Sunday, February 13, 2011

Me, the Mob, and the Music - LA Record

Tommy James
Me, the Mob and the Music - One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & the Shondells

Midwesterner Thomas Jackson found fame, and a little fortune, through a cover of Brill Building fluff "Hanky Panky". Attracting a fair amount of radio play Jackson slowly made his way east until he landed in the hands of Morris Levy - Roulette Records owner and infamous payola king to Alan Freed. In Manhattan Jackson became James and the Raconteurs became the Shondells and for the next four years he owned the pop radio charts with hits like "I Think We're Alone Now", “Mony, Mony” and "Crimson and Clover". James details these years as a pop phenom as well as where all that money may have gone. James seems both thankful and betrayed by the man who made him a household name while profiting off of his work, praising Levy for his artistic freedom in the studio while also noting all the fishy behavior and mercenaries/label heads Levy employed who were occasionally found dead, if found at all. James was one of few artists to successfully transition from bubblegum pop to pyschedelic rock (with very little help from hallucinogenics) and eventually cashed in on it thanks to 80s new wave covers by Billy Idol and Tiffany. Overall James seems astonished by his success, writing about his time working with Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign and passing on a slot on the Woodstock stage with little resentment towards those who owed him millions of dollars in back royalties. It is a wide-eyed account of a dark and brutal business told in awe at having survived it.

LA Record Issue 102

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