The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #171: Mony, Mony by Tommy James and the Shondells (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #171: Mony, Mony by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Tommy James and the Shondells formed in the year I was born….1964. The band began, as many do, as a local high school band that played school dances and then, once they were old enough to be allowed in, they graduated to playing local bars in the area of Michigan that they lived. While in High school, the lads had a minor hit song called, “Hanky Panky” but, because they had no record label or way to distribute that song beyond their own backyard, “Hanky Panky” sold well in their hometown but, beyond that, sales petered out. The band broke up upon graduation from high school, as all of the band members went on their separate ways in life, as one tends to do at that stage of things. That would have been the end of the story except for the fact that, unbeknownst to the band, copies of their song, “Hanky Panky” had found their way into the hands to some high-profile DJs who began playing the song in their clubs and on the radio. The song proved very popular and demand for copies soared. Eventually, someone contacted Tommy James to come and play the song on air. Initially, he played the song as a solo act, until such time as he was able to cobble together a brand new back up band to be his new “Shondells”. And, just like that, Tommy James and the Shondells were a thing again!

Over the course of their career, “Hanky Panky” ended up being their only #1 hit song. However, they scored several other Top Ten hits with songs like, “Crimson and Clover”, “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and, today’s song, “Mony Mony”. The interesting thing about their hit songs is, as you may have noticed, that they produced hits for other artists who covered them, too. For example, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts scored a Top Five hit with their cover of “Crimson and Clover”. Teen sensation, TIffany, went to #1 with “I Think We’re Alone Now” and, ironically enough, Billy Idol went to #1 with his Tommy James cover of “Mony Mony”, knocking Tiffany (and her Tommy James cover) out of top spot in the process.

The idea for the song title came when Tommy James and the Shondells were holed up in a hotel room in NYC. Tommy James had the bulk of the song written but was missing the title and the hook. He was on the verge of shelving the song when he happened to look out his hotel room window and saw a neon sign that said “Mutual of New York”, with only the “M”, “O”, “N” and “Y” flashing. With that bit of inspiration, he finished the chorus, gave the song its title and had himself a hit single.

For me, the Billy Idol version of “Mony Mony” is the one that I first became familiar with. Idol had been a punk rocker from the UK and had gained some fame as singer for a band called, “Generation X”. He released his cover of “Mony Mony” as a solo artist in the early 1980s and, as mentioned, it went to #1 on the charts. But, what helped fuel his version’s rise to the top was something that wasn’t on the album he released but, something that was happening in clubs and at parties whenever the song would be played. Just like the song, “Louie Louie” had a unofficial, sexually-charged alternative chorus, *(You can read about that here) so did Billy Idol’s version of “Mony Mony”. Whenever his version would be played, there would be a spot where everyone would scream, “Get laid! Get f*cked!” and, as such, the song became an extremely popular song; especially so, as the night wore on and everyone had a drink or two sloshing around inside of them. I am sure that this will not be news to any of you who have been to a wedding reception, at a bar or a good house party any time in the past thirty years. If this IS news to you then, welcome to the secret society. You are now part of quite a club. 🙂

In any case, whether you are more a fan of Tommy James and the Shondell’s version of “Mony Mony” or, perhaps, you prefer the drunken pleasure of shouting aloud about sex while Billy Idol sneers and sings, I will play both versions for you below. *An interesting fact about the Tommy James video is that it was one of the very first true music videos. The version you will see was recorded in the 1960s with the express intent that it be used to promote the song. So, as you watch it, know that you are not just hearing a cool song but, also, you are witnessing a bit of music marketing history, too. Regardless of your preference, enjoy this fun, party song. Here is “Mony Mony”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Mony, Many” by Tommy James and the Shondells, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Tommy James and the Shondells, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Mony, Many”, as covered by Billy Idol, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Billy Idol, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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