Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 25th

On a program that features Van Johnson, Liza Minnelli (performing "Cabaret") and Mickey Rooney, it's kind of a shocker to find The Hollywood Palace running the two new Beatles promotional clips for "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever"!!!

Speaking of The Beatles, George Harrison celebrates his 24th birthday today. 

Here in Chicago, Tommy James and the Shondells take over the top spot on both the WLS and the WCFL weekly surveys.


Tommy James tells this story of hearing "I Think We're Alone Now" for the very first time. 

He and the Shondells had just gotten back from a show in Bemuda and was at a meeting in Henry Glover's office at Roulette Records.  Also there were songwriters Ritchie Cordell and Bo Gentry.

Bo sat down at the piano - Ritchie grabbed my arm and said "Listen to this.  We've been working all night."  Bo played single notes on the bass keys, an octave apart, while Ritchie sang:  "Children behave ... that's what they say when we're together". And then he played me a hook that blew me away ... "I think we're alone now ... there doesn't seem to be anyone around."

No matter how badly Bo played the piano, no matter how off-key Ritchie sang, this was a smash.  They played it again and again and I liked it more every time.

"You guys wait here," I said and I ran into Morris Levy's office.  He was on the phone but he hung up and waved me right in.  "So what's up, kid? You got the next single?"  I said "Ritchie and his new partner just played me a fucking number-one record."  

Ritchie booked time at Allegro Studios in the basement of 1650 Broadway.  First we raised the key from G to A and then started toying with the arrangement. Ritchie and Bo originally wrote the song as a mid-tempo ballad.  I said no way and started speeding it up.

I began playing the staccato eighth notes on the bass strings, Bo began pounding out quarter-notes on the piano, Ritchie grabbed some drumsticks and did the best he could.  I then put on a nasally, almost juvenile-sounding lead vocal and, without realizing it, we invented "bubblegum" music.

"I Think We're Alone Now" was released the first week of January, 1967.  Radio loved it and it exploded.  Within two weeks, we had virtually every major station in the country playing the record.  It climbed the charts steadily through February, March and April in jumps of eight to ten points a week.  It ensured we would keep our bullet in the trade papers which, in turn, kept radio playing the record which, in turn, kept the record selling.
-- Tommy James