Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'Hanky Panky' Pt. 1: Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head

Even though "Hanky Panky" came with the shiny provenance of having been written by certified legendary hitmakers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Tommy James had no idea of the song's lineage when he picked it up for his Shondells. He had heard another band, the Spinners, do the song at a club in Tommy's hometown of Niles, Michigan, and had seen it get a huge crowd response, so he decided his own band should play the song as well. He asked one of the Spinners if they had written it, but the Spinner said he didn't know who wrote it; they too had picked it up from another band.

Eventually, with some help from his pals at a local record store, Tommy was able to look up the single in the huge bound volumes that were the AllMusic.com of their day. He traced the song back to the B-side of a single called "That Boy John" by the Raindrops. (One reason it was so obscure was that the promotional push for the record ended after That President John was assassinated late in 1963.) The Raindrops were Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

But when the Shondells went to record the song, Tommy realized that the only words he knew were "My baby does the hanky panky." He had to make up the rest. At this point, probably the only person who knows the real lyrics to "Hanky Panky" is Ellie Greenwich, and she's dead.

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