Tommy James + The Shondells: The New Wave Years

Tommy James + The Shondells perfect the Paisley Underground look 14 years early on the Ed Sullivan Show

New Wave was a big break with the musical values of the seventies, and in some ways, it was a look back to the pre-1969 sounds of rock’s more innocent era where boss top 40 tunes had the pull of pre-teen ears before music got… heavy. Children who grew up on this sound were fronting their own bands ten years later and it always seemed to me that that there was one 60s rocker more than any other who was the go-to man for a dependably great New Wave cover version: Tommy James.

United Artists | UK | 7" | 1977 | UP 36262

Celia + The Mutations: Mony Mony UK 7″ [1977]

  1. Mony Mony
  2. Mean To Me

Celia + The Mutations were actually The Stranglers behind one Celia Gollin anonymously. They tackle the sturdy dance-rock rave-up “Mony Mony” and Celia warbles an original penned by The Stranglers on the B-side. Not a hit, but Celia’s delivery is veddy English with a curious reserve juxtaposed with The Stranglers in full flower having a bit of fun. I have these tracks on The Stranglers “Rarities” CD.

Stiff Records | UK | 7" | 1978 | BUY 32

Lene Lovich: I Think We’re Alone Now UK 7″ [1978]

  1. I Think We’re Alone Now
  2. Lucky Number

Akron’ s mistress of the strange scored big with her first single, a cover of the perennial charttopper “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Ms. Lovich unleashes her full range of trilling vibrato into the world on this song, and the slightly eerie arrangement is a real winner with her vocal sinewave loop creating a unique atmosphere for her to use as a foundation for her soaring rendition.  The breakdown after the bridge is heart-wrenchingly dramatic, yet understated. A total winner and an all time classic New Wave Cover Version.

Chrysalis | UK | EP | 1981 | 5V 44000

Billy Idol: Don’t Stop US EP [1981]

  1. Mony Mony
  2. Baby Talk
  3. Untouchables
  4. Dancing With Myself [ext. ver.]

Hard to believe now, but after Billy Idol jumped ship from Generation X [just GenX at the time] after their great song “Dancing With Myself” almost became a hit for a hyped up US solo career under the auspices of Bill [KISS] Aucoin management, that didn’t seem like such a bad prospect. He cut a quick four track EP for the US market featuring a reasonably terrific [and somewhat reverential] cover version of “Mony Mony.” It features lots of dance-rock bells and whistles but would not be off putting to anyone familiar with the already righteous original. A few years later, when his star was  ascendant, the old Gen X song appended to this disc became a top ten hit, but “Mony Mony” was the cut that initially sold this EP to the faithful.

Boardwalk Records | US | 7" | 1982 | NB7-11-144

Joan Jett + The Blackhearts: Crimson + Clover US 7″ [1982]

  1. Crimson + Clover
  2. Oh Woe Is Me

After topping the charts with her cover of the obscure “I Love Rock + Roll,” Joan Jett lobbed a classic into the top 40 with her cover of the always groovy “Crimson + Clover.” But Joan processed the song through her punk filter, stripping it of its scent of patchouli and giving it an altogether tougher vibe for a bracing take on this classic tune. She took it all the way to #7 thirteen years after the original hit #1.

I grew up hearing a lot of Tommy James hits and really enjoyed them at the time. My wife loves his first hit “Hanky Panky” something fierce, so years ago, we got a great Rhino compilation that had all of the hits I remembered [and still enjoyed a great deal]. Even before the CD era I bought a oldie 7″ re-pressing of “Draggin’ The Line” that I’d loved since ’71. This Rhino comp was something of a revelation, since there’s so much good music on it that seems to anticipate New Wave in the styles and diversity it contains. “Mirage,” in particular, is the chord sequence to “I Think We’re Alone Now” run backward and in that way anticipates the Eno experiments of David Bowie’s “Lodger” album that was still ten years in the future.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Tommy James + The Shondells: The New Wave Years

  1. Echorich says:

    That’s a great catch! Especially enjoy Lene and Joan. Tommy James songs always sound great coming from a woman’s point of view.


  2. chas_m says:

    You’ve tied this together exceptionally well, PPM!

    I always knew Tommy James was the man behind a lot of the hit songs of the new wave era, but you really brought it home tying all these together.

    Yeah, he’s pretty forgotten now – but I’ll bet he’s living off those sweet royalties (that he is finally collecting now that the last of the mob war Roulette guys is dead) on the beach South Florida somewhere …


    • postpunkmonk says:

      chas_m – I could have reached farther with this thread, but time was limited during my lunchbreak. There’s “Turn The World” by Book Of Love from their “Candy Carol” album, which is based on the killer bassline sample from “Draggin’ The Line.” No less than The Cramps covered “Hanky Panky” in their early days, as evidenced on their final CD of historical recordings “How To Make A Monster.” When I saw The Cramps for the last time in 2008, they pulled out his chestnut. And here’s a sobering thought; The Cramps only had 40 shows left in front of them.

      Moving 30 years into the future,”Black Magic” on Jarvis Cocker’s debut solo album is impressively built around samples from “Crimson + Clover,” nearly 40 years after the original.


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