashville sound.
“The new album is the first I’ve done in Nashville,” Tommy explains. “I did it the way I wanted, and fast. Fourteen cuts in two weeks. I wasn’t abe to do that in New York.
“In Nashville, I can lay out an album before I get into another sound. That’s important. Find your style and your song can’t fail; that’s why Elvis is still around.”
As an escape, Tommy has a farm in upstate New York. He gets a gleam in his eye as he talks. “It’s right out of a picture. A fifteen-room house on seven hundred and fifty acres of green mountainside. There’s two lakes, a brook, and some horses. Great way to get out of the city.”
Besides the farm, one of his other interests is politics. “I was very active in the 1968 presidential campaign, and hope to be again in 1972. I might even go into politics one of these years.”
He’s also fascinated by the subject of UFOs. “It gives you a chance to think while watching the stars.”
“Music is my life, though,” Tommy says. “I knew what I wanted to be when I was five. Anybody who intends to stay in music has to make it a twenty-four-hour-a-day job.”
Surely Tommy has put music ahead of every-thing else, with record sales of over 25 million! – Mike LaRoche