On this day in music history: November 7, 1987 – “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Ritchie Cordell, it is the first chart topping single for the pop singer from Norwalk, CA. Singing since the age of two, at five years old, Tiffany Darwish declares to her mother that she wants to be a singer. She makes her public debut at nine, singing at various events in and around her hometown in Southern California. Singing mostly covers of country music songs, Tiffany begins performing more pop oriented material. When she’s twelve, Darwish begins making a demo recording in the hopes of getting signed to a record label. While at the studio, she meets record producer George Tobin, is in an adjoining studio working with Motown legend Smokey Robinson. Tobin is impressed with Tiffany, but initially feels she’s too young to make a record. Instead, he keeps in touch and two years later, begins working with the young singer. Over the next year, they record forty eight songs including a cover of Tommy James & The Shondells “I Think We’re Alone Now”. Shopping the recordings around, initially no labels are interested. Tobin arranges an artist showcase for Tiffany, and invites executives from various record labels to see and hear perform live. MCA Records likes what they hear, and offer to sign the then fifteen year old singer. At first, MCA is unsure how to market someone so young to the public. Then, the label comes up with the idea of sending Tiffany on a tour of shopping malls. Titling it “The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ‘87”, it’s launched to generate awareness for the release of her debut album. Singing live to pre-recorded tracks, Tiffany’s mall tour catches the attention of teenagers and their parents. The ball really gets rolling when Lou Simon, the PD of KCPX begins airing “I Think We’re Alone Now”. The strong call in response from listeners, leads to MCA Records issuing it as a single in August of 1987. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on August 29, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. Just five weeks after her sixteenth birthday, Tiffany becomes the youngest female artist in history to top the Billboard pop singles chart. Her self-titled debut album takes a similar trajectory up the Top 200, spending two weeks at #1 and setting another new chart record. Soon after, Tiffany’s first chart topper is parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic as “I Think I’m A Clone Now” on his album “Even Worse” in 1988.
On this day in music history: January 5, 1967 – “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James & The Shondells is released. Written by Ritchie Cordell, it is the seventh single for the pop band from Niles, MI. In an unlikely twist of fate, Tommy James & The Shondells are plucked from relative obscurity when their three year old cover of the Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich penned “Hanky Panky” is re-released by Roulette Records and shoots to number one in July of 1966. The band are paired with Roulette staff producer and songwriter Ritchie Cordell (born Richard Joel Rosenblatt) to work on follow up singles. The next two singles “Say I Am (What I Am)” (#21 Pop) and “It’s Only Love” (#31 Pop) both crack the top 40, but fall considerably short of their breakthrough hit. Looking to give the band another major hit, Cordell writes the infectious and poppy “I Think We’re Alone Now”. The track is recorded at Allegro Studios in New York City, a small studio normally used for recording demos, located in the basement of the Brill Building in December of 1966. James and guitarist Eddie Gray are actually the only members of the band to play on the song with bassist Mike Vale and drummer Peter Lucia only contributing background vocals. A number of seasoned New York studio musicians including Artie Butler (Ondioline electric keyboard), Paul Griffin (piano), Al Gorgoni (guitar) and Joe Macho (bass) play on the basic track. Released only a couple weeks after its recorded, any concerns of their initial success being a fluke, are quickly extinguished. “I Think We’re Alone Now” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at #78 on February 11, 1967, peaking at #4 on April 22, 1967. An instant classic, the song comes to be regarded as one of the singles that defines the genre of "bubblegum pop". The success of “Alone” is such that Cordell switches the chord progression around, and uses them for the follow up “Mirage” (#10 Pop). A virtual carbon copy of the previous single, but also becomes a solid hit in its own right. As an added tongue in cheek touch and wink to “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mirage” features a backwards masking section before going into the final coda. “Alone” is covered by several different artists over the years including versions by Lene Lovich, The Rubinoos, Glorybox, Snuff and Girls Aloud. Teen pop singer Tiffany records a cover version of “I Think We’re Alone Now” for her debut album, and hits number one on the Hot 100 in November of 1987, just over twenty years after Tommy James & The Shondells original. After Tiffany’s hit cover, “Weird Al” Yankovic records a parody version titled “I Think I’m A Clone Now” in 1988.