But I've got a few things in place as I look for work, so I feel like writing about a pretty entertaining Rock'n'Roll book, "Me, the Mob and the Music" by Tommy James with Martin Fitzpatrick (Scribner, 2010). The subtitle is "One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells."
The story of James' unexpected national success in 1966 ("Hanky Panky" became a smash across the U.S. a full two years after it was a Michigan/Indiana hit) and how he sustained it by quickly learning his way around the recording studio is unusual enough. But then there was James' record label, Roulette, owned by Morris Levy, who was convicted for racketeering and extortion many years after the fact. Roulette was sliding downhill when James gave it a second or third wind. How he dealt with Levy's Mob connections while co-creating 1960s records that still get airplay today and battled his inner demons (an addiction to pills) makes "Me, the Mob and the Music" a first rate read. Tommy James will never make my list of the 100 (or even 200) greatest recording artists, but his memoir about the brutal music business is quite an achievement.
There's a great description of how "Mony Mony" was created in the studio--I've always thought it was an exciting record, and I don't dig the plodding bass of Billy Idol's wooden version. Plenty of surprises throughout the book, such as James' stories of life on the road--and death, as he recalled an Arizona show that ended in tragedy--playing political rallies for Hubert Humphrey and more.
Excellent stuff, except a few weird proofreading mistakes. The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" is listed as "Strawberry Fields" (hey, only George Martin gets to call it that). The '60s band the Cyrkle is shown as the "Cyrcle" and fiddler Buddy Spicher as
"Spiker." See? I'm a good proofreader. Give me a job.