Tommy James and the Shondells came to Talking Stick Resort Showroom in Scottsdale, Arizona on Saturday June 25th, 2016. This is not the original Shondell line-up from the 60’s, but now consists of Tommy James (Lead Vocals, Electric and acoustic Guitar), John Golden (Lead and Acoustic Guitar), Glenn Wyka (Drums), Jonathan Ashe (Bass and Acoustic Guitar), Mike Dimeo (Keyboard and Synth) and Benny Harrison (Hammond B3 Organ). If you are a baby boomer, you probably remember the mid to late 60s and Tommy James and the Shondells. If not, then I am sure you have heard their music that has been covered by such great artists as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Prince and even the Chipmunks. Actually over 300 musicians have covered Tommy James’s music.
Things were not always great for Tommy James and the Shondells. They were forced to sign with Roulette Records and Morris Levy after Roulette told all of the other labels that Tommy was theirs. This might seem strange, but Roulette Record was a front for the mob. Over the years, Tommy never received any money for his songs from Roulette and only finally started to receive royalty checks after Roulette Records sold its assets to EMI. It got so bad for Tommy in the early 1970s, he had to leave New York because there was a hit out on him. Since all of the major mob people associated with Roulette Records are now dead, Tommy published his book in 2010 called, “Me, The Mob, and The Music”. At the show Tommy told us about the mob, Roulette Records and the book. He also told us that the book is being made into a movie. In the time of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hollies and other great performers, it was very hard to get any hits in the top 10, but Tommy and the band did it with 7 of their songs. They had 2 #1 hits, Hanky Panky in 1966 and Crimson and Clover in 1968. Initially they were labeled as “bubble-gum rock” which they hated. So in 1968 they decided to change their style and came out with the psychedelic classic rock song, Crimson and Clover.
The concert was a retrospective of all of Tommy James’s hits. It started with his solo hit Draggin the Line. Next they did one of my personal favorites, Crystal Blue Persuasion. After a couple of more songs, Tommy talked to the audience and told us about his issues with Roulette Records and the mob. Tommy, John and Jonathan then played I Think We’re Alone Now on acoustic guitars which Tommy said carried new meaning once all of the major mob players were dead and he was able to complete the book. Following Crimson & Clover, they got a standing ovation. But when they did Hanky Panky, the audience got up and started dancing. To end the main set, Tommy and the band did, Mony Mony. During the song, Tommy left the stage and came down into the audience to shake hands with the audience. Once Tommy got back to the stage, they completed the main set and took a break for a couple of minutes. The encore was 3 songs, including Sweet Cherry Wine and Mirage.
I grew up during the 60s and I remember this music. Tommy doesn’t do many shows each year, but if you liked their music and you get a chance, this is a great show to see. I am glad I was finally able to see Tommy after so many years.
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2016
Draggin’ the Line (Christian of the World, solo work)
Crystal Blue Persuasion (Crimson & Clover)
Say I Am (Hanky Panky)
Gettin’ Together (Gettin’ Together)
I Think We’re Alone Now (acoustic) (I Think We’re Alone Now)
Ball of Fire (The Best Of)
Tighter, Tighter (solo work, single only in 1976)
Crimson & Clover (Crimson & Clover)
Hanky Panky (Hanky Panky)
I Think We’re Alone Now (I Think We’re Alone Now)
Do Something to Me (Crimson & Clover)
Mony Mony (Mony Mony)
Sweet Cherry Wine (Cellophane Symphony)
Mirage (I Think We’re Alone Now)
Mony Mony (Reprise)