Crimson and Clover, Over and Over

What the hell does that mean anyway? I was reminded of this ancient riddle while watching a PBS fund drive that features Ed Sullivan’s Rock and Roll Classics – the 60s. Talk about getting into the time machine! It says something about who watches PBS (and pledges money to it) that they have resorted to recycling the 60s in order to get some dough from us.

I’ve written before about the seminal role the Ed Sullivan show played in my life, hell the lives of every boomer. But this pledge drive geared to boomers really hammered home what a remarkable showcase for talent the Ed Sullivan Show was in its time. The Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Young Rascals, the Mamas and Papas, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and of course, Tommy James and the Shondells.

Did you know that Tommy began the group when he was age 12? Neither did I, but thanks to the PBS pledge drive, I have stored that fact away with the other acorns in my mind.

What fascinated me most was the progression from black and white to color, and the parallel advances in camera work. In the early shows, the camera is straight on with occasional close-ups of John, Paul or George, but by the time Tommy James rolls around, the camera operators must have dropped acid because the techniques are positively psychedelic. There are mirror image fades, multiple image screens, and all sorts of camera tricks that were hardly what we were used to seeing on Ed Sullivan. Don’t forget it was still the home of Topo Gigio and Senor Wences.

So it’s back to Tommy James and the meaning of Crimson and Clover. The words “over and over” must be used about 500 times in the song but the intelligible lyrics are not all that intelligible after all. Some listeners thought he was singing “Christmas is over.”

Now I don't hardly know her
But I think I could love her
Crimson and clover
Over and over

Maybe it lacked clarity but what other band has album liner notes written by Senator Hubert Humphrey?


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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