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Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  425 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Everyone knows the hits—“Hanky Panky,” “Mony Mony,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” They are nuggets of rock and pop history. However, few know the unlikely story of how these hits came to be..

Tommy James was discovered in 1966 at the age of nineteen, and was pursued by every record mogul in New York until, inexplicably, every

Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Scribner (first published January 25th 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Blog on Books
Jul 26, 2010 Blog on Books rated it really liked it
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
Frank Taranto
Oct 07, 2010 Frank Taranto rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
I picked this up because I am a big fan of Tommy James's music. I enjoyed bits and parts of the story, but other parts were difficult to read. I enjoyed learning about how the mob was involved in pop music.
Aug 21, 2014 Kurt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun read, but as a musician I would have liked more info on how Morris Levy ran his business and his relationship with organized crime. There's a very interesting interview on YouTube of Tommy James promoting this book.
Matthew Elmslie
Jan 20, 2014 Matthew Elmslie rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, music, memoir
Very readable. The book just invites you in. It's about mobster/music executive Morris Levy almost as much as it's about James, but that's okay. James seemed fascinated by him, and it's a side of the music scene I've never read about before. I'm glad I gave this a try.
Steve Miller
Mar 07, 2011 Steve Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A walk through the life of a bubblegum star never read so easy. it's length, 215 pages or so, is perfect - it's brief but effective and full of anecdotes, the milk of the memoir -
Jan 28, 2010 Tim rated it liked it
For whatever reason, celebrity memoirs seem to sell better when they are tell-all tales. In fact, it seems the more salacious, the better. If that's what intrigues you about such works, Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells won't fit the bill. If, though, you're interested in the then-nascent pop music industry of the 1960s as experienced by a still teenaged star who ends up signed with the "Godfather" of that business, Tommy James's memoir may be wo ...more
Dennis McMahon
Oct 29, 2010 Dennis McMahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed Tommy James’ presentation of how he came to be a rock-and-roll star, all he went thru, and the knowledge and insights he gained. It’s a quick, easy, and informative read about the music industry of the Sixties, and beyond. Definitely recommended.

Often artists will gloss over how they actually “made it,” but Tommy gives you the full story from the first note he played thru his glory years and beyond. It’s an engaging tale. What emerges between the lines is that while Tommy mos
Dave DiGrazie
Mar 16, 2014 Dave DiGrazie rated it really liked it
Tommy James' no-holds-barred story of how he was caught up in the intestines of the pop music industry from the mid-1960s through early 1970s is served with a side order of his perspective on the rest of the world from his smelly, churning vantage point. This is a first-person history through the wide eyes of a Midwestern kid who goes to New York to seek his fortune and who is almost immediately snatched into a recording syndicate with clear ties to the notorious Genovese underworld family; and ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: library
First off: not a huge fan of Tommy James and the Shondells (although "I Think We're Alone Now" is a classic in my book). The writing is sophomoric and breathless at times. Particularly grating were the clumsy attempts at humor, such as this gem on page 6:
As far back as I could remember it was just the four of us. Oh, did I mention music?

The writer uses the same construction later for another "joke". And there are several of those early on. But eventually he starts telling the story, and gets pas
Aug 12, 2013 Pat rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
I was familiar with a different aspect of this story, just not the part where Tommy James was one of those affected by the mob and their hold on the music industry. I went to school with him (7th grade) and remember his passion for music. I had a very big crush on him! Then I moved away and heard after a few years he had a record out (Hanky Panky) which suddenly appeared on all the radio stations a year or so after it had been produced. It was grabbed up by Morris Levy of Roulette Records. I had ...more
Mary Lou
Feb 16, 2017 Mary Lou rated it liked it
Organized crime in rock and roll.
Oct 21, 2014 Lynn rated it really liked it
Although I was into the popular music business up to my ears at about the same time as Tommy James, my approach to it was from a much different vantage point as a "serious" (a.k.a. self-important) classical avant garde composer with a lifetime of classical music background leaving that world to take up rock and roll in the wake of the Beatles' fame and success. My interest was entirely in the creative end of it, the composers of that era, many of whom are still around: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, ...more
May 18, 2011 Lita rated it liked it
I have always enjoyed the music of Tommy James and have recently found myself listening to his music more than usual, so when I came across this book I just had to pick it up. If you are looking for an in depth insight to the man behind the music - you will not find it here. The book focuses on his love/hate relationship with Morris Levy, the head of Roulette Records. You get a little bit of Tommy's life in Niles, Michigan and the events that brought him into the world of music but the story is ...more
May 21, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it
I enjoyed many of Tommy James songs growing up. But, what interested me about this book was as the title suggest, his relationship with Morris Levy and Roulette Records. I was somewhat familiar with Roulette label since my parents had many Ronnie Hawkins records when he was signed to the label. I also know of the story of how Morris Levy sued John Lennon for using a line or two from a Chuck Berry song that Levy owned the rights to. I'm also fascinated from stories around this era of music. But I ...more
Gina Pulaski
Feb 04, 2014 Gina Pulaski rated it it was amazing
I have loved Tommy James' music since I first began listening to the radio, around 1969. With my parents' help, I searched record shops until I had compiled quite a collection of his albums. I think he has probably the best voice in music, and while I love all the big hit records he has done, many of my favorites are obscure album cuts. So when the book came out, I had to buy a copy. Quickly. I love it, and have read it several times. It's not just your typical autobiography (which I'm sure I wo ...more
Jul 08, 2010 Roger rated it really liked it
I'm not normally drawn to books about pop musicians, but the title of this book caught my attention when I was wandering through the library one day. Tommy James and the Shondells was a pop group that had a string of hits in the '60s and '70s ("Cyrstal Blue Pursuasion," "Crimson and Clover"). As this autobiography details, James, as a teenager, signed with a record company led by a guy with mob connections, which, to say the least, greatly complicated his career. James' crazy ride up and down th ...more
Jun 13, 2014 Fred rated it really liked it
Generally speaking, autobiographical works by music stars are usually fun reads but not terribly insightful. Still, I'm addicted. This book fits the above description quite well. It truly is a fun read. How can anyone turn away from a glimpse inside the magical world of making hit records? Being a weekend band musician myself, I enjoy tales of rubbing elbows with idols and stranger-than-fiction escapades. Tommy delivers those and does so with clarity and economy. Tommy falls a little short of th ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Bill rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
I saw Tommy James speak at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while on his book tour for this. He was interesting and so I picked up this autobiography. It's a good, fast overview of his career.

The "Mob" part of the story comes from his signing with Roulette Records which, unbeknownst to him at the time, was a front for the Mob. Except for the $40MM in royalties that he never saw, it didn't seem to be a particularly bad thing for him and, perhaps, it gave him the freedom to do things that other arti
Feb 19, 2011 Sher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a baby boomer, I found this a very interesting read. I'm not so sure those much younger than I am would appreciate it in the same way. Tommy James and the Shandells were a pretty hot group in the '60s and '70s. Learning about the history of this group, and all of the trials Tommy James went through and put himself through was very interesting to me. I got a little sick of the obscene language there for a while, but the book has a redeeming value when Tommy has to check himself into the Betty ...more
Jun 15, 2010 Chicagobattles rated it it was amazing
I have to apologize , I thought I already wrote a review. What struck me the most about this book was the depiction of the creative process . James gives the reader a pretty detailed look into what went on in the studio (Besides all the pot smoking.) , building great songs from the ground up , usually in about 12 hour's time. The gangster vibe is horrific , and , obviously , Tommy had to wait until those involved were dead , or he soon would be. As another review states , Tommy does not apologi ...more
Apr 08, 2016 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rock-sleaze
The "M" word brought me here. Butttt........
After reading this and the Adam Ant atrocity I'm thinking that perhaps rock bios should be written by outside peeps rather than the artists themselves. When artists write about themselves they do more harm than good by showing off how vain and dumb they are. Case in point, Tommy's description of Roulette boss Morris Levy as ripping him off and threatening him for years, and yet James cloyingly refers to him as a second Dad he had to make proud.

Don Gorman
Nov 19, 2015 Don Gorman rated it it was ok
(2) A friend of mine turned me on to this book, and it turns out to be a good news, bad news deal. The content in this short book is lots of fun, but it is obvious there is so much of this story that is missing. I can't believe I never realized how many big, big hits Tommy James had while he was on top. Almost one after another, and he certainly should have reaped the rewards, but he was stuck with a serious bunch of crooks for his record label. The love/hate relationshiip he had with Morris Lev ...more
Aug 04, 2011 Kevin rated it liked it
Light but enjoyable bio of this master of 60s singles ("Hanky Panky," "Mony Mony," "I Think We're Alone Now," "Crimson and Clover," "Crystal Blue Persuasion," "Draggin' The Line," etc.). Born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in Niles, Michigan, he's surprisingly frank about his own bad behavior (drugs and drinking, cheating on his wives, firing loyal bandmates) and about the strong impact of the mob on his career (at one point, describes a sales meeting where his manager - a mobster - strong arms sale ...more
Apr 26, 2015 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, bios, music
A fast and enjoyable read. Tommy James had way more hits and was a much bigger deal in the 60s and 70s music scene than most people remember. From Hanky Panky to I Think We're Alone Now to Mony Mony, Crimson and Clover, Crystal Blue Persuasion, and Draggin the Line, he thrived during a fast-changing musical era. But this book primarily focuses on his relationship with Morris Levy, the charismatic, volcanic, mob-connected head of Roulette Records. It's a rise and fall story in which one is rising ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Sonia rated it really liked it
I hope this book is made into a movie because what a fun ride.

This reads like a conversation you would have sitting at a bar with your musician friend telling outrageous stories from his past. The history of 1960s rock n roll and the hit making machine of Roulette Records, Morris Levy, and his mob cronies. Some great songs like “Hanky Panky,” “Mony Mony,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion” were churned out by Tommy James and his revolving cast of band mem
May 11, 2013 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: signed
One of the better autobiographies that I have read. The book details the life of Tommy James; however, the centerpiece of the book is the complex relationship between him and and the head of his record company, Roulette Records, Morris Levy who was also tied the Mafia. Mr James' co-writer, Martin Fitzpatrick did an amazing job of framing the Tommy James story and writing it in such a way that stays true to the voice of the legend. If you are into the man, his music, or the mob - read this book.
Jun 01, 2010 Chris rated it it was ok
A memoir of Tommy James and his dealings with Morris Levy, who had mob links. I loved Tommy James songs growing up, but this book seemed to be done in a hurry. But I did find out that the name Mony, Mony came from tManhatta's famous Mutual of Ney York (MONY) building. I also found it interesting that two of the men that Tommy had dealings with, were the basis of characters in the HBO hit, "The Soprano's". His manager, Morris Levi, was the basis for the character "Hesh", and another man was the b ...more
Jun 12, 2010 Richard rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: radio interview with TJ
An enjoyable book about the life & career of Tommy James and the Mob connections in Roulette Records & the music business in general. No, his personal life was not admirable. He recounts his story in a matter-of-fact way. He doesn't defend his mistakes or glorify his excesses. In a few places he says he isn't proud of how he handled things, but he doesn't wallow in it, and I think the book is better for it.
Dale Stonehouse
Aug 21, 2010 Dale Stonehouse rated it liked it
While I enjoyed the description of how James' music career progressed because I always liked his music, most of this book details his codependent relationship with mob figure Morris Levy (who ran Roulette Records among other shady dealings), which lasted until Levy's 1990 death. There are no likable characters here and only Levy is explored in any depth. Perhaps notable historically but only average reading.
Apr 05, 2010 Meremortal rated it liked it
I was really looking forward to reading this autobiography as I am a huge fan. I found that I really enjoyed the first half of the book, where the music and his personal history was delved into. I didn't enjoy the second half as much, where incredible detail was covered regarding every mafioso who passed through the doors at his record company. The second half of the book read like an organized crime chart. Still worth the read however, so go for it.
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