CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 18: Inductee Joan Jett of Joan Jett and The Black Hearts (L) performs with musicians Tommy James (C) and Miley Cyrus during the 30th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Hall on April 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
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.
No One Thought Tommy James Could Write a Hit
(songwriter and producer) played keyboards and sang backup as a member of The Shondells. Kenny was with the band when the song was made… really against the odds. “Bo Gentry wrote all these songs for Tommy James, from ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ right on through ‘Mony Mony.’ There were other co-writers, but Bo was the genius, the driving force.
Bo wasn’t getting paid by Roulette Records, so he went on strike. He refused to make any more Tommy James records. In those days, the legend, Morris Levy, said he was not going to be pushed around and said, ‘Fine, you want to quit, quit. It will be the end of your career.'”
“We went to Tommy and said, ‘Look Tommy, if you don’t get someone to write the songs for you, you’re going to be dead meat. You can’t go trying to do it yourself. You don’t know how to write hit songs.’ So he went off with the drummer and created this song. I’ll never forget it.’ Everybody kind of deserted Tommy, and he went off and just did this incredible song. He wrote it, produced it, and played all the instruments with the drummer.”
Kenny Laguna has also worked with Joan Jett
(since the start of her solo career). No surprise that Joan Jett covered the song. When Joan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she performed this song joined on stage by Tommy James, Miley Cyrus and Dave Grohl.
Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: 17 Musicians Left Out of Their Band's Induction
We all know that fans love to argue about what artists should, and should not, be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But another good argument that fans and artists have more and more frequently is: when a band is inducted, which members should be included? Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS, for example, were angry that only the original lineup was included in their induction, and not later members like Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, and the late Eric Carr.
A couple of weeks ago, former Black Sabbath/Dio drummer Vinny Appice made headlines when he referred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “a bunch of f—in’ a–holes” for not including Dio with Sabbath. He has a point!
There are certainly lots of examples of bands who have had so much turnover that it definitely wouldn’t make sense to include everyone. Over 50 musicians have passed through Santana’s lineup. Chicago has had nearly 30 members over the years. Obviously, you have to be an excellent musician to step on stage or in the studio with those groups. But only a few of the members were truly important to the band’s peak era(s).
With that in mind, there are still some examples of musicians with vital roles in their respective bands’ histories, whether it was playing on classic material, or being a part of the band’s formation. We found more than a few examples of musicians that fit one or both of those descriptions but weren’t included in those bands’ inductions. Here’s hoping that the Rock Hall comes up with a new category to recognize these vital artists.
Donielle Fynn is a Michigan native with two kids, two dogs, two cats, a love of yoga, and all things classic rock.