There’s something haunting yet soothing about “Crimson and Clover.” I hear it and I am instantly transported somewhere more zen. It’s a standout song with a simple recipe. Tommy James’ favorite color and flower equals and magnificent piece of timeless psychedelic rock and roll. The path was not without struggle. Most of Tommy James’ songs were written by Bo Gentry. When Bo quit, no one believed that Tommy could write a hit song. And the timing was unbelievable. This song was released right on the cusp of rock and roll’s emergence from singles to albums. When bands like Led Zeppelin, CSN, and Blood Sweat and Tears broke, bands like Gary Pucket, The Rascals, and The Association never had another hit. Tommy James survived.
“Crimson and Clover”
The song has been used in numerous movies and TV shows. I’ve been watching the series, Willow, on Disney+. I really like the show but most people seem to love it or hate it. Last night I saw episode 5. The show featured a cover of this Tommy James and The Shondells’ song. I thought the song worked in the episode clip… I don’t know if I love what the Pom Pom Squad did with the whole song. In case you want to decide for yourself:
What Tommy James Had To Say
In an interview with Songfacts, Tommy James said, “They were just two of my favorite words that came together. Actually, it was one morning as I was getting up out of bed, and it just came to me, those two words. And it sounded so poetic. I had no idea what it meant, or if it meant anything. They were just two of my favorite words. And Mike Vale and I – bass player – actually wrote another song called ‘Crimson and Clover.’ And it just wasn’t quite there. And I ended up writing ‘Crimson and Clover’ with my drummer, Pete Lucia.”
In the same interview, Tommy also said, “‘Crimson and Clover’ was so very important to us because it allowed us to make that move from AM Top 40 to album rock. I don’t think there’s any other song that we’ve ever worked on, any other record that we made, that would have done that for us quite that way.”
The song was at the top of the charts over Christmas in 1968. A lot of people thought Tommy was singing, “Christmas is over,” instead of “Crimson and Clover.”
The song is only 2:30 ish. In the day, many radio stations spliced together edits to actually make the song LONGER. In this video, I’m looking at Tommy James, but all I really see is Austin Powers… yeah, baby!
Vice President Hubert Humphrey wrote the liner notes for the album. Humphrey asked James to run his “Youth Affairs” commission during his 1968 campaign.