January 6, 1987 – Peter Paul Lucia, Jr. was born on February 2, 1947 in Morristown, New Jersey. He was a drummer for Hog Heaven and member of Tommy James and Shondells, whose period of greatest success came in the late 1960s. He co-wrote Crimson and Clover with Tommy James, referring to having the title created during a football meeting between two high school teams of which his home team wore Crimson and the opponents green reminding him of Clover.
They had a series of number one singles in the US – “Hanky Panky” in 1966 and “Crimson and Clover” in 1969, and five other top ten hits; “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, “Mirage”, and “Sweet Cherry Wine”.
Crimson and Clover, often mistaken by Christmas is Over
Peter Lucia unexpectedly died from a heart attack on January 6, 1987 in Los Angeles, U.S. during a round of golf.In 2006, Tommy James & the Shondells were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of FameProfile
While watching Monster, the biopic of executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Crimson and Clover plays in the background as Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci become sapphically acquainted in a dingy motel room. There’s hardly any flesh on display, but the scene is extraordinarily erotic, due to the tender, otherworldly sweetness of this song.
Tommy James and the Shondells were one of the big US acts of the mid-60s, scoring massive hits with songs such as I Think We’re Alone Now and Monie Monie. However, it was only after his main songwriter, Bo Gentry, went on strike in a dispute with Roulette records, that James had a go at writing himself.
In the face of much derision and scepticism over just how far his talents might stretch, he and Shondells drummer Peter Lucia Jr descended into the bowels of New York City’s Brill building, and Crimson and Clover was the result.
It’s fantastically vague – perhaps the song’s title is a reference to ladies’ parts, or some sort of pharmaceutical, but I’m probably being sordid. More likely, they’re just nice (and wonderfully inarticulate) words to sing and rhyme to: “Now I don’t hardly know her”, and “Well if she come walkin’ over”, etc.
Several sites on the web mistakenly (or perhaps mischievously) attribute it to the Velvet Underground. It has exactly the same three chord-descending riff as the earliest incarnation of Sweet Jane – which was developing in the big apple at exactly the same time. Perhaps a pop detective could place Tommy James at Max’s Kansas City, or prove Lou Reed was hiding in a guitar case, but it’s just as likely with rock music barely into its adolescence, that two great minds could pluck the same riff from the ether and bring it down to earth. It’s possible to love them both, with no overlap.
The production is an immaculate accident, sounding like a budget, restrained Phil Spector with a map of The United States, crossing from the east coast to the west, and calling at all points in between. In five and a half minutes, it travels from aching adolescent mating call, to gum-chewing garage punk, to Nashville ballad, and ends in psychedelia – achieved by singing through the guitar amp tremolo input.
The song was of course a massive hit in the winter of 1969, although it might have lasted longer, had radio stations not mistaken the title for Christmas is Over and stopped playing it.
As the final verse of this hymn, I’ll tell you that Kenny Laguna, the Shondells’ keyboard player, went on to produce Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – the singer currently being my favourite person, due to her knocking all those dreadful I’ll-do-anything-to-be-famous pretenders out of my daughter’s affections, and replacing them with her I Love Rock’n’Roll, Crimson and Clover real self.
There’s a fantastic recent clip of Tommy James and the Shondells on YouTube. Although he is beginning to look strangely like Danny deVito as the Penguin, his voice is still utterly thrilling, and the song remains superb.
Oh, one very last thing. Before changing their name to the Shondells, the band was called … the Raconteurs.