Crystal Blue Persuasion

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"Crystal Blue Persuasion"
Crystal Blue Persuasion - Tommy James and the Shondells.jpg
Single by Tommy James and the Shondells
from the album Crimson & Clover
B-side"I'm Alive"
ReleasedJune 1969
Format7" 45 RPM
GenrePsychedelic rock, blue-eyed soul
Length4:02 (album version)
3:45 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Eddie Gray, Tommy James, Mike Vale
Producer(s)Tommy James, Ritchie Cordell
Tommy James and the Shondells singles chronology
"Sweet Cherry Wine"
"Crystal Blue Persuasion"
"Ball of Fire"

"Crystal Blue Persuasion" is a 1969 song originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells and composed by Eddie Gray, Tommy James, and Mike Vale.


A gentle-tempoed groove, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" was built around a prominent organ part with an understated arrangement, more akin to The Rascals' sound at the time than to James's contemporary efforts with psychedelic rock. It included melodic passages for an acoustic guitar, as well as a bass pattern, played between the bridge and the third verse of the song.

In a 1985 interview in Hitch magazine, James said the title of the song came to him while he was reading the Biblical Book of Revelation:

I took the title from the Book of Revelations [sic] in the Bible, reading about the New Jerusalem. The words jumped out at me, and they're not together; they're spread out over three or four verses. But it seemed to go together, it's my favorite of all my songs and one of our most requested.[1]

With an appropriate lighting scheme, the 2000s edition of Tommy James and the Shondells perform "Crystal Blue Persuasion"

According to James's manager, James was actually inspired by his readings of the Book of Ezekiel, which (he remembered as) speaking of a blue Shekhinah light that represented the presence of the Almighty God, and of the Book of Isaiah and Book of Revelation, which tell of a future age of brotherhood of mankind, living in peace and harmony.[2]

Many listeners thought "Crystal Blue Persuasion" was a drug song advocating the use of "crystal meth" (methamphetamine), while on the West Coast. At the time of the song's release there were several popular types of high quality blue-colored LSD tablets in circulation—some listeners generally assumed James was referring to "acid". In 1979, noted music writer Dave Marsh described it as "a transparent allegory about James' involvement with amphetamines."[3]

Chart performance[edit]

When released as a single in June 1969, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" became one of the biggest hits for the group, peaking at number two on the Billboard Pop Singles chart for three weeks behind Zager and Evans's single "In the Year 2525".[4] In Canada, the song spent one week at number one.[5] The single version differs from the album version of the song with horn overdubs added to the mix and a longer bongos overdub before the third verse.

A primitive non-representational music video was made, that showed various scenes of late 1960s political and cultural unrest and imagery of "love and peace".[6]

Chart history[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Tito Puente, Joe Bataan, The Heptones, Morcheeba, Concrete Blonde, and John Wesley Harding are among those who have covered the song.

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

"Crystal Blue Persuasion" has been used in numerous media and entertainment properties, both onscreen and off.

"Crystal Blue Persuasion" has appeared in the films A Walk on the Moon (1999), The Secret Life of Girls (1999), Zodiac (2007), The Nanny Diaries (2007), and the TV show How to Make it in America (2010). The song is also featured in the movie The Expendables 2 (2012), while Barney (Sylvester Stallone) is flying his plane. The song was played during the pool scene in the TV movie Growing Up Brady.

The song is referenced in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four Annual (Vol. 1, #21) from 1988. The name references the character in the book, Crystalia Amaquelin, the blue area of the moon where part of the story takes place, and the plotline which is formed around coercing Crystal to return to the Inhumans.[14]

The title of the song is referenced in the song "He Do the Police in Different Voices", the opening track from the 1993 album Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things by The Loud Family.

The principal riff of the song is sampled in the song "Sabbatical" by German nu jazz group De-Phazz, from their 2001 album Death by Chocolate.

In 2012, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" was used in the eighth episode of the fifth season of Breaking Bad, "Gliding Over All", during a montage depicting the process involved to bring main character Walter White's methamphetamine operation and its signature blue crystal meth to an international level. This montage was subsequently parodied as the opening scene in The Simpsons season 24, episode 17 "What Animated Women Want." It’s also heavily referenced in the season 30 finale episode “Crystal Blue-haired Persuasion,” as well as a segment of the song is played. It was then parodied once again in the Bordertown season 1, episode 2, titled "Borderwall" during a montage featuring Bud Buckwald and Steve Hernandez (Bud's boss at the Border Patrol station) running an illegal smuggling tunnel.


  1. ^ Tommy James and the Shondells/Hitch (Article)
  2. ^ Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and The Shondells
  3. ^ Rolling Stone Record Guide, Rolling Stone Press, 1979.
  4. ^ Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" Chart Position Retrieved February 7, 2015
  5. ^ RPM Top Singles, July 28, 1969
  6. ^
  7. ^ RPM Top Singles, July 28, 1969
  8. ^ RPM Adult Contemporary, August 9, 1969
  9. ^ [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–2002]
  10. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 2, 1969". Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  11. ^ Top 100 Singles of 1969 in Canada
  12. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1969/Top 100 Songs of 1969". Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  13. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles of 1969, December 27, 1969
  14. ^ Uncanny Retrieved February 7, 2015