Hanky Panky - Tommy James and The Shondells

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"Hanky Panky" - Tommy James and The Shondells (1966)

Written by legendary song writers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Tommy James and the Shondells rode the funky-sounding “Hanky Panky” to number one in 1966.

Barry and Greenwich created the composition in under twenty minutes in 1963 as a B-side to a single they were working on. They were weren't particularly pleased with it and deemed it inferior to the rest of their work. Barry said he was surprised when Tommy James’ version was released, adding:

“As far as I was concerned it was a terrible song. In my mind it wasn't written to be a song, just a B-side."

"Hanky Panky" became extremely popular with garage rock bands where James first heard it being performed by one such group.

He remembers:

“I really only remembered a few lines from the song, so when we went to record it, I had to make up the rest of the song. I just pieced it back together from what I remembered."

Part of its attraction was that popular music was in a state of major flux in mid-1966- becoming more serious- and introspective. Yet “Hanky Panky” was at its core- a great rock and roll song, but was fun listen to. Also, you could dance to it.  It definitely bucked the prevailing trend at the time.

Music critic Donald Guarisco wrote:

“The lyrics of this song convey the excitement of a hormonal lad driven mad by a girl who knows how to do the suggestive dance of the title, building themselves around the oft-repeated lyrical hook of "My baby does the hanky panky." The music is equally simple and infectious, building itself on simple verse and chorus melodies that bounce up and down in a pleasant, bouncy fashion. James' version is pure garage rock, a live-in-the-studio effort that layered low-slung guitar riffs over a shuffling stomp of a beat from the rhythm section. James topped it off with amusingly mush-mouthed vocals a la "Louie Louie" and an out-of-control guitar solo that is cheered on by the other band members.”

The track put Tommy James and The Shondells on the map with sudden fame which meant they went from playing bars to performing in front of 10,000 teenagers- literally, overnight.

James adds:

“It was very unexpected, one of those winning-the-lottery type stories."

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