Crimson and Clover

"Crimson and Clover"

Album cover for Crimson & Clover
by Tommy James and the Shondells
Single by Tommy James and the Shondells
from the album Crimson & Clover
B-side (I'm) Taken (promo copies only)
Some Kind of Love
Released November 1968
Format 7"
Recorded 1968
Genre Psychedelic pop, garage rock
Length 3:23 (single version)
5:25 (album version)
Label Roulette
Writer(s) Tommy James; Peter Lucia, Jr.[1]
Audio sample
file info · help

"Crimson and Clover" is a 1968 song by American rock band Tommy James and the Shondells. Written by the duo of Tommy James and drummer Peter Lucia Jr., it was intended as a change in direction of the group's sound and composition.

"Crimson and Clover" was released in late 1968 as a rough mix after a radio station leaked it. It spent 16 weeks on the U.S. charts, reaching number-one in the United States and other countries. The single has sold at least 5½ million copies, making it Tommy James and the Shondells' best-selling song. The song has been covered by many artists such as Joan Jett and Prince.

In 2006, Pitchfork Media named it the 57th best song of the 1960s.[2]


Composition and recording

Following the release of "Mony Mony", Tommy James wanted to change direction of the group's sound, and began producing his own material. At the time, James said this was out of "necessity and ambition", wanting to move from singles into albums. He departed from the group's principal songwriters Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell, and was given complete artistic control by Roulette Records. The title, "Crimson and Clover", was decided before a song had been written for it. The combination of unknown meaning came to James as he was waking up, comprising his favorite color - crimson - and his favorite flower - clover. A song to fit the phrase was written by Tommy James and bassist Mike Vale, but was scrapped. His following collaboration with drummer Peter Lucia Jr. was more successful. During the song's production, Roulette Records wanted a new single, so the group agreed to release "Do Something To Me" to gain time to complete the song.

"Crimson and Clover" was recorded in late 1968 in about 5 hours. Tommy James played most of the instruments, while Mike Vale played bass and Peter Lucia Jr. played drums. The song contains a tremolo effect on the guitar, set so that it vibrated in time with the song's rhythm. Near the end of the recording, the band had an idea of utilizing the tremolo effect with vocals. To achieve this, the voice microphone was plugged into an Ampeg guitar amplifier with tremolo turned on, and the output from the amplifier was recorded while James sang "Crimson and clover, over and over".

Single release

Tommy James and the Shondells on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, one week before their single reached number one.

Tommy James made a rough mix of "Crimson and Clover" to show to Roulette Records executive Morris Levy for evaluation. The band was still intending to improve on the mix with ambient sound and echo. A few days later, James stopped at WLS radio station in Chicago- who he had previously had positive experience with - to get their reaction. After an interview discussing the single, he was convinced to play the rough mix for WLS off-air. Unbeknown to James, the station recorded the song, and they shortly played it on-air in November 1968 as a "world exclusive".

Morris Levy initially pleaded WLS not to play the record prematurely before its release, but listener response changed his mind. Roulette Records produced a specially-pressed single and shipped it to listeners who called about the song. Eight hundred copies of the song were also sent to WLS for promotional purposes. Levy refused to let James produce the final mix he wanted, and the single was released using the rough mix, with "Some Kind of Love" as its B-Side.[3][4]

"Crimson and Clover" entered the U.S. charts on December 14, where it stayed for 16 weeks on Billboard Hot 100 and 15 weeks on Cash Box Top 100. Following a performance of the song on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 26,[5] it became number one on February 1, 1969, a position held for one week on Cash Box Top 100 and two weeks on both Billboard Hot 100 and Record World 100 Top Pops. Internationally, the song reached number one in Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and Switzerland. It also charted in Austria, Brazil, France, Holland, Italy, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines and Puerto Rico. Despite this, the song did not chart in the United Kingdom. In mid-1969, Billboard reported that the single had sold 2.5 million copies in the United States. By 1971, Roulette Records claimed that sales stood at 5.5 million, the group's best-seller.


Chart Peak
Austrian Singles Chart 3[6]
Canadian RPM 100 1[7]
German Singles Chart 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Swiss Singles Chart 1[6]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1


Album version

Based on suggestions from radio stations, Tommy James and The Shondells chose to create a longer version of "Crimson and Clover" for their album. Since the song was initially recorded in single format, they had the choice of either re-recording it or expanding it. Opting to expand the song, the first two verses were copied without background vocals and overdubbed with guitar solos by Shondells guitarist Ed Gray using steel guitars and fuzz guitars. Due to issues with the speed of the single version and the master, this resulted in a slight drop in pitch during the solos, which went unfixed.[8][9] The album, also titled "Crimson and Clover", was released in January 1969 and reached a peak of #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.


1991's "Crimson and Clover/Cellophane Symphony" is similar to the album version, but the guitar solos are a fraction higher in speed than on the LP version. This corrects the band's mistakes made in 1968, when they added new sections with different tape speeds to the existing single. The CD booklet states that "Crimson and Clover" is now as it is "meant to be heard," and that Tommy James is "very satisfied" with the reissue of the original LP master tapes to CD form.

The reissue single of "Crimson And Clover" (Roulette Golden Goodies GG-73) was pressed with the album version although the label shows the single version's playing time of 3:23.

Covers and interpretations

"Crimson and Clover" has been covered by many artists, some of whom have charted with the song. Patrick Samson reached #1 in Italy with the 1969 cover "Soli si muore", while Joan Jett and the Blackhearts reached #7 on the Bilboard Hot 100 with her 1982 rendition. Other artists who have covered or interpreted the song include Aguaturbia (1969), The Uniques (1969),[10][11] Sielun Veljet (1991), Bobby Conn (1995), Deadsy and Cher (1999), Dolly Parton (2005) and Prince (2009). The Velvet Underground's instrumental song "Ride Into the Sun", found on the Out-take album Another View, uses the same chords. Lou Reed later used the same chords for "Sweet Jane" on the Velvet Underground's Loaded album.

Samples and mentions

  • The song is credited as inspiring the film Cherries and Clover.
  • Jarvis Cocker's "Black Magic" is built around a sample of the song.
  • The band Jimmy Eat World references this song in "A Praise Chorus" on their album Bleed American. Near the end of the song, they repeat the words "crimson and clover, over and over" several times.
  • The band Kings of Leon mention the song in "California Waiting" (from their debut album Youth and Young Manhood), in the line "Crimson and Clover pullin' overtime".
  • Elliott Smith sings "the radio was playing Crimson and Clover" in the song "Baby Britain" on his album XO.
  • The band American Hi-Fi mentions "crimson and clover" in the song "The Breakup Song" on their album The Art of Losing – "Its over, all over. Just like in Crimson and Clover".
  • Metric mentions "crimson and clover" in the song Siamese Cities off the Static Anonymity EP.
  • Renee Renee mentions "crimson and clover" in his song "Driving".
  • Liz Phair sings, "crimson and clover—soon he's taken over all my senses now" in the song "Johnny Feelgood".
  • The track "Our Time" from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs debut EP samples the melody of "Crimson and Clover" when Karen O sings "It's the year to be hated / So glad that we made it."
  • On Hawk Nelson's album Letters to the President in the song First Time, "Crimson and Clover over and over" is mentioned.
  • Referenced in Automaton by The Pernice Brothers "Something came over me, crimson, not clover-leafed" [12]
  • In the 1980s, the Clover Department Store used a version of the song in television and radio ads during the Christmas season with the changed lyrics: "Christmas at Clover...Over and Over." This version was sung by a chorus of children.
  • Janelle Monae uses similar tremolo vocals and musical style in a nod to Crimson & Clover on "Mushrooms & Roses" off her 2010 debut album, The ArchAndriod
  • In the game Fallout 3, Eulogy Jones has two bodyguards named "Crimson" and "Clover" as a reference to this song.
  • On Veronica Falls's self-titled debut, "crimson and clover" is mentioned in the song "Come On Over".

Background music

  • It plays all through the "Renée" segment on the 2003 Jim Jarmusch film Coffee and Cigarettes.
  • It is used as background music to a makeout scene between John Cusack's character 'Rob' and his high school girlfriend 'Penny' in the 2000 film High Fidelity.
  • It was used multiple times in the 2003 film Monster.
  • It is used as background music in Veronica Mars when Logan waits in his yacht for Veronica, who never shows up.
  • It is used as background music in an A&W[disambiguation needed ] commercial where a middle-aged couple go to an A&W restaurant to relive memories.
  • Also used as background music in Sports Night at the end of the "Sally" episode.
  • A small part is used in the 2000 film Frequency as the radio signal is traveling to the sun and back through time.
  • The beginning of the song is used in The L Word in the episode 1.08 'Listen Up'.
  • The song plays near the end of the Cold Case episode "Revolution", the fourteenth episode of the series' second season.
  • It plays during the prom dance scene in the 2008 film My Best Friend's Girl.
  • It was used as background music for the season 2 finale episode of Quebec sitcom "Les Invincibles".
  • It plays in the beginning of the 90210 episode "Clark Raving Mad", the sixteenth episode of the series' second season, during a makeout session between Liam and Naomi.
  • It is on the soundtrack of the 2009 film The Boat That Rocked.
  • It was one of the songs in Andrew Reynolds (skateboarder) part in "Baker 2g".
  • The Joan Jett and the Blackhearts version was used in the 2006 romantic comedy Her Minor Thing.
  • The Joan Jett cover was also used at the end of the 2010 film The Runaways.
  • It was used in an episode of ABC's "The Wonder Years" where Kevin settles for one girl but really wanted to take another girl to a school dance.
  • Aly Michalka hums and sings the song in the 2011 film "The Roommate"
  • The song plays in the background of a scene in the 2011 season finale of In Plain Sight.


Preceded by
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
February 1, 1969 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Everyday People" by Sly & the Family Stone

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