What Does the Song Mony Mony Mean?
Mony Mony by Tommy James and the Shondells, covered by Billy Idol

Song: Mony Mony (1968)

Artist: Tommy James and the Shondells (covered by Billy Idol)

Album: Crimson and Clover (Roulette)

Most people today probably know Mony, Mony from Billy Idol, but that is not who sang Mony, Mony originally. It's a song from the 1960's from Tommy Jame and and the Shondells, a band of many hits, and many covered tunes.

"Here she come now, say Mony, Mony," is how the song Mony Mony, by Tommy James and the Shondells begins. Then, we have the chorus:

I say yeah (yeah), yeah (yeah), yeah (yeah), yeah (yeah), yeah (yeah)

Well, you make me feel (Mony, Mony)
So (Mony, Mony)
Good (Mony, Mony)
Yeah (Mony, Mony)
So good (Mony, Mony)
All right (Mony, Mony)
Come on (Mony, Mony)
All right, baby (Mony, Mony)

Listen to Mony Mony by Tommy James and the Shondells

Listen to Tommy James and the Shondells Greatest Hits

Mony Mony Meaning

In case you've ever idly wondered what it means to feel Mony Mony, or whether this was a bit of slang you missed out on, I can assure you that the words mony mony, as used in the song, mean absolutely nothing.

Most of us today know the song from Billy Idol. It was his first big hit as a solo singer (after he left Generation X), released in 1981. It was a huge favorite of his in live performances, and it still gets tons of radio play on classic rock stations. It's kind of hard not to sing along with Mony, Mony. Maybe you curl your lip a little when you do it (admit it!). You think, probably this is brainless, but it's catchy as hell.

But that niggle of doubt…nope. It's meaningless.

Tommy James of Tommy James and the Shondells wrote the song in 1968. He had the basic song but wanted, apparently, something akin to "Bony Morony," which he couldn't use, or mayby something like "sloopy."

According to the story, in James' Manhattan Apartment, he and his writing partner, Richie Cordell, were actually going through the dictionary, trying to come up with a word. Nothing worked. So, James stepped out onto the balcony to get a breath of fresh air and there in front of him was a flashing neon sign on top of the 40 story Mutual Of New York Insurance Company. M.O.N.Y. James had his song title. After he told Cordell, the duo "both fell down laughing."

And so is the birth of hit songs. If you're an older reader, maybe you remember Hanky Panky…everybody was doing it:

My baby does the hanky panky.

Or maybe Crystal Blue Persuasion:

Ain't it beautiful, crystal blue persuasion…

If the name of the album, Crimson and Clover, given above, rings a bell, it may be because you remember when Joan Jett and the Blackhearts had a hit with it in 1982 (I Love Rock and Roll). In fact, Tommy James is one of most covered guys in rock and roll, ever. Prince even covered Crimson and Clover on his album Lotusflow3r, which James says is his personal favorite cover of one of his songs. Dolly Parton also covered the song.

James also mentions also mentions a cover of Mony Mony by a British group called Tight Fit. Billy Idol, apparently, doesn't make the cut. Tiffany had a hit with "I Think We're Alone Now," in 1987. In fact, his songs have been covered by Bruce Springsteen, Kelly Clarkson, Santana, R.E.M. The Killers, and even Tom Jones. His music also appears in many movies and commercials.

Mony Mony May Be Senseless, But the Writer Isn't

Lest you think the "brainless lyrics" of Mony Mony means he is also brainless, think again. Brainless guys don't have Hubert Humphrey writing the liner notes for their albums. Yes, there were a lot of heavy things going on when Mony Mony came out, and a lot of this was reflected in popular music. But Tommy James knew exactly what he was doing and why he wanted to do it:

My songs had an elementary style to them because we were seeing enough heartaches on TV, I didn't want to add any more. I just wanted to do fun music. There was a complex simplicity to it that I felt would stand the test of time [he was right]. But back then there was a disdain for it, people didn't take you seriously if you weren't writing political music about Vietnam. I didn't care. My thing was fun, helping folks enjoy themselves…

Tommy James is still kicking away and is an important voice to this day in music. And, Tommy James and the Shondells are still active, albeit with different members. James has his own website and a YouTube channel, as well as an autobiography called Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells.

Part of his video series entitled Creative Tracks, you can listen to Tommy James talk with his writing partner Richie Cordell about writing Mony Mony, recounting the story I gave above. Sadly, the interview was conducted shortly before Cordell passed away. The two joke about what would have happened if a different building had been there or they had been looking in another direction. Howard Johnson? Met Life? Taft Hotel? Prudential? After they talk about the song, the song plays, so enjoy!


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