Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Tommy James And The Shondells

It seems somewhat strange that a band of the high profile of Tommy James and the Shondells should be outside of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame given the sort of acts from that period (Laura Nyro being the most glaring example, but also Donovan and others like that) who have been inducted. In many ways, though, the success and influence of the band has been undersold. Tommy James and Shondells exists, like a few other groups which have not been inducted, along the borders of psychedelic music [1] and bubblegum pop [2]. It is quite possible, though, that many people have simply not well understood the importance of Tommy James as a songwriter as well as a performer and the songs that have endured to this day as essential parts of the “classic rock” canon. In order to make the case for Tommy James and the Shondells, it will also be necessary to show the diverse and complicated legacy of his band and their music.

The Influence Of Tommy James And The Shondells

The influence of Tommy James And The Shondells exists largely in two ways. One way is in the band’s adoption of electronic music such as phasers and vocoders, which was like the Moody Blues in being an early adopter of synthesizers as an part of psychedelic music [3]. The second way is more straightforward, and that is their music. Three of the band’s own top ten hits became top ten hits (two became #1 hits back to back on the Billboard Hot 100), namely “Crimson And Clover” by Joan Jett, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” by Tiffany, and “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol. The fact that these artists range from solid rock & roll artists worth considering for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction themselves (especially Idol) to a teen pop princess suggest that the band itself straddled some pretty stark lines. Still, the fact that their influence could remain through songs that are still played from the 1960’s as well as from the 1980’s remakes. Such an influence that is enduring as well as massive ought to ensure a Hall of Fame induction for Tommy James and his late 60’s version of the Shondells.

Why Tommy James And The Shondells Should Be In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

There are a few reasons why Tommy James and the Shondells should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Chief among them is the fact that the band and its music has remained enduringly popular not only in its original versions, but also in remakes. Not only that, but even after the Shondells broke up for the third time, Tommy James had success writing for other bands, and even had a big solo hit of his own with “Draggin’ The Line,” which occasionally pops up on soundtracks to this day [4]. Even without considering this work for other artists, which makes the case for the band even better, the band on its own had enough success between 1966’s release of the #1 hit “Hanky Panky” to merit induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with two #1 hits (the other one was “Crimson And Clover”) along with several other top 10 hits (“I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mirage,” “Mony Mony,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion”) along with several other top 40 hits (at least seven of them). Career success like that, even in a short time, with a lasting reputation and songs that are continually remade by other artists would appear to be an obvious sign that one’s career had a massive influence on other artists.

Why Aren’t Tommy James And The Shondells In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?

It’s a mystery to me. There are certainly bands and artists that are more mystifying omissions than Tommy James and the Shondells [5], but the fact that they were popular in the 1960’s, were invited to Woodstock because of their influence on psychedelic music, and the fact that their music is still well known and well-played to this day both in original and cover versions suggests a worth that is at the upper level of their peers. Their forays into bubblegum music as well as their short career shouldn’t be held against them, a career that was shortened, lamentably, by Tommy James’ drug use (he was pronounced dead in 1970 before being revived). It would seem rather hypocritical of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to punish someone because their career was shortened from drug use, because there would be precious few rock & roll bands and artists who could claim to be immune from such problems.

Verdict: Put them in. How they have made it this long without induction is still a bit of a mystery.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-the-moody-blues/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-sweet/

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_James_and_the_Shondells

[4] See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draggin%27_the_Line

[5] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-janet-jackson/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-elo-jeff-lynne-traveling-wilburys/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-chicago/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Tommy James And The Shondells

  1. Just this week another glaring omission was publicly noted by Howard Stern on America’s Got Talent: The Hollies. There is no rhyme or reason to its decision-making, as you’ve so often noted. And it’s a “cryin’ shame.”

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Who Did It First?: Great Pop Cover Songs And Their Original Artists | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. R says:

    If Joan Baez is in the HOF then there is no reason why I shouldn’t be in not to mention the likes of Tommy James.19 platinum LPs, over 100 million records sold. Come on

  4. Andrew washor says:

    Tommy James and the Shondells should have been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago. Put them in before he passes away.

  5. Charles Coulter says:

    Crazy that Tommy James is snubbed like he is. His band was very good

  6. Andrew washor says:

    Tommy James should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s better than half the acts that are already in there. There’s absolutely no reason why you should be left out. His induction is long overdue.

  7. Brian Barratt says:

    Seriously. Time for a full assault. Not to knock some that got in. But good lord….Tommy had the class to induct Joan Jett. My thought? Purists didn’t like his religious conversion. And some, I’m sure, knock him for being a “singles” guy, and not an “album” guy. Nonsense. Put him in now, and let him enjoy the moment. We just saw him Friday night, and had a 1 on 1 meet with him after. Could not have been nicer, and more welcoming. We mentioned the Hall….and you could tell he wanted it…but is too good a guy to make a deal about it. But his bass player followed us out of the dressing room and spent several minutes with us. Thanking US for telling Tommy how deserving he was. How cool is that?

    • Yeah, I agree; I don’t think it really matters if Tommy James was a singles guy–his singles are fantastic. I have no idea why this guy hasn’t been inducted. This is the sort of obvious case that deserves a full social media press.

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