I had always considered "Tighter, Tighter," the 1970 single from the band Alive and Kicking, to be the world's greatest hommage to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubbee Tommy James and the Shondells, finishing just ahead of "Hitchin' a Ride" by Vanity Fare. But that's not really the case. Here's how it happened:
Alive and Kicking was a little band out of Brooklyn that recorded a duet with a singer named Sandra Toder, who just happened to be good friends with Tommy James' wife. Toder was able to convince Tommy to come see the band play, and they hit it off. Keyboardist Bruce Sudano and bassist Woody Wilson sat down with James and wrote a song called "Ball of Fire," which would later become a minor hit for the Shondells, reaching Number 19 in 1969.
Tommy vowed to write a song for Alive and Kicking in return, and one day he showed up with a little number called "Crystal Blue Persuasion." Tommy worked up "Crystal Blue Persuasion" with the band, and Alive and Kicking were preparing to record it, when Tommy told them, "Guys, I'm really sorry but I decided to record that song myself. I'm gonna put it on my album. But I'll write you another song."
Six months later, he came back with "Tighter, Tighter," which he also produced for A&K and which was released on Tommy's label, Roulette. It went to Number Seven in the summer of 1970. Tommy James had broken up the Shondells in the interim and gone solo. Alive and Kicking might as well have broken up at that point too, since they had no more hits and have been playing weddings for the last couple of decades. At least Bruce Sudano ended up marrying Donna Summer, which is nice for him.
Hey, do you know who took the cover shot for the Shondells' second album, 1966's It's Only Love? Linda Eastman! It was her first studio assignment.