Thursday, August 13, 2015

#96: Tremelo

Here’s a little segue for us:  Catch My Fall and the Rebel Yell album marked the start of Billy Idol’s superstar period which aligned with my high school period, culminating in 1987 with his cover of Mony Mony which reached #1 in the USA.

It was also notably covered by the Beach Boys and Alvin and the Chipmunks but presumably only the Idol version was widely banned from American high school dances. No such censorship at our school where we danced up and down screaming such custom alterations as “Get laid, get fucked!” in the two quarter notes. I have no idea where this widespread custom started or why. Nor can I think of another example of this odd phenomenon. Could Idol have added these extra lyrics at some live performance and it caught on?  

Mony Mony is a nonsense title. It stands for Mutual of New York. The initials were once prominently displayed atop their office building at 1740 Broadway, prominent on the NYC skyline at the time original songwriters Tommy James and Ritchie Cordell were looking for a catchy title for the new tune, destined to hit #1 in the U.K. in 1968. Like a divine beacon, they spied the sign from the balcony of James’ Manhattan apartment. Mony Mony will not appear in my top-100 list. However:

By Tommy James (& the Shondells)
1968, USA

I love the dramatic opening of this song, and while I’m not generally a big fan of echoes or stutters, I do find the tremolo effects here, oddly captivating. It was the Shondells’ innovation to extend the effect to James’ closing vocals by running the mic through a guitar amp.

Apparently the title, which denotes James’ favourite colour and flower respectively, had been applied to a previous tune which was scrapped. He may or may not have known about the trifolium incarnatum (crimson clover plant).

Peaked: #1 in USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand. Oddly, it did not chart in the U.K. At more than five million copies it remains their best-selling song.

It was prominently covered by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts:

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