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"We were the wrong act... with the wrong record... at the wrong time!
Where did we go right?" -TJ
As funny as that sounds, in many ways it's true, but the meteoric rise of Tommy James & the Shondells that summer of '66 was surely one of the greatest "Cinderella Stories" in rock history.
"I Think We're Alone Now" was the 4'th smash hit single in a row for Tommy James & The Shondells, and marked a major evolutionary step in both the sound and style of the group. It also began a long-term relationship between Tommy, producers Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell and musical arranger Jimmy Wisner.
It was June of '67, the "Summer Of Love" - exactly one year since Tommy James and The Shondells burst onto the music scene - and what a year it was!! Voted Billboard Magazine's "Top Male Artists of 1967," their record sales and Top 40 radio success exceeded all expectations.
CELLOPHANE SYMPHONY was unexpected and shocking to many TJ & S fans. It was a bold step forward for a group that had only recently crossed over from AM Top-40 to FM radio and, before the dust settled, became one of their most highly acclaimed works.
Tommy's first solo album titled simply "TOMMY JAMES", was released in the fall of 1970.
"It was a bit strange and a little scary making music without the Shondells... but it gave me a chance to experiment with a lot of new sounds and ideas". - TJ
CHRISTIAN OF THE WORLD was a total departure from anything Tommy had ever done before. While it's true, other 'mainstream' pop and country performers had, on occasion, recorded traditional Gospel music...no other rock artist had ever attempted anything as bold as an album of new 'Christian oriented' songs.
MY HEAD, MY BED & MY RED GUITAR, recorded in Nashville in the summer of 1971, was hailed as a masterpiece by Rolling Stone Magazine. This album was still another example of Tommy's willingness to put himself in new and unusual musical settings to see what would happen.
IN TOUCH was the first of two albums Tommy produced for the San Francisco based FANTASY RECORDS. Recorded in the autumn of 1975 at the Fantasy studios in Berkley, it represented not only a geographical change for Tommy, but also a chance to explore new musical territory.
MIDNIGHT RIDER was the second Tommy James album released by Fantasy Records. This time the setting and the sound was vintage, 70's LA and Tommy turned the entire production over to legendary songwriter/producer Jeff Barry.
"As much as I loved living and working in California, I found I really missed the energy and edge I got from being in New York." - TJ... And so in 1979, at the age of thirty-two, Tommy moved back to the East coast and signed a new deal with Millennium Records.
With the 1988 purchase of Roulette Records by Rhino and EMI and the release of the blockbuster Tommy James and the Shondells ANTHOLOGY album, it was only natural that the next TJ - Rhino package would be a collection of his solo works.
Because Tommy had continued a vigorous recording schedule throughout the eighties and stayed on top of the new digital technologies that were transforming the music industry, he was ready when longtime friend and record exec Ron Alexenberg asked him to do a new album for Aegis Records. The result was HI-FI: an artful mix of lush, synthesized orchestrations offset by hard driving guitars and percussion .... and of course, nine great new TJ songs.
The first AURA release was a "double CD box set" highlighting the best of Tommy's post-Roulette career. It was called TOMMY JAMES DISCOGRAPHY: DEALS & DEMOS '74 - '92, and was a collection of all his singles and best album cuts from the five labels he had worked with since leaving Roulette... MCA, Fantasy, Millennium, Polygram/21, and Aegis.
As the 1980's unfolded, Tommy's music went through a renaissance. Besides being a staple on classic rock and oldies stations, his songs began popping up everywhere... in films, on TV and cover recordings by other artists. Joan Jett had a smash hit with her remake of "Crimson & Clover" while Tiffany and Billy Idol had back-to-back number one records with "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Mony Mony" respectively... his catalog was getting hot.