Hanky Panky (Tommy James and the Shondells song)

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"Hanky Panky"
Hanky Panky - Tommy James and the Shondells.jpg
Single by The Shondells
from the album Hanky Panky
Released1964, 1966 (nationwide release)
GenreGarage rock
LabelSnap!, Roulette
Songwriter(s)Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich
Producer(s)Henry Glover
The Shondells singles chronology
"Hanky Panky"
"Hanky Panky (re-release)"

"Hanky Panky" is a song written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops.

A 1964 recording by The Shondells, later reissued in 1966 under the band's new, and more successful, incarnation of "Tommy James and the Shondells," is the best known version, reaching #1 in the United States in 1966.

Song structure and meaning[edit]

Donald A. Guarisco at AllMusic[1] 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.

In the Young People's Concert episode titled "What Is a Mode?", Leonard Bernstein explained that the song was composed in the Mixolydian mode.[2]

Composition and history[edit]

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 for their 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." Greenwich has a different recollection of events, stating that the song was written in a car at a lover's lane. Greenwich claimed that while "everyone else was making out, Jeff and I were making music."[3] The single "That Boy John"/"Hanky Panky" was released in November 1963. The song was also recorded by "an obscure R&B girl group", The Summits, in 1963 (as Harmon 1017/Rust 5072), but failed to chart.[4]

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."

On the May 8, 1982 episodes (and other episodes) of American Top 40, Casey Kasem claimed that Tommy James recorded the song in 1961.[citation needed] James' version was recorded at a local radio station, WNIL in Niles, Michigan, and released on local Snap Records in February 1964, 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). A debate continues over whether Metrovich or Pittsburgh disc jockey Bob Mack actually broke the single in the area. James credits Mack.

After appearances on TV and in clubs in the city, James took a master of "Hanky Panky" to New York City, 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.

In 2003, Bob Rivers parodied the song as "Newt Gingrich Does the Hanky Panky".[5]

In 2014, "Hanky Panky" was referenced in the song "Coffee" by Sylvan Esso.

The song was featured in Netflix's Sex Education.

Chart history[edit]


  1. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Song Review: Hanky Panky". AllMusic. Retrieved August 30, 2006.
  2. ^ Young People's Concert: What Is a Mode? (transcripts) – LeonardBernstein.com. Retrieved July 21, 2018
  3. ^ Greenwich and Berry, Do-Wah-Diddy: Words and Music by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, CD, Ace Records Ltd., London, 2008, liner notes
  4. ^ Greenwich and Berry, Do-Wah-Diddy: Words and Music by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, CD, Ace Records Ltd., London, 2008, liner notes
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2011-05-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Swedish Charts website
  7. ^ Swedish Charts website as above
  8. ^ Swedish Charts website as above
  9. ^ Swedish Charts website as above
  10. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  11. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 292.
  13. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, July 9, 1966
  14. ^ Swedish Charts website as above
  15. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  16. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 24, 1966". Archived from the original on February 17, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]