This is SO good I want you to stop what you’re doing right now, IMMEDIATELY, and go to the store and buy this book. Because this is the most authentic account of how it really was. And why it can never be this way ever again.
We were glued to the radio. When we saw acts on TV we wanted to be them. We combed our hair in front of the mirror for hours, struck poses, bought newfangled clothes. We wanted in. To a glamorous world based on the soundtrack of our lives, where a hit record made everything work.
Hell, he even talks about the kiddie records.
Did you have kiddie records? You remember, pressed in pink and yellow plastic, Disney songs, cartoon ditties? Those were my first singles. And thereafter I bought a Ruff & Reddy album. The record was how you brought a little of the magic home. That’s how you belonged, by owning the vinyl.
And we formed bands. Members flowing in and out, depending on their abilities, their girlfriends, the draft. The Vietnam war affected the culture more than anything. Not only did you ultimately rebel against it, you chose your course of behavior because of it. You stayed in school for the deferment. Dropping out could literally be a death sentence.
And the business was all regional. Clear Channel was not blasting the same uniform crap across the land. You might not know what was going on a hundred miles away, that was like a different country. You were living in a village. Everybody was a rube.
Except for those in New York City.
Billed as a book about Morris Levy, the famous mobster who ran Roulette Records, James’s book is really about coming of age, discovering not only music, but sex and the city. We were infatuated by the music, it sculpted our lives.
It’s all here. From Elvis to the record shops to the Beatles to "Where The Action Is". Tommy describes the Capitol campaign for the Fab Four in December of ‘63, when almost no one had heard of the Liverpudlians. There was a series of teasing cut-outs adorning the countertop in the record store where Tommy worked, the Beatles didn’t face forward until "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was finally released.
Yes, there was hype. And marketing. Tommy Mottola was just the last gasp. Jimmy Iovine is running on fumes. Even he’s getting out of the Pussycat Dolls business, you just can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes that easily anymore.
But the sixties were the era of manipulation. And dishonesty.
You know why record companies don’t pay accurate royalties? BECAUSE THEY NEVER DID! It’s historical! You kept your road money and… Isn’t it funny that the labels want a piece of that now, while they STILL don’t account accurately.
At least you used to be able to renegotiate and get a big advance. Now it’s almost impossible to do that. Because records sell a fraction of the copies they used to. And music no longer drives the culture. Music was everything in the sixties. It’s just one of many things in the twenty first century.
In the sixties he would have played in a band. Steve Jobs would have been the manager. The best and the brightest were in music. It was the only way to get out, the only way to escape a life of drudgery.
Tommy James captures the era so well, you’re struck by how different it was, how it’s gone and can never come back. Just like there was never another Beatles, never another Bob Dylan, there can never be another classic rock era. Because no one wants to get involved for so little money, because those with money and education rule and the rest of us are just pawns, because everyone isn’t glued to their transistor, waiting for another hit, not only a hook-laden song, but a burst of adrenaline, an incredible feeling of being alive.
The stars lined up and it all came together.
And those stars have not been aligned for a very long time.
I gave up reading the rock biographies. They’re too self-satisfied, too "Behind The Music". But this is something different. This is the story of not only Tommy James and the Shondells, but America.
If you were there, you will be nodding your head in agreement, constantly saying "yup!" as you read along.
If you weren’t, you’re gonna get an accurate glimpse of how it truly was.
Buzz made me buy this book. All good. And when I finally picked it up this morning, I just could not put it down. I’ve read better writing, but never a better story. Because it’s my story.
You’ll learn more reading "Me, the Mob and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells" than you will in a year’s worth of "Billboard", days of poring over music blogs, hours of listening to record company bullshit.
I’m barely halfway through, but as I turn every page, I keep nodding my head and saying I’VE GOT TO TELL MY READERS ABOUT THIS!