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The Meaning of Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover”

Tommy James & The Shondells’ 1968 smash hit “Crimson & Clover” is a song about meeting a mysterious and beautiful woman, whom you just met but you already know you can fall in love with.

The song was written by Tommy James along with drummer Peter Lucia as an attempted transition from their former straightforward rock sound into one that was more in line with the psychedelic sound that had burgeoned throughout the 1960s.

The experimental take at songwriting proved to be a success, and Tommy James & The Shondells transitioned from a rock band focused on singles, like 1968’s “Mony Mony”, to a thoughtful, creative group known for its psychedelic embellishments.

Released as a single from the band’s 1969 album of the same name, “Crimson & Clover” entered the Billboard Hot 100 shortly after its released and stayed there for 16 consecutive weeks, finding its way to number one after the band’s performance on Ed Sullivan that February.

The song had initially been leaked after being given an exclusive spin at the Chicago radio station WLS, where Tommy had been convinced to play a rough mix of the track for the staff off-air. Little did Tommy know that the station had recorded the playthrough and quickly began playing it live on air.

While the single version of “Crimson & Clover” clocks in around three minutes, the band recorded a longer version, with a more jammed-out presence, that appeared as the first track on the album.

Many have speculated over the years about the meaning of “Crimson & Clover”, but the truth is that there is no concrete meaning to the song’s title and oft-repeated words, “over and over”.

Ah, now I don’t hardly know her
But I think I could love her
Crimson and clover

Ah when she comes walking over
Now I’ve been waitin’ to show her
Crimson and clover over and over

First two verses of “Crimson & Clover” by Tommy James & The Shondells

Tommy James has said in interviews over the years that the title for “Crimson & Clover” came before the song, and explains that the phrase came to him one night in a dream. The phrase is made up of his favorite color and his favorite flower, and it stuck.

The words are simply meant to convey the feeling that is set forth by the arrangement and the lyrical story, one of new discovery and excitement about love — the bright warmth of the color crimson and the sweet smell of the clover flower.

Yeah, my, my such a sweet thing
I wanna do everything
What a beautiful feeling
Crimson and clover over and over

Crimson and clover over and over
Crimson and clover over and over
Crimson and clover over and over
Crimson and clover over and over

Second verse and outro to “Crimson & Clover” by Tommy James & The Shondells.

However, Peter Lucia claims that it was he who came up with the title for the song, citing that he thought of it while watching a football game between his alma mater, the Morristown Crimson, and the Hopatcong High School team, which had green jerseys.

Regardless of who came up with the name for “Crimson & Clover”, there’s no denying that it’s become a classic song. It has spawned many covers, including notable ones by Joan Jett and Prince, and has continued get spins on classic rock radio for more than 50 years.

Listen to Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover”, and check out covers by Joan Jett and Prince below that.