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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Music Legend survives the hanky panky of a Roulette wheel!
It's incredible, but not surprising that Tommy James has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame;he's one of their inexcusable oversights. His music has endured far more powerfully than he's usually given credit for, and to this day his live show walks the walk of the true independent rocker.
Me,the Mob and the Music is the harrowing tale not only of...
Published on February 16, 2010 by Crescenzo C. Capece

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
This has got to be one of the most simultaneously funny and unsettling music books ever written. The beginning of James' story goes like this: He's the only child of a bar owner and homemaker. A bit spoiled and indulged by both parents, he sees Elvis on Ed Sullivan, changes his hairdo, gets a guitar, gets his girlfriend preggers (before leaving school), and heads off for...
Published on April 25, 2011 by Natalie Cladt


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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Music Legend survives the hanky panky of a Roulette wheel!, February 16, 2010
This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
It's incredible, but not surprising that Tommy James has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame;he's one of their inexcusable oversights. His music has endured far more powerfully than he's usually given credit for, and to this day his live show walks the walk of the true independent rocker.
Me,the Mob and the Music is the harrowing tale not only of Tommy and the Shondells entrance into the world of rock and roll, but the story of how he survived being employed by one of the most notorious record biz cartels that ever existed(the infamous Morris Levy's Roulette label).
Music history lovers will get a kick out of learning the origins of how Tommy came to be a major hitmaker, and those who enjoy biographies will marvel at how a simple kid with a guitar innocently winds up at the center of a Soprano's worthy operetta! You'll sweat it out with Tommy as he is forced to come up with hit after hit (for a label where the quietest place on earth exists: the accounts payable department).You'll relive the pressures of the travel demands,personal sacrifices, over indulgences and the not so glamorous side of being a star as Tommy recounts
his days in the midst of a truly vibrant & creatively signifigant period of music. You'll even learn why he turned down the Woodstock gig that changed the music business forever, and how "Mony Mony" got its title.
The characters and situations Tommy walks you with and through are memorable as heck, and the story is told in a matter of fact,personable (and,yes,of course,occasionally egotistical) style that will have you racing through the pages. Once you're done you'll be craving to hear his great recordings again, and excitedly awaiting either the film version, or perhaps even a fabulous "Jersey Boys" style juke-box drama.This book proves Tommy James is still a hitmaker; God Bless him!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Helluva Read, February 19, 2010
This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
If you've ever wanted to sit down with you favorite artist - in this case, rock legend Tommy James - and have them tell you about their life and career, then here's your chance.

The "Me" refers to Tommy himself, who shares (in a first-person voice well captured by co-author, Martin Fitzpatrick) the amazing story of how a Midwest teen with a band and a dream ended up with the number one record in America ("Hanky Panky"), and went on to record a string of classic tracks. Along the way he weaves an engrossing tale of his personal behind-the-scenes struggles and triumphs, told with a healthy dose of trademark James wit.

"The Mob" - as in THE MOB - appears in the guise of one of the seminal figures in early R&B and rock 'n' roll, Roulette Records owner Morris Levy. Levy knew a hit record when he heard one and knew how to make it happen. Despite his darker side, Morris acted as James' surrogate music biz father, providing Tommy with the environment and support needed for him to be successful. What he didn't provide to James was the singer's hard-earned money, a fact that ultimately led to a "family" break-up. Such material makes for fascinating reading about a complex relationship, one that still looms large in James' life, long after Levy's death in 1990.

"The Music," of course, is why this book exists in the first place. From the garage-band "Hanky" to the party-rock "Mony Mony," the psychedelic "Crimson and Clover," the spiritual-pop ballad "Crystal Blue Persuasion," the singer/songwriter-anthem "Draggin' The Line" and many others, Tommy's musical legacy is rich and he has many a back-story to tell about how it came to be.

Me, the Mob & the Music is a wonderful inside look at the turbulent music business of the 1960s/70s, the colorful characters who ran it, and one man who thrived and lived to tell about it. One helluva read, indeed.

(I strongly urge you to have a copy of Tommy's 40 Years singles collection on hand so you can listen to the music while reading about it.40th Anniversary Singles Collection)
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RICK "SHAQ" GOLDSTEIN SAYS: "TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS: "HERE SHE COMES NOW... SAYING -"MAFIA"-MAFIA"!, February 22, 2010
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This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
Thomas Gregory Jackson born on April 29, 1947 in Dayton, Ohio... would morph as a teenager into rock star Tommy James who along with various incarnations of the Shondells would sell over TWENTY-MILLION-ALBUMS-AND SINGLES-IN-EIGHTEEN-MONTHS... and yet make almost no royalty money. The reason is because of his signing a contract with Morris Levy and Roulette Records. The crux of James's story is that he tied his rock-and-roll dreams to a man who was "mobbed-up". In fact it wasn't Tommy's ultimate goal to sign with Levy. Levy was just one of a number of record companies that Tommy met with in looking for national representation for his first soon to be mega-hit "HANKY PANKY". Each company Tommy met with loved the record but by the time Tommy got back to his hotel Levy had told all the other companies to "BACK OFF" this guy's mine! And when your business associates include *ANTHONY "FAT TONY" SALERNO* of the *GENOVESE FAMILY* (Tony Soprano was modeled after Salerno.)... *GAETANO "CORKY" VASTOLA* an underboss for the DeCavalcante family... *DOMINICK "QUIET DOM" CIRILLO* a future acting boss of the *GENOVESE FAMILY*... *THOMAS "TOMMY RYAN" EBOLI* a *GENOVESE CRIME FAMILY HEAD... and *VINCENT "THE CHIN" GIGANTE* a future *GENOVESE FAMILY HEAD* with the longest run in Genovese history... among others... as daily associates most people shakingly did as they were told. Later in James's career which was marked by an amphetamine/upper addiction and heavy drinking... along with his fear of Levy and associates... he finally tried to confront Levy about his unpaid royalties... after having an audit taken. "THE NUMBERS WERE ASTONISHING. MORRIS OWED ME UPWARD OF FORTY MILLION DOLLARS. IT WAS JUST HORRENDOUS. EVEN WITH MY MISERABLE ROYALTY RATE HE OWED ME THAT MUCH."

James takes you on a quick ride through his life that led him to this dangerous exhilarating conundrum. From his early love of music... to starting a teenage band... to working in a record store... to a high school pregnancy and marriage... to his string of all-time classic hits such as "I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW"... "MONY MONY"... CRIMSON AND CLOVER"... "CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION"... "DRAGGIN' THE LINE"... and many more. Along with the drug and alcohol abuse there's the cheating on his first wife... cheating on his second wife (whose uncle happened to run a hotel in Florida that was connected with the Jewish Mob and "made-man" Santo Trafficante)... and his marriage to his third wife. The reader will be enlightened by how some of these "gold-records" were written... by whom... and the inspiration for some songs that became part of our everyday lexicon.

Many times during this rapid two-hundred-twenty-five-page book you might wonder how Tommy could have possibly put up with being so massively short changed on money due him and his band... but then Morris and an associate would grab baseball bats that were always available in the office and put someone in the hospital who either owed them money or tried to run a counterfeit scheme "on-the-counterfeiter's"... and you will immediately begin to understand... and Tommy probably wished he had a new song entitled: "I WISH WE WERE ALONE NOW!"
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, April 25, 2011
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This has got to be one of the most simultaneously funny and unsettling music books ever written. The beginning of James' story goes like this: He's the only child of a bar owner and homemaker. A bit spoiled and indulged by both parents, he sees Elvis on Ed Sullivan, changes his hairdo, gets a guitar, gets his girlfriend preggers (before leaving school), and heads off for what could have been a kind of early 60s oblivion of endless sock hops. But everything changes - not unlike a Hollywood B movie - when "Hanky Panky" breaks big in Pittsburgh. In no time at all, Tommy is touring the country, selling as many records as The Beatles and loving every minute of it. The catch is that in reaching the big time he is forced into a Faustian bargain with Morris Levy. Levy is the owner of the mostly undistinguished Roulette Records and a safe bet to be among the more evil people to ever appear on the music scene (no small feat). Levy is a criminal and a sociopath, just the sort of person that the federal RICO laws were written for. No matter. James and co-author Martin Fitzpatrick (who has a really nice, light touch here) spin a fascinating web in ME, THE MOB, AND MUSIC, that tries hard to find the best angles to portray Levy. If the idea of organized crime is charming to you, you may almost like Levy. Levy, btw, died of well-earned cancer at 62, but not before amassing a vast fortune built largely through intimidation and on the backs and efforts of others, particularly songwriters. Despite this often grim subject matter, this is a great read, and often very funny. Tommy James comes off as a honest, decent guy caught in a weird and quite dangerous situation. Kudos to him and his co-author for documenting this part of the business and living to tell about it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Music Went Gold, but the Price was Silver, July 8, 2010
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This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
So, you can sing "Crystal Blue Persuasion." You've danced to "Mony, Mony" and your version of "Hanky Panky" is surely radio-good. You still don't have the first clue about Tommy James' life and career, as the man who created those feel-good sounds on the radio during the best years of your life. Toss out any preconceived notions.

Tommy James and coauthor Martin Fitzpatrick spin a tale that is generally shocking and countermands the scenes of peace, love, brotherhood, and joy, so richly "typical Tommy James hit". Few know what went on behind the scenes--until now, and still, not exactly. Tommy James' major career was controlled by one man, Morris Levy, owner of Roulette Records. Levy was a businessman whose skill, daring, and domination of his allies, and enemies alike, allowed him to exert exceptional power over radio DJs, station managers, and the industry. What kept the friendship/business together was a love-hate relationship between mentor and student, each determined to gain the upper hand. Levy usually won.

Roulette had essentially only one rock artist: Tommy James. Tommy James had only one person to whom he had to answer: Morris Levy. James virtually owes his entire catalog of hits to Levy's promotion. His reward for that was, in fact, some of the worst days of James' life. The trauma being treated unfairly in sharing financial benefits, yet given full creative room and resources cost Tommy James greater wealth, over most of their business arrangement. Likely, it perpetuated James's abuse of stimulants and depressants to escape. The role of various crime syndicate members as Levy's (sometimes) silent partners is noted, so subtly that none of them would complain, if they could. Possibly some delay in releasing this long-awaited book was for certain people to be...well, let's just say, out of the picture.

The story is compelling, but sad, as readers learn that the price of James' staying in an entertainment arena was at great personal cost, and he was the lucky one. Levy denied credit (and profit) repeatedly to two of the industry's most talented songwriters, Ritchie Cordell and Bo Gentry, ever much as responsible for the hits as the talent who co-created and gave them life. Levy gave them airplay, presence, and promotion because he knew how to get it done. Not until Tommy met Grammy winner Jimmy Wisner that he began to heal creatively, and enjoy making music. James nicknamed Jimmy "The Wiz", for his ability to find and create hits. Currently, James and Wisner continue producing fresh, new TJ sounds. A musician found his muse, and shows no signs of slowing down. The hits, they keep on coming.

This review first appeared in the May/June, 2010 issue of "Keep Rockin'" Magazine.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Music Tales, June 16, 2010
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This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
Since the beginning of recorded music, record companies have been cheating their artists out of royalties, none have been so blatant as Morris Levy owner of Roulette Records. Tommy James was the biggest selling artist on Roulette. He had 23 gold singles and nine gold and platinum records. He never saw a dime until Rhino Records reissued his catalog years later. Tommy to this day says there would be no Tommy James (real last name Jackson) without Morris. He was a tireless promoter who left Tommy to his own creative devices to make the records he wanted to make. No creative interference = no royalties. As an outsider looking in, it seems like Tommy's success stemmed from the way business was done at Roulette. Tommy mentions that he dealt directly with Morris and the label staff was very small. Things got done immediately. He didn't have days of meetings and decisions by committee which may have watered down his creative juices and delayed recordings. He let him record with the players he wanted and write with the writers he wanted. He would of course make sure that he got a piece, if not all of the publishing.

Morris was tied in with the Genovese crime family and it's the underlying, hushed reason why Morris got what he wanted, including Tommy James signed to his label, keeping the publishing when it wasn't his and never paying royalties. Morris is a main character in Tommy James' candid biography. It covers his life in the music business. The tales of Morris alone are worth the read. He started off by running concessions and coat checks at famous NY clubs and then transformed that into buying the clubs. He owned Birdland.

For me, the little facts that pop up here and there were of great interest.

- Whitey Ford (yes the Yankee HOF pitcher) was a co-owner of a recording studio called Broadway Sound that had one of the first Moog synthesizes, which James uses.

-The first band Linda Eastman McCartney photographed was TJ and The Shondells

-A Flamenco guitar can be found on Crystal Blue Persuasion

-Hubert Humphrey wrote the liner notes for the Crimson and Clover album. (I still have the single, but did not buy the album. It turns out that I was not alone in thinking the lyrics were Christmas is Over. The single was released in November. The timing was there.)

-Crimson and Clover had to be released in it's rough mix version. The story is classic.

-Hanky Panky, James' first single was found by a DJ in Pittsburgh who proceeded to press his own copies and release it after it started getting local airplay. He sold 80,000 copies on his own label without James' blessing.

-Trade magazines such as Cash Box and Billboard all reported sales and airplay differently. Before Soundscan, a label could manipulate the charts to some extent.

-Shelly Winters was a drunk

James seemed to be ok with Morris guiding his career. He hated that he had to grovel to get money to pay his musicians, but there was a level of safety in knowing Morris would take care of everything. Morris would send him off with a $10,000 check after some office visits. Tommy does not shy away from his drug and infidelity problems (married at 17 with a son on the way-early in the book we lose track of these two, only to hear about his divorce or infrequent visits).

Me, The Mob and The Music is a quick, interesting read. You don't have to be a Tommy James fan to enjoy this book. The stories will pull you in.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, but I wish he'd focused a little more on the past 40 years, March 25, 2010
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This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
I agree with almost all the assessments in the other reviews. It's a highly enjoyable and quick read, being just over 200 pages with rather large printing. But there's not a wasted moment in there -- every story and incident relates in one way or another to the theme of a simple rock and roller getting caught up in a world of the Mob, money, drugs, and life on the road. Tommy is refreshingly candid in these matters, and doesn't paint himself as any kind of God. He made a lot of mistakes, admits them, and never tries to blame things on anyone else, even when he had a right to in many instances. I mean, if I was going to get hit on the head with a bunch of baseball bats, I might not always do the "right" thing or the "smart" thing either!

My one criticism of the book is that Tommy wraps up the last part of his career (post-1970 to the present) much too quickly. As a long-time fan of his music, I am aware of all the marvelous work he's done since his glory days, and he's truly one of the pop performing/recording/songwriting legends of the last 50 years, but he spends almost no time on any of this. Those who've followed his career closely know that he's just about the only pop/rock artist from that era still writing brilliant music today, and performing it with the authenticity of his early recordings. Almost no mention of his superb work since the hit-making machine that was Tommy James and the Shondells stopped, and a few titles that I can think of on the spot are "Give It All," "Angels and Strangers," "In Slow Emotion," "Go," "Ordinary Girl," "You're So Easy to Love," "Runnin' Out on Love," "Annie Come Knockin'," the incredible "Distant Thunder," and even his 1995 remake of "I Think We're Alone Now" (from his BIG CITY album), that turns this bubblegum-sounding hit into a contemporary power pop masterpiece.

Maybe these last 40 years haven't been as memorable to James as the hit-making years were, but they've been every bit as creative, and I would have welcomed hearing stories about his life over the last few decades and what he thinks of this music, which I consider to be even better than much of what he churned out during the early part of his career. While I know the book was meant to focus on the "Mob Years," and it did so perfectly, Tommy's ability to keep his music relevant throughout the years was unfortunately slighted in the process. At least we have his CDs and albums to provide substantial proof of that.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The seedier side of music, April 26, 2010
This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
Tommy James' bio "Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride With Tommy James and the Shondells" was just what I needed after my last read. For me, it was a "I can't put this book down!" kind of book for me. I'm generally drawn to biographies, particularly from areas of interest, and while the music aspect of this book drew me in, I also only vaguely knew of Tommy James and the Shondells and their hits. I remember them more from the remakes (Joan Jett, Tiffany, and Billy Idol) I remember in the 80s.

I vaguely had recalled reading a list of TJ's hits and thinking "I remember that song." as I moved down the list. One day, not long after, while browsing the biographies, I saw this book and thought "This must be a sign." and picked it up. From the day I picked it up, I never wanted to stop reading. Between his personal story and what he lived through in the music business, this is a pretty riveting story.

All I can say is, whether you know and/or are a fan of TJ and the Shondells, this book is absolutely incredible. It is a smaller book, but a great page turner. It is absolutely jam packed with "Wow" moments. I'm sure he's not doing poorly, financially, but the money this guy lost because of the Mob is unbelievable. To hear his version, how he went into a haze and then came out of it, it's quite the "he's lucky to be alive" story. And, after being saved, he doesn't beat you over the head with religious connotation. He's very matter of fact about being the best person (Christian) he can be, whether it's as good as someone else thinks a Christian should be.

When I finished the book, I got sad because I wanted to keep reading. I just couldn't put it down. So, to any of the literature fans, particularly of biographies and bios of rock acts, I cannot recommend this book enough. A terribly entertaining read that stayed strong throughout the whole book and never suffered from a let down, leaving you wanting more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tommy James Is A True Survivor, April 3, 2010
This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
Tommy James is one of those performers who touches your life. I first heard the music of Tommy and the Shondells when I was growing up in Baltimore and I can remember discovering the 45 of "Crystal Blue Persuasion" in my aunt's basement. Hearing this song changed my life. It immediately struck a spiritual chord in me and I felt as if I had known Tommy all of my life. It was my dream to meet him. My wish came true in 1977 when Tommy was making an appearance at the Baltimore Civic Center during of all things, a CB Jamboree. I was immediately awestruck by his kindness and dedication to the fans. Tommy was on the road all night just coming in from New York and he gave his heart and soul to the performance. Tommy was one of the performers who inspired me to enter the broadcasting business and to live my own dream.

When I heard his book "Me, the Mob and the Music" was coming out, I knew it was a must have. I read the entire book in two days because you simply cannot put it down. Tommy shares with deep honesty about his love of performing and the personal price that comes with it. I truly urge any up and coming artists and even established performers to read about Tommy's dealings with Morris Levy and the brutal mob connection that was behind the Roulette record label. Tommy and the Shondells were young and talented musicians who were placed on an emotional roller coaster having to juggle the demands of touring, promotion, performing and in turn being cheated by Morris Levy who had a reputation for being just as corrupt as his mob buddies. Parts of the book made me cry when I read of Tommy's personal struggles to survive in the chaos while still creating gems like "Crimson and Clover", "Sweet Cherry Wine" and the songs that we loved on the radio. Tommy found the courage to make the positive changes in his life and is here today sharing the music that has touched a generation and continues to influence even the young fans. The book will also make you laugh as Tommy shares some great stories about the road and living out of a suitcase. Let me also mention that Mike Vale of the Shondells (who now fronts the group "Hog Heaven") is a wonderful, heartfelt and talented performer too. "Me, the Mob and the Music" earns five stars easily.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story Of A Music Survivor!, March 19, 2010
This review is from: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells (Hardcover)
I don't read much, haven't got the time...but I knocked off this book in 3 days. What a story! I had heard about Roulette being run by the mob, and beating up Jimmy Rogers, who survived the beating he got long enough to never sing again from fear of the mob. But to read Tommy's extremely detailed descriptions of who, what, when, where, and how things got done at Roulette, you are just amazed that Tommy himself is still here. Gambinos, pills, women, music, booze, the F word...this book's got it all. I was a little disappointed that the end of the book felt rushed, I would have loved to have a list of all the people Tommy mentions, and where each one is now, although some of the major players are covered, especially Roulette president Morris Levy who is really the focus of the book. Buy it!
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