This morning I was indulging in my recent flashback to 60’s pop by surfing YouTube for clips of old bands, and stumbled across this recent clip of Tommy James and the Shondells doing Crystal Blue Persuasion, one of my all time favorites from the 60’s:
For a live clip, the sound is pretty impressive. And, compared to many oldies who are still out there doing their hits, he still has the voice.
Now, I can’t say that I was a big fan of TJ in the early years- in fact, I can barely tolerate Hanky Panky, but that really wasn’t his fault; some record company had them record it as their first single, which didn’t get any notice for 2 years. I do kind of like Mony Mony (the name was inspired by the initials on the Mutual of New York) building), but actually prefer Billy Idol’s version.
Tommy James & Co were one of the first pop groups to incorporate a psychedelic sound into their music, with the release of the album Crimson and Clover in 1969, which also included Crystal Blue Persuasion. Tommy James had spent 1968 working on Hubert Humphry’s presidential campaign, and – as odd as this seems – Humphry wrote the liner notes for the album.
Crystal Blue Persuasion was also unusual in that it was a quasi-psychedelic reference to Tommy James’ conversion to Christianity. Tommy, however, had on and off again issues with drug use, which I understand nearly ended his career. However, he overcame those issues and remains a committed Christian (whether or not he’s still a political liberal, I don’t know 😉 ).
TJ’s last hit with the Shondells that I recall was Draggin’ the Line, which I still don’t understand. After that, he had a few singles on his own; the only one I can recall was Three Times in Love, which I wasn’t that crazy about, either.
Even though I’m obviously not a huge TJ fan, Crystal Blue Persuasion, Crimson and Clover, and Sweet Cherry Wine are enough to remember Tommy James & the Shondells as one of the high points of classic pop.