Was the Song “Mony Mony” Written About a New York Bank?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The song “Mony Mony” was named after the bank Mutual of New York.

“Mony Mony” was a big hit for Tommy James and the Shondells in 1968.

It was later a hit for Billy Idol, as well.

In an interview with Song Facts, James explained the interesting name of the song:

Originally, we did the track without a song. And the idea was to create a party rock record; in 1968 that was pretty much of a throwback to the early ’60s. Nobody was making party rock records really in 1968, those big-drum-California-sun-what-I-sing-money-type songs. And so I wanted to do a party rock record. And we went in the studio, and we pasted this thing together out of drums here, and a guitar riff here. It was called sound surgery, and we finally put it together in probably a month. We had most of the words to the song, but we still had no title. And it’s just driving us nuts, because we’re looking for like a ‘Sloopy’ or some crazy name – it had to be a two-syllable girl’s name that was memorable and silly and kind of stupid sounding. So we knew what kind of a word we had, it’s just that everything we came up with sounded so bad. So Ritchie Cordell, my songwriting partner and I, are up in my apartment up at 888 Eighth Avenue in New York. And finally we get disgusted, we throw our guitars down, we go out on the terrace, we light up a cigarette, and we look up into the sky. And the first thing our eyes fall on is the Mutual of New York Insurance Company. M-O-N-Y. True story. With a dollar sign in the middle of the O, and it gave you the time and the temperature. I had looked at this thing for years, and it was sitting there looking me right in the face. We saw this at the same time, and we both just started laughing. We said, ‘That’s perfect! What could be more perfect than that?’ Mony, M-O-N-Y, Mutual of New York. And so we must have laughed for about ten minutes, and that became the title of the song. When we made the record, we had our usual studio band, but we also dragged in people off the street, we had secretaries come downstairs. This was in the 1650 Broadway Building, the basement of 1650 was a big music industry building. All the writers and publishers were there, so we invited them all downstairs, and it was really a party that got captured on tape.

Here’s the building in question…

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Tommy James and Song Facts for the information!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

3 Replies to “Was the Song “Mony Mony” Written About a New York Bank?”

  1. So, Brian… did your investigation pinpoint exactly when this song’s meaning changed from a play-by-play description of dancing with Mony to sexual innuendo?

  2. I imagine that it has something to do with Idol’s cover. His version of the song has attracted a lot of weird customs, including a tradition of shouting obscene phrases at the breaks in the song.

  3. The Mutual of New York sign is also featured rather prominently in the movie “Midnight Cowboy”; in one scene, the naive uneducated Joe Buck is playing Scrabble and attempts to play the word “MONY” because he had seen that sign and thought that was how “money” was spelled.

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