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Shondell Mania:

September 27, 1987|PAUL GREIN

Tommy James, who led the Shondells to a string of big hits in the late '60s, hasn't cracked the Top 10 since "Draggin' the Line" in 1971. But two of the group's old songs are racing toward the Top 10: "I Think We're Alone Now" is a smash for 15-year-old newcomer Tiffany, and "Mony Mony" is a big hit for rocker Billy Idol.

It's not the first time an old Shondells song has been brought back to life: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts took the group's 1969 chart topper "Crimson & Clover" back into the Top 10 in 1982.

"It's a tremendous compliment, and I'm very grateful," said James, now 40 and living in Clifton, N.J. James is still playing concerts--in fact, he headlined an oldies show at the Greek Theatre a few weeks ago--and is working up songs for a new group with top producer Jimmy Iovine. But James' big goal is to get a new record out next year.

About the staying power of the Shondells' old hits, James said: "Maybe part of the reason is that the music didn't get nailed to the '60s. The music business in the '60s didn't know quite what to make of us: We weren't political, we weren't writing about drugs, we didn't fit the bill in a lot of ways. We were kind of out of step with the music business while being totally in step with the people."

James may have been taken for granted by the industry--and dismissed by the critics--but he is having the last laugh. In addition to watching two of his old songs shoot up the chart, he can catch the Shondells' old video for "Mony Mony" on MTV's Closet Classics program.

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