Ricky Hanson Video: Tiffany, I think We’re Alone Now
“I Think We’re Alone Now” is a song written and composed by Ritchie Cordell that was first recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells. It was a major hit for the group, reaching number 4 on the US Hot 100 in April 1967. It finished at No. 12 on Billboard magazine’s year-end singles chart for 1967.
The song has been covered several times by other artists, most notably by Tiffany Darwish in 1987. The Tiffany recording reached number 1 on the charts of various countries including the US, UK, Canada, and New Zealand. Other cover versions have also charted, including those by The Rubinoos (number 45 US, 1977) and Girls Aloud (number 4 UK, 2006).
The writing of the song was credited to Ritchie Cordell, who wrote or co-wrote many songs for Tommy James, including the follow-up single to “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mirage” and its B-side “Run, Run, Baby, Run”, and 1968’s “Mony Mony”. Cordell and his regular songwriting partner Bo Gentry gave the song to Tommy James, who thought it sounded like a hit. According to Tommy James, “I Think We’re Alone Now” was written by Cordell and Gentry, but as Gentry was still under contract to Kama Sutra Records, the head of Roulette Records, Morris Levy, agreed to a deal naming Cordell as sole writer but splitting the royalties with Gentry.
The song was originally written as a slow ballad, but when James, Cordell and Gentry recorded a quick demo, they made the song faster. Tommy James later wrote: “Ritchie and Bo originally wrote the song as a mid-tempo ballad. I said no way and started speeding it up…. I.. put on a nasally, almost juvenile-sounding lead vocal, and without realizing it, we invented “bubblegum” music.” They played the song to Levy, who approved of it, and it was then given a proper recording.
The recording was produced by Ritchie Cordell and Bo Gentry. Tommy James recorded the vocal on the Christmas Eve of 1966 so that the song could be released in the new year.
Like many early Tommy James and the Shondells releases, only band members Tommy James and Eddie Gray were featured on the record, with the rest of the band providing background vocals. Studio musicians were used as the rest of the rhythm section to back up the Shondells. These musicians include Artie Butler playing Ondioline electric keyboard, Al Gorgoni on guitar, Joe Macho on bass, Paul Griffin on piano, and Bobby Gregg on drums.
They recorded the bass and drums first, and the rest then layered onto the recording. They also made the choruses quieter so that the verses became much more prominent. This was the first time that they recorded this way, a process they would replicate in many other later records to produce their signature sound.
The version that James and the Shondells originally performed uses hard-driving arrangements for its two verses, both fiercely performed so as to convey a sense of urgency. However, the refrain (performed twice) is almost whispered and indeed followed by a sound effect of crickets chirping, giving an atmosphere of forbidden activities that are being deliberately kept hidden. The fade-out uses the lyrics of the refrain, but this time, the hard-driving arrangements are resumed.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” was a 1967 hit song for Tommy James and the Shondells, reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during a 17-week stay. Rock critic Lester Bangs called the single “the bubblegum apotheosis”.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” stands out as one of James’s most successful recordings. It was featured in the horror film Mother’s Day (1980) and the science-fiction thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).