Tommy James at the Bitter End

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.


~ by Alden on August 30, 2008.

6 Responses to “Tommy James at the Bitter End”

  1. Well, Crimson and Clover was certainly and inspired song (not in the way you would mean it.) I didn’t remember them being affiliated with Humphrey (but then I was only 8 years old.)

    And as we saw in Denver last week, one’s religious status is politically irrelevant to their position on the political spectrum.

  2. Well, as you saw in Denver… I couldn’t really bring myself to watch more than a few minutes of it. I’m so unenthralled with both candidates; however, naming a female Republican running mate should at least add to the entertainment value (an important thing in politics). While certainly there are Christians on both sides of the aisle, one’s theology should impact how they work out their political positions and their ethics. Too bad is often doesn’t.

    I wonder if McCain’s a 60s’ music fan? Perhaps I can suggest “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” as the theme song for the Republican convention…

  3. Hey I thought this was about TJ? I just had to listen to the You Tube clip and was instantly transported to an entirely different time in my life. Interesting how important a part that song placed in so many of our lives. The country was going through an internal upheaval, and then there was, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”. It kind of made things “not matter” whenever it would come on the the AM transistor radio out there in the berry field. Good song, tough times.

  4. Crystal is a great song, psychedelic or spiritual-wise! There are a lot of new YouTubes still coming out on Tommy and the Shondells. I didn’t know they as a team and as a solo artist had well over 30 charted hits! Check out Joel Whitburn’s site. Tommy should be in the HoF with all those hits. And I do have to disagree with you on Three Times In Love. I think it’s just superb. People do mature, ya know…:).


  5. Tommy James is recording new material today & has written an autobiography and a major motion picture with Scorcese as a potential director is in the works. James’ voice quality is incredibly strong & his road band is tight and talented. Crystal Blue Persuasion, Crimson & Clover, Sweet Cherry Wine, Ball Of Fire & Draggin’ The Line are just a few of the top songs of the late sixties & early seventies. James has released over 20 original albums & he may well be rock’s most underrated superstar.

  6. My favorite Tommy James tune and One of my all-time favorites,period is “Draggin’The Line. It’s a perfect example of how simple components can blend to make an unforgettable song. That bass and drum groove is unstoppable.

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