Hanky Panky (Tommy James and the Shondells song)
|Single by Tommy James and the Shondells|
|from the album Hanky Panky|
|Format||Vinyl record (7")|
|Writer(s)||Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich|
|Tommy James and the Shondells singles chronology|
"Hanky Panky" is a song written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops. It was famously remade by rock group Tommy James and the Shondells, who took it to No. 1 in the United States in 1966.
Song structure and meaning
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.
Composition and history
Barry and Greenwich authored the song in 1963. They were in the middle of a recording session for their group The Raindrops, and realized they needed a B-side to a single, "That Boy John." The duo then went into the hall and penned the song in 20 minutes. Barry and Greenwich weren't particularly pleased with the song and deemed it inferior to the rest of their work. "I was surprised when [Tommy James version] was released," Barry commented to Billboard's Fred Bronson, "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 versions: Summits (1963) (Harmon 1017/Rust 5072), Raindrops (11-63), Tommy James & Shondells (2-64).
Although only a B-side, "Hanky Panky" became popular with garage rock bands. James heard it being performed by one such group in a club in South Bend, Indiana. "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," he told Bronson. "I just pieced it back together from what I remembered."
James' version was recorded at a local radio station, WNIL in Niles, Michigan, and released on local Snap Records, selling well in the tri-state area of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. However, lacking national distribution, the single quickly disappeared. James moved on, breaking up The Shondells, and finishing high school.
In 1965, an unemployed James was contacted by Pittsburgh disc jockey "Mad Mike" Metrovich. Metrovich had begun playing The Shondells' version of "Hanky Panky", and the single had become popular in that area. James then decided to re-release the song, traveling to Pittsburgh where he hired the first decent local band he ran into, The Raconteurs, to be the new Shondells (the original members having declined to re-form).
After appearances on TV and in clubs in the city, James took a master of "Hanky Panky" to New York, where he sold it to Roulette Records. "The amazing thing is we did not re-record the song," James told Bronson, "I don't think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that. I think if we'd fooled with it too much we'd have fouled it up." It was released promptly and took the top position of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in July 1966.
- Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits . ISBN 0-8230-7677-6.
- "BBC: The Official UK Charts Company". United Kingdom sales chart. Retrieved June 11, 2006.
- "Billboard". Billboard Hot 100 airplay and sales charts. Retrieved June 11, 2006.
- Haight, Debra (2009-11-22). "For Tommy James, it's been a long weird road". The Herald-Palladium. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
"Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
July 16, 1966 (2 weeks)
"Wild Thing" by The Troggs
"The Pied Piper" by Crispian St. Peters
|Canadian RPM 100 number-one single
July 25, 1966 (one week)
"Sweet Pea" by Tommy Roe